EWTN host Teresa Tomeo posted on her website a letter from Obianuju Ekeocha, a 32-year-old Nigerian woman living and working as a biomedical scientist in Canterbury, England, to Melinda Gates, a self-described practicing Catholic, regarding Gates’s decision to spend 4.6 billion dollars to purchase contraceptives and funnel them into 69 of the poorest countries of the world, many of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a good number with large Catholic populations, including Nigeria.
The letter points out that, for African women, having offspring is cause for celebration not sadness. Contraceptives, it goes on to say, may control population, but they will also eliminate the chatter of innocent children in the streets and deny retirees the loving care of their sons and daughters in their old age. For African women who need to control family size, there is natural family planning which the women are happy to use, the author notes. She underscores the fact that contraceptives threaten fidelity in marriage, and in Africa they are hard to dispose of. Streams are used for drinking and for farms that produce food. They are not good places to dump contraceptive wastes.
The writer points out that the billions of dollars would be better spent to provide good health care for impoverished people especially prenatal, neonatal and pediatric. The billions could be channeled into food programs to prevent malnutrition in children. The money could provide higher education opportunities and make available programs that promote abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage. Microbusiness opportunities for women could be funded. In brief the money could provide a legacy contributing to life, love and laughter.
Undoubtedly, Father Emmett Coyne had these and similar excellent monetary objectives in mind when he wrote his upbeat article “Jesus and the Rich: Revisiting His Condemnation of Them” [The Priest, May 2014]. Maybe Father Coyne is right and Jesus is wrong. Perhaps we will not always have the poor with us. “Not if the Giving Pledge Club expands and leads the way.” Perhaps he is correct, but the critical question is: Why will we no longer have the poor? Is it because many of the impoverished will be eliminated through population control? The Giving Pledge was conceived by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, as Coyne indicates. These billionaires are ready to surrender the bulk of their fortunes to save our planet. Among the ways they hope to do this is by reducing the population of the world.
They are eager to spend vast amounts of money to slow down population growth. They envision population growth as a potentially disastrous environmental, social and industrial threat. The Good Club, an elite, secretive, small group of billionaire philanthropists, to which Warren Buffett and Bill Gates belong or belonged, views overpopulation as a priority problem. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are major funders of global population reduction programs.
It is no secret that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, perhaps the biggest philanthropic organization ever, with a 30-billion-dollar endowment, supports contraception, sterilization and even abortion. Late in 2013 the Foundation funded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, an international population conference at which many of the workshops were on abortion. The Foundation provides money for Planned Parenthood internationally.
Father Emmett Coyne is certainly correct that an elite group of billionaires ready and willing to surrender half their money for the betterment of humanity constitutes a tremendous force for good. They challenge others to be good stewards of monetary resources. Their generosity far exceeds the biblical norm of tithing.
Such men and women might indeed be ushering in the Golden Age of Philanthropy. But our ultimate evaluation of promoters of the Giving Pledge has to go deeper than the fact that they are generously providing money for causes they have decided will benefit the planet. We have to ask ourselves whether what they are doing is really beneficial to humanity and whether the means they are taking are ethical.
It is one thing to provide vaccines for use in Third World countries. It is another thing to make available dangerous (in the sense of unsafe because untested and even proven harmful) vaccines to be used on Third World populations. It is one thing to provide the parents of large families the tools for limiting the future number of their offspring. It is another to pour out in abundance dangerous forms of artificial contraception such as Depo Provera, regarded by the FDA as the most deadly kind. Such activities are not foreign to one or more promoters of the Giving Pledge. I for one cannot at this time join Father Coyne in applauding the Giving Pledge Club.
DR. DECELLES retired from teaching theology and religion at the college level after a career of 44 years, 43 at Marywood College (now Marywood University). In 2015 he will celebrate 50 years as a religion writer.