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JoyPope Benedict and the Condom Question by Fr. Joel Jason
Posted by Joy Katigbak on 11/23/2010 12:50:17 AM

3471f627-682b-4ee7-86db-b2e18a0a4fca_Light of the World.jpg

 

Pope Benedict and the Condom Question
 
(In response to many questions I received regarding the days headline connected with Pope Benedict and the condom question, I offer the following as clarifying points to ponder on. Please post it on your profile and share with as many friends you can. For our collective guidance. Thanks!) 
  
It was Sunday night (November 21, 2010) and I was readying myself to sleep. I turned on the TV to while away the time. Half asleep and half awake, I remember vaguely seeing in the running headlines at CNN, something connected with Pope Benedict and the issue of condoms. Too sleepy to even listen in, I switched off the television and went to sleep. Monday morning I woke up with text messages from friends inquiring about the supposed "turn around" in the Church’s teaching regarding condom use.
 True enough, international as well as local journal headlines read:
 “Pope says condoms are justified in fight against HIV”
 “Pope says condoms are acceptable in some cases”
 “Pope softens on teaching on Condoms, Aids and Contraception”
 “Pope: Condom use OK for fight against AIDs”
 
 So for the sake of intellectual integrity, I decided to do some research and found out that what started it all was a supposed “leaked” German interview the Pope granted to journalist Peter Seewald in an upcoming book yet to be released entitled “Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and the Signs of the Times”. To let you in on what the Pope really said, allow me to show you an excerpt of the transcript of the interview connected with the condom question:
 
 From Chapter 11, “The Journeys of a Shepherd,” pages 117-119:
 
Peter Seewald:
 
On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican’s policy on AIDs once again became the target of media criticism. Twenty-five percent of all AIDs victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.
 
Pope Benedict:
 
The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on AIDs. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many AIDs victims, especially children with AIDs.
 
I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done (emphasis mine). We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.
 
As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself (emphasis mine). More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves (emphasis mine). This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.
 
There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, (The preceding is the only sentence the secular media focused on to reach their conclusions) on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality (emphasis mine).
 
(The next question and answer was totally ignored by the secular media in their reporting)
 
Peter Seewald:
 
Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?
 
Pope Benedict:
 
She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution (emphasis mine), but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality (emphasis mine).
 
 So with the full text in question now presented, what conclusions can we derive?
 
First things first. There is a principle in Biblical interpretation that goes:
 
“A text, out of context, is pretext.”
 
It means that every text of the Bible should be understood in its integral context: in the unity of the whole message of a chapter, of a series of books, of the theology of the writer, and even the unity of the whole Biblical message. Taken in isolation, a text in the Bible can be reduced to a pretext, i.e., a half-truth or at worst, a misleading misinterpretation.
 
The headlines we read above, regarding the supposed change Benedict proposes on the consistent sexual ethics of the Church connected with condoms and HIV, are clear examples of a text taken out of context. As you can see, Pope Benedict gave a long answer to a rather short question. I highlighted the parts that spell out clearly Benedicts’ convictions as well as that of the Church’s. What some interpreters took out in isolation was that part where it says, “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility…”. They did not even finish the whole sentence.
 
 With these laid out, so what now did Pope Benedict NOT say?
 
1.     First of all, this is a personal interview. Pope Benedict is not speaking here in his capacity as the Supreme Teacher of the Catholic faith. What you find in the book are not proposed as official teachings nor pronouncements being sent out to the Catholic faithful. Some of the things we can read here can even fall in the category of personal opinions and therefore do not and cannot present themselves as official Magisterial teachings. If the Pope wants to hold out a new teaching based on his reasoned discernment as the Successor of Peter, a personal interview is not the place to do it. Everyone who knows basic Catechism understands this, much more the Pope. And so headlines claiming, “Pope changes teaching on Condoms, Contraception and HIV”, or “Pope: Condoms OK in fight Against AIDS” are totally way out of line.
 2. Nowhere in the text of Pope Benedict’s response can we find a summary justification of the morality of condom use. This is clear in the texts I highlighted. Let me highlight them once again: “…that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done,” ; “…But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself” ; “ This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves” ; “…But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.” I don’t see how the quotes above translate to “Pope OKs condom use”. On the contrary, the above quotations reflect the consistent conviction of the Church regarding condom use vis a vis HIV/AIDs: that condoms are not the solution. If at all, they contribute to the perpetuation of the problem.
 
