The Pope Said WHAT about Condoms???

by Jimmy Akin

in Benedict XVI, Moral Theology

Lightoftheworld

Pope Benedict’s new book, Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times, isn’t even officially out yet but is already at the center of an online media controversy.

ORDER THE BOOK
The controversy erupted Saturday morning when L’Osservatore Romano unilaterally violated the embargo on the book by publishing Italian-language extracts of various papal statements, much to the chagrin of publishers around the world, who had been working on a carefully orchestrated launch for the book on Tuesday.

Among the extracts was one dealing with the use of condoms in trying to prevent the spread of AIDS, and the press immediately seized on this (e.g., Reuters, Associated Press , BBC online).

And so we were treated to headlines like:

* Pope says condoms sometimes permissible to stop AIDS

* Pope: condoms can be justified in some cases

* Pope says condoms can be used in the fight against Aids

Particularly egregious is this statement by William Crawley of the BBC:

Pope Benedict appears to have changed the Vatican’s official stance on the use of condoms to a moral position that many Catholic theologians have been recommending for quite some time.

GAH!

Okay, first of all, this is an interview book. The pope is being interviewed. He is not engaging his official teaching capacity. This book is not an encyclical, an apostolic constitution, a papal bull, or anything of the kind. It is not published by the Church. It is an interview conducted by a German-language journalist. Consequently, the book does not represent an act of the Church’s Magisterium and does not have the capacity to “change[] the Vatican’s official stance” on anything. It does not carry dogmatic or canonical force. The book (which is fascinating and unprecedented, though that’s a subject for another post) constitutes the Pope’s personal opinions on the questions he is asked by interviewer Peter Seewald.

And, as Pope Benedict himself notes in the book:

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

I don’t point this out to suggest that what Pope Benedict says regarding condoms is wrong (we’ll get to that in a moment) but to point out the status of private papal opinions. They are just that: private opinions. Not official Church teaching. So let’s get that straight.

Among the disservices L’Osservatore Romano performed by breaking the book’s embargo in the way it did was the fact that it only published a small part of the section in which Pope Benedict discussed condoms. As a result, the reader could not see the context of his remarks, giving the reader no way to see the context and guaranteeing that the secular press would take the Pope’s remarks out of context (which they would have anyway, but perhaps not this much). Especially egregious is the fact that L’Osservatore Romano omits material in which Benedict clarified his statement on condoms in a follow-up question.

So L’Osservatore Romano has performed a great disservice to both the Catholic and non-Catholic communities.

Fortunately, now you can read the full text of the Pope’s remarks.

Also, in anticipation of the controversy that these statement would produce, Dr. Janet Smith has prepared a helpful guide to what the Pope did and did not say.

Let’s look at the Pope’s remarks and see what he actually said.

Seewald: . . . 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.

Benedict: . . . 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. [EMPHASIS ADDED] Much more needs to be done. 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. 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. 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.

Note that the Pope’s overall argument is that condoms will not solve the problem of AIDS. In support of this, he makes several arguments:

1) People can already get condoms, yet it clearly hasn’t solved the problem.

2) The secular realm has proposed the ABC program, where a condom is used only if the first two, truly effective procedures (abstinence and fidelity) have been rejected. Thus even the secular ABC proposal recognizes that condoms are not the unique solution. They don’t work as well as abstinence and fidelity. The first two are better.

3) The fixation on condom use represents a banalization (trivialization) of sexuality that turns the act from being one of love to one of selfishness. For sex to have the positive role it is meant to play, this trivialization of sex—and thus the fixation on condoms—needs to be resisted.

So that’s the background to the statement that the press seized on:

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, 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 ADDED]

There are several things to note here: First, note that the Pope says that “there may be a basis in the case of some individuals,” not that there is a basis. This is the language of speculation. But what is the Pope speculating about? That condom use is morally justified? No, that’s not what he’s said: that there may be cases “where this [condom use] can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way to recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed.”

In other words, as Janet Smith puts it,

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.

At least this is the most one can reasonably infer from the Pope’s remarks, which could be phrased more clearly (and I expect the Vatican will be issuing a clarification quite soon).

Second, note that the Pope immediately follows his statement regarding homosexual prostitutes using condoms with the statement, “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.”

