Reaction to Pope’s Comments on Birth Control

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

17 Responses to “Reaction to Pope’s Comments on Birth Control”

  1. Terence M. stanton says:



  2. @FMShyanguya says:

    Mahalo John and Sheila Kippley and God bless his work at your hands.

  3. Deborah says:

    I agree except there IS a moral problem when sodomites use condoms, they are committing a mortal sin in engaging in sodomite sex. All sex outside of marriage is a mortal sin.

  4. Deboarah: We certainly agree. John and Sheila

  5. Janeen says:

    Informative! Thanks for clarity! God bless your work.

  6. ~ Nona says:

    Thank you for a clear, thoughtful exposition.

    Pope Francis is so…exasperating!!!!!

  7. David says:

    Thank you for clarifying. There’s much work these days in clarifying and explaining Church Teachings to those misled by off the cuff comments, and a media that has it’s own agendas. I understand the latter, but of the former -is it best to be this way? I digress. Sure is different.

  8. Amelie says:

    The Vatican has clarified that the Pope was indeed referring to the use of condoms and contraceptives to avoid pregnancy in particular situations of emergency or gravity:

  9. If the Pope thinks that using barrier contraceptives will be a fail-safe way of avoiding pregnancy, he is wrong as a practical matter. It is just a matter of time before a surprise pregnancy occurs. That’s why people flocked to the Pill when if first came on the scene. If he thinks that taking the Pill is the answer, he is wrong in other ways. He speaks strongly against abortion, but all hormonal birth control agents have abortifacient properties. Again, it’s just a matter of time until ovulation occurs, pregnancy occurs, but the newly conceived baby is denied implantation in the uterus. In addition, the WHO labels the ingredients of the Pill as a worst-classification carcinogen. How can anyone who loves women ever suggest taking a carcinogen? If the Pope doesn’t know that couples can achieve a 99% level of effectiveness with the cross-checking Sympto-Thermal method, he is sadly uninformed. If he and the other bishops and cardinals of Latin America had done their jobs well and had made sure that all engaged couples learned this form of natural family planning, they wouldn’t be panicking now. The conservative and morally appropriate advice would be to tell couples that the avoidance of pregnancy in the face of the Zika situation provides one of those serious reasons for using natural family planning in a conservative way. Anyone in Latin America with access to the Internet can download our NFP manual. See Free to those who consider themselves poor. Only a $10 donation for those who have funds. –John Kippley

  10. Joanne Sirtoli says:

    Thank you Sheila and John for your statements. It has been very distressing to listen to the Pope’s off handed remarks ,just to have the media use it for their own political purposes. I have to believe he [is] really uninformed. I feel he is burning bridges of those of us who have been faithful to Church teaching, attend Mass and the sacraments and tithe. I hate having negative thoughts about the Pope. Pray, pray, pray.

  11. Thomas Gillespie says:

    So, the Pope has just stated that artificial contraception can be used in marriage to avoid passing on the Zika virus. Fr Lombardi has confirmed that this is what the Pope was speaking about: that contraception in marriage can be “an object of discernment”.

    This is HUGE. The Pope just flatly contradicted settled Church teaching, even infallible teaching. There should be a firestorm going on in the Church just now over this, but all I see is some resigned shoulder-shrugging and some “oh he didn’t really mean that” excuse-making. Most bloggers are monomaniacally focusing on the Belgian nun case or his Trump remarks, ignoring the bombshell that the Pope dropped about what is now permissible (at least according to him) within marriage. What was once evil is now okay (according to Bergoglio).

    Yes, I know an airplane interview is not formal teaching, but it’s not nothing at all: the mind of the Pope is never nothing. To repeat: a sitting Pope just publicly contradicted the Church’s settled moral teaching, effectively contradicting the Lord himself. THIS IS HUGE.

