Pope & Condoms – UPDATED & UPDATED & More

The press loves its “Rottweiler narrative” on Benedict, but he has confounded them on it, over and over again. Sooner or later they will realize he was never the hammer they claimed he was. He has always been extremely pastoral; wedded to the truth while aware of human complexities. And here he is, proving it again:

As a book launch it is certainly bound to move some product, but expect the usual clarifications that always appear about 4 days after the press has blared a headline as subtle as a trumpet:

Pope Benedict XVI says that condom use is acceptable “in certain cases”, notably “to reduce the risk of infection” with HIV, in a book due out Tuesday, apparently softening his once hardline stance.

In a series of interviews published in his native German, the 83-year-old Benedict is asked whether “the Catholic Church is not fundamentally against the use of condoms. “It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution,” the pope replies. “In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality,” said the head of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics.

The new volume, entitled Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times, is based on 20 hours of interviews conducted by German journalist Peter Seewald.

I emailed a writer who has read the book (which I also talk about in the post below) and got this text in response:

Yes he does say that but it is a bit more nuanced in context. A bit. Basically he is not saying that [Catholic] institutions should give out but if an individual uses it might be a sign of moral awareness.

This writer promises greater exposition later, so I look forward to reading it, and of course to reading the book.

Pia deSolenni:

So, to clarify, he’s not endorsing condoms. He’s saying that it could be the first step of a particular individual to realize that their action is wrong. His example of a male prostitute is very particular. The Church doesn’t believe that male prostitution is a good thing; so it’s not going to endorse anything that would facilitate the behavior even if it’s ostensibly with the good intention of protecting one’s self or another. That good intention doesn’t change the nature of the behavior itself.

Yes, read the whole thing, especially if you’re feeling “confused” or “disturbed” or slightly hysterical about this story.

Deacon Greg saysDon’t be surprised if the Vatican begins “clarifying” these remarks soon. . . and here comes some:

Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, the Vatican’s long-time top official on bioethics and sexuality, elaborated on the pontiff’s comments, stressing that it was imperative to “make certain that this is the only way to save a life”. Cardinal Sgreccia said the condom question was one that “needed an answer for a long time,” adding: “If Benedict XVI raised the question of exceptions, this exception must be accepted… and it must be verified that this is the only way to save life. This must be demonstrated.”

Damian Thompson: I am praying that this report is true, because the argument it attributes to the Pope is thoroughly humane and reasonable – and does not contradict the Church’s teaching against artificial birth control.

More here

No one can say this 83 year-old pope rests on his laurels. Aside from his travels (England, Sicily, Spain, just in the last months) there has also been this, then the enormous Verbum Domini, and oh, yeah, the new Cardinals.

A tireless worker in the fields of the Lord.

An excerpt from Chapter 11 of Light of the WorldLight of the World: from Catholic Word Report:

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.

Janet E. Smith provides some analysis:

We must note that the example that Pope Benedict gives for the use of a condom is a male prostitute; thus, it is reasonable to assume that he is referring to a male prostitute engaged in homosexual acts. The Holy Father is simply observing that for some homosexual prostitutes the use of a condom may indicate an awakening of a moral sense; an awakening that sexual pleasure is not the highest value, but that we must take care that we harm no one with our choices. He is not speaking to the morality of the use of a condom, but to something that may be true about the psychological state of those who use them. If such individuals are using condoms to avoid harming another, they may eventually realize that sexual acts between members of the same sex are inherently harmful since they are not in accord with human nature. The Holy Father does not in any way think the use of condoms is a part of the solution to reducing the risk of AIDs. As he explicitly states, the true solution involves “humanizing sexuality.”

Anyone having sex that threatens to transmit HIV needs to grow in moral discernment. This is why Benedict focused on a “first step” in moral growth. The Church is always going to be focused on moving people away from immoral acts towards love of Jesus, virtue, and holiness. We can say that the Holy Father clearly did not want to make a point about condoms, but wants to talk about growth in a moral sense, which should be a growth towards Jesus.

It’s too long to excerpt, but read it all.

