Last week we witnessed the latest installation in what is almost becoming a serial tale of Pope Francis raising confusion and controversy with his in-flight press conferences. This case was, as were the others, exacerbated by headlines and reporting by secular media outlets that lack knowledge and understanding of Catholic Church teaching. Thus headlines were immediately touting that the Pope approved of contraception, e.g., “Pope Francis Says Contraception Can Be Acceptable in Regions Hit by Zika Virus” (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 19, 2016).
We at CCL recognize these attention-grabbing headlines can make it difficult for us to engage and propose to highly secularized couples that NFP is a better option for them and their marriages. Many NFP couples may even feel unsupported by the Church. It is important to remember that Pope Francis was answering questions on a plane. This seems to be a way he invites people to discussion. But, despite their addictive attraction for the press, Church doctrine is not changed via casual conversation on a plane.
There have been several statements or articles released in the wake of this controversy, and we share two of them here. Both offer solid explanations of what the Church actually teaches regarding the use of contraceptives in special cases.
- Professor Janet Smith authored an essay in Catholic World Report
- Statement from the National Catholic Bioethics Center
The Zika virus is just one of many threats to the welfare of the unborn. Now, as always, the loving response would be for married persons to first take reasonable precautions against the threat (in this case, being bitten by a Zika-carrying mosquito), and second, to abstain from intercourse in and around the fertile time. And consider offering your abstinence as a loving gift of mercy for those children born with less than perfect heads who will face challenges the rest of their natural lives.
— Ann Gundlach