By “a humanization of sexuality,” the Pope means recognizing the truth about human sexuality—that it must be exercised in a loving, faithful way between a man and a woman united in matrimony. That is the real solution, not putting on a condom and engaging in promiscuous sex with those infected with a deadly virus.

At this point in the interview, Seewald asks a follow-up question, and it is truly criminal that L’Osservatore Romano did not print this part:

Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

Benedict: 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.

So Benedict reiterates that this is not a real (practical) solution to the AIDS crisis, nor is it a moral solution. Nevertheless, in some cases the use of a condom displays “the intention of reducing the risk of infection” which is “a first step in a movement toward . . . a more human way of living sexuality.”

He thus isn’t saying that the use of condoms is justified but that they can display a particular intent and that this intent is a step in the right direction.

Janet Smith provides a helpful 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.

There is more that can be said about all this, but what we’ve already seen makes it clear that the Pope’s remarks must be read carefully and that they do not constitute the kind of license for condom use that the media would wish.

More to come.

PART TWO OF THE SERIES: UNDERSTANDING THE POPE’S DILEMMA ON CONDOMS

PART THREE: NEW DEVELOPMENTS ON THE POPE AND CONDOMS

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

{ 59 comments }

BillyHW November 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Embarrassing and indefensible. Please, God, no more European popes.

Laura November 20, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Billy, the problem is not European popes. The problem is that L’Osservatore Romano quoted him grossly out of context and the secular press jumped on it and twisted it, as usual. What is embarrassing and indefensible is not what Pope Benedict said, it is the press’s egregious mishandling of it.

The Pachyderminator November 20, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Billy, for goodness sake. In two brief sentences you’ve made a statement that is offensive on so many levels I hardly know where to start replying to it. The first issue I’m tempted to focus on is the racism inherent in your comment, but I won’t even go there. The real issue is your casual, cavalier dismissal of what the pope said, without any engagement with it or deeper investigation of it at all. If you find what was said unacceptable, that’s your right, but you can’t just blow it off with some contemptuous flick of the hand. The Pope is still the Pope, and no one in the world is more Catholic or more orthodox than Pope Benedict XVI. You need to wake up.

Charlene November 20, 2010 at 8:19 pm

It’s like being a parent and saying to your kids, “Well, if you won’t listen, and insist on jumping off of the roof, at least wear a helmet. But I’d rather you didn’t. It’s a bad idea.”
And then having your child run out of the house, shouting, “Hey guys! Mom said we can jump off the roof–all we need is a helmet!”

Dan Hunter November 21, 2010 at 8:43 am

“Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?
Benedict: 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.”
With all due respect Holy Father there is only one answer to sexual morality in every case, and YES the Church is always and everywhere and has always been vehemently opposed to the use of condoms in EVERY SINGLE situation.
Soemone who is infected with any Venereal disease must become celibate immediately and never engage in sexual intercourse again until he is completely cured, and then only with his spouse member of the opposite sex.
There is no other Church approved way.

Sash Milthon November 21, 2010 at 9:16 am

As far as I know, Pope John XXI not only allowed contraception, but actually wrote the book how to make most use of it (called “Thesaurus Pauperum”). There are some suggestions it was used in Catholic Universities of medicine, as well. This, among other reasons (the most important one is utter boycott of stoic influence on Catholic sex morality during 20th Century discussions) are why this things should be taken out of closet and seen in other way. If for nothing else, it would make apologetic life easier.

gurnygob November 21, 2010 at 9:36 am

The door is now open, who will shut it??????????

Brian Walden November 21, 2010 at 11:15 am

The pope uses adult language – that mean’s nuance. What he says is essentially no different than saying that painlessly murdering someone may be less egregious than painfully and tortuously murdering someone if the reason for choosing the painless method was because of some slight recognition of the humanity of the victim. Obviously both are mortal sins no matter what method is used, just as any sexual act that is neither unitive nor open to procreation is a mortal sin no matter what method is used.
I understand what the pope was saying, but was an interview like this the proper venue? This type of speculation should be reserved for a deep theological discussion about sexual morality – most people do not have the proper moral foundation to understand what he’s saying. And even if this wasn’t leaked, somebody had to know that the media spin would be exactly the same once the book was released. Shouldn’t the Vatican have had a response with proper catechesis ready ahead of time.

