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No, Pope Francis doesn’t believe contraception will save us

February 18, 2016

So maybe you’ve read a snippet from Papa Francisco’s in-flight interview as he departed Mexico earlier today?

Or maybe not.

(If your name starts with a T and ends with “rump,” then I’m going to trust that you have.)

Causing no small amount of chaos on social media with his typical off the cuff remarks to journalists, Papa touched on everything from Benedict’s legacy to mosquito borne viruses to border fences to civil unions. Not to mention narco trafficking and unity with the Eastern church.

But it was the mention of contraception as a possible solution for women of childbearing age in Zika-afflicted nations that caught my ear (well, and my Twitter feed).

Pope Francis fielded the following question from journalist Paloma García Ovejero, Cadena COPE (Spain):

Holy Father, for several weeks there’s been a lot of concern in many Latin American countries but also in Europe regarding the Zika virus. The greatest risk would be for pregnant women. There is anguish. Some authorities have proposed abortion, or else to avoiding pregnancy. As regards avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of “the lesser of two evils?”

And Francis’ reply:

“Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.

Don’t confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion. Abortion is not a theological problem, it is a human problem, it is a medical problem. You kill one person to save another, in the best case scenario. Or to live comfortably, no?  It’s against the Hippocratic oaths doctors must take. It is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil in the beginning, no, it’s a human evil. Then obviously, as with every human evil, each killing is condemned.

On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.”

There’s a lot here. Let’s start with his unequivocal condemnation of abortion, which seems to be (so far) flying completely under the secular media’s radar. Fair enough, it doesn’t suit their agenda.

Pope Francis reaffirms the Church’s position on abortion in no uncertain terms, taking the further step to point out that abortion isn’t evil “because the Catholic Church says so,” but rather, because the taking of innocent life is gravely, objectively evil on a fundamentally human level.

So thanks for that, Papa. Way to bat down that “lesser of two evils” gnat and not get tripped up in your response.

The second part of his answer is both more nuanced and more fraught with potential confusion. Because as the story goes, Pope Paul VI allegedly permitted the use of contraceptives in a specific case for nuns who were being targeted and brutally raped in Africa in the 1960’s (as surely still happens today, the world over.)

And in 2010 Pope Benedict XVI made a similar (though theoretical) statement during the course of an interview with an Italian journalist discussing the problem of preventing HIV/AIDS transmission between gay prostitutes and their clientele:

“There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.”

Both Holy Father’s words are consistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church. But both statements sent shock waves through the media, nonetheless.

Because what the western secular mind is looking for, always, is justification for – and even endorsement of – our insatiable sexual appetite.

So the words “could be a step on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed,” meant to invoke an understanding that any of us, even tax collectors and gay prostitutes, are always capable of conversion, becomes twisted into: POPE GREEN LIGHTS CONDOMS 4 ENTIRE WORLD.

I’ve no doubt that Francis’ reflection on the reality that avoiding pregnancy in and of itself is, of course, not an absolute evil will break the internet in a similar fashion. After all, the Church has only taught that about a million different ways through Humana Vitae, Theology of the Body, and endless diocesan programs championing NFP.

But the rhythm method! Right? Isn’t that what Catholics are expected to do? Silly Catholic Church, trying to force everyone to have babies whether they want them or not. Silly, stuck-in-the-mud Rome, oblivious to women’s real needs for IUDs and hormonal contraceptives and organic condoms.

But what is missed perhaps by much of the media, is what the Pope failed to say: contraception will save you.

He didn’t say that.

He didn’t even allude to it, in fact, other than mentioning an anguished incident of it allegedly being used as a weapon to combat the vicious evil of rape.

But make no mistake, if it was wielded then, on behalf of those religious sisters, then it was wielded as a weapon against their aggressors.

So what role does contraception, then, possibly play in the relationship between married spouses?

Where does the need for a weapon enter into the equation?

I’ve reread his remarks at least a dozen times now, and I can’t find the spot where he encourages Catholic spouses to oppose one another in their sexual embrace by means of contraception. I can, however, see where he alludes to NFP in the line “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil.”

It sounds really familiar, actually. Because it’s a central message in one of Catholicism’s most essential texts on sexuality: Humanae Vitae.

So to sum things up: no, Pope Francis, in an in flight interview on a 747, did not just change the Catholic Church’s teachings on birth control (not least of which due to the simple fact that he can’t. He literally doesn’t have the power to change it.) and no, he probably will not be endorsing Donald J. Trump for president.

