You may have heard what Pope Francis said about how the supposed outbreak of the Zika virus may justify using contraception.
Plain and simple: the Pope erred. To put it mildly.
In a conference with the press aboard a flight from Mexico to Rome on February 18th, the Pope made his remarks. He claimed contraception use could be legitimate if couples used it, fearing contraction of the Zika Virus could lead to a birth defect for their children.
We’ll set aside questioning the validity of the hysteria over the Zika Virus for now. We’ll also ignore the claim that a prior pope okayed nuns to use contraception. We’ll also set aside the matter of using contraception for eugenic purposes. Instead, we’ll focus on the Pope’s other flawed comments.
The day after that flight, in case there was any confusion, the Vatican confirmed the Pope’s intention. He did mean to speak about “condoms and contraception.”
Before we get into the invalidity of what Pope Francis said, let me make two clarifications.
First, don’t go accusing me of being “holier than the Pope.” I am merely clarifying what constitutes proper Church teaching for the readers of this blog, and as a son of Holy Mother Church. I love Pope Francis, as a brother—or, should I say, Holy Father in the faith. I just think he gets some moral matters incorrect. This one falls into the purview of my blog, and so I feel compelled to write about it.
My second clarification is below.
INFALLIBILITY VS. IMPECCABILITY
Many know the Church claims its popes to be infallible.
But what they don’t realize about this teaching is that this is a negative protection. One popular Catholic apologetics site explains, “What infallibility does do is prevent a pope from solemnly and formally teaching as ‘truth’ something that is, in fact, error. It does not help him know what is true, nor does it ‘inspire’ him to teach what is true” (emphasis my own).
Giving interviews on an airplane to media members is not the time when the pope can invoke his infallibility. The press aboard his plane does not count as the correct audience, nor as the formal setting.
What’s more, many people falsely think Catholics think their popes are impeccable. To be impeccable means incapable of committing a sin.
The Church has never taught that its popes can never sin. In fact, the first pope (Peter) proved as much (see Galatians 2:11-16).
Thus, it is possible that what Pope Francis said can be in error.
THE POPE ESSENTIALLY DENIED THE NATURAL LAW AND THE MORAL ORDER
The Pope was wrong to say what he said.
He has caused great confusion and scandal with his off-the-cuff statements on this matter.
Contraception use remains an intrinsic evil. This means, in its very essence, it does not conform with the Divine Law.
In other words, an intrinsic evil, which contraception use always has been, is not justifiable in any situation, under any terms, ever. Period.
Other intrinsic evils include blasphemy against God, murder, sodomy, adultery, fornication, lying, rape, etc.
As I have written about in the past on this blog, contraception defies the Natural Law, as well. This means, just using plain human reasoning, we humans can know the intrinsic evil of contraception use. We can reason to the purpose of human sexuality. We can see, then, that it is primarily ordered toward procreation. Thus, contraception—by definition—seeks to circumvent the very purpose of the conjugal act.
In other words, you don’t need to be Catholic, Christian, know a single verse from the Bible, or even believe in God to know contraception is immoral.
We also know using birth control contradictions the Divine Law. In fact, I wrote an ebook on this very topic, available to you for free.
The Bible contains direct revelation from God. Thus, the Bible can contain no error. And since the Bible condemns contraception use, we know using it opposes the Divine Law.
The Catholic Church, famously, has preserved the teaching against contraception for its entire history. Much to the chagrin of so many over the centuries. In fact, the Catholic Church remains the only institution that has condemned contraception since its founding by Jesus Christ Himself.
Now think of what Pope Francis said. And now read what his predecessor, Pope Pius XI wrote, in his landmark papal encyclical, Casti Connubii (#54-57), to sum up the Church’s condemnation of contraception use. Here’s what he composed in 1930:
“54. But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.
“55. Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, ‘Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it.’
“56. Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.
“57. We admonish, therefore, priests who hear confessions and others who have the care of souls, in virtue of Our supreme authority and in Our solicitude for the salvation of souls, not to allow the faithful entrusted to them to err regarding this most grave law of God; much more, that they keep themselves immune from such false opinions, in no way conniving in them.
“If any confessor or pastor of souls, which may God forbid, lead the faithful entrusted to him into these errors or should at least confirm them by approval or by guilty silence, let him be mindful of the fact that he must render a strict account to God, the Supreme Judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust, and let him take to himself the words of Christ: “They are blind and leaders of the blind: and if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit” (emphasis my own).
Pope Pius XI’s sombering warning to “any confessor or pastor of souls” serves as a good way to conclude.
Heaven, help us.
I imagine there will be comments on this topic.
What are your thoughts on what Pope Francis said?
Do you agree with this analysis?
Please leave your thoughts below!