Paolo VI – il grande! – in una situazione difficile, in Africa, ha permesso alle suore di usare gli anticoncezionali per i casi di violenza. … Paul VI – the great one! – in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted sisters to use contraceptives for cases of violenze.
Apparently the roots of this rumor goes to an article in a Roman paper.
Long and verbose story short, in that article Palazzini and Lambruschini explore a possible application of the “principle of the double effect” to the case of rape, where a legitimate end is pursued and the probable evil consequence is unintended.
Fr. Hurth attempts an elaboration of Aquinas’ concept of genus moris and genus naturae where the moral status of an act can be different depending on its spiritual and physical characteristics. In fairness, I’ll note that, back then, chemical contraception was relatively new a subject. Tonsured moralists were unlikely to be all that familiar with the science and the physiology involved and it will take 1968 to hear an authoritative pronouncement on this specific subject, the reviled Humanae Vitae. And it came from that same Paul VI who is said to have allowed contraception, if only by way of exception.
No, really, there is nothing else.
The opinion of three moralists on a magazine, attempting to offer, I repeat, an opinion on a complex matter, gets quoted loosely and ad nauseam by other moralists and journalists and becomes “Rome” and later “Paul VI”.
They will tell you that that article legitimized the concept of “lesser evil”. Leaving aside the fact that we can never choose evil, no matter the scale of it, the fact is that in 1957 Palazzini had co-edited a widely used manual where the following is said (I quote a 1962 English edition of this manual):
“To choose the lesser of two evils is permissible if the lesser evil is not in itself a moral evil (sin), but a purely physical evil or the omission of something good or indifferent, from which in a specific case an accidental bad effect will follow, less serious, however, than that which another course would provoke” (Ludovico Bender OP, in Dictionary of Moral Theology, Ed. Roberti, Francesco, Palazzini Pietro. Transl. by H. Yannone. Westminster, MD: Newman, 1962).Now, I am no moral theologian but contraception is in fact a moral evil in itself (see Humanae Vitae 16) and not a “purely physical evil”, much less “something good or indifferent”. Case closed.
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