———

(Leaving the comments open on this one because it’s an important conversation, but I won’t be moderating beyond deleting death threats/personal attacks.)

44 Comments

  • Reply Heather @ RealCatholicMom February 18, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Thank you VERY MUCH for your thoroughly cited post and thoughtful commentary, Jenny. Words matter. Context matters. Here’s hoping your words helped “un-break” the Internet, if only just a smidge.

  • Reply Sarah K February 18, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    As always, an excellent, concise explanation of our Papa’s words. There are many who wish he would stop making this off-the-cuff remarks, which is a sentiment I understand. However, so often our Catholicism is lived out in the nuances, in the spontaneous moments. It is fruitful to delve into these too.

  • Reply Colleen February 18, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    You either forgot or chose not to mention this key piece of his “talk”.
    “Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape,” Pope Francis said. He added said that avoiding pregnancy is “not an absolute evil.”
    “In certain cases, as in this one, such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.”
    So, yes Francis DID appear to okay contraception in this case and people on the far left and far right seem to agree that he did.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing February 18, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      “Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil” he doesn’t uses the phrase “contraception” – that’s your word.

      I’m actually currently “avoiding pregnancy” myself, which is totally in line with Catholic teaching, vis a vi NFP.

      • Reply Liz February 19, 2016 at 4:38 pm

        Sorry, Jenny, but I disagree. I can’t help but admire your instinctive fervor and loyalty in defending the Pope, but Colleen’s point is a valid one. Examining the context of the remarks is crucial for clarification. His Holiness’ comment that “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil,” is IMMEDIATELY followed by a reference back to the Pope Paul VI case. If one, in turn, refers back to Pope Francis’ earlier remarks about THAT, he explicitly uses the word “contraceptives.” It’s unjust to call that Colleen’s word. That word is lifted right from the transcript of the Pope’s comments. A reasonable person, it seems, may draw a logical inference that the Pope WAS (at least tacitly) condoning the use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy during the Zika epidemic.

        I can certainly appreciate the fact that the media has a tendency to distort the meaning and implication of many of the Pope’s remarks (The “who am I to judge?” debacle comes to mind). I really wish he HADN’T said what he said…. but in this case, I just don’t think those who believe that he was suggesting contraceptives to be permissible in some situations are really that far off the mark, unfortunately.

        • Reply jeanette February 21, 2016 at 2:37 pm

          Again, I think it is important not to treat the words that are recorded in an interview as being so well organized that there was any implicit connection. One spoken thought following another does not necessarily mean he intended anything; have you never had a thought pop into your mind on the heels of something else but did not intend to join them? I think it is important to put the Pope’s words into their actual context. He did not have a written speech, after all. In any case, he has not made any indication that he intends to change Church teaching on contraception, he more or less pointed to a situation where something exceptional happened in the past, and even that exception did not share the same circumstances as this Zika virus. I instead want to point to what was stated by Archbishop Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN, on Tuesday (see http://www.news.va/en/news/holy-see-response-to-zika-virus-should-not-be-pani)
          “Not only is increased access to abortion and abortifacients an illegitimate response to this crisis, but since it terminates the life of a child it is fundamentally not preventative. Instead, the promotion of such a radical policy is the confirmation of a failure of the international community to stop the spread of the disease and to develop and provide the medical treatment pregnant women and their children need, to avoid the development of birth defects or to mitigate their effects and carry the pregnancy to term.”

          He further states:

          It is clear from the current research and information that, thankfully, not all pregnant women who contract the virus place their children at risk of having birth defects. Moreover, to date, transmission of the virus has been verified principally through mosquito bites and only rarely from mother to child.(1) Though there have been suggestions that the disease can be transmitted sexually, these rare reports have yet to be medically confirmed.

          Also, he says this:
          Regardless of the connection to the Zika virus, it is a fact of human existence that some children develop conditions like microcephaly, and that these children deserve to be protected and cared for throughout their lives, in accordance with our obligation to safeguard all human life, healthy and disabled, with equal commitment, leaving no one behind.

  • Reply Mary February 18, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    So, Jenny, you are saying he said, ‘avoiding pregnancy’ which is what I originally thought. But then I read a summery at news.va (good source, no?) that said ‘contraception’. That, coupled with the contraception example of the nuns, seemed to leave the door wide open for the contraception question to avoid Zika. Which was my main concern. So, we are quite confident that ‘contraception’ was not used, but rather, avoiding pregnancy?

