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Should Christians Use Contraceptives to Combat Zika? Catholic Bishops Say No

Zika Virus / Microcephaly
Geovane Silva holds his son Gustavo Henrique, who has microcephaly, at the Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Recife, Brazil, January 26, 2016. |

A number of Roman Catholic bishops in Latin America, where the dangerous Zika virus is spreading, have said that despite health warnings, Catholics should refuse to use contraceptives.

"Contraceptives are not a solution," said Bishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, an auxiliary bishop in Brazil, according to Gospel Herald. "There is not a single change in the Church's position."

Organizations such as the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control have said that contraceptives need to be used by infected patients in order to prevent the spread of Zika, which might be linked to hundreds of babies being born with deformed brains in Brazil and neighboring countries.

The World Health Organization has since called on a global effort to fight the spread of Zika, with reported cases coming from America and other countries around the world. Although the virus is not known to be deadly, there is currently no treatment or cure for it.

"A coordinated international response is needed to improve surveillance, the detection of infections, congenital malformations, and neurological complications, to intensify the control of mosquito populations, and to expedite the development of diagnostic tests and vaccines to protect people at risk, especially during pregnancy," said WHO chief Dr. Margaret Chan.

The Catholic Church in Brazil, which is strongly pro-life, has already rejected calls by the U.N. to loosen abortion laws in order to prevent more babies being born with Zika.

Steiner warned earlier in February that "abortion leads to eugenics, the practice of selecting perfect people."

"Microcephaly has been occurring in Brazil for years. They are taking advantage of this moment to reintroduce the abortion topic," he added.

Peruvian Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani echoed those concerns, and said that the threat of Zika should not be used as an excuse to kill unborn children.

"Today we are surrounded by Herods, but Herods with neckties, public posts and budgets," Cipriani said at the time, referring to the New Testament king who ordered that all of the babies of Bethlehem be killed in order to stop Jesus from growing up.

"The United Nations, in the face of this Zika mosquito virus, has decreed that we should approve abortion everywhere so as to kill the children," he added.

Steiner further reflected on the Catholic stance against contraceptives, and encouraged couples to live in chastity or use natural family planning, a method in which women observe their menstrual cycles.

Though international polls, such as one carried out by Univision in 2014, have showed that Catholics in Brazil are growing in opposition to the Church's stance against artificial birth control, the Vatican has not yet made any indications that it is willing to alter its stance.

Rev. Thomas Rosica, a media representative to the Vatican's press office, said that Pope Francis knows how concerning the issue is.

"The Vatican is very well aware of the seriousness of this issue, and the Holy Father is very aware of it," Rosica said. "We're waiting to see how the local churches in those countries respond."

Rosica added, however, that the Zika outbreak is "an opportunity for the Church to recommit itself to the dignity and sacredness of life, even in very precarious moments like this."

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