Zika epidemic puts Catholic Church in a difficult position

Zika epidemic puts Catholic Church in a difficult position February 3, 2016

The Catholic catechism states that besides ‘natural family planning’, anything else that works to render procreation impossible is ‘intrinsically evil’.
The Rev Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, an anti-abortion outfit in the US, said that means birth control is wrong no matter what.

That prohibition doesn’t change based on circumstances. So couples have a responsibility to live according to the Church’s teachings in whatever circumstances they find themselves.

Pavone was quoted in a CNN report about the spread of  the Zika virus in Latin American countries where health officials have advised women not to get pregnant because the virus has been linked to an incurable and often devastating neurological birth defect.
Said the Rev John Paris, a bioethicist and Catholic priest at Boston College:

I’ve never seen this advice before, and when you hear it, you think, ‘What are the bishops going to do?’

Daniel Ramirez, an assistant Professor of History and American Culture at the University of Michigan and an expert on Latin American religious culture added:

It’s going to present a lot of problems for the bishops to sort out. They’re going to have to really thread a fine theological needle here.

In December, authorities in Brazil urged women not to get pregnant. Then last month came the warning from Colombia to delay pregnancy until July. Then in an interview, a health official in El Salvador recommended that women:

Try to avoid getting pregnant this year and the next.

Rev James Bretzke, a Professor of Theology at Boston College warned that:

The polemical approach, that contraception is devious or demonic in origin or the smoke of Satan, may ultimately not be the best pastoral approach.

He said in the face of such consequences – in this case, a baby who could suffer greatly – he thinks the Church might not be so hard line, especially under the leadership of Pope Francis, who has taken a more merciful stance on many social issues from abortion to homosexuality and is himself from South America, where Zika has taken such a heavy toll.

In Catholic Church teaching, some would say it would be acceptable to try to prevent conception in cases like this.

Representatives of the Latin American Bishops Council did not respond to inquiries from CNN. But Pavone said he expects the bishops will at some point issue a statement instructing Catholics not to use “artificial” birth control.
But Bretzke and Paris, who like Pope Francis are Jesuits, said they think the Church will likely remain silent on the issue.
Ramirez, the historian from the University of Michigan, noted that practically speaking, it might not matter. As in the United States, many Catholics in Latin America don’t follow the Church’s advice on birth control anyway.
According to a survey by the Spanish-language television network Univision, 88 percent of Mexicans, 91 percent of Colombians and 93 percentof Brazilians support the use of contraceptives.
Ramirez said he thinks the Catholic Church might weigh in on Zika and birth control, perhaps at the highest level.

I think the message will be that whatever you as married Catholics decide to do, we will walk with you. That we’ll encourage you to follow the Church’s precepts, but when you don’t, we will still love and accept you.

Hat tip: Peter Sykes and Dave

"the slots would pay out depending on the symbols used...3 Jesus =jackpot...2 Jesus and 1 ..."

‘Pain in the ass’ secular group ..."
"I think we all know what Mr. Wilson would have to say about that request."

Deadpool ‘Jesus’ poster needs to be ..."
"Great song. If I remember correctly, it was written and recorded in a day. That ..."

Prominent Vatican official, Cardinal Pell, is ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • sailor1031

    All this hand wringing! It’s simple what the RCC Inc answer will be: sex is for making babies – if you’re not going to make babies then no sex for you. Abstinence will be the RCC Inc. answer. The telling quote is here “That prohibition doesn’t change based on circumstances.” RCC Inc never changes based on circumstances – because they are the keepers of the truth as handed down by doG.

  • CoastalMaineBird

    So… contraception to avoid Zika would be OK (under this hypothetical edict), but contraception to avoid AIDS was not.
    Did that swirling, flushing sound just get louder ?
    Are people finally waking up to the fact that the RCC is long past usefulness ?

  • AgentCormac

    But surely god has sent the Zika virus? Afterall, isn’t he responsible for the universe and everythig in it? And let’s face it, the bastard already has a track record for sending plagues and pestilence to punish his unworthy human creations, just to show how much he loves us.
    Somewhat OT, I just spotted the following article on the BBC website. It’s worth a gander in as much as it describes how the bible has been manipulated and how recently found ‘gospels’ were conveniently omitted by the rcc as they claim that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, that there was no virgin birth (really?!!!),and that Jesus was actually just some kind of mystic. However, it never once questions whether Jesus was a real person. Maybe not too surprising in light of the BBC’s stance on religion – in particular its loathsome and contoversial ‘Thought for the Day’ feature.

