Changing doctrine of Catholic Church
Re “Will Catholicism OK condoms?” Opinion, Nov. 6
Had previous popes given appropriate weight to the lives of women, correcting the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae (a speculative, man-made treatise on contraception and natural law), Pope Benedict’s problem of permitting condom use for Catholics to prevent AIDS would not be so troublesome.
Surely our lives are worth more than philosophical theories about natural law. What about invoking the doctrine of double effect to save lives now? Just how many women have died as the Catholic Church continues to dally philosophically, and why does the pope think this is morally acceptable? Pope Benedict himself is astute enough to make any philosophic position on contraception pliant.
JOAN Z. GREINER
It will be difficult for the Catholic Church to change. Since the 1800s, when the doctrine of papal infallibility was first expressed, it has been difficult, if not impossible, for any pope to take a new direction.
If change is to be made, there must be reinterpretation of the sources without faulting an earlier view. The only pope who attempted a new direction was Pope John XXIII, who managed to lead the church into the 20th century. But trying to move the church as to doctrine that is centuries old will take another power of strength like Pope John.
One can only expect that the church will move slowly in any change of doctrine, and it will do so only when there is consensus within the church that it is necessary. Remember, it is only recently that the church indicated that it might have been wrong on Galileo, 450 years after the fact of his conviction.
Natural family planning uses objective data such as the quality of the wife’s cervical mucus to decide whether to have marital relations. The timing of intercourse can be used to increase or decrease the likelihood of conception. But the sex act is always completely mutual.
Natural family planning is based on science, not the historical record of past events (“rhythm”), as one can appreciate in the recent article, “Managing infertility with fertility-awareness methods,” in the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, or in the 1,200- page medical school textbook by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, “The Medical and Surgical Practice of NaPro Technology.”
The solution to an HIVinfected husband’s infidelity is a change in his behavior, not a change of well-founded moral principles.
GREGORY POLITO MD
The writer is president of the California Assn. of Natural Family Planning.