The news that Pope Francis has strongly defended the Church’s ban on artificial birth control left me, in a word, devastated.
I had hoped for so much more from this man.
Although he has not lived it himself, I had thought he understood something about good people living real lives in real marriages. I had thought he even understood something about the beauty of sex in marriage, the need for sex in marriage.
I was wrong.
In the United States, his words will have little practical impact. Most Catholic women have used birth control for decades. There are no more families with 12 and 14 kids in the Sunday morning pews. But his words do reveal a heartbreakingly backward perspective: that the highest calling of married women is sacrificing all to rear children, as many as come along, no matter those women’s talents or skills or dreams.
The practical implications of his words are, however, tragically real in poor Catholic countries like the Philippines, where Pope Francis reiterated his support of the ban. Too many babies are born there already to mothers unable to care for them, clothe, or even feed them. Abandoned street children already fend for themselves by the thousands. The pope visited a teeming Philippine orphanage himself. He is not a cruel man. What, possibly, is he thinking? That natural family planning will somehow save the day?
Pope Francis left me feeling foolish for even hoping that he’d somehow see his way to ending the Church’s completely indefensible contraception ban. Mostly, I just feel sad.