In scientific circles, it is openly admitted that condoms are in fact not 100% safe. On an average, it is said that there is a 10-15% inefficacy, since the AIDS viruses are much more ‘filtrating’ (i.e., able to pass through) than the sperm.  Google “condom voids” and you will discover that the male sperm is small enough to easily pass through the pores/natural voids of the rubber latex, thus the 10-15% failure rate as a contraceptive. Condoms have natural microscopic holes which measure 5 micron (.0002 inches) while the HIV virus measures 0.1 micron (4 millionth of an inch). It’s a no-brainer.  Prescribing condoms as a protection for HIV and AIDS is a virtual Russian roulette. Sooner or later, you will have it. It’s only a matter of time. Therefore, even at a “technical” level of efficacy, one should question the scientific seriousness and the consequent professional seriousness of the condom campaign.
 
Condoms can only reduce the risk of infection. And with the fatally serious threat of HIV/AIDs, risk reduction is not acceptable. Prevention is the only acceptable option. And prevention is only served by abstinence (for the unmarried)  and monogamy and fidelity (for the married).
 
In the first place, Pope Benedict’s response was not even a direct commentary on the possible moral justification of condom use, clearly not for contraception. He was making a moral speculation on what may be going on in the heart of one (a male prostitute ) who uses the condom in a homosexual sex act.
 
 
What did Pope Benedict intend to say?
 
Pope Benedict was specific in his response. He spoke of a “male prostitute” who uses a condom. What the Pope stressed was not that condom use is OK in the case of a male prostitute engaged in heterosexual or homosexual acts. He merely said that “this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility…” Perhaps an analogy can help us appreciate what the Pope is saying (for this point I will modify a principle I picked up from lay moral theologian Janet Smith).
 
There are two robbers. One uses a real knife with a real intent to kill and harm. The other, uses a plastic knife, because he does not intend to kill. He only  intends to frighten and intimidate. Both men will be committing an evil act. But obviously, between the two, it is the one who employs a plastic knife that shows at least a hint, a semblance, a little amount of moral responsibility which hopefully, can still mature to a real and correct kind of moral responsibility that will let him realize that robbing people is an evil option to take. Does this mean the Church will teach that it is “OK” and moral to rob people using a toy knife? No. The Church simply says that between the two, the one with the toy knife is the one that manifests a semblance of an “assumption of  moral responsibility”, immature it may be.
 
The same logic can be applied to Pope Benedict’s example. Obviously, the mere fact that the person used a condom indicates a “semblance of responsibility.” One who engages in prostituted sex without a condom, shows a total absence of moral responsibility, for himself or for the other. Compared to this one, one who uses a condom at least shows a hint of “assuming a responsibility” which Benedict hopes can be  a “first step in the direction of a moralization” i.e., hopefully it can develop to a more correct kind of responsibility, not in the direction of regular condom use, as secular interpreters assumed, but, as Benedict finished his sentence, (which the secular media left out), “on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.”
 
As we see here, Pope Benedict is too deep a theologian and a thinker to be presented from a shallow and surface level interpretation. The Pope and the Church’s consistent ethical teachings deserve more than that. We pray that the media may also assume responsibility in reporting matters especially those related to faith and morals. We pray that intellectual integrity and professionalism may not be sacrificed for the sake of ideology, sensationalism and paper sales.
 
