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Vatican newspaper says Melinda Gates ‘off the mark’ on contraception

By on Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Melinda Gates said she struggled with the idea of publicly opposing Church teaching

Melinda Gates said she struggled with the idea of publicly opposing Church teaching

The Vatican newspaper has sharply criticised Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who announced in July that the couple’s foundation would give $560 million (£360 million) during the next eight years to increase women’s access to a contraception.

Under the headline “birth control and disinformation”, the article on the front page of the July 29 edition of L’Osservatore Romano said Mrs Gates was free to make charitable donations to whomever she wants, but not to spread incorrect information.

In an interview with the Guardian, Mrs Gates identified herself as a practising Catholic who “struggled” with the idea of publicly opposing Church teaching to promote a project aimed at giving 120 million women in developing countries access to contraceptives by 2020.

Mrs Gates said she felt compelled to act to “keep women alive. I believe in not letting women die, I believe in not letting babies die.”

Writing in L’Osservatore, Giulia Galeotti, a frequent contributor on abortion and other life issues, said “the American philanthropist is off the mark”, the victim of “bad information and persistent stereotypes on this theme. To still believe that by opposing the use of condoms, the Catholic Church leaves women and children to die because of misogynist intransigence is a baseless and shoddy reading.”

Mrs Gates told the Guardian that the Catholic Church allowed natural family planning, but “for our foundation, well, we promote modern tools because these have the most impact”. At the same time the Church can and should continue to teach women how to space births naturally, she said. “Let a woman choose what it is she would like to use.”

Mrs Galeotti said the comment reflected the widespread but mistaken notion of the ineffectiveness of natural family planning (NFP) methods that involve teaching couples to recognise the natural signs of a woman’s fertility and act accordingly.

The “smile of condescension” and descriptions of NFP as unscientific or primitive probably are not completely accidental, Mrs Galeotti wrote.

No one is getting rich off NFP methods that “do not cost anything, do not damage a woman’s health and are considered 98 per cent effective”, she said.

  • Agent Provocateur21

    This example just shows the Church must not be afraid to take care of its sheep. The care involves also correction and Mrs. Gates was rigthly corrected. However, that is not enough. The Church officials should publicly remind all priests that those who are not in the state of grace should not be permitted to Holy Communion. Thus, anyone oppsoing the official teaching of the Holy Catholic Church would not be permitted to approach the altar of God without repenting first.

  • Innocentsmith831

    Off the mark? She ought to be excommunicated.

  • Patrick_Hadley

     Since 1968 practising Catholics have followed their consciences over the issue of contraception, as indeed they were told at the time by Cardinal Heenan. Many left the Church as a result of the encyclical; others who actually read the encyclical realised that it did not make sense and with their consciences fully informed continued to use contraception.

  • JabbaPapa

    Pseudo-catholicism such as this is utterly revolting.

  • Alexander VI

    And what would that achieve?

  • aearon43

    So you say, but even assuming you are right that most Catholics do not follow the teaching on contraception, what does that prove? All Catholics are sinners.

  • Acleron


    are considered 98 per cent effective’

    Anybody know where this comes from?

    This paper on actual trials concludes that insufficient data is available to measure effectiveness of NFP methods.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1380852/pdf/amjph00503-0140.pdf 

    And this survey in America found that 70% of obstetricians and gynecologists considers that NFP methods are a poor option for most women. (56% of catholics had the same views)
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3052964/ 

  • Agent Provocateur21

     Look, I know the 1960′s were dark ages, but I was born LONG time after that dreadful period. Why do you dig out (selectively I must say) an old article? The truth is the same – today, 1000 years ago or 5000 years from now…..A lot of peoplea trying to justify their sinful actions by saying “I just follow my consience”. To hear such a comment from an adult is rather tragic. We were created to love God and to love God means to keep his commandments in the obedience with his Holy Church. Simple.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Someone on another blog used the term ‘secular catholic’ to describe those who adapt their Faith to the world around them.  Not sure if this term has been used before but it describes what seems to be a growing tendency.

  • http://twitter.com/glitterx0x0 glitter

    ”A 14-year five-state study [Journal of Reproductive Medicine, June 1998] showed the method to have a 99.5% rate for method effectiveness, and a 96.8% use effectiveness rate (“real-life” rate that includes use errors).  Research shows oral contraceptives (“The Pill”) to have a 97.0% user effectiveness rate.”http://www.physiciansforlife.org/content/view/192/36”A recent study in Germany (Frank-Herrmann et al., 2007) involving 900 couples found the symptom-thermal method of NFP to be 99.6% effective. Studies (Marshall 1976; Pyper 1997) have shown a complete absence of any unplanned pregnancies in the post-ovulatory phase.”http://www.dioceseofsalford.org.uk/nfp-the-sympto-thermal-method/towards-life-love-and-happiness

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

    TO ME IT SEEMS MANY (OR MAY BE EVEN MOST) CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS PRACTISE ARTIFICIAL OR LET US SAY SCIENTIFIC FAMILY PLANNING HERE IN INDIA.

