Speaking on a flight en route from Mexico to Vatican City today, Pope Francis has suggested that women threatened with the Zika virus could use artificial contraception to prevent pregnancy.
As the National Catholic Reporter writes, "The pope's remarks on contraception may be seen by some as a significant opening from the highest levels of the church, as Paul VI banned the use of artificial contraceptives in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae."
The Roman Catholic church teaches that abstinence, including between married couples, is the only morally acceptable way to prevent the spread of disease.
The church has been criticized for counselling against use of condoms in countries with high rates of HIV transmission. In the past, Pope Francis and his recent predecessors have been questioned about whether there should be an exception to the ban in such regions. Francis has avoided a specific answer on that matter. How could the pope's comments on contraceptives influence Catholics around the world?
Thomas Reese, S.J., Jesuit Catholic Priest, Senior Analyst, National Catholic Reporter. Author of "Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church"
Christopher Kaczor, a professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, in Los Angeles, and a corresponding member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life
Jeffrey Volkmer, Assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, Biola University