 

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Dennis
Dennis
http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otc.cfm?id=735&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CatholicCultureBlog_OTC+%28Commentary%3A+On+the+Culture+%28from+CatholicCulture.org%29%29


The Pope, the Condom, and the Elephant
By Dr. Jeff Mirus | November 22, 2010 2:04 PM

We’ve been paying close attention to the reports of Pope Benedict’s comments regarding the use of condoms in certain special circumstances (see What the Pope really said about condom use). Among sound Catholic commentators, Janet Smith and Jimmy Akin were the first to weigh in, and they’ve both made important points. But nobody has responded effectively to the elephant in the room, perhaps because even most Catholic commentators are just a little bit afraid the elephant is real. Let me explain.

It is true, as Jimmy Akin says, that the Pope’s remarks were not an exercise of his teaching authority. But to bring that up is to admit at least a mild fear that what he said somehow calls into question the clear and consistent teaching of the Church against contraception.

It is also true that, as Janet Smith notices immediately, the Pope’s prime example for a possible acceptable or humanly positive use of condoms appeared to be a homosexual example, in which no contraception is involved. And as Smith also stresses, the Pope did note that the promotion of condom use to reduce the spread of AIDS is not regarded by the Church as a “moral” solution. But Smith seems just a little hasty in jumping on this rather than on the succeeding clause (which begins “but, in this or that case….”). Am I only imagining a temptation to “spin” the Pope’s remarks lest they somehow undermine the previous clear teaching of the Church?

In other words, Jimmy Akin does an excellent job of showing the limits of the Pope’s comments. Janet Smith does an excellent job of showing by analogy what the Pope was trying to express. Both did a far better job than the Vatican’s own Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, who tried to explain away the uproar by asserting the Pope was merely repeating commonly held Catholic ideas—without troubling to shed any light on these ideas whatsoever. But from the best to the worst, Catholic commentators seem to be rather deliberately ignoring the elephant in the room, as if to look at it directly could somehow endanger the Church.

So let’s stare it straight in the eye. The elephant in the room is the conviction that if Pope Benedict acknowledges the possible moral good of using a condom in one situation, then he is fundamentally weakening or retreating from the Church’s teaching that contraception is intrinsically evil. This conviction is a great and gleeful hope among those who uphold contraception, but it is also an intense fear among those who have perceived the evil of contraception all along. The elephant, then, is this huge, gigantic, enormous conviction—whether welcome or unwelcome—that the Pope has put the Church’s teaching on contraception in jeopardy.

But this elephant exists only in the minds of those, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who do not fully understand the Church’s teaching on contraception.
Note this well. The Church’s teaching on contraception is that contraception is intrinsically evil when used to frustrate the procreative purpose of the marital act. In anticipation of exactly the sort of confusion we are witnessing today, I addressed this issue nearly four years ago in Contraception: Why It’s Wrong. The point to remember is that contraception is intrinsically evil only within marriage. Outside of marriage, sexual intercourse itself is intrinsically evil; outside of marriage, there is no marital act that must be kept open to life and love; outside of marriage, the morality of contraception must be determined on other grounds, namely extrinsic grounds.

This is exactly the kind of moral analysis the Pope was doing in the discussion which is now so much in the news. When, with respect to the distribution of condoms to reduce the risk of AIDS, the Pope says the Church “of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality”, he is doing exactly the sort of extrinsic moral analysis required for this case. He does not say, “Wait, stop right here, contraception is intrinsically immoral, there can be no further discussion.” He does not say this because that thinking applies only within marriage. Rather, he says we need to look at the circumstances, the moral context, and the moral trajectory.

The vast majority of Churchman have rejected the idea of fighting AIDS with condoms because the public promotion of condoms tends to dehumanize sexual relations, emphasizing only the selfish pleasure to be gained, and bypassing altogether the responsibility called for in a truly huma
Posted 11/24/2010 2:35:49 AM
 
Dennis
Dennis
from http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/articles.cfm?ID=474

The Vatican newspaper has betrayed the Pope
by Phil Lawler, November 22, 2010

Pope Benedict has not changed the Church’s teachings, or even intimated that they might be subject to change. The Holy Father has not called for a new debate on the morality of contraception. He has not suggested that condom use might sometimes be morally justifiable.

