No rubber stamp

WearypopeLast week, when the whole world was abuzz with news that the Spanish arm of the Catholic Church had made noises to the effect that condoms were AOK in the fight against AIDS, a few friends asked me what I thought of this new development of doctrine.

Would the Catholic Church finally see the light/get with the program/insert clichÃ(c) here and join the 21st Century?

I had a two-word response: just wait.

After what one can only imagine were a few very heated phone calls from the Vatican, the conference of Spanish Bishops explained that the offending statement “must be understood in the context of Catholic doctrine, which holds that use of condoms is immoral sexual conduct.”

Translation: There’s nothing to see here. Move along.

What were the words that set this particular tempest to boil? Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesman for the conference of bishops, had told reporters that “condoms have a place in the global prevention of AIDS.”

The press can be forgiven for playing this one up. This is not the sort of thing that one expects to hear from a spokesman for the Catholic Church, and apparently the Vatican was so stunned by it that the higher-ups initially didn’t know what to say to reporters.

What is less forgivable is how reporters covered the story as a Historic Shift in the Church’s teaching rather than what it likely was: the aberrant statement of a contrarian voice.

The AP quoted the president of the Spanish Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals, and Bisexuals as saying, “I think it was absolutely inevitable that the Church would change its stance,” but didn’t quote anyone saying, Hey, let’s not jump to conclusions or anything.

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  • Carl

    Can anyone explain to me why the church’s stance isn’t: “Hey, sex outside of marriage is a terrible sin! Sex outside of marriage AND risking your life AND potentially tempting yourself to get an abortion is THREE terrible sins!”? Or, if not for heterosexual sex because they don’t want to interfere with God’s decision in pregnancy, what about homosexual sex (which is still more likely to spread AIDS), in which there’s no chance of pregnancy.

    I must say, I really, really do not understand the Catholic stance on birth control. I mean, if you’re using natural family planning and you know from body temperature that there’s no chance of pregnancy, how is that less interfering than to use a condom– which has a good chance of breaking or failing in some other way?

    Can anyone link this Protestant to a clear explanation?

  • Susan

    Here’s a link that may help you, Carl–it’s from an Orthodox Christian site, but the theology on NFP is pretty much the same in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy:

  • Tom Harmon


    Also, take a look at “A Defense of marital Conjugal Chastity” at this link:

    It’s on page ten of the document. Warning: Adobe Acrobat required.

  • Will

    To which this heretic might add: either you are in a state of mortal sin, or you are not. Sin is not a matter of “points”.

  • Tom R

    Translation: Swear by the temple and your oath is binding, but swear by the gold in the Temple and your oath is not.

    I’ve long wondered what Jesus would think about the “active/ passive” distinction on which the traditional Catholic condemnation of (artificial) contraception rests, and especially how it squares with the Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I’ll give it 25 to 30 years before it joins the usury ban in the “development of doctrine” bin.

    Having said that, there are good prudential reasons for not encouraging the promiscuous (so to speak) handing out of condoms as a cure-all for problems arising from sex.