Recently, Pope Francis was asked whether or not the Church could change its teaching on contraception by journalist Claire Giangravé from Religion News Service.
“Many Catholics, but also many theologians, believe that the development of Church doctrine regarding contraceptives is necessary. Even it appears that your predecessor, John Paul I, thought that a total ban needed reconsideration.
What are your thoughts on this? Are you open to a reevaluation in this regard, or is there a possibility for a couple to consider contraceptives?”
Pope Francis responded that “dogma, morality, is always in a path of development, but development in the same direction.”
“To use one thing that is clear, I think I’ve said it other times here, for the development of a question either moral — for theological development let’s say — or dogmatic, there is a rule that is very clear and illuminating, which I said another time.
The one that Vincent of Lerins made in the 10th century. He says that true doctrine in order to go forward, to develop, must not be quiet. That is, it consolidates with time, it expands and consolidates, and becomes more steady, but is always ‘progressing.’
That is why the duty of theologians is research, theological reflection. You cannot do theology with a ‘no’ in front of it. Then the magisterium will be the one to say no if it has gone too far, come back … but theological development must be open, because that’s what theologians are for, and the magisterium must help to understand the limits.”
He said “on the issue of contraception, I know there is a publication out on this issue and other marriage issues.”
“These are the proceedings of a congress and in a congress there are hypotheses, then they discuss among themselves and make proposals.
We have to be clear: those who made this congress did their duty because they tried to move forward in doctrine, but in an ecclesial sense, not out, as I said with that rule of St. Vincent of Lerins. And then the magisterium will say: yes, it is good or it is not good.”
Pope Saint Paul VI promulgated Humanae Vitae, the landmark encyclical reaffirming Church teaching against contraception on July 25th in 1968.
He warned of social consequences if contraceptive use became widespread, like infidelity, moral decay, and disrespect towards women.
The Church teaches that birth control is morally impermissible:
“‘Every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible’ is intrinsically evil.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 2370