Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pope Francis Interview

Pope Francis gave an interview on the plane ride back from Mexico. The entire interview is here, and the media has turned the interview into three different stories.

1. Someone asked the Pope about Donald Trump's immigration policies. The Pope doesn't appear to know who Donald Trump is, so he gave a general response about how good Christians build bridges, not walls. "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel...I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt."

Random fact: The Pope's Twitter handle is "Pontifex", which is Latin for "bridge builder". "Pons, pontis" = bridge, "facere" = build

As you'd expect, there were headlines about how the Pope attacked Trump. Trump counterattacked, criticizing the Pope because Vatican City has walls (even though it's not a walled country), and because good religious people don't judge the faith of others. (Kind of weird to judge the Pope on religious grounds, while at the same time saying religious judgment is bad.) Since then, Trump has seen a copy of what the Pope actually said, not what the media reported the Pope as saying, and Trump recanted his attacks at the South Carolina Town Hall.

2. The Italian government is currently that deal with same sex marriage, so they asked the Pope's opinion. The Pope says he refuses to get involved with Italian politics and said that he follows church teaching on the matter. Another reporter pressed the issue, mentioning a 2003 document on the issue, which says Catholics are obliged to oppose giving legal recognition to same sex marriage.

Pope Francis says he is not familiar with this document, but he said Catholic politicians must make legal decisions, with a well-formed conscience. He gave a personal example from the same sex vote in Argentina, where certain politicians ignored the issue itself and made their votes, based on who would decide the quorum. That is voting based on politics, not voting with a well-formed conscience.

3. Someone asked about the Zika virus, which can cause microcephaly in infants. That's when children are born with small heads and often, their brains don't develop fully. In order to avoid the virus, some authorities recommend abortion or using birth control to avoid pregnancy. Is this a "lesser of two evils" situation which would let Catholics use birth control?

Pope Francis was very clear about how abortion is evil, because it is murder. It is not on the same level of evil as using birth control. Pope Francis referred to a situation, where Pope Paul VI allowed nuns who were raped were allowed to use contraceptives, to avoid becoming pregnant. (Both liberals and conservative Catholic commentators agree that this never happened; it comes from a 1961 magazine article which was blown way out of proportion. Especially considering that, you know, Paul VI wasn't Pope in 1961.)

Is the Pope saying it's okay to use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, in the case of rape? Yes, seems like it. Is he saying it's okay to use birth control to avoid getting pregnant and possibly contracting the Zika virus? No, doesn't seem like it. He would advise married couples who want to avoid possible birth defects to use alternate methods of avoiding pregnancy: namely, abstinence and natural family planning. Pope Francis recommended vaccines and further scientific study, to help eliminate the virus.

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