Lisa Graas:

As long as you have an ounce of moral responsibility in you, there is hope that you can “re-develop your understanding”. “Re-developing” your understanding means coming to a more Christian perspective on things. Common sense should tell you that someone who is HIV-positive who goes around intentionally infecting others with HIV is more evil than someone who would say no to that. The Pope was using the extreme example of a prostitute to explain just such a difference.

Does this mean that the Pope is going to approve of the use of condom distribution to prevent AIDS? Nope. His very next statement shows where he is on that.

“But it is not the proper way to deal with the horror of HIV infection.”

The Catholic track record in Africa on this issue is better than the non-Catholic track record.

Read it all for more on that

Catholic Herald UK talks to John Thavis of CNS and John Allen of NCR:

Thavis: “These are nuanced comments, and one should read the passage in full to gauge the Pope’s position. The Pope’s answer seems to invite follow-up questions. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that the Vatican has never proclaimed a ‘ban’ on condom use in Aids prevention; on the contrary, some Vatican theologians and officials have argued that for married couples in which one partner is HIV-infected, use of condoms would be a moral responsibility.”

Allen: “Pope Benedict XVI has signaled that in some limited cases, where the intent is to prevent the transmission of disease rather than to prevent pregnancy, the use of condoms might be morally justified. While that position is hardly new, in the sense that a large number of Catholic theologians and even a special Vatican commission requested by Benedict XVI have endorsed it, this is the first time the Pope himself has publicly espoused such a view.

At dotcommonweal: “a great step forward, literally life-saving.”

That, of course, is debatable. Further context and more examination will be forthcoming, of course but is anyone really making the argument that people indulging in casual or promiscuous sex were nevertheless so concerned about a church stricture that they went without condoms, because of it? I doubt it. If you’re not listening to a commandment from God, you’re probably not listening to a teaching from the church, either. That’s a whole lifetime of sinning, speaking, here! :-)

I don’t think Benedict has so much “changed courses” but simply chosen one example to articulate an idea that is a whole lot deeper than, “maybe condoms aren’t so bad.”

Fr. Joseph Fessio: in the NY Times:

The Rev. Joseph Fessio, a former student of Benedict and the editor in chief of Ignatius Press . . .“It’s very carefully qualified,” he said. “It would be wrong to say, ‘Pope Approves Condoms.’ He’s saying it’s immoral but in an individual case the use of a condom could be an awakening to someone that he’s got to be more conscious of his actions.”

More from Jimmy Akin:

Among the disservices L’Osservatore Romano performed by breaking the book’s embargo in the way it did was the fact that it only published a small part of the section in which Pope Benedict discussed condoms. As a result, the reader could not see the context of his remarks, giving the reader no way to see the context and guaranteeing that the secular press would take the Pope’s remarks out of context (which they would have anyway, but perhaps not this much). Especially egregious is the fact that L’Osservatore Romano omits material in which Benedict clarified his statement on condoms in a follow-up question.

So L’Osservatore Romano has performed a great disservice to both the Catholic and non-Catholic communities.

Reflections of a Paralytic:

Many thanks to The Catholic World Report for providing the entire context of the Pope’s words, which are part of a discussion on his remarks about condoms and AIDS prevention during his visit to Africa last March.

Chelsea also links to this WaPo piece from March of 2009: The Pope May Be Right

Little Miss Attila

Advocating “right sexuality” not condom use

FINAL UPDATE: Press office of the Holy See issues a succinct clarification:

The head of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, has issued a statement clarifying passages of the book Light of the World, in which Pope Benedict discusses AIDS and condom use.

The statement says Pope Benedict states that AIDs cannot be solved only by the distribution of condoms, and, in fact, concentrating on condoms just trivializes sexuality, which loses its meaning as an expression of love and becomes like a drug.

At the same time, the Pope considered an exceptional situation in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real risk to the lives of others. In this case, the Pope does not morally justify the exercise of disordered sexuality, but believes that the use of condoms to reduce the risk of infection is a “first step on the road to a more human sexuality”, rather than not to use it and risking the lives of others.

