Vatican City — A married couple from Brazil told Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops that the church should stop giving "contradictory advice" on birth control and help Catholics obey church teaching against contraception.
On the same morning, one of the synod's leaders spoke forcefully against a widespread "contraceptive mentality" that has led many Catholics to think the use of artificial birth control is not a sin.
Arturo and Hermelinda As Zamberline, married for 41 years with three children, addressed the synod during the morning session Thursday. The designated subject for the session was the "pastoral challenges concerning an openness to life."
"We must admit without fear that many Catholic couples, even those who seek to live their marriage seriously, do not feel obligated to use only the natural methods" of birth control condoned by the church, said the Zamberlines, leaders in their country of an international Catholic movement, Teams of Our Lady. "We must add that generally they are not questioned by their confessors" on the subject.
The Zamberlines, who are participating in the synod as non-voting auditors, said the "rhythm of life" today makes it difficult to find time to learn natural methods of family planning, which they said have acquired an "unjust reputation of being unreliable," because they are badly explained and thus badly practiced.
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"The great majority of couples do not reject the use of contraceptive methods. In general, they do not consider them a moral problem," the Zamberlines said.
The Brazilian couple concluded with an appeal to the pope and the synod to help Catholics understand and obey Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that affirmed church teaching against contraception.
"If couples, as well as clergy, could at least find illumination and support, that would already be a great encouragement! Often, contradictory advice only aggravates their confusion. We ask, may the magisterium hasten to give priests and faithful the major lines of a pastoral teaching program to help people adopt and observe the principles laid out in 'Humanae Vitae,' " the Zamberlines said.
In remarks introducing the couple to the assembly, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris, one of three synod presidents appointed by the pope, said Catholic couples "often do not believe that the use of contraceptive methods is a sin and therefore they tend not to speak of them in confession and so they receive Communion untroubled."
"It is necessary to encourage a mentality of openness to life to thwart the contraceptive mentality and the spread of an individualist anthropological model that in certain countries has led to a strong demographic drop whose social and human consequences are not sufficiently considered today," the cardinal said.