    WHEN I CAME TO KNOW PEOPLE I LOVE AND CARE FOR BY WAY OF BLOOD RELATIONSHIP AND FRIENDSHIP DO GO FOR IT I WAS LEFT OPEN-MOUTHED AND GASPING. AT THE END I SAID TO MYSELF WITH LOT OF AVERSION, “LET THEM DO WHAT THEY WANT; IT IS THEIR BUSINESS AND THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR IT.”

    I KNEW THEY ARE HELPLESS SPIRITUALLY AND MORALLY BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT FED ON THE “THE WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE.”  THEIR ONLY SOURCE IN PRACTICE TO NOURISH THEMSELVES WAS SACRAMENTAL LIFE.  WHEN SPEAKING ABOUT SACRAMENTS, I RECALL ONE INDIAN BISHOP REFERRING TO THE EUCHARIST, THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS, AS AN ANAEMIC RITUAL. SO I WONDER WHAT TO EXPECT FROM SUCH CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS!

    LOOK FOR EXAMPLE – HERE I QUOTE A PERSON WHO IS CONSIDERED A VERY ACTIVE CATHOLOIC WITH THE NAME CHHOTEBHAI FROM KANPUR,U.P., INDIA, CRITICISING A NUN WHO ADVOCATED NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING IN ONE OF HER ARTICLES IN THE “INDIAN CURRENTS” 23-29 JULY 2012 ISSUE,

    “AS A GOOD CATHOLIC NUN SHE TOES THE OFFICIAL LINE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON ARTIFICIAL CONTRACEPTION. SHE ADVOCATES SEXUAL ABSTINENCE AND NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING (NFP) AS THE PANACEA FOR POPULATION CONTROL. MARITAL SEXUALITY IS SOMETHING THAT ONLY MARRIED PERSONS CAN TRULY UNDERSTAND. NUNS, WHO HAVE TAKEN THE VOW OF CHASTITY ARE NOT REALLY THE BEST ADVISORS IN THIS GREY AREA.

    AS FOR NFP, COULD THE WRITER TELL ME WHERE THIS IS AVAILABLE, OR IN HOW MANY PLACES IN INDIA OR THE WORLD? NFP IS UTOPIAN. I TOO PRACTISED IT, UNTIL MY WIFE’S SECOND CAESAREAN DELIVERY. FROM THE OPERATION THEATRE ONE OF THE SISTERS CAME TO ME TO IMMEDIATELY SIGN FOR A TUBECTOMY, IN THE SAFETY INTEREST OF MY WIFE. I DID SO.”

    IF OFFICIAL TEACHING AND PREACHING SHOULD BEAR FRUIT, THE PREACHING AND TEACHING OFFICIALS SHOULD BE TRUE APOSTLES  GUIDED BY THE SPIRIT OF JESUS AND NOT MERE BISHOPS, OR PRIESTS OR ANYBODY.

  • Tridentinus

     Natural Family Planning depends a lot on the attitude and lifestyle of the spouses. If one or both drinks heavily, takes drugs or is prone to submit too readily to the promptings of the flesh then NFP is not the answer to family planning. This probably covers millions of couples who are nominally Catholic, have their children baptised, marry in Church and are buried from Church, yet seldom see the inside of a church in between.
    Mrs Gates claims to be a ‘practising’ Catholic yet she questions her religion and claims that she knows better than those who teach the Faith. Her motives in promoting artificial birth-control naturally strike a chord with most people who consider women on the African, Indian and South-American subcontinents to be incapable of understanding birth spacing and their husbands incapable of self-control. This patronising to the nth degree and were I to believe that ‘racism’ actually existed, I would have to say ‘racist’.
    Real Catholics accept that their religion is the one, true faith founded by Jesus Christ, Himself with His guarantee: ‘and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world’. Nominal Catholics do not have faith in this promise of Our Lord so it is fair to say they do not have faith in His Church.
    The Catholic Church teaches that sexual intercourse is primarily for the procreation of children within marriage. It does not teach that the pleasure which accompanies the act is wrong or sinful or not to be enjoyed provided that the primary purpose is not thwarted.
    An example is the vomitorium of ancient Rome, where one could eat as much as one was physically able  to for the sheer pleasure it afforded the tastebuds, then stick your fingers down your throat, throw it all up and start again. The primary purpose of eating is sustenance, if it is enjoyable, enjoy it do not make the enjoyment the primary purpose of eating.
    The fact is that to ‘legitimise’ artificial birth-control the Church would be in fact declaring that every sexual activity, heterosexual, homosexual, autosexual or in the bizarre outposts of sadism and masochism was ok. It would mean that marriage was no longer necessary. The church can, of course, never, ever acquiesce in this.
    This scenario has been mirrored in civil societies throughout the world where the Law has declared co-habitation outside wedlock is the norm; where homosexual relationships are considered to be ‘good’ and are promoted even to the stage that they are equivalent to the marriage of a man and a woman; where children are being taught (even in Catholic Schools) that masturbation is absolutely normal and to be ‘gay’ is quite acceptable.
    We wait with trepidation for the proponents of bestiality and paedophilia to be granted their ‘human rights’.

