News & Politics

Huh? Pope Hints Contraception May Be OK in Age of Zika Virus

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Boy, am I glad the pope is infallible. I mean, when he wants to junk Humanae Vitae, the encyclical that forbade Catholics from using most forms of contraception, all we can do is chalk it up to the fact that the pope is never wrong.

With the mosquito-borne Zika virus continuing to spread through Central and South America, Pope Francis said today that contraception could be seen as “the lesser of two evils” if women are concerned about having children with the birth defect microcephaly.

The Zika virus is usually mild, but has been associated with a rise of the alarming birth defect, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain, often leading to significant developmental delays.

The pope compared the situation to a decree issued by Pope Paul VI, which said nuns in Africa could use contraception due to the threat of rape.

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

Francis did say in strong terms that abortion is “an absolute evil” and should not be considered even if there is a risk the infant will be born with microcephaly.

Pardon my laity, but if he is reasoning that a woman using contraception to prevent getting pregnant and possibly having a baby with birth defects because of the Zika virus is permitted, why not abortion? The Humanae Vitae makes it clear that contraception and abortion are of the same tree:

Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. (14) Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. (15)

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. (16)

Well…maybe not completely “excluded.”

This pope’s logic circuits are misfiring. Did he really compare nuns who were granted a dispensation to take oral contraceptives because of potential rape to a possible dispensation granted Latin American women because their babies might be deformed? The pope is trampling on the spirit of Humanae Vitae. The church does not allow women to take contraception, even if there is a good chance any offspring they have will be afflicted with a genetic disorder. So why make an exception with the Zika virus?

Almost offhandedly, the pope has turned nearly 50 years of Catholic doctrine on contraception on its head. It makes you wonder what he will do next.