Wednesday, 12 January 2011

First rumblings...

The Catholic Herald later made it a discussion point:

What was l'Osservatore Romano up to?

...nevertheless they broke the news - and immediately the global media misreported it - "Pope advocates condoms in certain circumstances" - and immediately some people jumped on the bandwagon:

Amazing report: Pope Benedict 'softens Catholic line on condoms to prevent HIV'
An astonishing claim from AFP: that, in a book of interviews to be published on Tuesday, Pope Benedict XVI declares that the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV is acceptable in some circumstances. [Acceptable? Impossible! Surely Damian must know better than to think this?]
I am praying that this report is true, because the argument it attributes to the Pope is thoroughly humane and reasonable
[Humane & reasonable? - hang about, something's wrong here.
Why would Damian think that Catholic teaching of "absolute abstinence" is inhumane or unreasonable ? 
What does he think the Pope is saying ?
...and more importantly - What does he believe the Church teaches?] 

– and does not contradict the Church’s teaching against artificial birth control.
[Doesn't it ? Even if it hypothetically doesn't - does it contravene Catholic moral teaching in any other regard?]

Here is the report:
BERLIN (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI says that condom use is acceptable “in certain cases”, notably “to reduce the risk of infection” with HIV, in a book due out Tuesday, apparently softening his once hardline stance. [It Didn't -but that was yet to be revealed- moving on]
In a series of interviews published in his native German, the 83-year-old Benedict is asked whether “the Catholic Church is not fundamentally against the use of condoms.”
“It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution,” the pope replies.
“In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality,” said the head of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics.
The new volume, entitled “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times”, is based on 20 hours of interviews conducted by German journalist Peter Seewald.
Until now, the Vatican had prohibited the use of any form of contraception — other than abstinence — even as a guard against sexually transmitted disease.
Benedict sparked international outcry in March 2009 on a visit to AIDS-ravaged Africa when he told reporters the disease was a tragedy “that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.”
To illustrate his apparent shift in position, Benedict offered the example of a male prostitute using a condom.
“There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be … a first bit of responsibility, to re-develop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes,” Benedict was quoted as saying.
“But it is not the proper way to deal with the horror of HIV infection.”
Benedict reiterated that condom use alone would not solve the problem of HIV/AIDS. “More must happen,” he said.
“Becoming simply fixated on the issue of condoms makes sexuality more banal and exactly this is the reason why so many people no longer find sexuality to be an expression of their love, but a type of self-administered drug.” [Well it was all up in the air at this time - misquotations and mistranslations abound - and everything's being taken out of context - better to move on to the clarified real text in the book itself]

[As I was busy reading what was being reported elsewhere and scry some informed reportage/commentary - I was reticent to comment until it  became clear what the Pope had actually said - and in what context - the chinese whispers were everywhere on the internet - and the BBC was reporting a revolutionary change in Catholic teaching. This coudn't be happening - and I was absolutely certain it wasn't happening - this was all a misunderstanding  which would rapidly be cleared up]

Now before I move on to what happened next - one poster on Damian's original thread outraged me so much I felt I had to respond [apologies for the inappropriate language and belligerent demeanour - but it was late and I was very tired and even more enraged!]

Anthony Corner
The Pope did not make a "turn-around" in any Catholic teaching!!! (NO Pope can or have in the 2000+ years of this longest standing institution). What the Holy Father has stated in the Seewald book is simply what is called the "Lesser Evil" principle in Catholic Moral Theology (Catechism of the Catholic Church). For eg. if an expectant mother is medically confirmed to be in danger of death owing to a complication in her pregnancy and say, the family has a young child AND who it has been morally reasoned, needs the mother MORE than the family needs the gestating baby, it is RIGHT before God, to procure a medical abortion. In this case, the mother did not willfully seek to kill the baby, but in choosing the good of saving her life for the sake of the greater good of the family, simply was forced to allow the abortion as "lesser evil" in the face no other option.

