In a wide-ranging interview to an Italian newspaper, Pope Francis made clear the Church's commitment to upholding the moral law and his support for the teaching in Humanae Vitae that artificial contraception is wrong. Speaking of that encyclical, and of Paul VI, he said "his genius proved prophetic: he had the courage to stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a ‘brake’ on the culture..." . He praised Paul VI for opposing the promoters of "neo Malthusianism", ie the followers of the Rev Malthus who two centuries ago was urging that the poor should be restricted in having children.
Humanae Vitae was indeed prophetic. Paul VI seemed to be a lone voice in 1968, but we can now see the wisdom of that encyclical and its upholding of the truth about the transmission of human life.
Artificial contraception breaks the unitive bond of marital love. Today, marriage is held in contempt by many in officialdom, and the stability of family life has been undermined. Cruel policies are now imposed by public authorities, in our own country among others: you and I have to pay for contraceptive drugs and devices pushed at young teenagers, and children at school are taught that the world is "over-populated" (when in fact the reverse is true and in Europe, in particular, we are suffering a "birth dearth" with too few young people to support the greying continent). Teenage abortions and births have soared, as have sexually-transmitted diseases. Half of all births are now outside of marriage. Most unmarried cohabiting couples break up before their oldest child reaches the age of nine.
No Pope has the power or authority to change the moral law. What is good about Pope Francis is that he has the courage not only to uphold it, but also to affirm his support for the Pope who upheld it in 1968 in the face of so much pressure to change.
And, yes, I did read the part where Pope Francis speaks about mercy and the need for confessors to get this right. And, no, it doesn't mean that confessors should tell penitents that contraception is OK.