Monday, November 22, 2010


"The Vatican on Sunday rushed to clarify a recent interview by Pope Benedict XVI, in which the pontiff states for the first time that there may be some cases in which the Roman Catholic Church's ban on condoms isn't absolute.

The pope made the comments in a book-length interview over the summer with the German writer Peter Seewald that will be officially released this week. Mr. Seewald asked the pope about criticism of the Vatican's perceived opposition to condom use to fight the spread of HIV-AIDS in Africa.

The pope's response, while carefully couched, has ricocheted around the globe, reigniting one of the most tensely debated issues facing the Roman Catholic Church. To some, the interview signaled a radical shift in the Church's approach to combating the spread of AIDS as well as an unprecedented departure from the Church's long-time practice of condemning any form of condom use."
Wall Street Journal

This is the part where wishful thinkers make the mistake of trying to equate the personal opinion and ruminations of the man that sits in the chair of Peter with official Church teaching. They are not the same thing.

As the Pope himself notes in the book:

"It goes without saying that the Pope can have private opinions that are wrong." NC Register

Do some imagine that some subjects are so taboo that they're never mentioned or even discussed at the Vatican and among theologians? Do they believe that this subject isn't debated?

This is barely newsworthy but it is being played up to satisfy a political goal.

This is a quote from the book:
Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

She 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.
Catholic World report

Remember that these are the personal opinions of Father Ratzinger, not the official opinions of Pope Benedict XVI, speaking ex cathedra and acting in his official capacity as head of the Roman Catholic Church. Even then, from this vague endorsement of the use of condoms which the Pope refers to as a false and immoral solution, we get this distortion from a priest in Zimbabwe:

"For those focused on battling the scourge of AIDS, the Pope's message that condoms could be used in some limited cases came as a welcome surprise. Father Peter Makome, a Catholic priest in Zimbabwe, said he would spread the news."

Has there been some change in Church teaching regarding the use of condoms of which I am not aware? If so, please let me know!

"The big surprise with Pope Benedict's new book is not that he believes the Catholic Church can permit condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS in some circumstances, but that he took so long to say so.

Quotes from a new book of interviews with him made headlines around the world and some commentators went overboard by saying the Roman Catholic Church had made a sudden about-face on birth control and finally caught up with modern society.

A close reading of those quotes shows the pontiff not breaking from past teachings but thinking his way through the issue with logic dating back to the 13th century Saint Thomas Aquinas. He concludes that condom use, while still wrong, can be a lesser evil in certain circumstances.
Many Catholic theologians came to the same conclusion years ago and some priests in Africa privately advise this if the alternative is infection, for example to a woman whose HIV-positive husband demands sex."

This at least is an honest assessment of the meaning of the Pope's words. In limited cases, to prevent an even greater evil, the use of condoms may be permissible. The example in the last paragraph perfectly describes such a situation. Rape!

An act committed not for the procreation of life inside the marital bond but as an act of violence and domination over another. Everything about rape is wrong and immoral and the victim should be protected to the extent possible. This doesn't change the fact that if a child is conceived through rape it must be carried to birth because the killing of the innocent child would be murder. But I think the argument could be made that stopping the pregnancy in the first place may be a moral act.

And that's really what we have here; an argument being made by a theologian about theory, not a sea change in Church teaching or policy.

But those opposed to Church teaching will use this to muddy the waters and discredit the Pope and the Church and to confuse the faithful.

I suppose we'll see a bit of damage control from the Vatican over the next few weeks and this will pass.

Ioannes over at
Commentarius de Prognosticis has a few pithy comments regarding this issue as does Jimmy Akin at the National Catholic Register. I'd suggest reading these along with the actual comments, in full, from the Pope at Catholic World Report.

This is not a simple issue but it isn't hard to understand. As Catholics we must be prepared to explain and defend not only the Church but Her leaders as well.

But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you. 1 Peter 3:15

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