Leo November 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Dear BillyHW
you said
no more European popes.
AFAIK the last non-European pope was Pope Gelasius. who died in 496.
Do you think that all the popes since Gelasius were unsatisfactory because they were Europeans?

The Sarge November 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm

“As far as I know…”
But do you have any evidence to support what is “as far as (you) know”?

Rosemarie November 21, 2010 at 2:24 pm

+J.M.J+
When I saw the MSM breathlessly (mis)reporting this story, I just knew it would be the next tempest in the Catholic blogosphere teapot.

Sash Milthon November 21, 2010 at 2:32 pm

The Sarge- Thesaurus Pauperum is fact of history. Most scholars agree that it was written by Pope, including Catholic ones (read article on online Catholic encyclopedia). Church was at that time also against contraception, but mostly because of stoic doctrine that sex can only be practiced for procreation (something conventional Catholic approach of “Casti Conubii” and “Humanae Vitae” has completely ignored as a premise of tradition). These issues are problematic.

Sharon November 21, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Pope John XXI, who died in 1277, did indeed write Thesaurus Pauperum. Sash, have you read the original manuscript or are you relying on what others say it contains? If the former, please give a link to it.
Commonsense tells me that if a priest had written manual of contraception he would not have been elected to the papacy. New Advent reports that this Thesaurus was very popular but that through the ages additions were made to the original text.

The Sarge November 21, 2010 at 3:21 pm

The Catholic Encyclopedia also says that Thesaurus Pauperum was written in 1272, 4 years before he was elected pope.

Sash Milthon November 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm

I have read the extract (of Thesaurus) from a book “Gender and sexuality in the Middle Ages”, written by Martha A. Broznya. You can get it online as a preview, just google it. She used translation of the document in ownership of University of Coimbra. Another study claimed that, although limited, Thesaurus was used as a literature for university education. If chapter on contraception was added later, there are no proofs for that.
John XXI was working as a doctor for previous popes (if I am not mistaken, this position was held 4 years before his papacy) . This opens the possibility that his predecessors were aware of his writings and found no reason for action.
Also, the success of this book opens the possibility that Church was promoting it through manuscript writing. Thesaurus was not under prohibition, in any case.

The Sarge November 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm

“This opens the possibility…”
This is what is known as “innuendo”. Lots of things can be implied through the use of innuendo, without the trouble of having to provide a scintilla of evidence to back up one’s implications.

Sash Milthon November 21, 2010 at 4:58 pm

What you call “innuendo” is simply a possible explanation of given facts (which remain evident) .Do you have explanation how close friend and private doctor of pontiff, educated Catholic at that, wrote the book on contraception? And later was elected a Pope, loved by Church so much that Dante mentions him in Divine Comedy? Whatever you say, one might call your idea “innuendo” and try to finish the discussion in a quick way. Church deserves better contact then that.

Sharon November 21, 2010 at 9:30 pm

So Sash, you haven’t actually read the original document yourself?

Sash Milthon November 22, 2010 at 4:08 am

As I have said, I have read the translation of “Thesaurus” which was supplied by University of Coimbra.

Joseph D'Hippolito November 22, 2010 at 2:46 pm

It goes without saying that the Pope can have private opinions that are wrong.< .i>
OK, how many Popes go about expressing those opinions publicly? Well, I can think of one, if you remember this beauty from 1999:
“The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.”
That was from Pope John Paul II. Those were
public remarks made at a large Mass in St. Louis during his final visit to the United States.
Obviously, that opinion contradicts centuries of teaching concerning capital punishment based on both Scripture and Tradition. Given that he make these remarks in a large public gathering, are we to assume that the late Pope was engaging in arbitrary theological revisionism? What other option is there?

BillyHW November 22, 2010 at 3:01 pm

There is no forgiveness for not closing your tags properly. It’s like blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Joseph D'Hippolito November 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

My point is this: How are we to tell when a Pope is speaking “off the cuff” and when he is speaking deliberately? How are we to tell when he is speaking solely for himself and speaking as a deliberate act of teaching (which the example from JPII clearly was) — especially if the Pope has “private opinions” that are wrong?
Saying that Benedict’s comments were not in a Magisterial forum doesn’t hide the fact that he made a stupid mistake. He used a hypothetical concerning prostitution (whether male or female is irrelevant) to justify a possible exception to Catholic teaching regarding birth control, and he made it to a journalist conducting an interview.
It also doesn’t hide the fact that, as the Pope, he would (or should) know that his remarks on controversial issues would be quoted and cited by various parties to buttress their own positions.
More importantly, how morally dense have Catholic leaders become when they — even in a hypothetical situation — effectively ignore the greater sin of prostitution for the sake of a focus on condoms?

jared November 22, 2010 at 3:26 pm

italicsoff.

