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Pope hints at contraception leeway over Zika crisis

By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 February, 2016

Pontiff warns that abortion is an absolute evil but avoiding pregnancy isn't in particularly difficult circumstances such as Paul VI's authorisation to nuns threatened with rape.

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Pope Francis has hinted that the use of contraception by couples who fear they may contract the Zika virus and cause their child to develop microcephaly may be acceptable.

Speaking to reporters on his return flight to Rome after his hugely successful visit to Mexico, the Pontiff was asked by a reporter what he thought of the advice of some authorities that expectant mothers at risk of Zika have abortions.

The reporter also asked the Pope if he considered contraception the lesser of two evils.

The Zika virus is currently rampant across Latin America, and is being linked to cases of microcephaly, which results in a severe birth defect.

Responding to the question, the Pope underlined, “Abortion is not a lesser evil. It is a crime. It is killing one person to save another. It is what the Mafia does.”

However, he said contraception is different and that “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil”.

According to Vatican spokesman, Fr Frederico Lombardi, the Pope was suggesting that using contraceptives to avoid pregnancy can be acceptable in difficult situations.

Pope Paul VI’s authorisation of contraception for nuns in Africa threatened with rape was cited as an example of a difficult situation where it was deemed acceptable.

The Pope’s response is not regarded as a shift in Church teaching on contraception.

The Pontiff said of abortion, “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?”

He continued, “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.”

Returning to the issue of contraception, the Pontiff said, “Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.”

He urged doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against the mosquitoes that carry this disease. “This needs to be worked on,” he said.

Separately, the Pope also hit out against Republican presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, questioning his Christian credentials over his comments on immigration.

Asked about Trump’s plans for a separation wall between the US and Mexico, the Pope said, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.”

However, the Pope also acknowledged that he wasn’t personally familiar with Trump’s views and underlined, “I say only that this man is not Christian if he said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way, and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

Donald Trump responded to the Pontiff’s comments by describing them as “disgraceful” and warning that “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope will be wishing that Donald Trump had been President because this would not have happened.”

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