John Westen

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About condoms: the Pope was talking about sodomy not normal sex

John Westen

VATICAN CITY, November 22, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Hold on a sec.  Let’s first get this straight, Pope Benedict XVI never actually said using a condom was acceptable, good, or anything of the sort. In the soon-to-be released book “Light of the World” he was noting hypothetically that when a male prostitute with HIV (or in danger of contracting it) decides to use a condom to protect his client (or himself) from the disease it can be seen as a first step in the right direction – namely a direction seeking not to inflict the deadly disease on another person (or contract it).

(To read the Pope’s complete remarks, click here)

With the statement the Pope is neither condoning gay sex, nor condoning gay sex with a condom.  He was saying that recognizing the danger of gay sex to transmit HIV can be seen as a first step toward a greater consciousness of the fact that actions have consequences and thus a step towards moral behaviour – which would be the recognition that gay sex is not permissible.

Renowned moral theologian Janet Smith makes an analogy in her essay on the current controversy.  “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.”

One could apply the Pope’s statements to such a case as well:

“There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when” a robber decides to use blanks instead of real bullets, “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.” The Church “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” death, “a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of “ respecting the law. “But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of” robbery.

Media coverage of the Pope’s remarks mixed up the Pope’s statement of a movement in the right direction with outright approval. It is like saying that the robber’s decision to use blanks instead of bullets is a moral good, rather than merely a sign that he may be moving towards the good.

Despite all the false headline hoopla from the mainstream media, the Pope actually said that the Church “of course does not regard” condoms “as a real or moral solution” to AIDS.

Beyond this, however, even when referring to the decision to protect a sexual partner from AIDS, he was not referring to normal sexual relations between a husband and wife, but specifically used the example of a “male” prostitute, thereby referring to sodomy or anal sex – which is already in and of itself contraceptive.

The Catholic Church concerns itself with promoting good and fighting evil, not in dealing with the intricacies of evil acts. As Professor Janet Smith explains in her article on the matter:

The Church has no formal teaching about how to reduce the evil of intrinsically immoral action.  We must note that what is intrinsically wrong in a homosexual sexual act in which a condom is used is not the moral wrong of contraception but the homosexual act itself.  In the case of homosexual sexual activity, a condom does not act as a contraceptive; it is not possible for homosexuals to contracept since their sexual activity has no procreative power that can be thwarted.

Even though he wasn’t imputing morality to the act, the Pope refused even to assign any positive connotation to a contraceptive act; instead he allowed for such a connotation for condom use when employed only as a barrier to spread of disease.

The Catholic Church has officially ruled out the possibility of contraception – rendering the sexual act infertile – as an intrinsic evil, meaning an act which can never be undertaken under any circumstances. Thus even in the most difficult case where one partner in a married couple has contracted AIDS it remains impermissible from Catholic teaching to use a condom for normal sexual relations – since it would render the sexual act infertile.

In Pope John Paul II’s encyclical The Splendor of Truth (Aug. 6, 1993) the Pope reaffirmed the intrinsic evil of contraception as taught by Pope Paul VI.  John Paul II wrote:

With regard to intrinsically evil acts, and in reference to contraceptive practices whereby the conjugal act is intentionally rendered infertile, Pope Paul VI teaches: ‘Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (cf.Rom.3:8) - in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general.’ (n.80).

On March 1, 1997 the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family issued a Vade Mecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life. Included in this document is the following statement: “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 irreforrmable.”

What the Catholic Church teaches about the morality of human sexuality is not extreme, it fully syncs with human reason.  It makes sense that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation and education of children. Yes of course it is also about love and support of spouses but the sexual act is first and foremost about making babies, just like eating is about nutrition.

As Bishop Julian Porteous, auxiliary Bishop of Sydney put it over the weekend, contraception, just like homosexuality, “has denigrated and obscured the life-giving aspect of marriage and sexual intercourse.”

In comments that could apply to both contraception and homosexual unions he said, “It will move marriage from a children-centred institution to an adult-centred one … Their understanding of marriage would also shift to being about one’s self-fulfilment, rather than about self-giving.”

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