American Papist is hosting an essential discussion on the Connecticut case as it relates to the the nuns in the Congo (circa 1960).
A recent debate concerning the use of contraceptives in rape protocols has brought up the often-cited case of the “Congo nuns.” As the story goes, nuns in the Belgian Congo during the 1960s were given permission by the Vatican to take contraceptives in situations were it was clear that guerilla soldiers might sack their convents and force themselves upon the sisters. This story is regularly used as a lower-level support of the now widespread practice (enshrined in the USCCB’s Ethical and Religious Directives #36) of allowing women who have been raped to be treated “with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization.”
I think that highly respected ethicists have seen varying angles to this troubling case (in CT) and I'm out of my league in weighing in. I'll just continue to pray that those in decision-making positions be guided by the Holy Spirit towards the truth. All very troubling.
UPDATE as it relates to Pope Francis:
Jimmy Akin offers some good analysis
Let’s look at the Congo nuns story. In that one, the argument was made that it was legitimate for the nuns to use contraception because they did not will the sexual act. It was being imposed on them by force, and so their lack of consent to the sexual act means that they were not consenting EITHER to its unitive OR its procreative aspect.
Thus it is argued that it was just for them to do what they could to avoid the procreative aspects of the act just as much as it was just for them to do what they could to avoid the unitive aspect of the act. The use of contraception, in their case, would constitute a form of legitimate defense against the consequences of an act that were imposed on them, not the frustration of the consequences of an act in which they freely engaged.
Then he reminds us that the language has been badly garbled in translation:
Here’s the Latin original:
Item quivis respuendus est actus, qui, cum coniugale commercium vel praevidetur vel efficitur vel ad suos naturales exitus ducit, id tamquam finem obtinendum aut viam adhibendam intendat, ut procreatio impediatur.
I’ve highlighted the words that the English translation gives as "sexual intercourse." Even if you don’t have a background in Latin, the meaning of these words is pretty clear via their cognates in English. They literally mean "conjugal commerce" or–to make them slightly more idiomatic–"marital exchange."
In any event, they don’t mean simply "sexual intercourse." They mean a specific kind of sexual intercourse: Sexual intercourse which is conjugal or between married persons.
Thus, Humanae Vitae only deals with marital intimacy, not with promiscuity or rape. The waters are very muddy at this point, but the Congo case doesn't relate because it doesn't involve marital intimacy. Humanae Vitae still seems to stand, since the only people who need to legitimately fear the Zika virus are those who are engaging in the conjugal act [read: married couples]. Everyone else -- those who engage in sexual relations outside of marriage -- are already outside the realm of Catholic morality.
As noted above, it's best to consider the question on the updated post found here.