Anna November 22, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Sometimes, as difficult as this may sound, people need to face the consequences of their sin. Sometimes God allows suffering through his permissive will, to humble souls, to rid them of their pride, to give them one last chance for repentance. Mother Theresa helped save many victims of AIDS this way.
Same goes with unplanned pregnancies. Of course it is not the ideal, but there are MANY, many, women for whom the child was a vehicle to savation. It was their turning point, a fact that forced them to accept responsibility for thier lives, and live for someone else. Think of Dorothy Day. Condoms might have prevented them from getting pregnant, but it would not have prevented them from going to hell. And isn’t that what it is all about in the end, heaven or hell? I feel we are putting to great an emphasis on the temporal.

The Masked Chicken November 22, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this italics

The Masked Chicken November 22, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this italics

The Masked Chicken November 22, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this italics

The Masked Chicken November 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Just a note:
do not use a period in HTML. It seems to make the interpreter go nuts. Can someone step in and get rid of the italics? The period in the quote by Joseph D’Hippolito must be removed. Try, again.
The Chicken

The Masked Chicken November 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Just a note:
do not use a period in HTML. It seems to make the interpreter go nuts. Can someone step in and get rid of the italics? The period in the quote by Joseph D’Hippolito must be removed. Try, again.
The Chicken

The Masked Chicken November 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Just a note:
do not use a period in HTML. It seems to make the interpreter go nuts. Can someone step in and get rid of the italics? The period in the quote by Joseph D’Hippolito must be removed. Try, again.
The Chicken

The Masked Chicken November 22, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Quote form above:
have read the extract (of Thesaurus) from a book “Gender and sexuality in the Middle Ages”, written by Martha A. Broznya. You can get it online as a preview, just google it. She used translation of the document in ownership of University of Coimbra. Another study claimed that, although limited, Thesaurus was used as a literature for university education. If chapter on contraception was added later, there are no proofs for that. [Sorry if the italics do not work]
John XXI was working as a doctor for previous popes (if I am not mistaken, this position was held 4 years before his papacy) . This opens the possibility that his predecessors were aware of his writings and found no reason for action.
It seems you do not understand the difference between infallible teaching and mere opinion. Also, given the fact that during this period, as conception was totally misunderstood, it is difficult to see how this manual of “science” has any moral standing. You are making an argument from silence. Very bad. The only thing the Holy Spirit wishes to communicate IS communicated. That communication is found in the papal and council documents. Quote one that countenanced contraception. Quit trying to create a moral tradition where none exists.
Also, do you think the current Pope knows what the papal doctor has published? Why would you assume that Gregory X knew what Petrus Hispanus (the future John XXI) wrote as papal physician? No Pope has ever taught error in faith and morals WHILE pope. Either argue from this or please, stop misleading people.
The Chicken

The Masked Chicken November 22, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Quote form above:
have read the extract (of Thesaurus) from a book “Gender and sexuality in the Middle Ages”, written by Martha A. Broznya. You can get it online as a preview, just google it. She used translation of the document in ownership of University of Coimbra. Another study claimed that, although limited, Thesaurus was used as a literature for university education. If chapter on contraception was added later, there are no proofs for that. [Sorry if the italics do not work]
John XXI was working as a doctor for previous popes (if I am not mistaken, this position was held 4 years before his papacy) . This opens the possibility that his predecessors were aware of his writings and found no reason for action.
It seems you do not understand the difference between infallible teaching and mere opinion. Also, given the fact that during this period, as conception was totally misunderstood, it is difficult to see how this manual of “science” has any moral standing. You are making an argument from silence. Very bad. The only thing the Holy Spirit wishes to communicate IS communicated. That communication is found in the papal and council documents. Quote one that countenanced contraception. Quit trying to create a moral tradition where none exists.
Also, do you think the current Pope knows what the papal doctor has published? Why would you assume that Gregory X knew what Petrus Hispanus (the future John XXI) wrote as papal physician? No Pope has ever taught error in faith and morals WHILE pope. Either argue from this or please, stop misleading people.
The Chicken