  • Justin Badby

    So a glut of deformed mentally physically deformed children is ok.
    The RCC is a filthy rotten disgrace. How can anyone adhere to this wholly immoral crime syndicate?
    How about anal sex … widley practiced and some say enjoyed by women who don’t want any more kids ……. and enjoyed by some priests who actually do want kids apparently.
    And before anyone complains about my distasteful attack on the RCC pray tell me how it is worse than risking thousands of hopeless lolling kids.

  • Justin Badby

    The RCC is not intended to be useful for the congregants. No no no. It is a crime syndicate run for the pupose of power and control over a vast population of mostly poor and uneducated people in order to extract huge sums of money by blackmail, protection, extortion and fraud. And for many of its officers it provided totally secure cover for child rape, child trafficking and child beating.

  • Justin Badby

    AgentCormac referred to Thought for the day.
    If anyone is interested to push back against BBC / Radio 4 / Today Programme / Thought for the Day, then follow this link … ….

  • Broga

    For the ignorant and gullible who follow the RCC’s teaching they, their child and their family will endure decades of suffering. It’s a high price to pay for being the victim of the RCC.

  • More confused people who think their religion is a democracy, where they get a vote.

  • AgentCormac

    @Justin Badby
    Agreed, Platitude of the Day is always well worth a read.

  • L.Long

    “So a glut of deformed mentally physically deformed children is ok.”
    Of coarse it is and there is no problem! If you are catlick then just bring the deformed baby to the church and leave it there, the priest will gladly send it to the type of religious hospital MomTeresa set up and they can lay there and suffer till dead for jesus!!!!!

  • John

    Why are people complaining? I am absolutely certain that Frank Pavone and his employers will be more than happy to pick up the life-time tabs for bringing up all the affected children born with small heads.
    All they need to do is pay each mother £1 million each and the life-time costs of the children should be met in full. That’s fair enough – isn’t it?
    What’s that?
    You don’t think they will come up with the money?
    Why do you say that?
    Oh, because it does not fit their business model, you say?
    I hope you will be found wrong on this matter.
    Though – somehow – I have a strong suspicion you may well be right.

  • barriejohn

    Nothing that they say makes any sense. One minute they are telling everyone that sexual intercourse is to be reserved for procreation and NOT recreation (because that’s what “God” intended), and the next they are saying that women should employ the “rhythm method” to avoid pregnancy. Well, make up your fucking minds; are your followers allowed to have sex for pleasure or are they not?

  • Michael Glass

    I don’t think people take much notice of the official RC teaching on contraception any more.
    Without birth control, the average number of births that a woman could have may be like Niger, with 7.6 births per woman. To maintain a population, women need to have, on average about 2.1 births per woman. Look at the reproduction rates in Latin American countries, according to the World Bank:
    Argentina 2.3
    Brazil 1.8,
    Chile 1.8,
    Columbia 1.9,
    Costa Rica 1.8,
    Cuba 1.6
    Dominican Republic 2.5
    Equador 2.6
    El Salvador 2.0
    Grenada 2.2
    Guatemala 3.3
    Guyana 2.6
    Haiti 3.2
    Honduras 2.4
    Jamaica 2.3
    Mexico 2.3
    Paraguay 2.6
    Peru 2.5
    Puerto Rico 1.6
    Trinidad and Tobago 1.8
    Uruguay 2.0
    Venezuela 2.4
    None of these net reproduction rates would have been possible without birth control.

