Thursday, February 18, 2016

“Pope Francis” vs “Pope Paul VI” in “Humanae Vitae”

“Pope Francis” continues to contradict earlier popes. He did it again today on his flight home to Rome from Mexico. This time he stepped all over his venerable predecessor “Pope Paul VI” in the unpopular but sometimes-thought-to-be-infallible “Humanae Vitae”:

... Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good," it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general...

From the Encyclical Letter
Of the Supreme Pontiff Pope Paul VI

And now, from the Wall Street Journal:
Updated Feb. 18, 2016 12:07 p.m. ET
ROME— Pope Francis said the use of contraception could be justified in regions hit by the Zika virus, a stance that could reignite a debate over the church’s prohibition of the use of condoms to stop the spread of the AIDS virus.

The pope’s comments on the use of contraception in Zika-afflicted areas comes amid proposals that women in regions hit by the virus—largely in Latin America—use abortion or avoid getting pregnant to prevent the birth of children with microcephaly.

Bishops in Latin America have said the Zika virus doesn’t justify the use of abortion or contraception.

However, responding to a question, the pope distinguished between abortion, which he said was never acceptable, and contraception, which he said could be justified as the lesser evil in certain circumstances.

The question is one of one pope saying that the “lesser evil” of contraception is “never lawful”, while another permitting the “lesser evil” of contraception “to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general.”

See also:
Bergoglio’s Gig, Part 3: Opposing Ratzinger.
“Your Truth is as good as my Truth … trust me on this one, I’m the Pope”.
“We, ourselves, can effect ‘further developments’”.


  1. Benedict said something similar about prostitutes using condoms.

  2. Wait, on second thought, there's an even closer analogy. In Humanae Vitae, Paul VI says that contraception is perfectly licit if it's not intended for contraception but for other medical purposes. That's not even an analogy. This is just a direct application of his principle. Yes, it's a medical purpose by means of preventing conception in these cases. But the goal of preventing conception isn't illicit either, or natural family planning would be illicit. It's not the goal that's illicit, and the means is not illicit if it's meant for a medical purpose (in this case preventing the spread of the virus).

    The prostitution case is a different sort of case anyway. That's a nested moral operator. It's wrong to engage in hired sex, but given that one is doing so the right thing to do is use a condom. It's an obligation that arises only because one is already doing something wrong. So Pope Paul VI's case is much better as an explanation of what's going on with Francis than Benedict's case.

    1. I was quoting Paul VI in the top paragraph. Clearly he said in that same document "the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice ("artificial contraception") may appear to be upright and serious" - and "it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it".

      "Pope Francis" is suggesting that very thing.

    2. "Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent ..."

  3. From Humane Vitae: "On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever."

    Using a condom to prevent spread of HIV seems to me to fit that. The goal is not prevention of conception but prevention of spread of HIV, and if the conception happened to occur anyway you could be perfectly open to that while using a condom to try to prevent disease spread.

    It's another step away in this case, because you're trying to prevent spread of disease not to one's spouse but to the child. But if the child is conceived while using a condom, and you're open to that, it seems to me to fit the justification Paul VI is allowing for here.

    1. Jeremy: the practice of artificial birth control is forbidden if you think you've got too many children and that next child might be born into and exacerbate an already strained financial situation, but it's ok if the child you conceive MIGHT contract an illness, IF the mother gets bit by a mosquito carrying that illness?

      That seems a lot like straining at a gnat.

    2. Jeremy, FYI:

    3. The author there says: I cannot overstate how big this one is. If he doesn’t issue a clarification — which is going to require quite a lot of explaining — the upshot of this is that a sitting pope just contradicted the authoritative Church teaching on contraception. He just chucked Humanae Vitae and Casti Connubii and…well, all of it. The slope he just made is so slippery, I can’t even imagine how many Catholics will lose their footing…and there’s nothing but perdition at the bottom.