Church silence forecast on contraception and Zika virus

Two Jesuit academics expect the Church will stay silent on married couples using contraception in countries where the Zika virus is active.

Health officials in some Latin American nations have advised women not to get pregnant.

This is because the virus, which is typically transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, has been linked to cases of babies having microcephaly and related conditions.

Fr James Bretzke, SJ, and Fr John Paris, SJ, both from Boston College, expect bishops in affected nations will not reiterate the Church’s ban on contraception.

A condemnation of contraceptive use may not be best pastoral approach, said Fr Bretzke, a theologian.

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.

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

Fr Paris, a bioethicist, agreed that extenuating circumstances call for more nuanced approaches.

“In the older world, you couldn’t eat meat on Friday, but if you were starving and meat was the only food available, of course you would eat meat,” he said.

Or consider German families who, in the aftermath of World War II, stole coal, he said.

“The Bible says ‘thou shalt not steal’, but is it wrong for a father to go get a bucket of coal to keep his family from freezing to death? The answer is no, of course not,” Fr Paris said.

Fr Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life in the US, said the prohibition on contraception does not change based on circumstances.

“So couples have a responsibility to live according to the Church’s teachings in whatever circumstances they find themselves,” Fr Pavone said.

He expects Latin America’s bishops to issue a statement that married couples should not use “artificial” birth control.

The Zika virus issue has triggered debate on liberalising abortion laws in some affected nations.


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