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Catholics & Conscience. The pill poses two grave moral problems. The first affects Roman Catholics and, for different theological reasons, the smaller number of Orthodox Jews. Not until 1930 did the Vatican modify the Augustinian rule that sex must be for procreation, when Pope Pius XI approved the rhythm method. The Vatican has banned all mechanical and chemical contraception. But Dr. Rock, an unswerving Catholic, has been arguing ever since he sired the pill that its use imitates naturewhich occasionally, but only occasionally, makes a woman skip ovulationand that it should therefore be approved by the Vatican.
Pope Paul said last October that the question of birth control was not open to doubt. But the Rev. Albert Schlitzer, head of Notre Dame's theology department, declares: "Many Catholics believe that there is still doubt, so it remains a personal choice. A good many theologians would question whether it is a matter of divine law at all. Many Catholics have already made up their minds, and will follow their decisions no matter what the Pope says in the future."
What Paul will say and even when he will say it are still the subject of speculation. In his encyclical last week (see RELIGION) the Pope said: "It is for the parents to decide, with full knowledge of the matter, on the number of their children ... In this they must follow the demands of their own conscience en lightened by God's law authentically interpreted." Dr. Rock interpreted it his way: "Oh, perfect! Parental responsibility and the supremacy of consciencethat's an excellent way to satisfy the Old Guard as well as the young." The Old Guard was unmoved. Said Msgr. William F. McManus, director of the Family Life Bureau in the Archdiocese of New York: "I see in the encyclical no substantial change in what the Vatican has said for some time in the matter of family control."
With that stand-off the matter rests, while the Pope ponders majority and minority reports from his special commission on marriage and birth control. Meanwhile, pressure for action rises from such prominent laymen as Clare Boothe Luce, who in the February McCall's equated the rhythm method's calendar watching with "checked-off love and clocked-out continence."
No less than 53% of American Catholic couples, according to the Ryder-Westoff survey, have adopted some form of birth control other than rhythm. And though some Catholic doctors will not prescribe the pill for them, many others will. In heavily Catholic Massachusetts, its use is widespread. Says Norwood Gynecologist Francis C. Mason: "Despite the doubletalk from Rome, the pill is the most acceptable method of birth regulation. Use of the pill by a large Catholic population acts to make them psychologically sound and to create