How do you solve a problem like Pope Francis?


Did Pope Francis just say that it is ok to use artificial contraception in some cases?

This is the question that is being asked all over the world at the moment. As usual following the off-the-cuff answers given during his airplane interviews, Pope Francis has left a wake of questions and confusion. One begs the question of whether he should be doing this style of interview at all? I often wish he would just take a sedative on his plane trips and have a nice long sleep rather than unleashing the hounds of misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

Let’s gloss over the fact that he just told Donald Trump he was not a Christian, and instead focus on the recent comments concerning the Zika virus. Did he say it was ok to use condoms to avoid a pregnancy in these circumstances?

The first thing to do is to ignore any shock headlines and look up the exact transcript of what was said:

Paloma García Ovejero, Cadena COPE (Spain): “Holy Father, for several weeks there’s been a lot of concern in many Latin American countries but also in Europe regarding the Zika virus. The greatest risk would be for pregnant women. There is anguish. Some authorities have proposed abortion, or else to avoiding pregnancy. As regards avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of “the lesser of two evils?””

Pope Francis: Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.

Don’t confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion. Abortion is not a theological problem, it is a human problem, it is a medical problem. You kill one person to save another, in the best case scenario. Or to live comfortably, no?  It’s against the Hippocratic oaths doctors must take. It is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil in the beginning, no, it’s a human evil. Then obviously, as with every human evil, each killing is condemned.

On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, or in the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.”

As we know, the Popes words can often be taken out of context and twisted by the media. And that is exactly what happened following this recent plane interview. But then, on 19th Feb 2016 Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi affirmed that the Holy Father was indeed speaking of “condoms and contraceptives” when on the flight back from Mexico, Pope Francis said couples could rightly “avoid pregnancy” in the wake of the Zika virus scare.

Fr. Lombardi told Vatican Radio today, “The contraceptive or condom, in particular cases of emergency or gravity, could be the object of discernment in a serious case of conscience. This is what the Pope said.”

Vatican Radio have issued a sound recording and full transcript of Lombardi’s comments, so there is really no doubt whatsoever that he did actually say that. I suppose there is always the possibility that Lombardi twisted the words of Pope Francis – but I doubt it. There would have been some correction issued by the vatican already if that was the case.


So what do we do now?

For those of us who have struggled with and committed to church teachings on sex and marriage this comes as a major blow. Does the Pope really have no idea how hard it can be sometimes? Does he have no idea about the rewards and benefits to the marriage of remaining in line with the church on this issue? Does he think that bending the rules regarding artificial contraception is being ‘merciful’ in some way?

I don’t know. I just don’t know with him I’m afraid. I’m as confused as you are. This is not the first time this canny old Jesuit has left a wake of upset and confusion in his path, and I don’t think for a moment it will be the last.

I remember a few years back when Benedict came to the UK and I stood on the side of the road literally jumping up and down, cheering as loud as I could as he drove into his papal residence in Wimbledon. Benedict was my hero – my Father. I trusted him. I can’t say I would be doing that if Francis came to visit. I just don’t feel that way about Francis. I feel extremely let down and rather embarrassed if I am totally honest.

But one thing is even worse than that. Francis leaves me with a funny mixed feeling of hopelessness and suspicion which stinks of political motivation. Following everything that has occurred so far in his papacy I am left  with two thoughts:

Either he has absolutely no idea of what he is doing, or he knows exactly what he is doing. I don’t know which is worse…




0 thoughts on “How do you solve a problem like Pope Francis?

    • I agree with Brendan. I too have been disappointed I am skeptical and suspicious that there is evil which has entered our church with Vatican II. If that is true,we have many years ahead for that evil to do much damage. My heart is heavy with the modernistic direction we have taken.Young people have no idea of the warnings that were given about modernism. I cannot give examples, quotes or references here. Internet sources will help you to Investigate the warnings and the results that do exist. We as faithful Catholics desperately need to inform others of zheretical teaching and changes brought about modernism and Vatican II Educate yourself and others ,suggest using the internet,talk to others about your concerns. Be involved for the salvation of the church.

  1. He did not say anything against Catholic faith this far except now. Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical letter Veritatis splendor that artificial contraception is “an evil in itself” which means a sin not justified by any kind of circumstances. If Pope Francis questions this he should write another encyclical – although that could cause a huge theological storm because directly contradicting to a former encyclical letter in another one is extremely problematic from a theological point of view.

    • O Lord, this is getting serious ….. direct contradiction with a predecessor will take more than a clever Jesuit wriggle.

      The only parallel I can think might be helpful is that (I understand) it is permissible to abort if the intention is to save the life of the mother rather than kill the child. If I remember rightly, this applied to a case where the mother had severe and early pre-eclampsia and the only way to save her was to deliver the baby, even though it could not possibly have survived; I think the baby was at about 16 weeks.