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing February 18, 2016 at 2:58 pm

      he does use contraception in relation to the nun/rape case, just like Benedict used the example of a condom with the HIV example I cited from 2010. But when he specifically addresses the married couples in the second part of his statement, he says “avoiding pregnancy” not “contraception.” It’s a subtle but hugely significant difference, as you and I both know, because while I am – and many other Catholic couples I know are as well – avoiding pregnancy myself right now, I’m not using the illicit means, in the case of a married couple, of contraception.

      It was a clumsy analogy and I wish he hadn’t used it, but there’s a huge distinction between using contraception to protect against a rape, and using it in the context of the married relationship. It’s a bit like arguing self defense versus murder. Similar ends might be achieved, but the means matter tremendously.

      (For what it’s worth, I don’t think it will come out that he was approving the use of contraception for married couples. Because are they at the whim of their assailants like those nuns were? Are they having sex at gunpoint?)

      • Reply Kallah February 19, 2016 at 11:13 am

        That’s exactly my frustration… Everything about his response was awesome – EXCEPT for his analogous reference to nuns being raped and therefore using artificial contraception to protect themselves. Logically speaking – theology aside – this only deepened confusion. I think it would only be fair to Catholics in South America and adjoining states for the Church to publicly clarify this. It does make it sound like he is talking about a different level of avoiding pregnancy than abstinence (since the nuns in question couldn’t abstain from rape). Ughhhh I hate all the confusion of this! When the rest of his interview transcript was really so great!

  • Reply Valerie February 18, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    The way that I understand the Church’s stance on contraceptives is that they are not morally acceptable because they separate the procreative aspect from the unifying aspect of sex. Also, hormonal birth control can act as an abortifacient by thinning the endometrium so much that a newly conceived life could not implant in it’s mothers uterus. Knowing these two things, why would the church ever okay the use of contraceptives in any situation (I’m referring to the instance in Africa where the nuns were being raped)? If we are a faith that believes that abortion is wrong without exception, why would Pope Paul VI issue that contraceptive pardon for the nuns? Is it because they didn’t know back then the abortifacient potential that contraception had?

    • Reply Someone February 19, 2016 at 10:30 am

      There is no unifying aspect of rape. It is not a conjugal act. It is pure violence. Thus contraception as a defense to this violence is not an evil.

      • Reply Liz February 19, 2016 at 4:42 pm

        YES. Thank you. A very simple application of the Principle of Double Effect.

      • Reply jeanette February 21, 2016 at 3:00 pm

        The nun situation has not been corroborated by any evidence that can be found so far. I am personally doubtful, and have read accounts that this was fabricated a very long time ago and is merely reiterated without proof. In any case, Pope Paul VI was a very prophetic pope.

        Interestingly, here is what Paul VI had to say on the subject in Humanae Vitae (see #17) of government recommendations for contraception:

        Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

    • Reply Rachel February 22, 2016 at 2:35 pm

      I struggled with this too when I first read Pope Francis’s comment. Here’s an article I found about the African Nun incident with strong evidence for why it probably did not happen. I thought you might enjoy it!http://wdtprs.com/blog/2016/02/its-not-an-urban-legend-its-a-lie-paul-vi-did-not-give-permission-to-nuns-to-use-contraceptives/

  • Reply Amanda February 18, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Hi there! Good article! My question is about the nuns in the Congo situation. I am confused why it was OK for them to use contraceptive and I am guessing I don’t know most of the story or their situation but neither do others reading the article. If they were granted permission…(and I am not advocating this) why aren’t Catholic women raped today given permission to use the morning after pill? Seems inconsistent. And if birth control pills are abortifacients…why would they ever be an OK form of weaponry against abuse? Just thinking out loud here, hoping for some deeper clarification once he’s off that plane! 🙂

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing February 18, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      Amanda, I’m actually not sure about the Congo situation, I haven’t come across an any actual source citing it. It seems a little urban legend-y to me, but Pope Francis used it so I included it.

      My best guess? Either it wasn’t widely known that abc was abortifacient back in the day (or maybe it wasn’t, in an earlier formulation? Though I doubt it – my understanding is that early forms of the Pill were much higher in estrogen and therefore much more powerful) or else it would be a matter of direct intent. So like the sticky vaccine question: are Catholic parents permitted to use vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell lines (MMR, Cpox, etc)? Yes, because their intention is to safeguard their children, and not to cause the abortion from which the vaccine materials derived. So it’s distal cooperation with evil. Seems to me that would be the case in this situation, too, as the nuns would surely not be hoping or planning to be raped, but “taking precautions” in case they were. Their intention would be to limit the damage done and prevent pregnancy, not to cause an abortion. Still sticky because what about rape victims in the general population, right? Shouldn’t all women be walking around always on birth control just in case we get raped?? In the case of these alleged sisters, the threat of rape was so imminent and unavoidable that it might have been a rare, specific exemption was granted to these women who had taken vows of celibacy.