The Masked Chicken November 22, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Quote form above:
have read the extract (of Thesaurus) from a book “Gender and sexuality in the Middle Ages”, written by Martha A. Broznya. You can get it online as a preview, just google it. She used translation of the document in ownership of University of Coimbra. Another study claimed that, although limited, Thesaurus was used as a literature for university education. If chapter on contraception was added later, there are no proofs for that. [Sorry if the italics do not work]
John XXI was working as a doctor for previous popes (if I am not mistaken, this position was held 4 years before his papacy) . This opens the possibility that his predecessors were aware of his writings and found no reason for action.
It seems you do not understand the difference between infallible teaching and mere opinion. Also, given the fact that during this period, as conception was totally misunderstood, it is difficult to see how this manual of “science” has any moral standing. You are making an argument from silence. Very bad. The only thing the Holy Spirit wishes to communicate IS communicated. That communication is found in the papal and council documents. Quote one that countenanced contraception. Quit trying to create a moral tradition where none exists.
Also, do you think the current Pope knows what the papal doctor has published? Why would you assume that Gregory X knew what Petrus Hispanus (the future John XXI) wrote as papal physician? No Pope has ever taught error in faith and morals WHILE pope. Either argue from this or please, stop misleading people.
The Chicken

The Masked Chicken November 22, 2010 at 5:29 pm

It seems that my browser has gone bezerk in trying to parse the italics mistake in Joseph’s posting. I will bow out until it is fixed, since I cannot effectively use italics until then.

The Masked Chicken November 22, 2010 at 5:29 pm

It seems that my browser has gone bezerk in trying to parse the italics mistake in Joseph’s posting. I will bow out until it is fixed, since I cannot effectively use italics until then.

The Masked Chicken November 22, 2010 at 5:29 pm

It seems that my browser has gone bezerk in trying to parse the italics mistake in Joseph’s posting. I will bow out until it is fixed, since I cannot effectively use italics until then.

Sash Milthon November 22, 2010 at 7:06 pm

There are no infallible teachings on contraception. There are documents, mostly from recent history, which forbid this practice (on very problematical basis) . They have to be respected and obeyed, but are not to be held as dogma. Pope is infallible ex cathedra, not when he takes a pencil.
I am not making arguments from silence, rather underlining facts from Church history. If I am right, then Catholic Church has allowed contraception in practice. Is this new approach to moral tradition? If nothing else, it makes conventional approach difficult to defend. Especially when you know the real reasons why Church Fathers neglected contraception.
You will probably agree that Holy Spirit would never denie the Truth- for He is The Truth, The Way, The Life. We should keep that in mind during this discussion.
“Thesaurus Pauperum” was very popular book at the time. It stayed for centuries one of the most important pieces of literature for medicine students. It is impossible that this book (used by academical circles and layman) was not known to the Church. Especially when you know it was written by Pope, and targeted for poor people. You should also bear in mind that John XXI did not stop publishing and translating “Thesaurus” after taking the Office.
One would suppose that current Pope would know if his doctor published a book on contraception. If Gregory knew (and I believe he did) , he didn’t see it as an issue.

The Pachyderminator November 22, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Obviously, that opinion contradicts centuries of teaching concerning capital punishment based on both Scripture and Tradition.

No, it does not. See this article for a full explanation.

He used a hypothetical concerning prostitution (whether male or female is irrelevant) to justify a possible exception to Catholic teaching regarding birth control…

Also not true. As Jimmy explained here, the Church’s teaching on condoms has explicitly been applied only to marriage. The Church has not and would not teach that prostitution without condoms is better than prostitution with them. Furthermore, as I suggested here, the Pope’s words do not have to be understood as an objective justification of condom use in any case at all.

More importantly, how morally dense have Catholic leaders become when they — even in a hypothetical situation — effectively ignore the greater sin of prostitution for the sake of a focus on condoms?

He wasn’t doing anything of the sort. The greatness of the sin of prostitution is the basis of the Pope’s remarks. The immorality of prostitution is precisely why the Pope referred to condom use as a first step toward moralization. The moral plight of a male prostitute is so desperate that any recognition of responsibility toward another, or to a moral code that may transcend one’s own desires, even if it comes in the form of something that perverts the marital act (which, remember, a prostitute is not doing anyway, not being married), can be a step in the right direction.

