Pragmatism trumps dogma: UNFPA and the Catholic Church

No. of pages: 48

Publication date: 2017

Author: UNFPA

The United Nations Population Fund recently publication  Many Faiths, Different Contexts - Experiences with Faith Based Organizations in the Asia and Pacific Region includes a piece on UNFPA and the Ministry of Health pragmatic approach to working with the Catholic Church in Timor-Leste to promote reproductive health and rights. In 2010 the MoH and UNFPA approached the Catholic diocese to elicit their support on the national family planning programme, recognising that religious leaders offer guidance on health-related matters which can encourage healthy behaviours among their followers. Although the Catholic Church is typically seen as stringently opposed to modernl methods of contraception, the Church in Timor-Leste has taken a more nuanced approach. Church representatives perceived that they should not simply condemn modern methods, but should provide appropriate information to improve reproductive health overall. The Church advocated natural (fertility awareness)  methods of family planning in line with Church teaching, but while making it clear it does not approve of modern methods, it also emphasised that family planning is a choice that couples must make for themselves, freely and responsibly. The Church acknowledges that it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health to provide this information and services.