THE Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has supported Pope Francis' statement suggesting artificial contraception can be used by women threatened by the Zika virus.

CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the Pontiff's statement is not changing church teaching on the unacceptability of artificial means of contraception.

"The Holy Father was very clear and uncompromising about the evil of abortion. And we, your bishops, reiterate Church teaching: No matter that the child in the womb may be afflicted with some infirmity or deformity, it can never be moral to bring a deliberate end to human life. It is never for us to judge who should live or die!" he said.

The Lingayen-Dagupan prelate added, "He then proffered the view that the evil of contraception was not of the same magnitude as the evil of abortion. Clearly, this was sound moral reasoning. The evil of stealing a few pesos cannot be compared with the evil of plunder."

Villegas noted that these positions are not in any way new, saying: "They have always formed part of Catholic moral theology and belong to the treasury of the Church's heritage in health-care ethics."

The CBCP chief said the Holy Father usefully called attention to two important moral precepts: there may be circumstances that invite a re-evaluation of the judgment on artificial means of contraception; the prodding of conscience should always be heeded, as long as every effort is made to form conscience properly.

"Once more, the Pope has shown his sensitivity to complex human situations, allowed the world see the merciful face of the Church -- the sacrament of a Merciful Lord -- as he has remained the faithful steward of the message of the Gospel," he added. (FP/Sunnex)