Misunderstanding the (alleged) ‘Congo contraception’ case

by Dr. Edward Peters, Canon Lawyer, Professor at Sacred Heart Seminary, Advisor to the Vatican

Even by the standards of his reign, the presser Pope Francis conducted on his return flight from Mexico has provoked an unusual number of questions. I wish to address only one of those here.

Preliminarily, I note that the burden is not on the negative to prove that something did not occur, it is on the affirmative to prove that the alleged something did occur. That said, though, it now seems all but certain that the ‘permission’ or ‘approval’ which Francis has claimed his predecessor Pope Paul VI gave for Congo nuns facing rape to use contraception simply does not exist. See e.g. Fr. Zuhlsdorf or John Allen*.

Unfortunately this myth has been invoked by the pope as if it were a fact of Church history, and, more importantly, in a way that suggests it might be a precedent to be considered in deciding whether contraception may also be used to prevent pregnancy in some cases of possible birth defects. That claim would take Pope Francis’ contraception remarks into a very different area. No longer are we musing about a point of Church history (as interesting as that might be), now we are dealing with Church moral teaching. The stakes become dramatically higher.

For the whole article, click here.

See Phil Lawler’s Article “Pope Paul VI and the Nuns in the Congo: an Illusory Precedent” 


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jay

    “A discussion could be had, I think, on whether non-marital sexual intercourse is subject to the same moral requirements as that to which marital intercourse is held. Humanae vitae does not, as far as I can see, address that question. But, as to whether a permission allegedly given to nuns to take contraceptive measures in the face of rape establishes a precedent for spouses wanting to contracept their sexual relations out of fear of possible birth defects, the conclusion seems inescapable: there is no parallel between the two cases, and so there is no precedent set.”
    Seriously? So an intrinsic evil really depends on the circumstances? Seriously? A mortal sin, contraception, may be ok while committing a mortal sin-fornication, but not ok while having conjugal relations? If its ok to use in once instance, why not the other? Is this where we are at now in Catholicism? Just check your brain at the church door? Paul VI didn’t mention contraceptive use outside of marriage because even in society at the time it was looked upon as not right to use in that situation. Anybody who knows the history of the rise of contraception knows that it was squeezed in by way of using it in only certain circumstances by married couples. Paul VI didn’t feel he needed to state the obvious-contraceptive use is not ok outside of the marital bed. He was addressing the issue of its use by married couples, the people who the laws of the time were beginning to allow to use it, the original laws of the United States stated that it was only for married couples. Please for credibility’s sake, stop trying to square circles. If I was reading stuff like this before I converted to the faith, I would have serious doubts about Catholicism’s credibility. I would think that you must handcuff your brain, and have to continually engage in mental gymnastics to defend the indefensible. This is not Catholicism! This is a false view of the hierarchy, which believes they are untouchable and cannot make mistakes. What would articles from professional Catholics look like during the Arian crisis? This is something I have noticed among the professional Catholic converts who have converted from Protestantism. I know, I used to be the same way. Thinking I had to defend everything. After awhile you must be honest with yourself. Be a man, and stop making excuses for wicked bishops (I’m speaking in general). Call them out. This is one of the reasons that the priest sex abuse scandal lingered. No one was willing to call them out because they had a false view of the church. It took secular media to do it. Just, for the love of God, stop this nonsense, be a man, and call a spade a spade!
    STEVE RAY HERE. thanks for your comment above. However, Ed Peters is certainly no convert and I don’t defend or protect any bishop who is lazy, protecting evil or failing to do his moral job and obligation.

  2. Dr. Edward Peters

    Thanks for your post, Steve, and your own comment. If “Jay” had shown some signs of being able to think calmly about complex and controversial topics, to keep separate issues separate, and/or to inquire about ideas strange to him or her instead of rashly assuming that a highly experienced expert (me, in this case) must not only be wrong in his views, but must be something little more than a destroyer of all things holy, I might have responded substantively. But that seems not to be the case here, so … Regards to Janet. Cordially, edp

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