Video Criticizes Vatican’s Policy Regarding Contraception

Two Nicaraguan teenagers raped and impregnated by their father, a Filipino woman with seven young children in a 10 foot by 10 foot one-room shack and a group of Kenyan teenage girls infected by HIV/AIDS are the opening images of “Sex and the Holy City,” a film shown by the women’s studies department on Oct. 25. The film was shown to discuss the effects of Vatican policy under Pope John Paul II.

Veteran BBC journalist Steve Bradshaw narrated the documentary which highlighted the effect of Vatican policy and former Pope John Paul II’s philosophy on contraception and reproductive rights in three developing nations.

Beginning in Nicaragua, Bradshaw discussed the case of an 8 year-old girl who was raped and consequently became pregnant and two teenage girls forced to bear to term children the result of incestuous rape. Nicaraguan Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo, with the Vatican’s support, opposed the 8 year-old girl’s parents’ request in court for an abortion.

“Sex and the Holy City” presented the case that the policies of the Catholic Church and laws criminalizing abortion except in rare cases have made contraceptives and other reproductive options functionally non existent in Nicaragua.

The result of which is, according to Bradshaw, “guerilla abortion clinics” where abortions are performed illegally and one in four women die following the procedure.

Shifting from Nicaragua the documentary focused on the Philippines, “the most Catholic nation in Asia” where sex education is illegal and priests openly campaign against any legislation permitting it.

Bradshaw and interviewed political representatives in the Philippines characterize this attitude as irresponsible and backwards given statistics that indicate over 40,000 homeless and abandoned children roaming the streets and expectations that the population of the Philippines will rise from 80 million to 160 million in the next 40 years.

In Kenya, Bradshaw cited statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicating that as many as one in five Kenyans have HIV and one person dies every few minutes from the virus. But, Bradshaw said, in spite of these numbers Catholic officials actively campaign against the use of condoms and produce literature containing the claim, “Condoms are made from latex rubber that has pores in it that allow small viral particles to pass through.”

After interviewing Archbishop Raphael S. Ndingi Mwana’a Nzeki of Nairobi, Bradshaw elicited this response, “There should be no condoms at all. It is a scientific fact they are unhealthy- There should be no condoms anywhere. None at all.” Agents of WHO and non-governmental health organizations in Kenya interviewed by Bradshaw said that Catholic propaganda was directly responsible for some HIV infections. One worker, discussing the attitudes of people in Kenya said, “They think of it like getting in a car wreck. It [HIV] is something that happens by luck and can’t be prevented, because of what they have been taught by the [Catholic] Church.”

According to Bradshaw all of these policies are in stark contrast to a Vatican that in the 1960s was giving serious consideration to allowing Catholics the use of contraceptives under Pope Paul VI.

Pope Paul VI received a letter, however, from Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) detailing arguments against the use of contraceptives and the Pope decided against the church endorsing contraceptive use by Catholics. The central ideas used in Pope Paul VI’s arguments were those developed by Wojtyla.

The documentary attributes the attitudes of Wojtyla to Krakow, the city where Wojtyla was a priest and bishop, described as a city both “medieval and modern”.

It was then Wojtyla’s medieval idealization of the Virgin Mary that inspired his fascination with love, marriage and sexuality in the context of Catholicism about which he would later write a book titled Love & Responsibility.

At the film’s conclusion, Carol Vines of EWU women’s studies said, “The policies of the Vatican regarding contraceptives and reproductive rights has not changed under Pope Benedict XVI.”

Reacting to the film EWU sophomore Elise Strieff said, “It makes me mad-,” referring to the position of the church and the effects of its policy.