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There’s no need to change Church teaching on contraception, says Pope Francis in new interview

Pope Francis (CNS)

Church teaching on contraception does not need to change but it must be applied with mercy, Pope Francis has said.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera today, Pope Francis said that Pope Paul VI, who wrote the encyclical Humanae Vitae, was prophetic.

Responding to the question of whether the Church should revisit the issue of birth control, Pope Francis replied: “It all depends on how the text of Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended that confessors show great kindness and attention to specific situations.

“His genius proved prophetic: he had the courage to stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a ‘brake’ on the culture, to oppose [both] present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not that of changing doctrine, but to go into the depths, and ensuring that pastoral [efforts] take into account people’s situations, and that, which it is possible for people to do.”

The interview is published simultaneously in La Nación and marks the first anniversary of Pope Francis’s election on March 13 2013.

Pope Francis also suggested the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of non-marital civil unions as a practical measure to guarantee property rights and healthcare.

Pope Francis said “matrimony is between a man and a woman” but moves to “regulate diverse situations of cohabitation [are] driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care”.

Asked to what extent the Church could respond to this trend, he replied: “It is necessary to look at the diverse cases and evaluate them in their variety.”

Pope Francis said cases of sex abuse by priests had left “very profound wounds” but that, starting with the pontificate of Benedict XVI, the Church has done “perhaps more than anyone” to solve the problem.

“Statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also clearly show the great majority of abuses occur in family and neighborhood settings,” Pope Francis said. “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No one else has done more. And yet the Church is the only one attacked.”

You can read a full English translation of the interview here.