You have all already read today’s (or rather yesterday’s) headlines. The Age typically goes into overkill mode by putting Barney Zwartz’s piece as front line head lines – it rather says more about what The Age considers important in the world than what the Church does.
Terra, at Australia Incognita, gives a useful list of blogs which have already treated the topic. To this I wil add three pieces by John L. Allen Jnr on the subject, including the Vatican Press Release from Fr Lombardo on the subject:
He makes a comment at one point in the second article above (on a different subject):
A second theme running through the book is a sort of exasperation from the pope about how his words or gestures are often over-interpreted, with their significance stretched well beyond his actual intent.
That certainly applies in this case too, where, as reported in Barney’s piece, this sort of speculation is now rampant:
Jesuit moral theologian Jeff King said it was significant that the Pope had highlighted intention. ”You could apply the same thing to the married couple where the husband is HIV positive … the primary intention would be to preserve life.”
That is not at all clear. The case which the Holy Father uses in the book is reportedly that of a male prostitute. Presumably he has in mind homosexual acts. The use of a condom in this situation – which can only be for the reduced likelihood of the transmission of sexual disease and can in no way be regarded as a limitation of natural conception – is as “a first assumption of responsibility,” and “a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.” In a sense, that is a little like saying that the passing of laws limiting abortion to the first trimester in a state in which currently the law allows abortion all the way to birth is a “first step” in moving toward a better more moral situation”. It is an “incremental step”.
The situation in married, heterosexual sexual intercourse still carries with it the double effect, both limiting the passing on of a disease AND limiting natural conception – and that means it is in a different category all together. Condoms can be used for all sorts of things (including, I remember in Douglas Adams’ “Last Chance to See”, covering a microphone when it was to be immersed in water). Condoms are just pieces of rubber that can be used for many different purposes. The only purpose condemned by the Church is when it is used as a means of birth control – the thing which, in fact, condoms are actually designed to do.
All that being said, we remind ourselves (as Gareth and Cardinal Reg do so often on this blog) of the difference between an expressed Papal opinion and the Magisterium of the Church.
But in the mean time, the secular world gets all excited, because it sees a “chink in the armour” and an opportunity to exploit it.
Here are two press releases on the subject, one from Cardinal Pell and the other from Bishop Fisher:
A Statement from the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell
22 November 2010
POPE NOT CHANGING TEACHING ON CONDOM USE
HIV –AIDS is wreaking havoc in Africa, where the Catholic Church is heavily involved in the care of those infected and their surviving family members.
In his recent interview, Pope Benedict insisted on speaking on the basic Christian and Catholic teaching on sexual activity: that such sexual activity is to be confined to the love making between husband and wife. He urges abstinence from premarital and extra-marital sex and fidelity within marriage.
He also mentioned the possibility of a male prostitute using a condom against transmitting infection as a final step “in the direction of moralization”.
This is a delicate and difficult area, sometimes producing tragic consequences. I have not seen the German original of what the Pope said, but hard and exceptional cases can encourage bad law making.
Much work needs to be done to bring consistent, Catholic light into this grey and vexed area, while ensuring that the Catholic moral framework on sexuality remains intact.
I also endorse the brief statement of Bishop Anthony Fisher OP as faithfully representing Catholic thinking.
For further information:
Director of Catholic Communications
Archdiocese of Sydney
Mobile: 0403 950652
Level 15, 133 Liverpool Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000
Telephone: (02) 9390 5300 Facsimile: (02) 9390 5306 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Statement by Bishop Anthony Fisher OP
BISHOP OF PARRAMATTA
Diocese of Parramatta (For immediate release: 22 November 2010)
In his forthcoming book-length interview Pope Benedict XVI re-emphasises Catholic teaching that fidelity within marriage and abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage is the only morally permissible approach to chaste living. It is also the only practicable solution to the HIV-AIDs epidemic.
The Holy Father calls on the faithful to “fight against the banalisation of sexuality” which treats sex as a mere recreational drug, and to seek instead “the humanisation of sexuality” as the expression of marital love.
Despite some misinterpretation in the international media, the Pope has not deviated from or altered in any way Catholic teaching on the intrinsic wrongness of contraception or on reserving sexual intercourse (‘the marital act’) to marriage, that is of a man and a woman.
Pastors have long recognised that in cases such as homosexual intercourse, conception and marital acts are not at issue. Using a condom in this situation is clearly not contraception. It is clear that even here the goal must be to move the individual to living a truly ‘humane’, that is a chaste and loving, sexual life.
The Pope suggests that sometimes “as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom” to protect his client from disease, this might be a sign of an awakening moral responsibility. But using condoms, the Pope insists, is still not “a real or moral solution”.
For interviews with Bishop Anthony Fisher OP please contact:
Jane Favotto – Communications Manager, Diocese of Parramatta
Tel 0418 208 280