Vatican urged to reopen debate on birth control

Encouraged by Pope Benedict's encyclical on love, a Catholic bishop and a group of Christian intellectuals in France are urging the Vatican to reopen the debate on its ban on artificial birth control.

Bishop Francis Deniau told the Catholic magazine Le Pelerin this week that Benedict's first encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" (God is Love), which was widely praised for the positive way it spoke about sexual love, was a hopeful sign for possible change.

Sociologist Catherine Gremion noted the encyclical - the highest form of papal writing - did not condemn Catholic couples "who do not manage to live out their love in strict respect for Church teachings".

"That's an important sign," said Gremion, one of the co-authors of a book by Christian intellectuals entitled "The Church and Contraception - the Urgent Need to Change".

Benedict made clear last November he was not considering any change in the contraception ban and that family planning was only allowed by the "rhythm method" of abstinence from sex during a woman's fertile period.

Pope Paul VI banned contraception in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, arguing that sexual intercourse was meant for procreation and any artificial method to block a pregnancy went against the nature of the act.

That encyclical prompted Catholics to leave the Church in droves and undercut papal authority. Many practicing Catholics now simply ignore the ban and some say it weakens the Church's message on other moral issues such as abortion and bioethics.

Vatican urged to reopen debate on birth control (Reuters 16/2/06)

17 Feb 2006