Nov 212010

Jimmy Akin promised to follow up his analysis yesterday on what the Pope actually said on the subject of condoms and he has done so in an excellent follow up post “Understanding the Pope’s Dilemma on Condoms“.

I expect the media to get what the Pope has said wrong and they never disappoint. Though while it seems that almost all Catholic bloggers understood the nuance of the Pope’s comment this can not be said for all commenters who seemed to be annoyed that the Pope has made some concession. This idea starts from an idea about a “ban on condoms” as if condoms in and of themselves are gravely evil. If I were to take a condom and make a balloon animal out of it I would incur no sin other than perhaps bad taste. In fact as I have joked before I could pretty much wear a condom anytime I want except for during sex with my wife. So if you want to wear a condom – go ahead, except during the marital act. What makes the use of a condom gravely sinful is when it is used as a device to prevent conception and frustrates the marital act. The example the Pope gave of a homosexual prostitute was in a situation where conception was not possible and the condom could not be contraceptive.

One thing I have come to love about the Church is that it is never just arbitrary, that her moral theology is not only understandable – but that it’s principles can be applied consistently. The Church condemns IVF because it removes the unitive aspect of sex from procreation in the marital act. The Church condemns contraception because it removes the procreative aspect from the marital act. Since the Church understands marriage it is able to see the two-fold nature of the marital act and to apply that understanding in her moral theology. It is only the Church that is consistent and everybody else inconsistent. There are no “Gotchas” to find in her moral theology. In comparison everywhere else you look in the world you see inconsistency galore.

One aspect about this story that is getting no coverage is that we are getting a book like this in the first place. A sitting Pope sitting down with a journalist and not limiting any questions asked. Sure he is comfortable in his long relationship with Peter Seewald, but Seewald is willing to ask the questions other people would be interested in having asked. The Pope being the brilliant theologian that he is does not give pat answers. The Pope is not concerned with public relations and acting as a spin doctors on his answers to reduce any possible misinterpretations. The Pope thinks deeply on subjects and then gives us his answer where he would trust us with the truth. The Pope could have easily answered the questions on condoms by outlining the Church’s teaching on contraception, but instead spoke honestly in addressing possible situations. Some might call this a PR disaster and certainly it is annoying when the press distorts what the Pope says, but they would find something to distort regardless.

It is also rather odd that those who disagree with the Church’s teaching on contraception are willing to jump to an interview with the Pope to defend themselves. This just totally shows how disingenuous they that they will ignore every magisterial document on the subject. The last I knew interviews were not mentioned in the levels of Church teaching in Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium.

  13 Responses to “Condom follow up”

  1. I think it’s also morally legit to use a condom to do a Huhner test for (in)fertility.

    If I understand corretly, the condom gets pierced so as to not interfere with the procreative aspect of coitus and the lab can run tests on the sperm which remains on the condom.

  2. I really don’t know why it is so necessary to make what should be very simple into something that is exceedingly complex. For example, Jimmy Akin on practically everything, but especially here.

    What makes “the use of a condom gravely sinful is when it is used” in a manner contrary to love and/or contrary to truth. Often times that means contrary to the unitive and fruitful aspects of “the marital act” (which most plain-speaking people know of as “sex”). But it is not always so limited. Even outside of “the marital act,” condom usage can be and usually is, if not always is, contrary to love and contrary to truth and, therefore, by definition, a sin.

    The use of a condom, even by unmarried persons, straight or gay, not only facilitates certain sinful acts, e.g. fornication and/or sodomy, it also promotes the lie that this is somehow “safe sex.” First, as a medical matter, there is a high failure rate with condoms and, second, as a moral matter, there is no such this as “safe mortal sin.”

    The wrongfulness with respect to condoms is that usage is contary to love and/or truth, period. However they are used, whenever they are used, they are contary to the truth of human sexuality. Even in the marital context for non-contraceptive purposes, e.g. the relatively rare case of one spouse having a communicable disease, condom usage is likely to promote a sexuality of use, rather than a sexuality of love. That too is morally wrong.

