About rabbits: Francis knows nonstop mating kills
I was intrigued when I first read Pope Francis’ statement that “Catholics shouldn’t be like rabbits.” I’ve been following him since he was elected Pope, reading his homilies at Casa Santa Martha every day, observing his every move. Being a communicator myself, I have been watching his communication style.
I had a gut feel that his comment on not being “like rabbits” was not an accidental, useless analogy. It was well thought out. He knew exactly what he was talking about. He knew rabbits:
He knew that the male rabbit (buck) has an insatiable sexual urge. The buck has no reproductive cycle; it is always in heat, ready to mate any time.
The female rabbit (doe) doesn’t have a heat cycle, either. It is always ready to mate all the time, more or less. A doe doesn’t have a menstrual cycle so there’s no special “window” during which pregnancy can occur.
There is no resistance from the doe. If you don’t separate the buck and doe after the first mating, the buck will attempt a second one, a third one, and so on.
Remember the Energizer bunny commercial? Rabbits keep going and going and going.
Even if the doe is already pregnant, the buck doesn’t care; it will continue to mate with her. Even if the doe has just given birth, the buck will attempt to mate with her again and again, Thus, they need to be separated. Otherwise, one—or both of them—could die from sheer exhaustion due to nonstop mating.
Johnny Filart, a friend and a renowned pet breeder, confirms this. He had a traumatic first-time experience with his imported and expensive male Holland Lop rabbit that he left with a female. After an hour, the male was dead.
Rabbits mate because they have the urge. There’s no love. They don’t think. They don’t have the capacity to discern. They just do it.
During the inflight interview with journalists aboard the Philippine Airlines flight from Manila to Rome on Jan. 19, Pope Francis didn’t exactly say, “Catholics shouldn’t breed like rabbits.” Responding to a question from Christoph Schmidt, the Holy Father answered, “God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that—excuse the language—that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No.”
Bishop Soc explains
So, what is the Holy Father really telling us? Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Soc Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, sums it up:
Responsible parenthood is a Catholic obligation.
In the Rite of Marriage, before they exchange “I do’s,” the groom and the bride are asked, “Are you both ready to raise as good Christians the children whom God will give you?” By answering “Yes” to this question, they accept children and the duty to bring them up responsibly.
Pope Francis said: “A man cannot give the sacrament to the woman, and the woman give it to him, if they are not in agreement on this openness to life. To the point that it can be proven that this or the other did not get married with this intention of being open to life, the matrimony is null.”
“Births should be planned rationally by parents who must always remain open to new life, but must also take into consideration their physical, financial and emotional capacity to raise children.”
The Holy Father said that “there are plenty of ‘licit’ ways of regulating births that are approved by the Church,” a clear reference to the natural family planning method of monitoring a woman’s cycle to avoid intercourse when she is ovulating.
Unlike rabbits, humans are gifted with the faculty to discern, the ability to distinguish right from wrong, and the will to decide to act at the proper time.
The message of the Holy Father is clear: Be responsible parents. Discern. Practice self-control.
Don’t be like Hefner
Using a bunny in its logo, Playboy magazine has a subliminal message: Be like a rabbit. Look at Hugh Hefner, Playboy founder and chief executive officer: He’s turning 89 on April 9, and he’s still going. Pope Francis’ message is the exact opposite: Don’t be like a rabbit.
In his Jan. 19 interview, Pope Francis revealed another beautiful facet of his persona. He used the most appropriate analogy to bring his message across. Using his knowledge of rabbits to explain Church teaching was a stroke of genius. Yes, he had rabbits as pets when he was young. Just like me.
Fr. Aris Sison is the rector of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Cubao. He has served as spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Manila and the Diocese of Cubao. During last week’s papal visit, he was often on television and radio, explaining the rites and sharing his reflections.
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