  • Basil Loftus

    Aren’t capital letters meant to be used at the begining of a sentence?

  • Horvathsandiego

    As the oldest of nine children I quit the catholic church. No one should be forced to have so many children. Excommunicated? I quit …

  • Acleron

    Actually, I had no misconceptions, I was merely asking where the evidence could be found for the statement. But then, I know questioning received wisdom is a crime to a theist I can see how you translate asking to misconceiving.

    I also could find plenty of pro natural etc etc sites claiming the same, but claims aren’t evidence.

  • Acleron

    Still more mentions of a study but no reference to any study.  Searching for evidence, data and all that boring stuff,  I found the meta-study I mentioned and the survey indicating that a majority of Doctors and a majority of catholic Doctors don’t think much of NFP.

    With such startling claims as 97, 98 and even 100% effectiveness, I would expect the evidence in favour to be overwhelming.

  • theroadmaster

    Well, it seems that some people who are in the atheist camp are above questioning the “received wisdom” that presupposes that our world, its’inhabitants and the surrounding cosmos were not the work of a Divine Creator.  No looking too deeply beneath or beyond this invalidated claim as it might lead to a much needed revision of this thesis and the exploration of a spiritual alternative.

  • Acleron

    So still lots of claims but no evidence. Par for the course really.

  • theroadmaster

    The belief in an Divine Intelligence is not reducible to dispassionate scientific experimentation and is best explained in theological or philosophical terms.  This is not to disparage the scientific method of experimentation, deduction and formulation, but rather to show that the “evidence” you crave will not prove the existence of God, one way or the other.  Faith takes the believer beyond pure materialism.

  • JR, Sydney, Oz

    As opposed to a “clerical catholic”? 

    Something to be worn as a badge of honour, perhaps….

  • vitto

    condoms cost very little (sometimes nothing), do not damage a woman’s health (or man’s) and are 99 per cent effective. So what’s the problem?
    Is the Church pretending that this is a health issue? Cigarettes are very expensive, they gravely damage woman’s and man’s and children’s health and are 100 per cent effective in causing various diseases and stinking up the place and endangering those affected by passive smoking. How come cigarettes are not prohibited by the Church?

  • vitto

    This dishonesty and hypocrisy in pretending by the Church that this is the health issue is what upsets me most… At least they should stop pretending to be doctors and recognise that this is simply a sexual “morality” issue. Nonsensical and meaningless as its arguments are on the “morality” issue – since NFP has exactly the same goal as contraceptives of any kind (or withdrawal) and, according to the Church, exactly the same effectiveness, this recognition would at least make its position honest.

  • lanqiu332

    tinyurl.com/cyk9xz2

  • Pete

    I wish she could give more, God bless her.

  • Angela

    I hesitate to wade into this debate but I feel obliged to speak up for Mrs Gates, it is time for the Church to stop conflating contraception with abortion, they are not the same as anyone who looks at the actual biological facts can see. Why does the Church insist that there is some kind of moral difference between planning a family using NFP and doing the same using condoms and insist that one is legitimate while the other a sin.

  • 12Maria34

    But you are still in a Catholic blog … quiting means no turning back BUT you are turning back …

  • Micha_Elyi

    [S]top conflating contraception with abortion, they are not the same…
     
    Who’s “conflating” anything?  However they are both choices that lead to mortal sin.
     
    Why does the Church insist… that one (NFP) is legitimate while the other (contraception) is a sin[?]
     
    Why for reasons similar to applauding earning an honest day’s wage and condemning robbery despite any claim that workers and thieves may superficially appear to have the same goal of acquiring money.
     
    NFP relies on abstinence, which is not itself a sin, while contraception depends on perverting the nature of sex while attempting to indulge in it and that is a sin.
     
    If you really want to learn about this Church teaching in enough depth sufficient for you to understand it, there are plenty of sources available on the web – if you don’t want to make an appointment and discuss the matter with a priest.

  • Carolsheridan13

    If masturbation is not natural, how come a huge majority of men and women  indulge in it?

  • aHumanist

    The RCC should have no moral authority, it is corrupt to the core.