      Nonetheless, I’d be wary, VERY wary, of any compromise of Humanae Vitae. I am old enough (!) to remember the furore when it was published, and people were dismayed that Paul VI would not allow us to take advantage of scientific progress which seemed of such universal benefit. (Of most benefit, of course, to the drug companies, who had a large market for a drug which could bring them ample income in repeated prescriptions ….. I’ve got cynical in my old age ….. ) We have seen since, all too clearly, how right he was; once we accept the use of contraception, we lay ourselves wide open to consequences we never reckoned to suffer, and society is impoverished and endangered. Rowan Williams (retired Archbishop of Canterbury, and a respected theologian, even if heretical) apparently expressed the opinion that if you accept the validity of contraception (which the Anglicans did in 1930) you cannot argue against homosexual “marriage”; I think he has a point.

      If anyone is concerned as to why we allow NFP and not artificial contraception (why didn’t HH remind us the former option was available?) the CTS has a booklet by Elizabeth Anscombe that explains why – not an easy read, but possible, and not too time-consuming.

  2. Popes have professed error in the past. They have held heretical views. They have even professed heresy. What the Holy Spirit does, is it protects the Church from being bound in heresy.

    I’m not qualified to pass any judgement on Pope Francis. I can say I struggle to reconcile his words on contraception with what has been infallibly taught by the Church.

  3. Over centuries the Catholic Church has remained rigid in it’s teachings and yet nothing in the church’s teachings protect the lives and health of those primarily involved in conceiving, carrying and giving birth to a child. If the soul is indeed created by God at conception, then what is the lesser of two evils: preventing conception or terminating a fetus and soul after conception. What does the Catholic Church offer to the millions of young women and girls, raped and impregnated in this world. How many women, children and newborns die due to this lack of prevention and protection. How many more ‘unwanted’ children need to be born into horrific situations, abandoned or abused. Thousands of these children and mothers die daily and yet nothing is done by our Catholic Church to help these women. What does the Catholic Church offer to protect the rights of an ‘unconceived soul’ for that matter, as that soul will still exist within the power of God. This is what contraception should be about and I do believe it is now in the hands of the Catholic Church to understand the concept of contraception in a world where we cannot afford to wait until ‘after the fact’ to address very serious health risks as a result of conception and gestation. Contraception in my view is protecting the unconceived soul. Pope Francis has the right idea and moving in this direction will bring sense to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

  4. I have been troubled by this statement in a way I haven’t before. I don’t know how it can be reconciled with Church teaching but if the attempt is made to make it so I think it would cause many to lose faith. I’m just going to pray.

  5. I’m dismayed both by how it seems to contract the Church’s teachings and also how worldly his answer is. During much worse plagues in the Middle Ages, popes called on the people to repent of their sins and turn back to God, and then they would take up the Holy Eucharist and process through the city, calling on God through the intercession of the Virgin Mary to stop the plague and heal their nation. And it worked. Now, instead of repentance and miracles, the Pope suggests contraceptives? Where is the faith that should move mountains?

  6. This Pope is not nearly as ‘misquoted’ or ‘taken out of context’ as some would lead us to believe. The truest context of his words is in the overwhelming pattern of how often they must be ‘explained’.
    It is on purpose.
    Let’s not forget this recent quote:
    ‘Pope Francis’ said: “JESUS PROBABLY HAD TO BEG FORGIVENESS OF HIS PARENTS. The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it. Mary’s question, moreover, contains a certain REPROACH” –Dec. 27, 2015 (VATICAN)
    Here’s a FULL CHRONOLOGY of the strangeness:

  7. You understand the inconsistencies and criticisms as an aspect of the way his personality functions. You endorse what he says that is correct. You either ignore or if you find it morally necessary to clarify the actual teaching of the Church, you clarify it without bashing him as a person. You pray for the grace of patience and also for trust in God that He will make all things for the good, even though it may be just in the end. You pray for the pope that he does not lead us astray and you also pray for those who are trying to correct matters so the true teachings are understood – that they also do not lead us astray.
    “Our Father…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” Amen.

    • Any premeditated sexual act which destroys sperm or ovum violates the commandment; ‘You shall not kill’. To engage in sexual intercourse during the infertile period is the same as using a birth prevention device ie; killing the stuff of life. Given that an ejaculation produces approximately 100 million sperm cells when only one is needed, suggests that nature itself is killing unwanted sperm cells and people who take steps to prevent conception may consider it is not a serious violation and is therefore a venial sin but a sin it is and it will always be a sin. Compare this commandment to ‘You shall not steal’ no matter how small the stolen item may be, it is still stealing and sinful but a venial sin.