  12. John: Yes, it is huge, but I don’t think it is accurate to say that Pope has “flatly contradicted” settled Church teaching. He failed to affirm that teaching when he had a great opportunity to do so; he failed to put that teaching in terms of the second reading on this Transfiguration Sunday, that is, the reading about being enemies of the Cross. And he failed to make use of this opportunity to explain and promote what is possible with some systems of natural family planning. I will be posting blogs on these matters in the very near future. –John Kippley

  13. Amelie says:

    How is allowing the use of contraceptives and/or condoms to avoid pregnancy (and Fr. Lombardi and the Pope both made it clear the Pope was referring to avoiding pregnancy) in particular cases of gravity or emergency not contradicting Humanae Vitae? A lot of us have situations of particular gravity (health of mother, serious financial problems, high risk of birth defects due to maternal medications or age). No doubt many would discern that in these situations (particularly if NFP has been sincerely and valiantly tried and has been found unreliable for a particular couple), contraception (non-abortifacient only, of course) would be a lesser evil than risking pregnancy. Is that not contradicting previous teaching?

    This goes beyond far beyond failing to affirm Humanae Vitae. The Pope made it quite clear that contraception is morally acceptable under certain grave or emergency situations. And it’s clear he was not referring only to cases of rape. The bishops of the Philippines have already come out in support of the Pope’s statement. No doubt others will soon follow.

    I can’t help but agree with Mr. Gillespie above. This is HUGE.

    Already a friend and a family member, both of whom have found NFP extremely onerous in the marriages, are questioning whether their particular situations might be grave enough to warrant using some sort of barrier. They’ve been hanging tough and have never used contraception because the Church says so, not because they have found the Church’s arguments persuasive. For a Pope to voice his opinion that contraceptives may be used to avoid pregnancy in certain circumstances really is huge.

  14. John from Sheila’s computer: If Pope Francis and Fr. Lombardi were specifically saying that couples can use contraceptives when the going gets tough, it certainly seems to me that they would be contradicting the received teaching as affirmed by Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae. However, Pope Francis was ambiguous in his statement, so that’s their “out”. Please see the blog we posted just a few minutes before posting this reply. The Pope missed a wonderful opportunity to tell the world about natural family planning. Sometimes I wonder how well informed he is about these things.

    With regard to those who are having significant difficulties with the practice of NFP, it is not impossible that they are also somewhat under-informed. In addition to the manual mentioned in the blog, we also offer a Home Study Course. The overwhelming response we get from its users is that they have learned much. It involves some “tests” that provide the opportunity for dialogue with Sheila who will make sure the testee understands the material and how to interpret charts. Plus additional follow-up. For this we ask a donation of only $70.
    John Kippley.

  15. @FMShyanguya says:

    “Third, there is a huge difference between using a contraceptive to prevent pregnancy from rape.”
    Church Teaching has never ventured here, nor given exception to its teaching on contraception [vs. recourse to the rhythm of the cycle cf. CCC 2370].

  16. Thomas Gillespie says:

    I’m sorry John, I don’t see the ambiguity in the Pope’s statement, especially in light of Fr. Lombardi’s “clarification”.

    The question now is: where are the Cardinals and Bishops who should be defending the truth and, frankly, rebuking the Pope for this departure from Church teaching? Lay Catholics are speaking up here and there, but where are the Princes of the Church? Are they fearful? Just proceeding cautiously? The longer this error is left uncorrected, the worse the damage to souls will be. Secular media is already trumpeting that the Pope has now allowed contraception in marriage.

  17. John Kippley says:

    In the light of Fr. Lombardi, ambiguity has been reduced. However, it can still be argued that talk about discerning is more ambiguous than open acceptance of contraception.
    With regard to the Cardinals and Bishops, I think it would be very difficult for them to criticize the Pope openly. I am sure than many share our convictions, and I hope that many of them are working behind the scenes to persuade Pope Francis to admit that he at least made a very poor choice of words and that he needs to clarify and openly accept Humanae Vitae n. 14. It is difficult for the top guy in any situation to admit that he has made a mistake. If the Pope so admits, he will grow in stature in the minds of almost everyone. He has absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so.