Father Lombardi’s statement clarifies Pope Benedict XVI has not reformed or changed the Church’s teaching, but by putting it in perspective reaffirms the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of love and responsibility.

Related: John Allen breaks down a meeting between Vatican insiders and the mainstream press

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Andrzej

    I believe the case B16 was referring to was of homosexual male prostitutes. Clearly, in such cases, the condom in not acting as a contraceptive – so there isn’t anything controversial about what he said.

    [Of course there isn't. But the headlines will make it seem controversial. That's par for the course where Popes are concerned -admin]

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  • Lynn

    I’m extremely confused and a little disturbed…how can condoms ever be acceptable?

    [I suggest waiting a few days for some clarification, Lynn. But this isn't that confusing, or disturbing, really. If you read the article--and the updates--you see the pope speaking specifically about male prostitution. That's not precisely "open to life" to begin with, so a condom in that instance is not "birth control." The pope appears to be exploring the morality of (in the midst of sin) doing something to prevent additional harm. Buy the book! Read it and see what you think then; that's what I'm doing! -admin]


    A fine Pope indeed.

    Thanks for the offering.

  • bill bannon

    Some years ago I read how certain African Bishops were allowing couples to use condoms
    if HIV was present in one of them IF THEY USED THEM ON INFERTILE DAYS in conjunction with nfp methods of determining those days….since then the unitive is not separated from the procreativebsince there is no procreative on infertile days but this would not be clear for some couples. I do not know if they stopped by Rome but this new news seems in a similar vein.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Thank you for the extended excerpt, which goes to show that the MSM, in this case the French Press Agency, has once again twisted and distorted what the Pope actually said or meant.

    In addition to the multiple qualifiers in the hypothetical — may, perhaps, first step, on the way toward — we see from the very next sentence that this is yet another case of Pope Benedict looking at a given problem from every angle, not merely rejecting out of hand the pro-condom argument, but giving thoughtful consideration to it before then coming to the ultimate conclusion — “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.”

    In reading Pope Benedict, it is important to understand that he often thinks out-loud, so to speak, that he goes step by step, first stating the problem, then considering various objections to Church teaching, then explaining why Church teaching must necessarily be true and correct.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    What Pope Benedict says here is wholly consistent with what he said in the interview en route to Africa, March 17, 2009 –

    Philippe Visseyrias of France 2: Among the many ills that afflict Africa there is, in particular, the widespread prevalence of AIDS. The Church’s position on how to fight the disease is often considered unrealistic and ineffectual. Will you confront this issue during this trip?

    Pope Benedict: I would say the contrary. I think that the most efficient reality, the most present at the front of the struggle against AIDS, is precisely the Catholic Church, with her movements, with her various organizations. I am thinking of the Sant’Egidio Community that does so much, visibly and also invisibly, for the struggle against AIDS, of the Camilliani, of all the sisters who are at the disposition of the sick.

    I would say that this problem of AIDS can’t be overcome only with publicity slogans. If there is not the soul, if the Africans are not helped. The scourge can’t be resolved with the distribution of condoms: on the contrary, there is a risk of increasing the problem. The solution can only be found in a double commitment: first, a humanization of sexuality, that is, a spiritual and human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another; and second, a true friendship, also and above all for those who suffer, the willingness — even with sacrifice and self-denial — to be with the suffering. And these are the factors that help and that lead to visible progress.

    Because of this, I would say that this, our double effort to renew man interiorly, to give spiritual and human strength for correct behavior with regard to one’s body and that of another, and this capacity to suffer with those who suffer, to remain present in situations of trial. It seems to me that this is the correct answer, and the Church does this and thus offers a very great and important contribution. We thank all those who do this.

  • Stephanie

    Wow, that is awesome. Reading your excerpt, I don’t take it to mean that the Pope considers condom use “good” or “moral” as much as better than doing nothing and showing that someone is one the first step of the road to a more perfect moral understanding ( the end of which, I assume, would be understanding why abstinence is the moral route and choosing that path). Any acknowledgement from the Church that in some cases condom use can be good is welcome.

