Sunday, February 21, 2016

Did Pope Francis just endorse the use of contraception?

  • Pope takes the classic Vatican approach to birth control and Zika, by John Allen Jr. 02/20/16:
    Speaking about birth control in the context of the Zika pandemic, Francis cited his predecessor, Pope Paul VI. Here’s what he said, translated from Italian:
    Paul VI — the great! — in a difficult situation, in Africa, permitted sisters to use birth control for cases of violence. It’s necessary not to confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy, by itself, with abortion … avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil, and in certain cases, as in that I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.
    The reference is to Congo in the late 1950s and early 60s, where Catholic nuns faced widespread sexual violence and the question was whether birth control could be used to avoid pregnancy after rape.

    Francis said Paul VI “permitted” birth control in that context, which, to Anglo-Saxon ears, implies a formal juridical act. The line sparked a frenzy of fruitless Internet searches, as people went looking for a Vatican edict or decree that just doesn’t exist.

    Here’s what happened: In December 1961, the influential Italian journal Studi Cattolici (“Catholic Studies”) published an issue in which three Catholic moral theologians agreed that in the Congo case, contraception could be justified.

    The future Paul VI, at that stage, was still the Archbishop of Milan, and close to the currents that shaped Studi Cattolici. It was assumed the conclusions reflected his thinking. That appeared to be confirmed later when Paul VI made one of the authors, Pietro Palazzini, a cardinal.

    Paul became pope in 1963, and never issued any edict writing that position into law. Thus, when pressed about it some years later, a Vatican spokesman could accurately say, “I am not aware of official documents from the Holy See in this regard.”

  • Francis Says Contraception Can Be Used to Slow Zika, by Simon Romero and Jim Yardley. New York Times 02/18/16.
  • The damage done—again—by the Pope's interview, by Phil Lawler. CatholicCulture. 02/18/16:
    Tomorrow, no doubt, the Vatican press office will go into its now-familiar “clarification” mode. Loyal Catholic defenders of Pope Francis will argue that the Holy Father’s words were taken out of context. But this time, the problem cannot be attributed to sensationalistic reporting; the Pontiff definitely conveyed the impression that he was ready to discuss the morality of contraception in the context of the Zika epidemic. The Pope’s own words are—at best—confusing.
  • Misunderstanding the (alleged) ‘Congo contraception’ case, by Edward Peters. In the Light of the Law 02/16/16:
    A discussion could be had, I think, on whether non-marital sexual intercourse is subject to the same moral requirements as that to which marital intercourse is held. Humanae vitae does not, as far as I can see, address that question. But, as to whether a permission allegedly given to nuns to take contraceptive measures in the face of rape establishes a precedent for spouses wanting to contracept their sexual relations out of fear of possible birth defects, the conclusion seems inescapable: there is no parallel between the two cases, and so there is no precedent set.
  • Contraception, Congo Nuns, Choosing the Lesser Evil, and Conflict of Commandments, by Janet Smith. Catholic World Report "The Church has never taught that if the harms are serious enough, it is permissible to use contraception."
  • Stakes on a Plane, by Dale Price. Dyspeptic Mutterings 02/19/16:


    Wait, what?

Pope Francis Roundup



  • Francis and Kirill: Who Played Whom? Catholic World Report 02/13/16. Five details from yesterday's historical meeting suggest that while the Russian Patriarch may have thought he was first violin, the Jesuit Pope was conducting the orchestra.

  • Seven Thoughts on the "Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, by Carl E. Olson. Catholic World Report 02/12/16. The historic text is largely and thankfully free of boilerplate language and is remarkably lean and focused, while skirting the delicate matters of Ukraine and Eastern Catholics.

  • Francis and Kirill: Smoke and Mirrors, by Boniface. Unum Sanctum 02/11/16. "It is mind-boggling that uniatism is rejected as a model for reconciliation, since uniatism has historically been the single most successful method of reconciling the Orthodox."