The Pachyderminator November 22, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Sorry about the truncated comment. I have no idea what happened there. A retry follows:

Obviously, that opinion contradicts centuries of teaching concerning capital punishment based on both Scripture and Tradition.

No, it does not. See this article for a full explanation.

He used a hypothetical concerning prostitution (whether male or female is irrelevant) to justify a possible exception to Catholic teaching regarding birth control…

Also not true. As Jimmy explained here, the Church’s teaching on condoms has explicitly been applied only to marriage. The Church has not and would not teach that prostitution without condoms is better than prostitution with them. Furthermore, as I suggested here, the Pope’s words do not have to be interpreted as an objective justification of condom use at all.

More importantly, how morally dense have Catholic leaders become when they — even in a hypothetical situation — effectively ignore the greater sin of prostitution for the sake of a focus on condoms?

He did nothing of the sort. The great sinfulness of prostitution was the basis for his remarks. It is precisely because prostitution is such a great sin that he referred to condom use as a possible first step toward moralization. The moral plight of a male prostitute is so desperate that any recognition of responsibility toward another, or of a moral code that may transcend his own desires, even if this recognition comes in a form that would constitute a perversion if introduced into the marital act (which any prostitute, male or female, is certainly not doing), can be a step in the right direction.

bill912 November 22, 2010 at 8:23 pm

“There are no infallible teachings on contraception.” Wrong. The ordinary magisterium teaches infallibly.
“I am not making arguments from silence…” Also wrong.
“You will probably agree that the Holy Spirit would never deny the Truth-for He is The Truth, The Way, The Life.” Yes, to the first part, no to the second: Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. John 14:6.
“…it was written by Pope…” Also wrong. As has been pointed out several times above, John XXI was not elected pope until 4 years after “Thesaurus Pauperum” was written.

Sharon November 23, 2010 at 12:19 am

Sash, was the translation you read in Portuguese or English?
Where is the original document?

Sash Milthon November 23, 2010 at 9:21 am

Ordinary Magisterium’s ban on contraception is based on the idea of “constant teaching”, which can come to question when we know that Church had close connection with “Thesaurus”. Extent of infallibility regarding this matter is not defined, especially if you take into account that bishops of the past forbade contraception on entirely different terms then modern approach. They teached that sex is only for procreation and engaging in relations without intent of conceiving is, thus, against the natural law.
At the moment of writing “Thesaurus”, Petrus Hispanicus was archdeacon and pope’s private doctor. Year after writing this book, he became archbishop. After that, he became cardinal. After that, Pope. Parallel to his rise in clerical career, “Thesaurus” was copied and distributed (most probably by Church itself). Thousands of Catholic intellectuals, both clerical and layman, were in touch with this literature, yet we have not a single protest. Even during papacy, John XXI did not do anything to stop his work. Church was against contraception at that time as well, but for reasons mentioned above. No wonder they went out of practice.
Is “Thesaurus” a document of the Church? Nope. But neither are writings of Augustine or Jerome. And their writings were official enough to prove “constant teaching”.
If you call this silence, I call it Church history. Let the objective reader judge for himself.
Jesus is part of the Trinity with The Holy Ghost. Therefore, They are both, together with God The Father- the Way, the Truth, the Life. And they would not conceal the truth.
I have read the (literal) English translation of document used by Coimbra University. Email them for the manuscript if you doubt their research.
It should be mentioned, I am not against the Church. But there is a difference between belief and fact. If Catholic Church encouraged artificial contraception in the past, believing flock has every right to know that fact. Unless you wish to leave them clueless when (let’s say) Eastern Orthodox asks them regarding this matter.

Aldus November 23, 2010 at 9:46 am

Embarrassing and indefensible. Please, God, no more European typestyles.

The Pachyderminator November 23, 2010 at 10:04 am

This is very interesting. I just realized the italics problem is more complex than I thought. As I write this, in Firefox, everything from Joseph’s comment of Nov. 22 at 2:46 on down is in italics, but in IE, only Joseph’s comment is in italics and everything else is fine, making the other comments complaining about italics incomprehensible. In Chrome, which I was using yesterday, I think the situation was somewhere in between, but I don’t have access to it on this computer, so I’ll have to check later.
Italics off for real, now, I hope? Open angle bracket, slash, i, close angle bracket. It’s not that hard.

