Even without the Pope’s recent allowance for birth control “in certain cases,” Catholic tradition has long taught that each person must look to his or her own conscience as the final moral guide. A brain damaged baby or an eternity in Hell—which would you rather risk? Some sincere Catholics believe that Latin America’s Zika pandemic forces practicing Catholics to choose between the wellbeing of their future children and the wellbeing of their souls.
Consider these comments from a Catholic forum:
“Since contraception is intrinsically evil, it cannot be justified by the good intention to avoid harm to the prenatal, nor by the difficult circumstance of the spread of this virus.” – Ron Conte
“What’s disturbing is that any posters seem to think, in spite of clear and unequivocal doctrinal teaching on this topic, that there are still some (any) circumstances in which ABC [artificial birth control] for the purpose of preventing pregnancy is permissible. There aren’t. Period. Full Stop. End of Story. If you disagree, you need to work on better forming your conscience.” – SMOM
“A couple conceive and possibly have a child with a birth defect . . . “Suffering” for decades. [or] a couple uses condoms or other forms of birth control. Eternal suffering as they are separated from God. . . Pushing condoms to reduce a small percentage of birth defects puts millions of souls at risk.” – Usige
Over the last 1500 years, the Church has promoted some wacky and harmful ideas about sex and reproduction. But any Catholic parent or prospective parent facing the nightmare of Zika should know that the relevant Catholic history and theology are far, far from unequivocal, and that few Catholics—either clergy or lay—believe that using contraception puts anyone’s soul at risk. In fact Pope Francis himself has now weighed in on the side of sanctioning contraception during the Zika pandemic, citing Pope Paul VI’s 1960’s decision to allow nuns in the Belgian Congo to use contraceptives during a time of violence and indiscriminant rape.