  • Pope Francis and Catholic Traditionalists: 20 Questions for Kenneth Wolfe Catholic World Report 02/13/16. The Rorate Caeli contributor offers his thoughts on the current papacy and on growing interest in the pre-Vatican II liturgical tradition.

  • Should Pope Francis celebrate the Reformation?, by Fr. Dwight Longenecker. 02/11/16:
    In commemorating the Reformation, we should be honest and realistic. The Protestant Reformation shattered Western Christendom and led to war, schism, division, heresy, and strife. But if we are honest, we should also consider the contributions the churches of the Reformation have made to world Christianity over the past 500 years, the greatest of which was the renewal of the Catholic Church known as the Counter Reformation. It was, arguably, only because of the reformers’ critiques of the Catholic Church that the great wave of 16th- and 17th-century renewal and missionary work could have taken place.

  • Pope Francis: Praxis vs. Doctrine?, by Andrea Gagliarducci. Monday Vatican 02/25/16. "“Realities are more important than ideas.” This is one of the four principles Pope Francis lists in “Evangelii Gaudium,” the apostolic exhortation that represents a sort of program for his pontificate. This principle will perhaps be put into practice in the upcoming months, in another apostolic exhortation, the second by Pope Francis. Who Pope Francis really is will be understood thanks to this document."

  • The Pope Who Didn’t Like Catholicism OnePeterFive. 12/2/15:
    If you are a typical observant Catholic who has struggled with this papacy, dealt with distress caused by his words and actions, and generally struggled with dislike for the pontifex, it’s OK. Well, all right, it’s not: honestly, it is both strange and painful for a Catholic to be at odds with the Successor of Peter.

    It is, however, completely understandable.

    Why? Because, in this case, he gives every indication of not liking you first.

    In fact, I think it’s safe to say that we are dealing with the fascinating–and unique–spectacle. Namely, a Bishop of Rome who truly dislikes the Church.

  • 2015: The Year Catholics Misunderstood the Pope: Four seasons of Francis rocking our world, by Tom Hoopes. Aleteia. 02/28/15:
    Pope Francis demonstrates all the good that you get from a pope who has an emphatic, plainspoken style. He also shows the confusion it can cause. Some say, “What more does he have to do before you admit Pope Francis is trouble?” But you can look at the man who keeps a Way of the Cross and a Rosary in his pocket and also say, “What more does he have to do before you admit he is devout and faithful?”
  • The Off-the-Cuff and Out-of-Focus Papacy, by Carl Olson. Catholic World Report 12/01/15. Since chastising orthodox bishops at the conclusion of the Synod, Pope Francis has often resorted to scoldings, ambiguities, and mixed messages:
    ... There is one key moment of the 2015 synod that Weigel does not mention—the moment that was, for me, the most revealing of all: the final address by Pope Francis to the synod fathers. I've read and studied hundreds of papal texts, and I've never read anything quite like it. It was a sort of papal tantrum, quite unbecoming both the office and the man. Sure, this pope is known for his scolding. But that address was a new and disconcerting low, and anyone who has been following this pontificate and these synods knows that the Holy Father's scathing remarks were aimed squarely at those bishops who had stood their ground on the matter of Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

  • Cardinal Sarah, Bishop Schneider Respond to Pope’s Comment on Intercommunion "It’s not a matter of following your conscience", by Dianne Montagna. Aleteia 11/30/15:
    Earlier this month, Pope Francis stirred controversy when he expressed comments about intercommunion while addressing a gathering of Lutherans in Rome.

    Responding to a question from a non-Italian Lutheran woman who voiced her regret that she couldn’t receive Holy Communion with her Catholic husband, the pope said that while he would never dare give permission for her to receive the Eucharist because it’s not his competence or jurisdiction, he said she should “talk to the Lord and then go forward.”

    Owing to confusion over the pope’s words, we asked Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, for their opinion on the matter.