Catholic Church urged to lift ban on contraceptives for well-being

The Catholics for Choice organisation yesterday called on the Vatican to drop its opposition to artificial contraceptives for the good of humanity.

Exactly 50 years ago, on July 15, 1968, the church issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae that prohibited the use of contraceptives by Catholics worldwide. It emphasises the sanctity of unborn life but does not oppose abstinence or the rhythm method.

At a press conference to discuss the effects of the ban, chairperson of Catholics for Choice Dr Joseph Karanja said the majority of Catholic faithful use contraceptives.

“Globally, 78 per cent of Catholics support the use of contraceptives and this is evident throughout South Africa and Europe. Ninety or more per cent of Catholics in Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Spain and France support it. It is useless for the Vatican to continue banning this. We are worried about the small population that follow the directive,” he said

Karanja said contraceptive use helps the poor to plan their families, thus reducing poverty.

“It is unfortunate that 50 years ago, Pope Paul VI slammed the door on use of modern contraceptives,” he said.

Karanja said the Vatican has opposed UN efforts to promote family planning to reduce poverty and prevent sexually transmitted infections.

“This could have prevented HIV-Aids and access to birth control globally since the Catholic faithful do not use them,” he said.

Karanja said it is time the Catholic Church considers reviewing its position.

He said Catholic bishops and the entire Church have been in the forefront to fight government initiatives such as immunisation and sex education.“The church does not support any organisation that promotes the use of contraceptives,” he said.

Some church representatives say immunisation is contraception or sterilisation in disguise.

In January this year, the Catholic Church renewed the war against contraceptives when Kenya won the award for global Excellence in Leadership for Family Planning, for accelerated use of birth-control.

Kisumu Catholic Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth said distribution of free contraceptives and abortions had resulted in a population decline in the past five years in the region.

Yesterday, Dr John Nyamu, another representative of Catholics for Choice, said 214 million women globally have unmet needs for modern contraceptives, which contributes to high maternal mortality.

He said the Catholic prohibition on use of condoms makes Kenyans and the world vulnerable to HIV-Aids.

Nyamu said about 25 per cent of HIV-Aids care worldwide is provided by the Catholic Church.

In a statement yesterday, Amanda Ussak, the director of International programs at Catholics for Choice, said the Church cannot progress until it honestly confronts the paradox of Humanae Vitae.

This article was original published in The Star.