February 23, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis’ remarks on contraception on the plane returning from Mexico, affirmed by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, have launched an unprecedented issuance of public concern from Catholic and pro-life lay leaders, some begging for a clarification from the pope. Excerpts from significant leaders have been reproduced below with links to their full comments.
Professor E. Christian Brugger (Senior Fellow in ethics and director of the fellows’ program at the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington, and Professor of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, holding the Stafford Chair of Moral Theology) wrote at the National Catholic Register:
Some, perhaps many, will be elated by the Pope’s words. But those of us who support and defend the magisterium, in particular the successor of Peter, in their proper roles as guardians and interpreters of the deposit of faith, find Pope Francis and Father Lombardi’s words baffling and troubling. It appears that the Pope has asserted something that is false and contrary to salvation. I very much hope that I have misread the situation.
Whether or not I have, I would like to say two things. First, the extemporaneous remarks of a pope in an interview, and the commentary of his spokesman, do not constitute Church teaching. So these assertions are not guarded by the Holy Spirit and are not invested with ecclesial authority. Catholics have no obligation whatever to render to the pope’s words a “religious submission of mind and will” (Lumen Gentium, 25).
Second, Pope Francis is our beloved father. We esteem him in virtue of his office and will stand by him whenever he is falsely attacked. We wish for his good and for the good of the whole Church. And we certainly will never follow the pathway of Martin Luther into a rejection of papal primacy and apostolic succession. But the Church is Jesus’, not the pope’s or the bishops’ (and certainly not mine).
And so I say to beloved Pope Francis, my father:
Please do not delay in reaffirming to the whole Church the truth and moral implications of the two-fold goodness of the marital act, which by its nature is ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring (Canon 1055, §1); therefore if anyone acts intentionally against either the unitive or procreative goods, they ipso facto render their intercourse non-marital.
Jill Stanek, pro-life nurse turned speaker and famed blogger after having exposed “live birth abortions” at the hospital where she worked, in comments to LifeSiteNews said:
As a Protestant pro-lifer, I am devastated. I count on the Catholic Church to be the firewall on the contraception issue. The Pope is opening a Pandora's Box. He is contradicting foundational Catholic doctrine, doctrine which is also a cornerstone of the pro-life movement, even if people don't realize it. This shakes my confidence in the solidity of Catholic doctrine. I can't believe this is happening. This constitutes a crisis for the Catholic Church.
Dr. Gerard Nadal, president and CEO of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer and an esteemed scientist and Catholic writer, wrote on his blog:
Even the dimmest wit in the Society of Jesus can make his thoughts plainly understood. So it must be that Pope Francis knew what he was saying when he broke with 2,000 years of sacred Tradition and magisterial teaching this week when he alluded to Paul VI permitting nuns being raped in Africa to use contraception to avoid pregnancy, and used that as the moral grounds on which to permit the use of contraception in the midst of the Zika virus outbreak….
For all of his stated love of the poor, Francis has invited International Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes to a blood meal on the very poor whose dignity he portends to uphold. By invoking Paul VI and the Congo episode with artificial contraception, he ignored NFP and the volumes written by his predecessors.
To permit artificial contraception for Zika is to have sold the family farm, to permit it for all developing nations where endemic disease is present.
Public health doesn’t involve nonexistence. Public health concerns itself with preventing and curing disease. It is clear that the Holy Father doesn’t grasp this essential truth that I learned in training as a medical microbiologist. Public Health officers cannot morally and ethically resort to killing patients or preventing human reproduction as a legitimate means of addressing crises.
The same holds true for popes.
Francis should stick to matters concerning his Holy Office, and in all humility allow himself to be guided by the unchanging wisdom of 2,000 years of magisterial teaching.
He. Is. Peter.
He should start behaving as such.
Dr. Ed Peters, famed canonist blogger, who has held the Edmund Cdl. Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit since 2005, wrote on his blog:
Even by the standards of his reign, the presser Pope Francis conducted on his return flight from Mexico has provoked an unusual number of questions.
It now seems all but certain that the ‘permission’ or ‘approval’ which Francis has claimed his predecessor Pope Paul VI gave for Congo nuns facing rape to use contraception simply does not exist.
Unfortunately this myth has been invoked by the pope as if it were a fact of Church history, and, more importantly, in a way that suggests it might be a precedent to be considered in deciding whether contraception may also be used to prevent pregnancy in some cases of possible birth defects. That claim would take Pope Francis’ contraception remarks into a very different area. No longer are we musing about a point of Church history (as interesting as that might be), now we are dealing with Church moral teaching. The stakes become dramatically higher.
So here’s my point: not only does the Congo nuns permission seem NOT to exist, but, even if it does exist in some form, it could NOT, I suggest, by its own terms, be used by Francis (or anyone else committed to thinking with the Church) to call into question the Church’s settled teaching that “each and every marital act [quilibet matrimonii usus] must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life” (Humanae vitae 11) and that therefore “excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after conjugal intercourse [coniugale commercium], is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means” (Humanae vitae 14).
Between women facing rape and wives worried about birth defects there simply is no parallel relevant to the moral question of contraception.
John F. Kippley, founder with his wife Sheila of the Couple to Couple League and of Natural Family Planning International, wrote on the Couple to Couple League blog:
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.
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.
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.
Voice of the Family, an initiative of Catholic laity from major pro-life and pro-family organisations supported by 26 pro-life groups around the world, wrote:
Catholic campaigners for family values are disturbed by unconfirmed reports of comments said to have been made by Pope Francis on contraception.
The Vatican has yet to confirm Pope Francis’s comments, but whatever the meaning of those comments, the Church’s teaching has not changed and cannot change. Catholic teaching remains that contraception is wrong in all circumstances.
Philip Lawler, news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org, wrote:
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….
The Pope’s frequent public interviews, and his unhappy record of maladroit responses, have become a predictable source of confusion, frustration, and even embarrassment for the faithful. In the distant past, then-Cardinal Bergoglio admitted: “Interviews are not my forte.” Thoughtful Catholic leaders should use their influence to persuade the Holy Father that he was right then, and is wrong now to use interviews as a regular facet of his public ministry.
Human Life International, the largest Catholic international pro-life organization, headed by Fr. Shenan Boquet, wrote:
Human Life International is extremely concerned that, rather than clarify the comments with references to the very clear doctrine of the church, Father Lombardi instead made statements that contradict established Church doctrine on contraception, referring to both the non-magisterial decision of Pope Paul VI to which the Holy Father also referred, and adding a reference to a non-magisterial statement from Pope Benedict XVI that contradicts Pope Benedict’s own explanation of the statement. We must repeat, with the Church, her own condemnation of the act of using contraception.
Headlines such as “Pope approves contraception in areas threatened by Zika virus” immediately went around the world following the interview, and since this misunderstanding is already being used to pressure bishops in Latin America, we hope to see a clarification on this aspect of the Holy Father’s comments as soon as possible. We hope that the clarification emphasizes the unchangeable teaching of the Church on the absolute immorality of the use of contraception for the purpose of avoiding pregnancy, even as the permissibility of natural methods of postponing pregnancy for serious reasons is affirmed, along with the need to ensure that those threatened by Zika receive the best possible prevention advice and support, and those affected receive the best possible care.