PS backs Church’s stance on contraceptives

PS backs Church’s stance on contraceptives

MASERU – THE Catholic Church in Lesotho has found a new ally in the ongoing battle over the issue of whether it should provide contraceptives to patients. The Ministry of Health’s principal secretary Monaphathi Maraka told health care workers last Tuesday that they should stop pressing the Catholic Church to provide contraceptives to Basotho.

Maraka was speaking at the release of the State of the World Population 2017 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The comments come after health care workers called on the ministry to force church-owned clinics to offer contraceptive services irrespective of the fact that such a move is against the church’s teachings.

The call was repeated last Tuesday by Motsoanku ’Mefane, a Sexual and Reproduction health manager in the Ministry of Health.
Responding to the calls, Maraka said health care providers must stop demanding that Catholic-run health facilities provide family planning services.
“The national strategy is Abstain, Be-faithful and Condomise (ABC). So, you programme managers and the media should be very careful how you treat the church in this regard,” Maraka said.

Maraka said the church is already promoting abstinence and being faithful “and these are the best strategies in decreasing the HIV/AIDS prevalence, it works very well”. “We all know that condoms are not 100 percent safe,” Maraka said.
“We are certain that people do use condoms but ultimately they stop using them.”

Maraka said the private sector, pharmacies, condom dispensary organisations, government hospitals and other health-care service providers are the best places to find services that are not provided by the church. “If we can let the church be, we will be doing it justice,” he said.

“The church has taken up two most important elements, why should we pressure it to give in to providing contraceptives?”
’Mefane had said although there has been change in the percentage of unmet needs for family planning population from 31 percent in 2004 to 18 percent in 2014, “we want to see total meet for family planning in all areas”.

“The challenge comes up when churches do not allow the use of contraceptives and even the provision of such in church-led health centres,” ’Mefane said. “We have to build strategies of how we can meet this group that is unmet because it is utterly clear that the Catholic Church clinics and hospitals will provide such services,” she said.

Since 1968, the Catholic Church has had brawls with secular authorities over the issue of contraceptives, particularly the pill.
The Church has ruled that the use of all contraceptives is sinful. That stance has often set the institution on a collision course with secular authorities who promote contraceptives. For the Catholic Church’s billions of “faithful” adherents they are caught in a moral dilemma.

Either they continue to use the pill and deliberately break the Church’s moral code or ditch the pill and face ostracism from the Church.
It is a bruising battle between Church dogma on one hand and pragmatism by its followers on the other.
Two years ago the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA) teamed up with the Ministry of Health in a plan to set up family planning facilities alongside Church-run clinics.

The Catholic Church has historically refused to provide family planning services in its clinics on religious grounds.
The Church’s teachings on family planning have not shifted an inch since that Papal enunciation in 1968.
According to the CRNet’s Catholic Marketplace, “sons of the Church may not undertake methods of regulating procreation which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law”.

It further indicates that “if there are serious reasons to space out births, reasons which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is morally permissible to take into account the natural rhythms of human fertility and to have coitus only during the infertile times in order to regulate conception without offending the moral principles”.
The Church condemns the use of unnatural methods of birth control and explicitly approves of the use of natural family planning methods when there is sufficient reason to avoid or postpone pregnancy.

According to a BBC report, the Roman Catholic Church believes that using contraceptives is “intrinsically evil” in itself, regardless of the consequences. The report says the Church does not condemn things like the pill or condoms in themselves.
“What is morally wrong is using such things with the intention of preventing conception. Using them for other purposes is fine – for example, using the pill to regulate the periods of a woman who is not in a sexual relationship is not wrong,” the report reads.

Another 2008 study by the BBC suggests that most practising Catholics are ignoring the Church’s teachings on contraception and sex.
The Tablet magazine surveyed 1 500 Mass-goers in England and Wales 40 years after Pope Paul VI forbade the use of birth control methods in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life).

Eighty-two percent of people are familiar with the Church’s moral teachings but the contraceptive pill is used by 54.5 percent and nearly 69 percent surveyed said they had used or would consider using condoms. The survey also found that more than half of the respondents think that the Church’s teaching on contraceptives should be revised.

Rose Moremoholo

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