Does the Church have it right on family teachings in India?

Synod on the Family questionnaire falls short on addressing contraception, inter religious marriage

<p>Residents go about their daily chores at a slum in Mumbai (AFP Photo/Indranil Mukherjee) </p>

Residents go about their daily chores at a slum in Mumbai (AFP Photo/Indranil Mukherjee)

  • Virginia Saldanha, Mumbai
  • India
  • September 16, 2014




A few lay leaders in India took the initiative to get responses from the laity to the Vatican questionnaire in preparation for the Synod on the Family. The responses when summed up show that the laity are pinning their hopes on the Synod Fathers, realizing that teachings in Humanae Vitae are hardly followed and need change.

The Bishop of Antwerp recently wrote, “I had become more and more aware that important questions surrounding relationship, sexuality, marriage and family constitute a very discordant domain within the Catholic community…. In order to avoid mounting tensions, men and women in the 1980s and 1990s opted for the discreet approach.”

The same is reflected in the responses received from over 1,000 Indian Catholics. About fifty to seventy percent who know Church teaching said that they do not follow it and prefer to follow their conscience. Some even admitted that they receive the Eucharist as they do not feel the need to confess this ‘sin’. Eighty to ninety percent want the Church teaching on contraception to change.

While everyone knows the teaching on contraception and abortion, very few have heard of the Church document Humanae Vitae.

All married persons declared that there is a range of difficulties in putting Church teachings into practice. They declared that the teachings of the Church on contraception do not take into account the life situations of people in the 21st century.

A woman whose husband was in the armed forces shared that he would come home for brief periods after long stretches of time in the border areas. Following the Church promoted Natural Family Planning (NFP) was practically impossible for the young couple. There are numerous couples in a similar situation, separated because of their jobs, meeting for brief periods off and on. If they have to follow the NFP, then they may hardly have a conjugal relationship.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1603, “The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.” Considering that conjugal love is necessary to strengthen the couple relationship, most people in such a situation are forced to consider other methods of birth regulation.

Three domestic workers living in a slum in Mumbai interviewed for the questionnaire said that they had to use contraceptives for three important reasons. Firstly, their husbands often come home drunk and demand sex. Secondly, they know their husbands visit sex workers occasionally so they needed to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS infection. Thirdly, since they could not afford more children it was better to use contraceptives than have an abortion. They do not believe that using contraceptives is morally wrong so they continue to receive the Eucharist.

One doctor couple said that they did not see any difference between contraceptives and NFP, as both intentionally prevent fertilization. So why condemn the use of condoms, which could save the lives of many hapless women whose husbands contract HIV/AIDS?

On Sunday, Pope Francis who in his inimitable way teaches by example, showed the Catholic community that compassion and understanding come before the law. In asking for 20 couples coming from different social backgrounds and representing the “modern-day couple” to be married in a mass ceremony, he showed the world that the Church represents the compassion of Jesus. It is reported that several of the couples were cohabiting and one was already with child.

Several Asian family concerns have not featured in the questionnaire, the most important being interreligious marriage. Great disappointment has been expressed among the lay faithful that in a synod deliberating on the family, the protagonists are largely under-represented.

Asia as usual has been given short shrift by the Vatican with just one couple from the predominantly Catholic Philippines attending the synod. They are supposed to represent the rest of Asia characterized by its inter-religious diversity, which experience they would sadly lack.

We can only hope that our Asian prelates will bring these concerns to the Synod Hall.

Virginia Saldanha is the former executive secretary of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences Office of Laity and a freelance writer and advocate for women’s issues based in Mumbai.

Courtesy: UCAN News



  1. September 18, 2014 at 7:30 am

    Dear Fr. Robin,
    Since it seems you are from Pune, surely you must be aware of all the gocchi that goes on in this fiefdom that is still ruled/run by the “retired” chieftain.
    Our small town Lonavla has had all the various examples of ” priestly” antics–love affairs– robbing money etc.– one parish priest even had the stupid courage to reduce the Church bank account to zero on the last day of his tenure– this is not a figment of my imagination– there are documents available– and today how has this same crook been rewarded– he has been made in-charge of vocations in this corrupt diocese– what will he teach the new aspirants ?? how to rob the Church in one easy step ??
    After getting ordained, most priests forget that they have been called to be shepherds– they become wolves who prey on the sheep they are entrusted to care for.
    The biggest loophole in our priestly system are the secular/diocesan ilk of priests– who do not have the vow of poverty to prevent their crookery —
    Please count how many priests from religious orders have risen in the ranks of the Church’s hierarchy ??? Only the diocesan/secular crowd go up higher and higher — WHY ???–it is an elite CLUB.
    The system of diocesan/secular priests– who can possess cars, fat bank balances- assets– property– must be abolished.
    All forget that the very essence of Christianity is COMPASSION and UNDERSTANDING–
    WHAT A WASTE OF JESUS’ LIFE ON THE CROSS– he did not die ONLY to save the common man HE also died to save the clergy
    LET US PRAY !!!!!


