Monday, November 22, 2010

The Pope, Condoms, and Catholic Teaching: Are we confused yet?

So according to Catholic World News, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, insists there is nothing new under the sun, at least where Pope Benedict and the issue of condoms is concerned.  You can read about it here.  The money quotes from that piece are, IMHO:
The Pope observes that even in the non-ecclesial context an analogous awareness has developed, as is apparent in the so-called ABC theory (Abstinence -- Be Faithful -- Condom), in which the first two elements (abstinence and fidelity) are more decisive and basic in the battle against AIDS, while condoms appear in the last place as a way out, when the other two are not there. It should thus be clear that condoms are not the solution to the problem.
and here:
At the same time the Pope considers an exceptional circumstance in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real threat for the life of another. In that case, the Pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality but maintains that the use of a condom to reduce the danger of infection may be "a first act of responsibility," "a first step on the road toward a more human sexuality," rather than not using it and exposing the other to risking his life.
He's more or less saying that condoms are not the solution, while at least the awareness of the need to use a condom suggests a sense of some responsibility, the notion that somewhere out there is some moral standard that needs to be applied to sexual conduct.  This is, of course, true.  The Sexual Revolution was based on the simple notion that 1. humans are animals, 2. animals have sex because it's natural, 3. humans having sex should be natural, 4. therefore any rules or values attached to sexuality is the result of stale old religious norms and values that have no place in a hip, enlightened society.

Anyone beyond kindergarten should therefore see that all the hubbub about the need to wear condoms, the moral responsibility in wearing condoms, the possible need to hold people accountable for having sex and not wearing condoms, more or less says that those wonderful ideals that brought us the whole sex revolution in the first place are, more or less, extinct.

Of course, just as you get this tidbit, Caritas Internationalis issues this statement praising the Pope's comments.  Nothing big there, except it's difficult to see if Caritas is praising the comments because of remaining firm on Catholic teaching, or if it, like many AIDS activists and Gay Rights Groups, they are seeing them as a first step toward at least altering the teaching to fit the signs of the times. 

Meanwhile, our good friends at the Associated Press continue to follow the line of thinking that this must signal something somewhere.  In this article, it focuses on the confusion believers in my own neck of the woods are having about the statement.  So far, the general gist seems to be that those on the Left side of the issues, those who have long believed the Church needed to change some of its teachings and get with the times, are generally seeing this as great news, a bold step into the modern world.  Meanwhile, those who last week believed the Church's teachings were clear, that condoms were simply wrong and any sexuality involved in the use of condoms would be wrong, so there's no point in even parsing the words, are left scratching their heads.

This has led some to rush to defend the Church teachings in some places, particularly comments sections in some of the News pages.  Before folks end up throwing consistent arguments and solid Catholic teaching under the bus, it is probably best to wait.  Right now, if the full quote from the book is where the point rests, then it's clear the Pope is not saying anything new.  He is, as I said above, merely pointing out that in a world in which sex was peddled as the ultimate amoral recreation, a male prostitute using a condom at least shows he is aware that there might be a need for some good old moral rules after all.  Why he chose a male prostitute as opposed to any other example is beyond me.  And maybe that is where the clarification needs to focus.


Updates, updates everywhere.  It seems the press is running around at light speed trying to get caught up on this story.  The obvious reason is that for some it signals the beginning, the first chink in the Catholic armor.  Beyond the ramifications of what it would mean if the Pope were to say 'Oh well, maybe condoms aren't always that bad after all', many are looking at it as just a high-five for the prevailing notions of modern sexual disease control. 

In keeping up with the Joneses, the AP has issued yet another breaking news piece on this issue.  But my first impression is that it does little but regurgitate what has already been said in other pieces.  The only new part comes from the first paragraph:
Pope Benedict XVI wanted to "kick-start a debate" when he said some condom use may be justified, Vatican insiders say, raising hopes and fears that the church may be starting to back away from its condom ban for its flock of 1 billion Catholics.
Note there is not really any quote.  Only a small phrase in quotation marks out of the context of how it was used.  There is no actual person quoted.  In fact, later on it turns out that this may be just from one anonymous Vatican spokesman.  So while the headline promises 'It was all intentional!  Benedict wants to start a debate (which obviously means he is open to changing Church teaching)!', the actual story appears much ado about nuthin.  More obviously needs to be researched. 

1 comment:

  1. so much to sift through. I think your take on the situation is the way I read it as well.


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