Philippine bishops back pope on Zika contraception

Pope Francis

MANI — Despite their staunch opposition to contraceptives, Philippine Roman Catholic bishops expressed their full support recently to Pope Francis’ remarks suggesting artificial contraception can be used by women threatened by the Zika virus.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines also backed the pope’s uncompromising position against abortion, even in cases when a pregnant woman carries an unborn child afflicted with a deformity.

“We, your bishops, reiterate church teaching: no matter that the child in the womb may be afflicted with some infirmity or deformity, it can never be moral to bring a deliberate end to human life,” Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the bishops conference, said in a statement.

Francis, however, raised the view “that the evil of contraception was not of the same magnitude as the evil of abortion,” Villegas said. “Clearly, this was sound moral reasoning. The evil of stealing a few pesos cannot be compared with the evil of plunder.”

Francis, he said, was in no way backing away from the church’s stand against artificial contraception.

“There may be circumstances that invite a re-evaluation of the judgment on artificial means of contraception,” Villegas said, adding that once more “the pope has shown his sensitivity to complex human situations” and “allowed the world see the merciful face of the church.”

The Philippine Catholic church’s opposition to contraceptives is a touchy issue in the country, where it waged a high-profile battle a few years ago against a bill allowing the government to finance and distribute contraceptives in Asia’s bastion of Catholicism. The bill, which was backed by President Benigno Aquino III, was enacted into law in 2012, and then survived a separate constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court.