The Pachyderminator November 23, 2010 at 10:16 am

The Pachyderminator
I admit I’m baffled. I don’t think the problem can be the period, since it appears in the source code as simply &lt;.i&gt;. It seems that in Firefox, the <i> element must be correctly nested or it won’t turn off. The only solution seems to be for Jimmy to step in and edit the HTML in Joseph’s original comment.

The Pachyderminator November 23, 2010 at 10:19 am

And now the whole right column is messed up too (again, only in Firefox). Perhaps that’s because I typed my name as “</i>The Pachyderminator”, but I can’t see why a closing italics tag would cause italics to open. This is becoming bizarre.

bill bannon November 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

Bill912
On infallibility, go to Ludwig Ott…Introduction to Fundamentals of the Catholic Faith (online)…go to section 8 last paragraph. The ordinary papal magisterium is not infallible…go there.

bill bannon November 23, 2010 at 10:49 am

Bill912….here is Ludwig Ott Intro to Fundamentals of the Catholic Faith…last paragraph of section 8 of Intro…
“       With regard to the doctrinal teaching of the Church it must be well noted that not all the assertions of the Teaching Authority of the Church on questions of Faith and morals are infallible and consequently irrevocable. Only those are infallible which emanate from General Councils representing the whole episcopate, and the Papal Decisions Ex Cathedra (cf. D 1839). The ordinary and usual form of the Papal teaching activity is not infallible. Further, the decisions of the Roman Congregations (Holy Office, Bible Commission) are not infallible. Nevertheless normally they are to be accepted with an inner assent which is based on the high supernatural authority of the Holy See (assensus internus supernaturalis, assensus religiosus). The so-called “silentium obsequiosum.” that is “reverent silence,” does not generally suffice. By way of exception, the obligation of inner agreement may cease if a competent expert, after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds, arrives at the positive conviction that the decision rests on an error.”

The Masked Chicken November 23, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I can’t comment, now, but contraception was viewed differently in the Middle Ages because of faulty biological understanding. The silence of the pope can be explained, but I’m posting from a Kindle. More in a few days.
The Chicken

Sash Milthon November 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Contraception was viewed differently in the Middle Ages? Really? Because of what? Science of biology? I thought we were talking about natural law, universal to age and culture. And constant teaching, which is not resting on secular sciences such as biology or whatever. Does it mean we should ignore the Middle-Ages and their prohibitions on contraception, since they were faulty? I guess not. But I’d really like to know your opinion why.
There are arguments why contraception is sinful. Most probably the story of Onan (although modern authors don’t use it very much when teaching against contraception). It is possible that real reasons why this is so have more to do with “mysticism” then natural law. For example, Jews allow pill, because their interpretation is that wasting seed is sinful (not contraception which results from it).

jae November 23, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Dear Catholic Folks,
Get the REAL STORY and not the spin from the media and some virulent protestant epologists, here are some good catholic links:
http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/11/did-the-pope-condone-condoms-in-certain-cases/#more-6425
http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/253679/deflating-nyt-condom-scoop-george-weigel
The Holy Pope could just have CITED those acts of the male prostitutes in using condoms, but he actually does NOT approve or adhere to that. He just CITED the thinking and intentions of those male prostitutes, but the Pope does NOT actually laud and praise those acts by the prostitutes because in the first place their sinful acts are abominable in the eyes of God.

Sash Milthon November 24, 2010 at 3:34 am

So far I have heard so many different explanations what Pope said, that only the most obvious statement can hold ground.

Joseph D'Hippolito November 24, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Pachyderminator, I suggest you read the following article concerning the Church’s theological revisionism on capital punishment:
http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=1463
The Church has not and would not teach that prostitution without condoms is better than prostitution with them.
This isn’t a matter of what the Church teaches but what the Pope actually said. If what you say is true, then why would he bother using such an example?

