I haven’t seen this many comments on a Commonweal article in ages…..Reyanna
By Peter Steinfels February 22, 2013 dotCommonweal on-line
Did Pope Francis’s unrehearsed comments on the morality of using contraception in the context of the Zika virus constitute a change in church teaching? I leave to others the fine arts of papal exegesis and applying the principle of double effect and lesser evil. For anyone a little less papal centric, what the recent Synod on the Family had to say—or, better, not say—about contraception may be as noteworthy.
The precedents cited to render Francis’s statement consistent with standing teaching strike me as a stretch. Despite the pope’s own fleeting allusion to what is in fact a historically obscure episode involving nuns threatened by sexual assault in the Congo in the early Sixties, Francis was not talking about an apparently proactive prevention of forced conception from rapes that may or may not occur. He was not talking about prevention of transmitting a virus, parallel to HIV, from one marital partner to another. He was talking about the prevention of pregnancy.
And Humanae Vitae condemns any use whatsoever of contraception to prevent pregnancy—even as a “lesser evil … even for the gravest of reasons … even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general.” Nor, according to the encyclical, can “a whole married life of otherwise normal relations” justify such a single or temporary use.
My wager is that Pope Francis just doesn’t believe that. He respects it. He admires its author. He looks for the truth in it. But he doesn’t buy it.
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