Catholic World Report has an excerpt from the new Peter Seewald interview of Pope Benedict XVI Light of the World. This excerpt address the part making headlines.
From Chapter 11, “The Journeys of a Shepherd,” pages 117-119:
On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican’s policy on AIDs once again became the target of media criticism.Twenty-five percent of all AIDs victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you 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.
The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on AIDs. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many AIDs victims, especially children with AIDs.
I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. 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. 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.
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.
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.
The media of course does not do nuance since headlines and sound bites don’t have room for them and articles don’t want to make room for it and the majority of what the Pope said on this will not get covered at all. Interesting that the pope makes a possible case (he says “may be a basis”) in regards to male prostitutes. Same-sex sexual activity is of course always contraceptive in the first place. This act is always intrinsically evil and the use of a condom in this circumstance is different than a circumstance where the use makes the act contraceptive. Again though the Pope is speculating about the moral consequences in this circumstance and is still saying that this is not the way to deal with the evil in regards to sexually transmitted deceases. His answer seems to address more the individual’s sin and the weight of that sin without calling the use of condoms in this case a good to be promoted. He is describing a movement towards a good without calling the act good in itself.
Most people do no realize that the statements by the Church on contraception are pretty much always within the framework of marriage.
The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life [Vademecum for Confessors 2:4, emphasis added].
CCC 2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil.
Sexual acts outside of marriage are themselves intrinsically evil with or without the use of contraception. Adultery, Fornication, Homosexual Acts can never be a valid context for truly human sexuality. As Jimmy Akin previously posted:
It’s kind of eye-opening when you realize that, as Humanae Vitae 14 is worded, it is condemning the use of contraception within marriage and not really going into its use outside of marriage, but the entire framework to which Paul VI is addressing himself is to “the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage,” and he does not address the question of whether the principles he is articulating also apply to sexual relations outside of marriage.
The same tends to be true of other Church documents. The framework in which contraception is addressed tends to be marital: If you look in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example, the discussion of contraception occurs under the major subhead “The Love of Husband and Wife” and under the minor subhead “The fecundity of marriage.”
Contraception is not mentioned at all in the sections on adultery and fornication and other forms of extra-marital sexuality.
This is the pattern in Church documents: They tend to condemn contraception in connection with marital sex, but they don’t mention it when it comes to extra-marital sex.
The reason for this, I assume, is that the folks at the Vatican are waiting for doctrinal development to occur on this point, and so they’re staying closed-mouth about how contraception relates to extra-marital sex. Either that or they (some of them) don’t want to appear to be saying, “If you’re going to fornicate, at least take precautions,” which would have the effect of encouraging fornication.
Now, as I said THE ABOVE DOES NOT REPRESENT MY PERSONAL OPINION. I would be happy if B16 or a future pope issued an encyclical that said “All of the principles contained in Humanae Vitae 14 apply to extra-marital sex as well as marital sex.”
But this does shed light on some statements that otherwise mystify orthodox Catholics who want to fully accept the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.
So currently there is room for limited speculation in this area until the magisterium more fully articulates this.
* The Ginger Factor, named for a well-known “Far Side” cartoon, is a measure of the ratio of words said to words understood. A dog named Ginger, for example, only understands the word “Ginger” in the sentence, “Okay, Ginger, if you get into the garbage one more time, you’ll be spending the night outside.” (source)
Update: Jimmy Akin provides the best analysis so far on the subject.