With the mosquito-borne Zika virus continuing to spread through Central and South America, Pope Francis said today that contraception could be seen as “the lesser of two evils” if women are concerned about having children with the birth defect microcephaly….“Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil,” Francis said. “In certain cases, as in this one, such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also ask doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.”
The Vatican’s shameful history of fighting condom use in sub-Saharan Africa as the AIDS epidemic raged has long been one of my strongest grievances against the Catholic Church. Thousands of people likely died because the church considered its sexual teachings more important than saving lives:
The Catholic Church’s official approach to AIDS in Africa can be summed up in the speech repeatedly given by the late Pope John Paul II as he toured the continent in 1990. In his addresses to desperate communities, who often did not understand why so many people were dying, he preached that condoms were a sin in all situations….As AIDS activists watched his speech erode more than a decade of campaigning, the Pope declared, “The Church is convinced that without a resurgence of moral responsibility and a reaffirmation of fundamental moral values any programme of prevention based on information alone will be ineffective and even counterproductive.”
Pope Benedict XVI made a very tentative move toward relaxing the church’s view on condoms a few years ago, and now Francis has gone further. That’s good news. More please.