  • Stephanie

    Wow, that is awesome. Reading your excerpt, I don’t take it to mean that the Pope is recommending condoms as a good insofar as recommending it as better than nothing in certain situations. His view of sexuality as a moral path, in which using a condom if HIV + is a first step towards the goal of understanding and accepting the more advanced moral position (abstinence) is wonderful.

  • eko

    I knew (know) exactly what Pope Benedict means in my heart – and it is the right thing!! But, I tell you — the mind (the MSM and satan) wants to twist things and hear it another way. He means what he says and the world re-interprets it to be ugly, sinful and worldly. Big surprise…

  • Greta

    Slightly confused on this. Homosexual acts are gravely disordered and should never take place as homosexuals are supposed to control this disorder and keep it zipped. So why would a condom be needed if they follow Catholic teaching? This is kind of like saying robbing a bank is wrong and against church teaching but if you are going to do it anyway, take a gun for protection.

    Every time the Church tries to modify in any way a church teaching to try to appease those who hate the Church, it gets messy. Much more simple to say there is never a reason to use a condom if one follows church teaching. I will never understand changing truth unless there is clear evidence of it no longer being true. Give liberals an inch and they will want to stick the entire thing somewhere unpleasant.

    [Good heavens, this is not about "giving liberals an inch." It's about dealing with the world as it is. "Keep it zipped" is wonderful advice, but many choose not to heed it and have no relationship with Christ or the church. This is by no means the pope saying, "do what you please." -admin]

  • Saul

    Yes, terrible reporting. As many folks are pointing out, the Pope’s not saying anything new.

    The Roman Catholic church’s position on sexuality is well known – briefly, sex is meant only for married people in a manner open to conception.

    Outside of this, whether the parties use condoms or not does not really matter. If you’re going to rob, whether you use a gun or a knife doesn’t matter.

    However, if you’re going to rob, it is better to do it without physically hurting someone. That’s basically what Benedict has said.

    Nothing new in this.

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    [Anne Marie; gonna tell you one time: UNCAP and STOP YELLING or you will not comment here. Also, hysteria is not helpful. Think about what the pope is saying. Read some of the analysis. Do you really, really hear the pope saying that sex outside of marriage--of any kind--is quite alright with him? -admin]


    Sorry about the caps. Please believe i didn’t mean to sound like i was yelling,i really did not.
    But that aside, i really believe the things i was taught in “religion class”.
    Does anyone here feel the same as i do ?

    “Your “website is “wonderful.
    Please forgive me i just started to blog anywhere ! I’m 62 and not the world’s greatest typist. Keep up the “great work”!
    Anne Marie

    [Bad typing can be forgiven. :-) Please read the many excerpts I've provided, particularly this one, and I think it will set your mind at ease. -admin]

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Even if we rely solely on the misleading MSM excerpt — “It of course does not see it as a real and moral solution” — how does one rationally convert condoms are not a real solution, condoms are not a moral solution to “condom use can be good” or “use of condoms in some circumstances is justified”??

    Even if we rely on MSM excerpt, we are still looking at a case of the MSM, the Catholic left, and the condom pushers twisting the Pope’s words to mean the exact opposite of what he actually said — and sadly, it seems that an awful lot of people are getting taken in by this deceit.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    And, unfortunately, guys like Thavis and Allen are only confusing the issue more with their “it is an unsettled question” comments. Indeed, more often than not Thavis ends up causing obfuscation rather than clarity with his “reporting.”

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  • cathyf

    I think that part of the difficulty is a focus on the inanimate object (the condom) rather than the intentions of the users. Inanimate objects don’t sin and aren’t virtuous, they don’t make moral decisions! Suppose you came upon the scene of a terrible accident where a person’s foot had been crushed, and you used a condom to tie a tourniquet and save the person’s life. This is unambiguously virtuous, of course — it has nothing to do with marriage or sex or contraception, but it is surely “the use of a condom.” Or (a less far-fetched example) suppose you have a woman who is infected with HIV during her hysterectomy surgery, and then she and her husband use condoms to prevent him from becoming infected. There is no contraception involved, and the sex is within marriage. This is similar to the example that Bill gave of married couples using condoms on infertile days when one spouse is HIV positive and the other is not. And these arguments go for other forms of “contraception.” You have a young single woman with severe endometriosis who is chaste, and she takes continuous birth control pills in order to prevent further injury to her internal organs and to preserve some fertility for when she does get married. Again, it’s a tool — and tools themselves are morally neutral; it is only the work done with the tools which is good or evil.

