The Vatican's senior official on families Friday accused Planned Parenthood of "encouraging promiscuity" and criticized feminism in a speech to the U.S. Roman Catholic hierarchy.
Cardinal Edouard Gagnon, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, applauded Catholics who fight against the Roe vs. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court allowing abortion.But he charged that in the United States some forms of ministry to divorced Catholics had "degenerated into dating services." He urged caution in granting annulments, saying that in allowing women to help decide such cases "we have to be careful that their tender hearts do not play tricks on them."
In Chicago, the acting president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, David J. Andrews, said Gagnon "is absolutely right" in suggesting that the group opposes the church's position on birth control.
Andrews said Gagnon's speech reflects "the desperation of a church trying to come to grips with the issue of sexuality and with the fact that people the world over rely on effective methods of birth control and want to keep abortion services safe and legal."
Gagnon spoke on the third day of an extraordinary four-day meeting on the 52 million-member Catholic Church in the United States. Pope John Paul II summoned 35 American prelates to the Vatican to discuss how bishops should defend Catholic teaching in the face of dissent and secularism.
While Gagnon's speech repeated well-known Vatican positions on sexual issues, it was strongly worded and unusually specific, reflecting the church's concern about the high number of American Catholics going their own way on matters like birth control and divorce.
Gagnon told the prelates that Planned Parenthood was challenging the Vatican's ban on artificial contraception by trying to set up school-based birth control clinics.
"Planned Parenthood programs of sex education in no way resolve the problem of teenage pregnancies but rather increase it by encouraging promiscuity," he said.
The Canadian cardinal also accused Planned Parenthood of trying to undermine the only form of birth control the Catholic Church allows, which is known as natural family planning. It involves having a couple abstain from sex during the wife's fertile period.
An estimated 70 percent of American Catholics use artificial birth control, and U.S. Catholic bishops suggested in a draft pastoral letter in April that the church should be more responsive toward them. However, Pope John Paul II has declared there are no exceptions.
In his speech, Gagnon called on bishops to do something about "subtle pornography, that is the degrading of moral values vehicled by cinema and TV shows which pretend to depict normal American life."
He said Americans had to realize how much influence their television programs have worldwide. He also said that the church should work for the promotion of women but that "ideological feminism has a deterious influence on the family.