"(A) carte blanche imperative to limit family size can lead us to the dangers the (NPR article) cites, as discrimination and bias and government mandates can, and have, ensued," Hilliard said.
Women in particular would bear the brunt of the resulting stigmas of such policies, Brugger noted.
"(W)omen will and already do suffer the greatest burden from this type of social coercion. Women have always been the guardians of the transmission of human life. They share both the godlike privilege of bearing life within them and the most weighty burdens of that privilege. Anti-natalist demagoguery is always anti-woman, always," Brugger said.
All things considered, the Catholic Church would never take away the right and responsibility of parents to determine their family size by supporting a policy that would ask families to limit their size because of climate change, he said.
It's not people, it's your lifestyle
William Patenaude is a Catholic ecologist, engineer and longtime employee with Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management. He frequently blogs about ecology from a Catholic perspective at catholicecology.net.
The idea that we must choose between the planet or people, he told CNA, is a "false choice." The problem isn't numbers of people – it's the amount each person is consuming.
"The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that in 1960 the United States produced some 88 million tons of municipal waste. In 2010 that number climbed to just under 250 million tons-and it may have been higher had a recession not slowed consumption. This jump reflects an almost 184 percent increase in what Americans throw out even though our population increased by only 60 percent," he wrote in a blog post about the topic.
There is a similar trend in carbon emissions, which increase at a faster rate than the population.
"We can infer from this that individuals (especially in places like the USA) are consuming and wasting more today than we ever have, which gets to what Pope Francis has been telling us about lifestyles, which is consistent with his predecessors," Patenaude told CNA.
Climate change has been one of the primary concerns of Pope Francis' pontificate. While not the first Pope to address such issues, his persistence in addressing the environment has brought a new awareness of the urgency of the issue to other Church leaders.
In May 2015, Pope Francis published "Laudato Si," the first encyclical devoted primarily to care for creation.
In it, the Holy Father wrote that the earth "now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will."
But never does the Pope ask families to have fewer children. Instead, he urges Catholics to address pollution and climate change, to make simple lifestyle changes that better care for "our common home" and to work toward a better human ecology.
"It seems that voices that urge fewer children aren't interested in new and temperate lifestyles. In fact, they are implicitly demanding that modern consumption levels be allowed to stay as they are – or even to rise. This seems selfish and gluttonous, and not at all grounded in a concern for life, nature, or the common good," Patenaude said.
Furthermore, the good of any individual person outweighs the damage of their potential carbon footprint, he said.
"The good and dignity and worth of every human person is superseded by nothing else on this planet. If we don't affirm that first, we can never hope to be good stewards of creation, because we will never really be able to appreciate all life," he said.
"On the other hand, one way to affirm the dignity of human life – collectively and individually – is to care for creation. Because as I noted earlier, creation is our physical life-support system, and so to authentically care for it is to care for human life."
Dan Misleh is the executive director of Catholic Climate Covenant, which was formed in 2006 by the United States Catholic Bishops in order to help implement Church social teaching regarding climate change.
Misleh agreed that while reducing the consumption of fossil fuels is "imperative" to reducing negative effects of climate change like droughts and rising sea levels, that does not mean mandated population engineering and smaller families.
"As for population, places like the U.S., Japan and many European countries have both high carbon emissions and relatively low population growth and birth rates. So there is not a direct correlation between low-birth rates and fewer emissions. In fact, the opposite often seems to be true: countries with the highest birthrates are often the poorest countries with very low per-capita emissions," he told CNA.
What is needed is a true "ecological conversion," like Pope Francis called for in Laudato Si, Misleh said.
"(P)erhaps we Catholics need to view a commitment to a simple lifestyle not as a sacrifice but as an opportunity to live more in keeping with the biblical mandate to both care for and cultivate the earth, to spend more time on relationships than accumulating things, and to step back to appreciate the good things we have rather than all the things we desire."
This article was originally published on CNA Oct. 27, 2016.
Mary Farrow worked as a staff writer for Catholic News Agency until 2020. She has a degree in journalism and English education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.