  • 1859

    ‘Said the Rev John Paris, a bioethicist and Catholic priest at Boston College:
    “I’ve never seen this advice before, and when you hear it, you think, ‘What are the bishops going to do?” ‘
    Well, I’m no ‘bioethicist’, but when faced with such a decision, do these self-inflating catholic theologians think that people really, really ask themselves ‘What are the bishops going to do?’ Do they really, really believe they are so important? They are a total fucking irrelevance in most peoples’ lives and when faced with getting pregnant with a deformed foetus , most people will do what common sense demands – don’t get pregnant, use any form of contraception available. I also agree with Agent Cormac’s point – isn’t the Zika virus also god’s creation? How does the rcc explain that?
    Just a thought, but if we start with the premise that god exists and is omnipotent, then clearly he is responsible for the Zika virus. Now since Papa Francis is god’s representative here on earth, surely he must be open to litigation by the thousands of women who have deformed babies? After all the responsibility must lie somewhere – no?

  • Laura Roberts

    “he thinks the Church might not be so hard line, especially under the leadership of Pope Francis, who has taken a more merciful stance on many social issues”
    Yes, yes, he’s taken a merciful stance on child rape as well. Showing plenty of mercy for the poor, misunderstood priests who committed these heinous crimes and for the cretins who used any and all means a their disposal to bully the victims into silence.
    Once in awhile he says something nice about the victims, too, to be PC.

  • Angela_K

    This is the same RCC hypocrisy of whom there was and still is anti-condom propaganda in central Africa causing the virulent spread of HIV and other STDs.

  • John Gresham

    Sex is only for procreation, so if she’s pregnant, no sex for you, if she’s past the menopause, no sex for you, if she’s had a hysterectomy, no sex for you, if he’s infertile, no sex for you.

  • John Gresham

    There’s always the free-will cop out, if God hadn’t given us free -will none of the nasty stuff would have happened.

  • lucy1

    @ John Gresham. I always struggle with that free will nonsense. Who freely willed the emergence of the virus? that was some act of will!! And if none of this stuff would happen if people did not have free will, then I freely give up my ‘free’ will here and now! It is such rubbish.
    @ Michael Glass Brilliant stats, thanks

  • CoastalMaineBird

    procreation and NOT recreation (because that’s what “God” intended)
    Having looked at the Bible in recent years (to find out how contradictory, errant, and truly stupid it really is) without coming across this, I just now looked it up.
    The only mention I can find (I am not a scholar) about the anti-contraception stance is Genesis 38:8, the Onan incident.
    Onan, since his brother died, had the “duty” to go to his brother’s wife and impregnate her, because… well, that’s what you should do, I guess.
    Onan, had no trouble with the sex part, but spilled his seed on the ground, instead of up the hoo-hah.
    Despite the stated punishment for such an offense (Deut. 25:5) being public humiliation by the widow, God his own bad self killed Onan.
    A quick search (again, I am not a scholar) shows that as the only case.
    All the other sturm und drang about the issue seems to be manufactured (contain your surprise, please). It’s all “interpretations” of the “be fruitful and multiply” command or the “your wife is a fruitful vine” stuff.
    John Calvin called it a “monstrous” act (sheesh, the carpet stains are not THAT hard to get out).
    There’s even the claim that the Bible’s prohibitions against sorcery apply to hormonal contraception.
    There’s no way you can read the Bible with an open mind and get to those conclusions. You have to start with the conclusion and “interpret” what you can bend to fit.

  • CoastalMaineBird

    OK, more info:
    As I should have guessed, St. (freakin’ SAINT) Augustine had a hand in this:
    ‘Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. ‘
    This is the clown that said infants who die before being baptized will serve in an eternal lake of fire.
    My first son, who died en utero at 20 weeks gestation, is still suffering in hell, according to this “saint”.
    That such hatred of humanity is revered by the RCC, is MADDENING to me.

  • L.Long

    The RCC is a perfect example of people NOT doing as their religion states and doing their own thing as 90% (hearsay) of USA catlicks use contraceptives. So by inference they do not really believe in hell as they are going to hell cuz they are breaking the rules WILLFULLY!!!
    Just as when you walk thru a dark forest your FEAR the monsters but you don’t really believe they are there.

  • Peter Sykes

    Was that you in the Indy today?
    “Religion of perpetual outrage”.
    Love it!

  • Angela_K

    @Peter Sykes. Mea culpa.

  • edwords

    Things may be looking up. ‘Catholic’Ireland voted in gay marriage.
    Only 1/3 of US Catholics attend Mass regularly, most use
    contraceptives, and many support death with dignity.