First of all, I think that almost everyone agrees that abortion is a worse evil than contraception. I am pleased to see that Pope Francis labeled abortion as an absolute evil.
Second, I don’t think Pope Francis has stated the “Pill and the Congo” case properly. To the best of my knowledge, Pope Paul VI was not involved in that situation. I have been told that some ill-informed doctors told the nuns that they could take the Pill to avoid pregnancy stemming from rape. I say “ill informed” because the Europeans at that time seemed to be quite ignorant about the abortifacient properties of the Pill. They thought it was only a contraceptive drug.
Third, there is a huge difference between using a contraceptive to prevent pregnancy from rape and using a contraceptive to prevent pregnancy from voluntary intercourse.
Fourth, The Rev. James Bretzke of Boston College is the kind of moral theologian who confuses rather than clarifies. Humanae Vitae n. 15 allows certain medical procedures that have legitimate therapeutic value even though they would render the person sterile. For example, the removal of cancerous ovaries. In these cases, the intention had to be therapeutic, not contraceptive. That does not apply to actions whose primary function is to prevent conception, something that could be accomplished by simply (though not easily) not engaging in sexual union.
Fifth, there is not a moral problem of contraception when sodomites use condoms to slow down the transmission of AIDS. The act is already essentially sterile. However, the situation is different with heterosexuals. There the primary action is contraceptive and thus immoral. However, in both situations, when an infected person has condomized sex with a non-infected person, it’s simply a matter of time until the infection is passed. Abstinence is the only sure way to protect the health of the non-infected person. Thus the moral problem is that of a sin against health and life.
Lastly, to speak the divine truth about human love and to point out its counterfeits is not to be obsessed with these issues but simply to bear witness in an evil age.
Please keep praying for Pope Francis, especially that he will give the Church and the world a post-Synod document that will clearly convey the teaching of the Lord and his Church regarding love, marriage and sexuality.
Sixth. In the light of other comments floating around, I think it can be said that Pope Francis could have and should have used these questions to evangelize the reporters. He certainly should have pointed out that Humanae Vitae teaches that married couples can use periodic abstinence from the marriage act to avoid pregnancy. That involves using natural family planning. He should know and be able to teach that couples can use cross-checking systems of NFP at the 99% level of effectiveness.
Seventh, a good biblical number, he missed an excellent opportunity to remind himself and his audience the most difficult job of the Pope is to affirm the difficult truths, especially those that affect huge numbers of people. He needs to remind himself and all of us that the entire world stands in the shadow of the cross on which our Savior died. He needs to teach what Jesus taught—the price of discipleship is to take up one’s cross daily. Certainly that applies to difficulties associated with love, marriage and sexuality.
John F. Kippley