A few weeks ago, our parish held it's annual Pre-Cana day. One of the evaluations of the speakers was particularly interesting because of its sincerity in offering constructive criticism:
Some very old school ideals that need to be revisited with some of the newer adoptions of the church.This was interesting because throughout the day, couples were reminded that they were hearing authentic church teaching. In our presentation, we referred frequently to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is supposed to be the "sure norm" for what Catholics are supposed to believe and know about the church. That document is only around 20 years old. In a church that is over 2000 years old, that is hardly "old school." What could they be referring to by "newer adoptions?"
This week, I was reminded of what this attendee may have been referring to - enter Pope Francis.
On his return flight from Mexico last week the 79-year-old pontiff was asked about the Zika Virus and the birth defects it is alleged to cause:
Paloma García Ovejero, Cadena COPE (Spain):Holy Father, for several weeks there’s been a lot of concern in many Latin American countries but also in Europe regarding the Zika virus. The greatest risk would be for pregnant women. There is anguish. Some authorities have proposed abortion or else to avoiding pregnancy. As regards avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of “the lesser of two evils?”
To which Pope Francis replied:
Pope Francis: Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.
Don’t confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion. Abortion is not a theological problem, it is a human problem, it is a medical problem. You kill one person to save another, in the best case scenario. Or to live comfortably, no? It’s against the Hippocratic oaths doctors must take. It is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil in the beginning, no, it’s a human evil. Then obviously, as with every human evil, each killing is condemned.
On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, or in the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.
So after a long trip, on a crowded airplane, the tired 79-year-old Pontiff gives another off-the-cuff remark that pretty much undermines the well formulated teachings of Pope Pius XI, Pope Paul VI, John Paul II, and Pope Benedict the XVI - and the media gloms onto it with headlines about Pope Francis making contraception OK for Catholics!
Here are some examples:
Youth Health Mag
New York Times.
This is not the first time that Pope Francis has said things like this.
So no wonder the young Catholic in our pre-cana session was confused! And I'll bet they are not alone. IF your main source of news and info on the church comes from the media, or the spin of liberal news sources, it might seem as if indeed Catholic teaching on things like contraception has changed!
It has not. And it can't. Pope Francis can give a zillion of these off the cuff talks and but he alone does not have the power to change the clear unbroken teaching of the Magesterium.
What he can do, in his misguided attempt to be merciful, is make it very difficult for faithful Catholics, who have tried to live under these challenging teachings. He is betraying the trust and mocking the lives of Catholics who have struggled to live under the church's teaching on family life, and it feels a lot like a betrayal. It's confusing, exhausting and frankly, and I'm sort of over Francis mania.
So let's clear a few things up:
- Paul VI never wrote about or said anything about the rape of nuns in the congo. Neither did John XXIII.
- The Catechism already says that couples can rightly avoid or postpone pregnancy with periodic continence - call it NFP or fertiilty awareness, but that's what the church rightly teaches.
- There will always be anguish about pregnancy and health scares. This is not a new issue, and this is why the Anglicans first started to allow artificial methods in 1930. Pius XI responded to that with the encyclical Casti Conubbii.
- Pope Francis needs to quit giving interviews on the plane after a long day - because when he really has a chance to elaborate on church teaching, he does quite well!