A Vatican spokesman has raised the possibility that the Roman Catholic Church's ban on artificial forms of birth control might be discussed at the 1980 Synod of Bishops.
Polish Bishop Wladyslaw Rubin, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, said during a press conference that some bishops had asked for a discussion of birth control during next year's meeting, which will focus on family life.
This highly controversial issue has not been discussed in public forums of the church for more than two decades. The late Pope Paul VI asked that the topic be removed from the agenda of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and appointed a special commission to advise him on the question.
Although the commission's majority report favored changing the church's traditional ban on artificial birth control methods, Pope Paul ignored that advice in issuing the 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the church's traditional stance.
Studies have indicated that numerous Catholic couples use contraceptives despite their church's prohibition. A 1976 study of priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley blames the encyclical for much of the church's current unrest.
Bishop Rubin said that the agenda for next year's Synod of Bishops will be determined in part by the reactions of bishops around the world to "lineamenta," a preparatory document that already has been distributed for study.
The Polish prelate, who will be made a cardinal this month, said the document "seeks to observe the present situation of the family 15 years after the (Vatican) Council. Since that time, many things have changed in the church and the world."
He said the influences of such changes on family life were considered in the document, as were the "special difficulties" facing the Christian family in a world of "religious pluralism."
Rubin said the document upholds church teaching against remarriage after divorce by reaffirming that marriage is "an irrevocable consent" on the part of husband and wife.