Church campaign to encourage believers to raise big families

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on October 5, 2011

In an act equivalent to declaration of open war on a Government-appointed panel’s proposal to penalize parents begetting more than two children, the Catholic Church of Kerala will honour 5,000 parents with more than five children each over the next five months. The first function in the series will be held on November 14.

The programme, raising slogans like “Big Family, Happy Family” and “More Children for Nation’s Prosperity”, is being organized by the Pro-Life Movement under the Family Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC), umbrella outfit of the heads of all the 30 Syro-Malabar Church dioceses in the State.

The preliminary plan is to honour 5,000 parents who have begotten more than five children each and completed over four decades of married life by presenting them with plaques. The Pro-Life Movement would launch associated initiatives to encourage believer couples to beget as many children as they can.

Though the Church had started Pro-Life initiatives as back as in 2008, it decided to intensify them in the context of the State-appointed commission recommending formulation of a Bill with provisions to penalize parents who beget more than two children as an effective way of regulating population.

As per the proposal of the 12-member commission, headed by Justice (retired) VR Krishna Iyer, parents begetting more than two children should be punished with three months’ imprisonment or a fine of Rs 10,000. It also proposed that the State should not extend benefits to more than two children of a family.

Sources in the KCBC termed the proposal as “aggressive” adding that it would help only in creating inter-religious tensions and social unrest. The Church is worried that if the proposals are implemented, the population of Christians in the State, the growth rate of which has already been witnessing sharp decline, would undergo a drastic fall.

The Wayanad Diocese of the Church had started to give cash incentives to fifth child of any Christian family in August, but now the Idukki Diocese has come up with a comprehensive campaign to encourage parents to beget more children, according to reports.

As per the scheme, third child of a family would enjoy fee concessions in schools, including the English medium schools. The child can avail this benefit at Church-run schools with just a certificate from the priest of the parish to which he/she belongs and in other schools, the Church will disburse money for this.

The Church will bear the entire hospital expenses for the delivery of the fourth child of a family. In the case of a fifth child of a family, the diocese will bear his/her entire expenses – normal – throughout life. Presently, this is fixed as Rs 5,000 per year but the diocese would allot more money for medical treatment and other needs if necessary.

St Vincent De Paul Forane Church, a parish church in Wayanad district, had in August started offering fixed rate deposits of Rs 10,000 in the name of the fifth child born to a Catholic family. The parish church has already issued such deposits to two families. The church has set aside part of its Sunday Collection for this.

As per the 2001 census, Christians made up 19 percent of Kerala’s population of over 31 million, showing a drop from the 1991 census finding of 19.5 percent. In Kerala, Hindus constitute 55 percent of Kerala’s total population while Muslims form 24.7 percent.

The larger family concept was mooted by the Church in the context of the fall in the population growth at a rate of -0.40 percent per decade. Church sources say that Hindus also should view the situation seriously as their rate of fall of population growth, at 1.55 percent a decade, is far more critical in the context of a growth in the Muslim population at a rate of 1.75 percent.

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