The only people who have in the past said that the Catholic Church teaches prostitutes cant use condoms is those who have never read the CCC and understood it! In the example the Holy Father used this time in the book, the male prostitute has
already chosen the evil of prostitution. Having done that, he is now confronting the possibility of sleeping with various men and knows he is 50 times more likely than others to contract HIV - which leads to untimely death . So, choosing to use a condom is the "lesser evil" and a more responsible choice than to hasten his untimely death. BUT it doesn't make prostitution or artificial contraception right (like in the case of Abortion in the previous example).

 [...and here I enter into the fray  - not even able to confront the actual Pope-condoms issue head-on - instead  I have to attack someone promoting a 'Lesser Evil' position....]




This includes judicially murdering an innocent, healthy foetus merely because the mother might die in the process....

Maybe you're confusing it with this?
The removal of an life-threatening ectopic pregnancy is a different scenario in that the child is doomed to die anyway and a life is saved rather than two dying...that is where moral dilemma - recourse to an intrinsically morally disordered act [accelerating a baby's [already imminent] death to prevent an objective evil occurring [the death of both where one could be saved] is permissible.

The fact that the mother has other children or a devoted spouse or any other responsibility - IS OF NO CONSEQUENCE!!!
Catholicism is NOT utilitarian - it CANNOT condone anything deontologically evil irrespective of the outcome - the ends NEVER justify the means.
The foetus cannot be seen as an unjust aggressor - justifying abortion as recourse to killing in self-defence.
The foetus is not culpable - we have no right to murder it.

Lesser evil principle ?
Bollocks - an absolute unmitigated lie.

Fundamental Catholic Moral Theology has very distinct principles - such as compounding an already grave sin.
A prostitute who risks hiv contamination sins gravely and compounds the culpability with offences against the fifth commandment if they do not use a condom.
His Holiness is saying this 'non-compounding' of an already gravely intrinsically morally disordered situation - is a tiny step towards the moral - a human edging towards responsibility..nothing more.

This is not a 'lesser evil' - this is an already grave evil that is not aggravated with further gravity through irresponsibility.

I'm disgusted that you could dare to come on here and promote your murderous ideology and tell a bare-faced lie that it's Catholic teaching.

Posted on the Damian Thompson's original thread  by Catholic Voices member Peter D Williams

Ooh, I wonder what @OTSOTA and John Smeaton will think of this? ;)
In fact, the Holy Father has not approved of contraception used in the case of a serodiscordant married couple (where the principle of 'double effect' is invoked, the argument that 'ruralvirologist' refers [Ruralvirologist stated : The principle of double effect. Condoms are a legitimate means of preventing HIV; if conception is prevented as an unintented consequence, so be it. ])

, but has simply said, very common-sensically, that if someone is engaging in a sinful act, then to do so in such a way that it would not infect someone with a deadly disease is the "first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality".

Clearly, he is not liberalising the Church's fundamental position on Contraception, or on HIV prevention. Condom proliferation remains stunningly ineffective in reducing HIV infection rates, unlike the behavioural modification initiatives that the Church prescribes.

This is not, contrary to the inevitable spinning of crypto-Lefebvrists and liberals, a 'chink in the armour' of Catholic teaching on contraception. This does, however, represent a realistic and humane statement by the Holy Father, which is typical of his profound intellect and wisdom.

 {Now - it would be unfair of me to not allow Peter D Williams the opportunity to clarify, redress, explain or potentially retract what he's said given subsequent events - so I will refrain from commenting directly on what he said until he has either refused or accepted the opportunity to respond}

Meanwhile - elsewhere on the internet a certain lady was very quick of the blocks with a response to the Pope's comments: Professor Janet Smith in an interview with Zenit :

Q: What is Pope Benedict saying?

Smith: We must note that the example that Pope Benedict gives for the use of a condom is a male prostitute; thus, it is reasonable to assume that he is referring to a male prostitute engaged in homosexual acts. The Holy Father is simply observing that for some homosexual prostitutes the use of a condom may indicate an awakening of a moral sense; an awakening that sexual pleasure is not the highest value, but that we must take care that we harm no one with our choices.

