1968’s ‘Humane Vitae’ has done massive harm to the Catholic Church and has been largely ignored by many, writes TP O’Mahony
Time for a renunciation of anti-contraception doctrine by the Catholic Church
It is surely time for an open, direct, and formal renunciation of Humanae Vitae — the 1968 anti-contraception encyclical from Pope Paul VI.
This ill-conceived document has caused enormous harm, not least to papal authority, and been the source of worry, stress, and misery for millions of Catholic couples around the globe.
It’s publication on July 25, 1968, caused widespread disappointment and even dismay, and sparked a huge controversy.
At the time, I wrote that the crisis it created was the greates the Catholic Church had faced since the Reformation in the 16th century.
In retrospect, that was no exaggerated claim, and today — nearly 50 years later — we are still living with the divisions stemming from that encyclical. In the aftermath of its appearance, millions of Catholics stopped going to confession and many others abandoned the Church altogether.
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.
Source: Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
Last week Pope Francis implied at a press conference that it would not be an “absolute evil” if women at risk of being infected with the Zika virus used contraception to avoid having babies with a serious, brain-damaging birth defect called microcephaly.
Francis’ comments were more nuanced, and less permissive, than many early reports made it seem. But they suffer from another problem: If it’s OK for women to use birth control to prevent birth defects, why isn’t it OK to use contraception in family planning? Because the scientific evidence suggests, strongly, that contraception saves the lives of hundreds of thousands of women every year. There’s also good evidence contraception reduces the risk of death for infants and children, and improves their lives.
That’s not counting the vast toll that the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception has taken by slowing the use of condoms as a means for preventing thetransmission of HIV and other diseases–just the benefits of giving women control over when and how often they give birth
Source: Zika Shows It’s Time For The Catholic Church To Rethink Its Stance On Birth Control – Forbes