      At any rate? I really, really wish he’d chosen another example to illustrate his point.

      • Reply Millie February 18, 2016 at 5:49 pm

        I found one mention, in a book by Fr. Peter Stravinskas, of the Congo Nun situation in which he said that at the time, they were not aware that the contraceptive was also an abortifacient. So it was being used to prevent ovulation, not to end a pregnancy that may have occurred. He also wrote that if they had known it was an abortifcacient, they would not have allowed its use.

      • Reply Tacy February 19, 2016 at 6:00 am

        I was almost wondering if this was a geeky point made by a very smart Pope. Because why in the world would they ever need it… I mean really and truly, what are the chances?

    • Reply Holly February 18, 2016 at 5:28 pm

      Amanda, he was referring to condoms to primarily avoid disease, possible pregnancy was secondary.

    • Reply Emily February 23, 2016 at 9:43 am

      I don’t have a source for this (and I should) but it’s my understanding that a Catholic hospital may offer a rape victim first and ovulation test, and if it comes out negative, then offer a morning after pill, ensuring they are suppressing ovulation and not implantation. Married couples are asked to be open to life. Rape victims are not, and there is a substantial difference between preventing conception due to rape and causing the loss of an already-conceived child of whatever origin.

  • Reply Ellen February 18, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Thanks for clarifying. When the pope says something that seems crazy, I default to assuming that there is more to the story than the media report. And that remarks made in a conversation are not the same as those made in a formal statement. I refuse to get upset or become defensive of a pope who models a holy life, and who so often challenges all of us to love Jesus more, especially through our neighbors.

    • Reply Holly February 18, 2016 at 5:30 pm

      Ellen, I agree. I used to get so crazy. Now I just double check at a valid publication when something seems a little off.

    • Reply Micaela February 18, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      Thank you, Ellen! Exactly how I feel.

      Excellent article, Jenny. Thanks, as always.

  • Reply Marcy February 18, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    Jenny, thank you for your thoughtful response. I want to add to the example with the nuns. The idea is that the sexual act of rape is not within a marital relationship and is therefore disordered from the start. I often say that I am open to life in my marriage, not just that I practice NFP. On the flip side, when the nuns had foreknowledge that they may have to withstand rape, it was understood that they did not have to be open to the act. They didn’t freely chose rape so couldn’t be open to the procreative aspec. This makes rape drastically different then the marital act. Perhaps this will help some readers. And I second Holly, they would most likely be using a barrier.

  • Reply Jessi February 18, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    In charity, I read Pope Francis the same way. But I would be very critical of any other ethicist for speaking so sloppily. He does not make it clear that he is referring to NFP and so it is frustrating as a morality teacher that he leaves it open to interpretation and it is particularly confusing when he uses as an example of avoiding conception, the oft cited and rarely understood example the nuns using condoms or douching in case of rape or of using a post-rape protocol. It makes it seem that he is saying that one case is basically like the other (why else would he bring it up?) One might ask (as my astute students are likely to do) aren’t these two very different acts? The object, intent and circumstance are completely disparate, except in that they are avoiding conception “for a serious reason” so he makes it seem that contraception or condom use is acceptable as long as it is a serious enough reason… I will just keep praying for Pope Francis and for my patience with his off the cuff remarks.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing February 18, 2016 at 9:01 pm

      I’ll do the same, I agree with everything you wrote.

  • Reply Lis February 18, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Thank God you’re here to help field our questions in an honest, Catholic praying, faithful mom kind of way!

  • Reply jeanette February 18, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Since day one the Pope has been cited in the media in ways that make Catholics have to carefully scrutinize his words to really find the truth, as the media twists things to their own purpose. It seems to many Catholics that he is just plain sloppy about how he says things, creating ambiguity. Maybe so, maybe not. However, for better or worse, it forces Catholics to really get to the heart of discussing what the Church really does teach. So, whether or not he is sloppy or just making us think harder, it requires people to clarify their knowledge of the teachings of the Church. The media, they just don’t care anyhow, and they spread confusion and discord and dissenting opinions without worry about the consequence to souls. But Catholics, we can use it for evangelizaton opportunities, whether helping fellow Catholics grow in their knowledge of what the Church actually teaches or helping non-Catholics learn a bit more about why our Church teaches what she does. The media may connect the dots of what the Pope says by stringing together their biased views and coming up with the wrong conclusions every time, but the Catholic has the ability to discern the truth. And when someone says, “Hey, look what the Pope said today”…it is a prime opportunity to give them the real truth.