He is not speaking to the morality of the use of a condom, but to something that may be true about the psychological state of those who use them. If such individuals are using condoms to avoid harming another, they may eventually realize that sexual acts between members of the same sex are inherently harmful since they are not in accord with human nature.

The Holy Father does not in any way think the use of condoms is a part of the solution to reducing the risk of AIDs. As he explicitly states, the true solution involves "humanizing sexuality." Anyone having sex that threatens to transmit HIV needs to grow in moral discernment. This is why Benedict focused on a "first step" in moral growth.

The Church is always going to be focused on moving people away from immoral acts towards love of Jesus, virtue, and holiness. We can say that the Holy Father clearly did not want to make a point about condoms, but wants to talk about growth in a moral sense, which should be a growth towards Jesus.

Q: So is the Holy Father saying it is morally good for male prostitutes to use condoms?

Smith: The Holy Father is not articulating a teaching of the Church about whether or not the use of a condom reduces the amount of evil in a homosexual sexual act that threatens to transmit HIV. The Church has no formal teaching about how to reduce the evil of intrinsically immoral action. We must note that what is intrinsically wrong in a homosexual sexual act in which a condom is used is not the moral wrong of contraception but the homosexual act itself.

In the case of homosexual sexual activity, a condom does not act as a contraceptive; it is not possible for homosexuals to contracept since their sexual activity has no procreative power that can be thwarted. But the Holy Father is not making a point about whether the use of a condom is contraceptive or even whether it reduces the evil of a homosexual sexual act; again, he is speaking about the psychological state of some who might use condoms. The intention behind the use of the condom (the desire not to harm another) may indicate some growth in a sense of moral responsibility.

In "Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World)," John Paul II spoke of the need for conversion, which often proceeds by gradual steps: "To the injustice originating from sin ... we must all set ourselves in opposition through a conversion of mind and heart, following Christ Crucified by denying our own selfishness: such a conversion cannot fail to have a beneficial and renewing influence even on the structures of society.

"What is needed is a continuous, permanent conversion which, while requiring an interior detachment from every evil and an adherence to good in its fullness, is brought about concretely in steps which lead us ever forward. Thus a dynamic process develops, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of His definitive and absolute love in the entire personal and social life of man. (9)"

Christ himself, of course, called for a turning away from sin. That is what the Holy Father is advocating here; not a turn towards condoms. Conversion, not condoms!

Q: Would it be proper to conclude that the Holy Father would support the distribution of condoms to male prostitutes?

Smith: Nothing he says here indicates that he would. Public programs of distribution of condoms run the risk of conveying approval for homosexual sexual acts. The task of the Church is to call individuals to conversion and to moral behavior; it is to help them understand the meaning and purpose of sexuality and to help them come to know Christ, who will provide the healing and graces that enable us to live in accord with the meaning and purpose of sexuality.

Q: Is Pope Benedict indicating that heterosexuals who have HIV could reduce the wrongness of their acts by using condoms?

Smith: No. In his second answer he says that the Church does not find condoms to be a "real or moral solution." That means the Church does not find condoms either to be moral or an effective way of fighting the transmission of HIV. As the Holy Father indicates in his fuller answer, the most effective portion of programs designed to reduce the transmission of HIV are calls to abstinence and fidelity.

The Holy Father, again, is saying that the intention to reduce the transmission of any infection is a "first step" in a movement towards a more human way of living sexuality. That more human way would be to do nothing that threatens to harm one's sexual partner, who should be one's beloved spouse. For an individual with HIV to have sexual intercourse with or without a condom is to risk transmitting a lethal disease.

An analogy: If someone was going to rob a bank and was determined to use a gun, it would better for that person to use a gun that had no bullets in it. It would reduce the likelihood of fatal injuries. But it is not the task of the Church to instruct potential bank robbers how to rob banks more safely and certainly not the task of the Church to support programs of providing potential bank robbers with guns that could not use bullets.

Nonetheless, the intent of a bank robber to rob a bank in a way that is safer for the employees and customers of the bank may indicate an element of moral responsibility that could be a step towards eventual understanding of the immorality of bank robbing.

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