Pope addresses birth control controversy for those susceptible to Zika virus

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By Molly Coughlin

On Feb.17 Pope Francis left Mexico to return to Rome.

As he boarded the plane, a reporter asked him about the Zika virus and birth control. He replied, “Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil,” according to the Washington Post.

Many Catholics question their own thoughts on their doctrinal beliefs regarding contraceptives, said Father Arthur Unachukwu, chaplain of SMU Catholic, about birth control and abortion.

“The direct killing of an innocent person is a grave evil,” Father Arthur said. “An intrinsic evil for that matter.”

While the Catholic Church has always condemned abortion because of church doctrine, special allowances have been made in particular cases. Nuns in the Congo were allowed to use birth control when rape became a serious threat in the 1960s.

Pope Francis likened the state of emergency around the Zika virus and its resulting damage to the unborn child as a similar situation. Women, especially in Latin America, are susceptible to the effects of the Zika virus. If a woman is pregnant, the consequences of the virus on her unborn child, such as a small head and cranial damage, are causing increasing concern.

Camille McCarty, president of Mustangs for Life, the SMU pro-life student organization, said that the Church doesn’t want babies born with defects.

“That’s horrible. But, it also does not lessen their value,” McCarty said.

Already, to prevent their unborn children from living a life with deformities and suffering with the effects, many women have opted for abortion.

Catholic doctrine never changes; however, as different popes act as head of the Church, the voice of the Church changes. For example, Pope Francis has called for Catholics to be more merciful. He has lifted excommunication for women who have had an abortion and said that sincere confession is sufficient for repentance. Pope Francis’ comments about social issues have grabbed the media’s attention because they are not as specific to Church doctrine as previous popes’ statements.

“Using artificial birth control methods…disrupts families and decreases the union aspect of marriage,” McCarty said.

Not all Catholic students at SMU share the traditional viewpoint on birth control that follows doctrinal beliefs. Nicole Harper, a Catholic sophomore, said she agrees with Pope Francis and his comments.

“Expecting people to rely on natural birth control methods is unrealistic,” Harper said. “It’s unfair to the mothers and the children to expect them to be raised with the severe disabilities the virus can cause.”

Many Catholics’ beliefs differ from the strict, anti-birth control teachings, especially younger Catholics. The Pope’s comment has caused a wide range of reactions, many saying that his comment is flawed.

“The pope has devoted his entire life to Catholicism and I think it’s quite presumptuous for Catholics to condemn what he says just because they don’t agree with birth control themselves,” Harper said.

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