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

    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?

    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?

  4. As a traditional Catholic woman who has worked in the field of HIV/AIDS for over twenty years I am thrilled that this Pope does understand that using condoms is not always about contraception and in this instance it’s about saving lives.

    God bless him and his insight!

  5. I am thrilled that this Pope does understand that using condoms is not always about contraception and in this instance it’s about saving lives.

    Not sure what you mean here, but if you are taking the Pope’s words to mean that couples in which one of them has HIV can now licitly use condoms, I’m afraid you are mistaken.

  6. Scott–are you sure that’s not so? It seems like the Pope’s meaning could be extended to a couple wanting to avoid spread of the disease but preserve the marital unitive bond, with the contraceptive effect being an unintended consequence. That seems reasonable to me, although I’d *really* like to hear a definitive clarification from the magisterium in relation to this recent incident.

  7. elleblue, if you are right, then I will stand corrected. We really won’t know that, though, for awhile.
    Now, people are saying that the Pope was trying to “spark debate.” Really? With an offhand comment? That’s not the way he does things. During his instillation Mass he had two people pray for the persecuted. One was in Chinese, the other in Arabic. Benedict also offered greetings to various Christians and Jews but not to Muslims. That was the result of deliberation to make a point to China, the Arab-Muslim world and Christians in those countries.
    Watching Catholic apologists spin themselves silly over the Pope’s remarks is rather fascinating, if not altogether laughable.

  8. I think this Pope is showing us the Merciful Face of Christ which this world needs to see and hear more about. He is not advocating condom use for everyone or permissive sexual behaviour. . he is trying to show us that those who are caught up in sinful behaviour that if their first move towards morality is to think of the other person instead of thinking of themselves and their own needs, can show a movement of a change of heart in that persons behaviour. For those who are caught up in this behaviour and for those who work with them we know how difficult it is for them to get out of it. I think the Pope is showing us a great depth of Gods mercy here and how God cares and loves each one of us as individuals very deeply and how His Mercy is constantly reaching out to those who are steeped in sin…

  9. I almost miss reddog

  10. Ellablue, where did the Pope say any of that?

    The Pope said that if a male prostitute used a condom, it could be a sign that he was recognizing that promiscuous sex could be dangerous. The REALIZATION was the good thing, NOT the condom. Condoms are still a moral evil when used as contraception.

  11. Regarding Pope Benedict XVI’s musings about condoms and male homosexuals… I wish the Pope would have simply stated the Church’s moral position without the speculative, provocative (on male prostitutes) comments guaranteed to elicit howling and frothing at the mouth by secular media types and their derogatory front page statements about the Pope’s fallability and “ability to learn”, etc.
    There is much evidence to suggest the so-called “safe sex” latex condom provides a false sense of security in terms of preventing deadly infection or pregnancy. The Pope’s well-informed. Why not give a clearer, thorough response? By responding in the speculative way he did to a question which appears to be fishing for a controversial response, the Pope really took the bait. It’s painful to watch so many good Catholic defenders of the Pope squirming and spinning this with their squishy
    responses. Sigh…. let’s pray for the Pope.

  12. Off topic- saw your Twitter thingie about standing in line to get in church, etc on ‘black friday’- haha
    here’s where I’m at:

  13. Phil S., I think your frustration can best be summarized by a comment made on another Catholic blog:

    I cannot help but wonder if the Pope’s inner egg-head got the better of him here.

    I believe that’s exactly what happened. It would be hard to imagine any Pope implicitly permitting prostitution under any circumstances (leaving the issue of condoms aside).

    The Pope is a hard-core academic, and hard-core academics can be too esoteric or arcane even for their own good.

    I also believe that the Vaticanisti, in whose group any Pope has to be included, are so isolated from the real world that they have no concept about how real people live. I believe that was a major reason why the clerical sex-abuse crisis metasticized the way it did.

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