In a rare break with Catholic tradition, Pope Francis is okay with women using contraception in places where the Zika virus threatens birth defects. In such areas, mostly in South and Central America, the World Health Organization has recommended against women getting pregnant for two years. Until today, Catholic leaders in these zones had been blocking access to contraception, both through the U.N. and politically. Now, they will have no choice but to bow to the infallibility of the Pope.
Of course, abortion is still considered taboo, and the Pope has not suggested otherwise. But, in support of this decision, Pope Francis went back to one of his predecessors, Pope Paul VI who, in the case of nuns in the Belgian Congo in the 1960s, issued an exception for their use of birth control pills due to the high possibility of being raped. In explaining his decision and the difference between abortion and contraception in the crisis, the Pontiff called abortion “an evil in and of itself.”
On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.
In his remarks, Francis also called for doctors and researchers to redouble their efforts to find a vaccine for the Zika virus.
I would also like to exhort doctors to do everything to find vaccines against the mosquitoes that bear this illness. We have to work on that.
Pope Francis has shown himself to be pretty reasonable when it comes to science, probably because he is a scientist. He is open to evolution and calls for solutions for climate change. This is one reason the American far right despises him. And, while he has shown remarkable progressive values in some instances, he still has a way to go on abortion and same-sex marriage.
Liberals and progressives are, with good reason, fond of this Pope. Yes, he still has a few issues, but on the whole, he has shown himself to be much more concerned with the things that the guy he works for was concerned about. Poverty, caring for one another, caring for our home, and using science and reason are highlighted with Pope Francis.
This is good. It’s a start. Maybe he can review the Church’s stance on condoms in the fight against AIDS next.
Featured Image by Alfredo Borba via Wikimedia