The Pachyderminator November 24, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Joseph, thanks for linking the thought-provoking article. For the record, I would like to state:
-I think JPII’s unnuanced, hard-line opposition to the death penalty in all cases was wrong and counter-productive.
-I am disgusted with some Catholics’ habit of talking as if you must take an equally hard-line position or you’re not “really” pro-life.
-I am even more disgusted with anti-death penalty activists’ habit of randomly seizing on particularly horrific murder cases and demanding that clemency be applied as a publicity stunt.
-I agree with Jimmy that the churchmen quoted in the article about the execution of Saddam Hussein should be ashamed of themselves.
-I would love to see hard-line anti-death penalty types (Mark Shea comes to mind) apply some intellectual techniques to the problem other than waving Evangelium Vitae in people’s faces and a holier-than-thou attitude.
Nevertheless, the Church does not currently teach that the death penalty is inherently wrong (remember not everything the late Pope said is the teaching of the Church), it has only further clarified under which situations it is right, and therefore there is no contradiction. The article I linked explains this in more detail.
I don’t understand the last paragraph of your post. There are two questions here: (1) what the Pope meant, and (2) whether this meaning contradicts (or even is an exception to) church teaching. My points, and Jimmy’s, are:
1. He may not have meant to justify condoms in any situation, making the answer to (2) a trivial “no”.
2. Even if he meant to go further than this, there is no contradiction between that and Church teaching.

Joseph D'Hippolito November 24, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Pachyderminator, thanks very much for your comments. Frankly, I still have no idea why the Pope made the statements that he did. I know he’s not supporting prostitution or contraception. I do think, however, that Catholic theologicans can become so esoteric that they lose focus on the bigger picture.
As somebody else put it, “I cannot help but wonder if the Pope let his inner egghead get the better of him.” I think that’s exactly what happened. The example he gave was so hypothetical, at least to my way of thinking, that it seems patently absurd.
It’s quite a stretch going from a male prostitute or a client using a condom to either party realizing that the behavior itself is fundamentally immoral. I’m not sure if human nature works that way.
In any event, my original question still stands: How are we to tell when a Pope is speaking “off the cuff” and when he is speaking deliberately? How are we to tell when he is speaking solely for himself and speaking as a deliberate act of teaching (which the example from JPII clearly was) — especially if the Pope has “private opinions” that are wrong?
As you well know, Pachyderminator, a lot of Catholics believe that “if the Pope said it, I believe it, that settles it.”
Besides, if Benedict was trying to start a conversation or explore this topic, how does his example actually do that? Is he trying to start conversation in the Church or among the general public?

Sash Milthon November 25, 2010 at 4:56 am

How about Council of Valencia’s decision that only execution acceptable to moral norms is one of burning? At that time, Church taught that literal spilling blood is wrong.

bill bannon November 25, 2010 at 6:39 am

Pachyderminator and Joseph,
I’m going to give you two papal cites that will explain to you how both John Paul II and Benedict wandered so far from tradition on the death penalty that they both called it “cruel” despite their own catechism grudgingly affirming it ‘s theoretical use. For John Paul II, read section 40 of Evangelium Vitae and for Benedict, read section 42 of Verbum Domini……voila….both men have a very liberal old testament hermeneutical outlook that allows them to dismiss examples of violence in the OT as not really from God though the OT has God as their 1st person source…commanding them. John Paul gives the example of death penalties and Benedict mentions “massacres” and that probably includes the bans or dooms of the Canaanites. Once you say God didn’t command what Scripture says He commanded, how do you stop others from dismissing the commands they wish to dismiss….how do you gainsay the Anglican active gay Bishop who deducts the commands against gay activity in the same manner that two Popes deduct Genesis 9:6….with the same liberal hermeneutic? The truly depressing thing is the lemming nature of the entire at least vocal episcopate following them and putting their “cruel” comment in writing in the US Bishop appropo documents. All of this is well outside the charism of infallibility which I do trust but see as rarely used….too rarely used.

Joseph D'Hippolito November 25, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Bill, thanks so much for these references!

bill bannon November 25, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Joe,
You’re welcome. I grew up in a gang infested area on the NY harbor and am alert to the issue.
Two people I knew were murdered and in one case…Kathleen’s, the murderer served 5 years due to young age and then bragged about it when he got out. Irish gang members overheard him and removed all his teeth without anesthesia. Took them an hour….I have no comment….but a lifetime of soup is a good start for a just penance. Maybe the gang members sinned…or maybe it was epikeia taking place instinctively in them after the justice system failed. I have no comment. I was not present at the dental work.

Previous post:

Next post: