It’s been a hell of a week for the enjoyably shame-filled relationship between religion and sex. Having experienced abstinence-only education first-hand, I was pretty floored by Obama’s announcement earlier this week. No more misinformation about how condoms work? No more sex-negative lectures about saving the best part of yourself — your chastity — for your future husband? This new generation is so spoiled.
However, the Pope allowing for contraception in any circumstance is even bigger, especially on an international stage.
The Catholic Church believes sex is for two reasons: to procreate, and to show your love for your spouse. BOTH reasons must be present or the act is a sin. If you’re using contraception, you’re not trying to procreate. Therefore, contraception is a sin.
Pope Francis said on his recent visit to Mexico that in the case of women threatened by the Zika virus, contraception is the “lesser of two evils.” So, yeah, contraception is still evil, but not as bad as a pregnant woman contracting the Zika virus.
To put in context how big of a deal this is, even during the AIDS outbreak the Catholic Church was still firmly against birth control. They went so far as to tell people in sub-Saharan Africa that condoms wouldn’t work against HIV and would in fact make the outbreak worse. (This wasn’t in the 1980s – Pope Benedict XVI said this in 2009.) What would Jesus do? Obviously stop people from using contraception by any means necessary, even if it’s life-threatening.
Pope Francis, the religious leader who seemed progressive because he didn’t hate gay people just for being gay (he was still against homosexual relations, of course, but having the urges themselves wasn’t sinful), was also against contraception as recently as a few months ago. His condoning contraception in this particular case is unheard of.
The leader of the Catholic Church putting the lives of those threatened by Zika over dogma is a huge deal, which is a pretty sad statement on what the Catholic Church stands for. But it’s a step in the right direction. Maybe, in a few centuries from now, the Church will allow married couples to use contraception. Vatican III is gonna be wild.