Yet today millions of people around the world believe that the Pontiff has changed Church teaching, has opened the question of contraception for debate, and has justified condom use in some circumstances. How did that happen?

Yet again, Pope Benedict has been badly served by his public-relations staff. In this case, the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano bears most of the blame for a truly disastrous gaffe.

An exciting book project subverted

The stories that are dominating media coverage of the Vatican this week can be traced to an interview in which Pope Benedict XVI responded to questions from the German journalist Peter Seewald. That interview was the basis for an exciting new book, Light of the World, which is due for publication this week.

The book is the 3rd such collaborative effort between the Pope and Seewald. But it is the first since Benedict XVI assumed the Chair of Peter, and the notion that a reigning Pontiff would submit to a book-length interview is a sensation in itself. Readers who expect something very special from such a book will not be disappointed. Light of the World is indeed sensational.

As an interviewer Seewald does his job well. He respectfully but persistently pressed the Pope to explain his thinking on a host of issues, many of them controversial. Pope Benedict, for his part, is candid and lucid, presenting his thoughts with that simple clarity that makes him such a great natural teacher. In Light of the World the reader will find the Pontiff’s honest thoughts on topics such as:

the nature of papal infallibility and Petrine authority;
the real reason for lifting excommunications on the traditionalist bishops of the Society of St. Pius X;
the limits of dialogue with Islam;
the possibility of a papal resignation;
the message of Fatima;
the day-to-day life of the apostolic palace;
the true causes of the sex-abuse scandal and the prospects for reform.
On every one of these topics, this reader found the Pope’s remarks refreshingly honest and thought-provoking. The Holy Father offers a number of fascinating revelations, along with an enormous amount of profound theological reflection. The book is, again, sensational.

Those of us who received advance copies of Light of the World were told that the text was under a very strict embargo. We were forbidden to quote from it, cite it, or even make any specific revelations about its content until the formal launch of the book this week. Such embargos are not unusual in the world of publishing (although the publishers were unusually stern about it in this case), and professional journalists routinely honor them.

Then, incredibly, the Vatican’s own newspaper violated the embargo. Betraying the publishers and breaking trust with all the other journalists who were fulfilling their promises, L’Osservatore Romano reproduced a passage from the Pope’s interview. And not just any passage. The Vatican newspaper reproduced—without explanation or comment—a passage in which Pope Benedict reflected on the possibility that in some extreme cases, the impulse to use a condom might show a flickering of unselfishness in a seriously corrupted conscience.

Moreover, L’Osservatore broke the embargo, and published the excerpt, during a weekend when the Vatican was happily distracted by a consistory. At a time when Church leaders should have been celebrating a joyous occasion—the elevation of 24 members to the College of Cardinals—top Vatican officials were scrambling to explain the Pope’s words, which had been published prematurely and outside of their proper context.

The launch of Light of the World should have been another joyful occasion. With appropriate planning, the publisher was poised to introduce the Pope’s book with a major publicity campaign. Now that publicity—which might have offered an accurate and favorable portrayal of the Pope’s book—will be nearly lost in the deluge of misinformation currently sweeping across the world.

What the Pope said—and did not say

Of all the passages that might have been culled out of the book, L’Osservatore Romano chose some speculative remarks by the Pontiff on the subject of condom use. Any capable journalist should have realized in advance that these remarks would be misinterpreted—especially when they were presented out of context.

In the passage that L’Osservatore published, Pope Benedict was not backing away from earlier statements, in which he had said that the distribution of condoms is not the proper way to fight the spread o
Posted 11/23/2010 7:43:39 PM
 
Joy
Joy
do help us pass this on. we need to act fast in spreading the truth. thank you!
Posted 11/23/2010 2:36:01 AM
 
Dennis
Dennis
Thank you for this prompt posting of a clarification regarding this case.
Posted 11/23/2010 1:29:38 AM
 


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