GENEVA, May 14, 2004 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A UN official in charge of AIDS prevention has denied that the Catholic Church opposes the use of condoms. Taking the dissenting views of a small number of commentators as representative of official Catholic policy, he said that there is “hot debate” in the Vatican over the use of condoms. UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot, said that he had been assured by Vatican sources that the Church had not made a definitive statement. “What I was told repeatedly is that the church has no competence on the quality of materials including the quality of latex,” he said.
The Catholic teaching on the dignity of human sexuality is clearly laid out in dozens of magisterial documents, some dating as far back as the early centuries of the Christian era. The Catholic Church has never made claims to be expert in chemical engineering or latex manufacture, it does, however claim competence in moral theology which is the central issue in its critique of the use of condoms for AIDS prevention. Catholic officials make use of scientific experts in a multitude of areas in forming their public statements. Moreover, the Catholic Church has always opposed the use of barrier methods of birth regulation, regardless of the material of which they are made.
Well that is a misconception or should it be missed-conception? Actually few people realize this, but that the Catholic Church does not say that men can never wear a condom. In fact you can wear one any time you please, except when having sex. Is that really too much to ask?
I laughed at this: In fact you can wear one any time you please, except when having sex.
Yes, I also laughed long and loud at the last line.
It occurred to me that Mr. Piot’s bizarre statement might have its roots in a misconception that the Church is against condoms merely for purely pragmatic reasons i.e. because they are not 100% effective in preventing STD transmission. Thus, if an infallible [ha] barrier could be made, he does not see why the Church would disapprove.
Lest you think this is too outlandish a misunderstanding, I seem to recall that my CCD teacher in middle school, when asked why they were not allowed to be used, replied that they might not work. Not that sex outside of marriage is immoral, not that contraception in marriage drives a wedge between sex and life and love – these things were not discussed. Now consider that since these kids’ parents probably figure the kids are getting all the moral education they need in class once a week, their primary formation comes from the constant bombardment of tv shows and “public service announcements” and such telling them that it is all right (and expected of them) to fornicate as long as they use “protection.” If Catholics are so dreadfully confused about their own Church’s teachings, a fortiori so will non-Catholics. (Sorry, I just threw a big, wet blanket on the humor, didn’t I?)
I’m a big supporter of Humanae Vitae, so please don’t get the following question wrong! My question is whether men having homosexual sex compound their evil by using a condom. Obviously, the condom in this case isn’t being used as a contraceptive. Could one even go so far as to say that in this case condoms reduce the evil in the act by using a condom, since it at least reduces the likelihood that they will infect one another with a deadly disease? Mind you, I am opposed to contraception and I think that homosexual sex is sinful. I am further open to prudential arguments that would suggest that distributing condoms to gay men might suggest that one is condoning or facilitating the immoral act of having homosexual sex. But I am still interested in the narrow moral question. Say I was a gay man and I had already decided to have sex with another man — is it a graver sin to use a condom?
I am no moral theologian, but I don’t see how condoms would compound a sin when used in a situation that is always contraceptive. Though probably dispensing condoms for this purpose would be an aid to this sin.
Catholic Answers has a new online forum up and they could answer your question correctly.
Thanks for the link, I will follow it up. Your instincts seem to match mine, but that leads to a harder question:
The reasoning in Humanae Vitae against contraception is that it breaks the marital embrace. As I said, I am a full believer in this teaching. But it does suggest that in cases of fornication, contraception is not an extra evil — those are acts which are already non-marital, so the use of contraception doesn’t break the marital bond. I do know that the Church follows this logic in permitting nuns in areas where they are prone to being raped to use the pill. Rape is clearly not a marital act, and the person being raped is not required to be open to life. Moving up the scale, it is not clear that prostitution is in any way a marital act, and I don’t see how contraception compounds the evil there, either. Places where it gets trickier is in the context of quasi-marital relationships, where there is a real bond of affection between the partners, and the contraception might be breaking their quasi-marriage. I don’t know. In any case, I wonder if the blanket condemnation of contraception doesn’t sound like “the Church wants as many babies as possible”, obscuring the real teaching which is that “within a marriage, contraception renders the marital embrace non-unitive.” The blanket condemnation is also problematic in a world with Aids.
I am NO advocate of fighting Aids by dumping condoms on the population. Teaching abstinance and monogamny have proven to be more effective (as in the case of Uganda). But I wonder if there is something to be said for acknowledging that in cases where people are going to fornicate no matter what, condoms don’t compound the sin. (The actual policy implications are tricky, because one would not want to take actions which seem to encourage immoral behavior.)
Not sure which way I would go: a more nuanced teaching could help avoid the misconceptions about the Church’s teachings about contraception, but we live in an unnuanced world, and offering a nuanced position might lead to further problems.