Statement from Father Shenan J. Boquet, President of Human Life International, on concerns over the spread of the Zika virus:
“We share the concern of our brothers and sisters in Latin America who are worried about the spread of the Zika virus, and who wonder about its cause and its effects. Much is still not known, but there seems to be a growing concern that the mosquito-borne virus is linked to the serious birth defect of microcephaly in infants born to mothers who contracted the virus during pregnancy. With this elevated concern have come calls for the postponement of pregnancy for entire nations for as many as two years, although some nations are still debating what measures to be taken and what duration to advise couples to postpone pregnancy.
“First, Catholic teaching tells us that it is morally licit for spouses to postpone pregnancy for serious reasons (cf Humanae vitae n. 10, 16), and these reasons include the health of the mother and child. If a couple decides to postpone pregnancy, only natural methods – such as a number of ‘natural family planning’ methods that use medical indicators of fertility – are to be used: Artificial methods (such as hormonal, barrier, interruption) remain unacceptable. We urge the faithful to look to the bishops in the affected regions for guidance on these matters, as they are sure to be in dialogue with medical experts and will provide clear teaching as developments arise.
“Second, one expects the call to avoid pregnancy to be exploited by population control advocates who are always telling poor women and families to avoid pregnancy, most likely with renewed fund raising campaigns and anti-natalist propaganda. We also expect this very difficult situation to result in demands for radical expansion of access to abortion in law, as if killing a child is tantamount to curing a disease. It is unfortunate that radical sexual and population control ideology has infected so many medical and political institutions, to the point where many have a well-earned mistrust of authorities who would always suppress fertility. We urge Catholic faithful not to jump to conclusions, however, about what is behind the call to avoid pregnancy, but to pay close attention to what faithful Catholic medical experts who are studying the situation have to say in collaboration with the bishops.
“The Catholic Church certainly will also have a role through its hospitals and agencies to help cure the sick and aid in prevention efforts. We encourage Catholic agencies that join in collaborative efforts to be on the alert for conditions that would require the Church to set the Gospel aside in order to perform humanitarian work (cf Evangelii Nuntiandi n. 32). Further, since so many aid agencies use legitimate efforts to promote destructive anti-life programs, Catholics must be on the alert that no collaborative effort has any strings attached whatsoever, and that the Church’s endorsement is never given to any agency that is known to promote what Pope Francis and his predecessors have rightly denounced as population control (most recently cf Laudato si’ n. 50, 60).
“Catholic parents are called to be responsible and generous, and to seek formation in the faith and regularly partake in the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. This call to responsibility demands both trust and prudence, and cautions against pressure from any authority that would attack the dignity of the human person, or the gifts of marriage and sexuality. A public health threat that may have legitimacy is not cause to resort to sinful and destructive means of avoiding pregnancy, much less to turning to abortion as a false ‘cure.’”