  • Reply Tacy February 19, 2016 at 5:58 am

    I heard this story on NPR. Their correspondent in Rome is so arrogant; I think she needs to be taken down a peg or two. ugh/grr/???

    • Reply Melissa Parker February 19, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      I also heard the NPR story,but was actually pleasantly surprised that the correspondent in Rome clarified that the pope was 100% clear that abortion was an absolute evil and impermissible in any case, and that contrary to what many would assume, he was NOT advocating birth control or artificial contraception. I actually thought she parsed it quite well, especially since I find NPR very liberal when it comes to pro life issues. Thanks for another great article, Jenny.

  • Reply Did Pope Francis approve of Contraception in dire circumstances? | the reproach of Christ February 19, 2016 at 6:04 am

    […] “On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.” [CNA] […]

  • Reply Jessica February 19, 2016 at 6:56 am

    My local news station reported last night that “Pope Francis suggested it may be acceptable for Catholics to use artificial contraception to prevent the spread of Zika” so…yeah. (And yes, that’s pretty much a direct quote of what they said — I’m 100% sure they used the word artificial.) I am glad that he spoke so forcefully about abortion, but I wish that he would have spent the rest of his time talking about gov’t responsibility instead of delving into contraception — obviously these gov’t statements saying that women should avoid pregnancy are simply intended to shift the responsibility for public health away from the gov’t and toward women. (Like, oh, sorry, no we don’t have more resources for dealing with microencephaly…well, we did tell you not to get pregnant.) That’s a type of criticism that fits in well with his overall message, and would’ve been easier to explain off-the-cuff.

  • Reply Kallah February 19, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Jenny I’m so grateful to you and your husband for your dedication to engaging with the mainstream media and being so on top of church current events!
    As soon as I got my first “what did the pope really say??” text from a non-catholic family member, I hopped onto y’all’s sight immediately and have already shared at least 3 links 5 times. 😉
    I was also reminded immediately of when Pope Benedict addressed preventing HIV transmission with condoms but being much less researched and hard-working than yourself, could no longer remember the details of it. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your knowledge!

  • Reply Kallah February 19, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Ugh *site not sight!

  • Reply Lisa February 19, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Thanks so much for writing this, Jenny! I agree with what a lot of fellow commenters said about default-assuming that there’s probably more to what Pope Francis said than what’s reported in the media…I just can’t help but feel, though, that it sounds like he’s indirectly condoning the use of contraception in the Zika situation by not really saying “no contraception”, even though I know he never would/ can’t allow it, like you said. I just hope enough people delve farther into this than believing what the mainstream media reports!

  • Reply Colleen February 19, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    -This is directlyfrom the Vatican Spokesman-

    ROME February 19,2016-Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi has affirmed that the Holy Father was indeed speaking of “condoms and contraceptives” when on the flight back from Mexico, Pope Francis said couples could rightly “avoid pregnancy” in the wake of the Zika virus scare.

    Fr. Lombardi told Vatican Radio today, “The contraceptive or condom, in particular cases of emergency or gravity, could be the object of discernment in a serious case of conscience. This is what the Pope said.”

    According to Lombardi, the pope spoke of “the possibility of taking recourse to contraception or condoms in cases of emergency or special situations. He is not saying that this possibility is accepted without discernment, indeed, he said clearly that it can be considered in cases of special urgency.”

  • Reply Colleen February 19, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    The sorce of that qoute was Lifesite News.
    You can also translate the quote from Italian directly from Vatican radio’s transcript.