    Part of the way that the secular world ridicules the Church’s position on birth control is that so often the discussion is in the form of a discussing the tools of contraception rather than the moral decisions being made by the users of the tools, and, yeah, the notion that an inanimate object is sinful is ridiculous.

  • Joe Blow

    A way to put it that would be more offensive to a lot of people but an accurate summation is that using a condom is a lesser sin than willy-nilly infecting people with STD’s. The choice of a lesser evil reflects at least some minimal quantum of moral clarity. Nevertheless, it’s still a conscious choice to commit a sin.


    To Joe Blow,
    thank you for your statement:
    its still a conscious choice to commit a sin.
    i agree with you completely.
    what is wrong is wrong/what is right is right ,i don’t think —THE LORD WROTE A NEW LAW OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH —ONERNIGHT .
    Practicing homosexual sex is still forbidden as far as i still know !
    God Bless, JOE TAKE CARE !

    [Anne Marie, I'm really serious about the yelling in caps. Please stop doing that. No one, certainly not the pope, has said that sex outside of marriage is no longer sinful. Please calm down. -admin]

  • jeff

    The msm and ‘catholic’ press are so predictably thrilled by this comment of Bxvi. “Gee, maybe this means the church will do away with humanae vitae!” You can hear the misplaced excitement in the response to this.

    ["Gee maybe this means the church will do away with humanae vitae" If anyone thinks that, the more fool, them. The biggest problem with that prophetic document was that it was barely read by anyone and the church allowed the media to define it. -admin]

  • Bill F.

    Here is the mystery….the beatitudes don’t stand a chance of generating so many updates as to learned commentary.
    Centuries ago usury was central and generated saints declaiming against certain cities. Will we ever see excited updates around the sermon on the mount.

  • C.L.

    I’m sorry to say it but this statement by the Pope is a disaster for the Church. And the old “it was the media wot done it” excuse is starting to get dated. This isn’t the media’s fault.

    For the Vicar of Christ to make a remark about such an important and controversial subject via such peculiar and casual means – thus opening up a years-long ‘debate’ about a thousand other putatively justifiable uses of condoms – is worrying. The end result will be parents, teachers, bishops, apologists and catechists being swamped and bamboozled by supposed exceptions to the rule (“But Pope Benedict said…”).

    If you read the article–and the updates–you see the pope speaking specifically about male prostitution. That’s not precisely “open to life” to begin with…

    Well nor is female prostitution. But the Church will now be obliged to say that female ‘sex workers’ and their clients are also doing some measure of the ‘right thing’ by using condoms. From there, it’s not too far a jump to say, ‘sure, having sex with my teenage girlfriend may be wrong but my concern that she not get pregnant at our age at least signifies and/or portends a more caring, mature and ethical approach to our fornication.’

    You can shut this gate, folks, because the horse has bolted.

    [How is female prostitution not open to life? I think the pope knew precisely what he was doing in giving this response to Seewald. -admin]

  • Jeff

    I think C.L. has laid out the case against the comment well. I believe it is Church doctrine that the pope is only protected from error when he is speaking ex cathedra on a matter of faith or morals, or in the exercise of the ordinary magisterium. As Anchoress says, I won’t be surprised if clarifications are forthcoming from the Holy See shortly. The MSM are already jumping from the pope’s very limited comment to the claim that artificial contraception is now ok..

