ROME, February 1, 2005 ( – While the constant teachings of the Catholic Church on sexual matters are clear and unequivocal, some Church leaders are publicly balking now that the rule of John Paul II is seen to be weakening from age and infirmity.

Catholic Church watchers have not seen this much open dissent by high-level clergy since the publication of the encyclical Humanae Vitae. Pope Paul VI’s 1968 letter affirming the Church’s traditional teaching on contraception caused a wave of open rebellion in some countries, especially in western, developed nations, even of some entire national episcopal conferences, including that of the Canadian bishops. Despite the astonishing accuracy of Paul VI’s warnings about the devastation to the moral order that would result from a contraceptive culture, opposition to Church moral teachings is still entrenched in many Catholic quarters. 

Today, the use of condoms to prevent disease was endorsed by one of Rome’s most prominent cardinals. Georges Cardinal Cottier, household theologian for Pope John Paul II, while emphasizing that he was giving his private opinion, said that sex with condoms could be permissible as a means of avoiding killing one’s partner with AIDS. “The virus is transmitted during a sexual act; so at the same time as [bringing] life there is also a risk of transmitting death,” he said. “And that is where the commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’ is valid.” Cardinal Cottier suggested that condoms could be used in situations when people are “prisoners” of unusual circumstances.

In recent weeks the Spanish bishops’ conference made headlines for its ambiguous statements on condoms. The Primate of England, Cormac Cardinal Murphy O’Connor said forthrightly that condoms could be used in circumstances “when there’s a danger of intercourse leading to death.”

Neither Cormac Murphy O’Connor nor Cottier, nor Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels, who has also recently offered the ‘lesser evil’ fallacy, have offered any examples of a situation where the moral solution of abstaining from sexual activity would be impossible.

In Minneapolis-St. Paul, Archbishop Harry Flynn continues to admit members of the homosexual activist group the Rainbow Sash Movement to communion in his cathedral. Flynn has issued another evasive ‘clarification’ on the matter.

The Archbishop wrote, “(Cardinal Arinze, head of the Vatican office for Sacraments) did not in fact suggest an immediate change to the policy in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul. However, he did clearly indicate that this situation merits further study and that ideally all of the bishops who have pastoral care for the members of this movement should seek to adopt a uniform approach.” The Archbishop then points the finger at those who “have wished to create controversy out of my original remarks.” 

Catholic Columnist Barbara Kralis, however, published a letter sent to her by Cardinal Arinze’s office which needs no nuanced interpretation. Arinze’s secretary wrote, “Rainbow Sash wearers, the Cardinal says, are showing their opposition to Church teaching on a major issue of natural law and so disqualify themselves from being given Holy Communion.” 

Meanwhile in Australia, Bishop Pat Power, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn, has called for a re-examination of some Church teachings – including that on a male priesthood. He has also criticised several important Vatican documents as a “regression from the teaching and spirit of Vatican II”.

News media are gloating over the apparent weakening of ecclesiastical discipline and fidelity. The BBC opined, “The point is that the Vatican is slowly being forced to admit by some of its most authoritative churchmen that this is a complex moral argument which does not allow for a simple overall ban on the use of condoms.” The traditionally anti-Catholic UK magazine, The Guardian, refers to this trend calling it a “growing swell of realism within the church.” 

The predominance in many liberal, developed nations, of a homosexual subculture among priests, bishops and seminary rectors, what one US Catholic writer called the ‘lavender mafia,’ has given rise to the destructive sexual scandals plaguing the Church. Rather than influencing the culture, many Church institutions and leaders have themselves been corrupted by the anti-Christian sexual liberation movement that flared in the 1960’s. This, in addition to the adoption by some influential Catholics, of a Marxist-like emphasis on social issues, and the invasion of radical feminism into the orders of sisters, has created in many dioceses and bishops’ associations an inability or unwillingness to effectively address problems of sexual abuse and doctrinal dissent.