The Damage Done in Africa

The papal encyclical Humanae Vitae has indeed done incalculable damage to the Catholic church in Africa and to the cause of promoting sexual and reproductive health in the developing world. The 50th anniversary of its release should be an opportunity for sober reflection on this disastrous legacy. The pernicious effect of this document is evident in the growing chasm between the Catholic hierarchy in Africa and the laity on the issue of family planning.

Inspired by Humanae Vitae, the African hierarchy continues to vehemently oppose the use of contraceptives and other modern birth control methods, while the Catholic faithful largely ignore these teachings and instead follow their consciences when making decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health.

In addition, Humanae Vitae has further alienated Catholicism in the region because the hierarchy often interferes in the legislative process, blocking efforts to enact laws that guarantee access to birth control and protect the reproductive rights of women.

After 50 years of upholding a ban on contraception and causing enormous harm to the lives and health of primarily women and children around the globe, the hierarchy’s antilife position should end. The Catholic hierarchy should reconsider its stand on modern family planning and put into place a more progressive and forward-looking position on birth control.

LEO IGWE
Founder, Nigerian Humanist Movement
Ibadan, Nigeria

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