Comment: On Papal Interviews

What is it about Pope Francis and planes? Before we get worked up and say things we might regret, it is worth considering a number of mitigating circumstances. An elderly man is on his way back after a gruelling few days. He should have been left alone to enjoy the luxuries of economy travel, not having to answer often complex questions. Besides, it is not his fault that he received his theology formation at a time when the Jesuits were undergoing their worst crisis to date.

"Trumpgate" is easy to resolve. "Building walls to keep immigrants out is not Christian." That seems to be a political statement. How about a less controversial moral statement, one that we expect from a Successor of St Peter: "No Catholic may in good conscience vote in favour of a politician who has clearly stated an intention of promoting abortion" ?

During the interview,Pope Francis once again condemned abortion, although his use of the word "crime" is unhelpful since it has been considered a crime not to have an abortion in China.

Might women who are exposed to the Zika virus use contraception? Pope Francis said that "avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil" and in certain circumstances it may be the "lesser evil". Comparing their situation to nuns in the Congo using contraception to prevent the consequences of rape is not a good analogy. There is a difference between rape and marital acts. Besides, the whole story of the nuns in the Congo is,at best, dubious. One would have thought that there were better ways of self-preservation in those circumstances.

It goes without saying that Pope Francis is right to say that avoiding pregnancy in certain circumstances is a perfectly legitimate option. It is a pity that he did not use this opportunity to promote NFP and abstinence. What about women who are exposed to other risks? For example, women who are over forty at risk of having disabled children? We can construct a whole lot of other risks. As Pope Francis knows well, risks were the ways in which liberal abortion laws were introduced: the risks of rape, disabled children, health of the mother etc. The morality of human acts cannot be resolved by some sort of risk analysis. Babies and the marriage act are things that are good and may not be directly violated, whatever "risks" they might pose. In contrast, if a person intends to do evil, then limiting the damage of the evil act seems a good thing to do. A bank robber may be motivated by some element of goodness when he ensures that the amount of explosives used will not harm passers by. But it is not the business of the Church to issue encyclicals on how to rob banks safely.

In Catholic moral theology, there is no such thing as the principle of the lesser of two evils. The Church cannot promote intrinsically evil acts even when some good may come of them.

Comment by Dr Pravin Thevathasan