    The key parts regarding contraception from the direct translation say this:

    “The Pope then distinguishes clearly the radical nature of the evil of abortion as the taking of a human life and on the other hand the possibility of recourse to contraception or condoms as may relate to cases of emergency or special situations, where then do not suppress a human life, but a pregnancy is avoided. Now it is not that he says that is accepted and used this action without any discernment, indeed, made it clear that can be considered in cases of special urgency. The example that has made Paul VI and the authorization to use the pill to the religious who were at very serious risk, and ongoing violence by the rebels in the Congo, to the times of the Congo war tragedies, suggests that it is not that it was a normal situation in which this was taken into account. And also – remember for instance – the discussion followed a passage from the book of Benedict XVI interview “Light of the World”, in which he spoke about the use of condoms in situations at risk of infection, for example, AIDS. Then the contraceptive or condom, especially in cases of emergency and severity, may also be the subject of a serious discernment consciousness. This says the Pope. While abortion has not given to considerations of space. Then the Pope insisted that of course we must try to develop all scientific research, vaccines, in order to combat this epidemic and this risk of Zika virus, which is causing so much concern, and therefore necessary that we do not fall into panic and then in to take the guidelines or decisions that are not proportionate to the reality of the problem. So understand well the nature of the problem, continue to study it, to also react with the search, to find the most substantial and stable solutions; however, avoid an abortion and, if there were any major emergencies, then a well-formed conscience can see if there are any possibilities or need for use of non-abortifacient to prevent pregnancy.”

  • Reply jeanette February 20, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    I looked at the Lifesite article referred to by Colleen.

    What is at play here is what is known as the Principle of Double Effect, which is basically: one action is taken that has an unintended secondary consequence. For example, treating a woman for cancer could have the unintended consequence of harming her unborn child.

    What also is at play is that the Church teaches that no one may commit evil in order to prevent evil. So, clearly the contraceptive pill, which is an abortifacient drug, would not be recommended given our knowledge that it has abortifacient properties.

    The clarification by Fr. Lombardi was a hugely general statement that did not specify the conditions for applying it to the Zika virus situation, but the ideas of emergency and gravity of the situation were emphasized for GENERAL application. To my knowledge, however, the Church does not teach that potential birth defects are a valid reason for recourse to contraception. So, the whole clarification is still strangely vague, entertaining the possibility that some such situation could exist, but not making a blanket recommendation that all cases merit this approach.

    However, whatever the clarification by Fr. Lombardi actually means, it should be remembered that the Pope has definite avenues for making public statements to the Church on teachings of faith and morals as they pertain to the official Magisterial teachings of the Church. Interviews on airplanes is not the ordinary means to do that. There is no Imprimitur on the daily newspaper. There is no reason to believe that anything reported in the news about an interview has any definitive teaching authority. Expect Pope Francis to issue an official statement if there is need to do so. Honestly, these interviews are reported as though someone had to pick his brain to nudge him along towards doing his job of teaching on matters of faith and morals. Obviously it appears that they think they already knew what “official” teaching would apply, and they are attempting to gain an answer that conforms to their own agenda. One need only look at the headlines to see that they have now linked the contraception clarification to, “Then why not condoms to control AIDS…”

  • Reply jeanette February 20, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    oops…I’ll clarify my statement: no one may commit evil to produce good…

  • Reply Bill H February 20, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Seems like a dead issue to me. Everybody that wants contraception uses it and that’s most people.

    • Reply jeanette February 23, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      That seems like a very simplistic understanding, perhaps you didn’t really understand what is at issue, not just in this case, but across the board. In the minds of some people, the Church is WRONG to teach that using contraception is sinful, and will forever argue that position. Many who argue that don’t believe in sin, or don’t believe in the Catholic faith, yet will feel a need to argue against the Church, as though they have a legitimate right to tell the Church what to teach. In your mind, MOST PEOPLE want to use contraception, but that is nothing more than a subjective opinion, not based in fact. However, the truth is that no one WANTS to use contraception. Those who use contraception simply want to engage in sex without taking responsibility for the outcome of their actions, i.e. they are unwilling to become parents. In other words, they want to live in denial of their fertility. The Church is teaching the truth about fertility and about self-mastery. The Church is teaching the truth about sin, too. If not one person was willing to listen to or abide by those teachings, it still does not change the truth. As long as it is possible to teach the truth, it is not a dead issue.

  • Reply Maria February 23, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Just because the pope says something, it doesn’t change what the church teaches. The infallibility reference does not mean the man, the pope himself, is infallible, rather it is the teachings of the church that are infallible. In this age of poorly catechised Catholics, social media frenzy, and wall to wall TV and Internet news, people think that whatever comes out of the pope’s mouth when he answers a reporter’s question is now Church dogma. And also, there is no proof or documentation that references Pope Paul on the nun/contraception comments. Now it just gets passed on as something beyond doubt.

  • Reply Evelyn vidos February 29, 2016 at 5:41 am

    For a fact to be know by all, contraceptives do NOT stop conception of a new human, but makes the uterus so the newly conceived human canNOT attach in the uterus to continue the human development. So the new human is ABORTED!!!!!!

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