Pope Francis cannot change Church teaching on contraception, despite the hopes of Melinda Gates.

In a recent BBC interview, Gates has said she is “optimistic” that the Catholic Church will change church teaching on contraception in order to help women in developing countries.

“We work very extensively with the Catholic Church and I’ve had many discussions with them because we have a shared mission around social justice and anti-poverty,” Gates said.

“And I think what this Pope sees is that if you’re going to lift people out of poverty, you have to do the right thing for women,” she said, even though “we have agreed at this point to disagree” on contraception.

Her comments come as her charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is currently co-hosting an international summit in London on the issue of access to contraception in the developing world.

She said she was “optimistic” that the Catholic Church would re-examine its teachings on contraception and that they might change over time.

But such change is impossible, said John Grabowski, associate professor of moral theology and ethics at Catholic University of America.

“The Church’s teaching on opposing contraception isn’t a recent teaching, it’s not something made up by Pope Paul VI in 1968,” he told CNA.  

Instead of contraception, the Church proposes various methods of fertility awareness, or Natural Family Planning, to help families plan their children in such a way that does not separate the procreative and unitive aspects of sex.

While these methods have been effective in developing countries where it is taught and promoted well, the Church could do yet more to support people who want to follow Church teaching, Grabowski noted.

“Could the Church doing a better job of talking about these methods of fertility awareness and their benefit? Absolutely,” he said.

“We’ve got a culture that is promoting and empowering contraception and the Church (needs to) articulate a clear enough alternative with a vision and how we can realize it.”

Full story at Catholic News Agency.