  2. September 18, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    This author’s article is one sided and is lacking the main facts about the church’s teaching on contraception.

    First It fails to recognise that in removing the possibility of procreation, the act becomes ordered solely towards pleasure seeking. This means that a couple can in fact no longer need to be married. For the marriage itself is necessary based on the need to be there for offspring. To use contraception negates that need and consequently devalues the marriage that utilizes such methods.

    Hence contraception legitimizes masturbation, sodomy, fornication, prostitution and other sterile forms of lustful hedonism ofttimes described as love, though the two are quite different. One can see that Lust is a disordered understanding where it tends towards narcissism, while love is ordered toward the benefit of the beloved.

    Secondly, Contraception is also changing the value of procreation and children as it leads to the thought that should a conception occur in spite of the use of contraception, that the conceived child is “a mistake”, “unwanted”, something to be gotten rid of, a disease or an enemy to the user of the contraception. It therefore leads to acceptance of abortion (the willful killing of an innocent pre-born child) as a method of birth control.

    Thirdly, Contraception devalues motherhood and the role of women. The products are all unhealthy to the reproductive systems of women. Condoms, diaphragms and spermicides cause cervical inflammation. Contraceptive pills, injections and implants affect her biochemistry and strip her body’s immune defences, plaguing her with hemorrhaging, blood clots, headaches and strokes, while increasing the likelihood of cancers.

    IUD’s perforate wombs and scar womb tissue leading to later miscarriages. Non of them lead to better reproductive health. All are costly to use. Noteworthy is the negative effects are only experienced by the women. Men are not so encumbered.

    Fourthly, They also all place the burden of motherhood on the woman as the male could more easily claim that having used a condom that she must have been unfaithful. The woman is seen less as a person and more as an object to gain gratification from.

    Men no longer believe that the woman has a right to refuse because they came with “protection”. This leads to a breakdown in relationships and marriages and therefore does not assist relationships and marriages to greater holiness. This lack of respect leads to greater levels of infidelity, pornography, prostitution and rape.

    Fifth, the use of contraception and attending ethics leads to the logical proposition that a government may utilize it to achieve either a low birthrate or to neuter sections of the population it seeks to get rid of (genocide). Abuses of this kind have been seen in India, Peru, Phillipines and other countries. Used especially against the poor and the marginalised without their permission or informed consent.

    Strangely this is not actually news because it was predicted by Humanae Vitae. The author’s ignorance of the document is thus quite obvious. The author seems to have stopped reading where contraception was rejected and never actually went so far as to ascertain why. Hopefully this letter is read to this point and makes the readers aware of their need to gain a greater insight as to the document’s wisdom.

    Thank you Pope Pius VI for the wisdom you shared with us. Thank you Holy Spirit for always assisting your church in gaining wisdom as the world seeks to keep us ignorant and deceived.

    Candida Mulrain


  3. September 18, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    Dear Fr. Pune, Apparently your knowledge of human sexuality is flawed. Please seek a thorough understanding of Theology of the Body and apologise for your ignorance. Your tacit support of the ignorance of this author betrays your own ignorance. How is it that you do not see that if your physical life is not in accord with your spiritual life that you are nothing but a lukewarm follower. To act heathen while speaking platitudes of love for Christ is to be a heretic. Christ when questioned on Divorce cited Genesis 2:24 which he then clarified by the words of ” What God puts together , let no one tear asunder”. That Christ Cited Genesis reveals that He saw Genesis as God’s word. Genesis 1:28, 9:1 and 9:7 all speak to the value of procreation in God’s eyes. Even your vow of celibacy can,t change that.
    We are incarnate as both spirit and flesh. Your consummate error is to see spirit as above the flesh. The flesh however informs the spirit as the flesh is also God’s creation. Please do not contribute any further to the ignorance you have supported. May the Holy Spirit bring you in humility to the truth of Humanae Vitae.

    Candida Mulrain


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