  • http://www.reflectionsofaparalytic.com Chelsea

    Thanks for the link! And thanks for keeping up on all of this! BTW: The head of the Holy See Press Office has finally issued a statement of clarification: Link

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    ex cathedra, faith and morals, etc., etc. –

    Ah, yes, we see now another Church teaching where people have taken a sentence or two out of context, ignored everything else, and either misunderstood or distorted what the actual teaching is. A very useful dodge that has been resorted to by the “progressives” for many years now to justify being able to ignore what the Church teaches.

    The problem is not what the Church, through Pope Benedict, teaches, or the manner in which he and she teach it, nor is the problem the forum of presenting that teaching. If there is anyone who cares to know and to understand what he said — it is all there in absolutely clear black and white. All anyone has to do is read it — READ IT ALL, and not merely a snippet here an isolated word there — read it all, and not merely what he has said in this interview, but what he has said throughout his papacy, and what the Church has always said throughout history.

    The truth is out there for anyone who really wants it.

    The problem is not that the Pope does not know how to communicate, the problem is not that the Vatican press office needs someone to go to Rome to smack them in the head, the problem is that there are people in the world who do not listen, who will not listen, and who purposely twist and distort everything that the Church says for their own ends.

    If Pope Benedict specifically and the Church generally are such poor and lousy communicators, what are we to make of Jesus? Throughout history, He has had a far greater “communication problem” than anyone else. Are we to blame Him, to say that He is at fault for the problems that have resulted??

  • Jeff

    I take it back. Read in fuller context it’s clear that he hasn’t changed anything. But just maybe not the best medium to make this kind of comment. The Holy See had to know what the “wolves” would do with it.

  • Kerani

    An observation on the “I’ll sleep with people outside of marriage but I won’t use a condom because that would be against my religion” line – according to a friend who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, and was working HIV prevention, that is exactly the way the line is being used, i.e., that sleeping with someone outside of marriage is made worse by using a condom.

    I find this wall-head-beating frustrating – to me, compounding the sin of self-indulgent sexuality with risking either infection or an unplanned pregnancy is OBVIOUSLY worse than simple self-indulgence. (And I’m using ‘self-indulgence’ as a short hand for all that non-sanctified sexual relationships encompasses, from a disdain for creation through selfish use of other people and everything else.)

    However, it seems that, as my friend found, ‘it’s okay to sleep around so long as you’re not using a condom’ is the message that is actually getting across, and not ‘sleeping around is wrong, full stop. Sleeping around when you could get/make your partner infected and/or pregnant is even worse.’

    So if what the Pope is saying is that ‘people who sleep around without condoms are sinning more than people who sleep around with condoms’ then that might help get the message across.

    As said above – if we heard that someone we knew mugged a little old lady in the street, we would be horrified. If we heard that in the process of the mugging, the little old lady was killed, we would be even more distressed. To say that one is worse is not to excuse the other.

    (Sorry for such a long comment.)

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  • Bill Bannon

       One poster today on one blog noted a report from a Harvard HIV researcher, Dr. Edward Green, who agreed with Pope Benedict that condoms were not reducing the disease in Africa but noted that they were reducing the disease in Thailand amongst prostitutes in a certain high risk environment.  The Harvard report was first noted by Fr. Z at his blog sometime ago.  NCR this weekend noted that the papally appointed group studying this problem had recommended condoms to reduce the disease but they did not note whether that was just for areas like Thailand’s prostitute district and not for Africa.  Hence Benedict could well have been aware of the Harvard research along with the papal group’s recommendation and that might explain his openness to using the condoms as to male prostitutes specifically where the condoms have been reducing the disease as in Thailand.

  • Deacon Bob

    I think Kerani has got hold of the truth of B16′s statement. With a little more guidance from the Vatican (hopefully not spin on the statement) and a proper translation we all will understand. depending which translation you read, there are: female prostitute, male prostitute, or anyone who has aids and and knowingly passes it on to their partner (either within the marriage or outside included in this.

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  • Richard

    Nuanced or not, this is a theological disaster, and the kingdom of darkness will have a field day. The devil, no doubt, is dancing. He is not alone.

    The end justifies the means. And this from a major Theologian. Dear God.

    Just when I think that my church can shame me no more deeply than it has, it shocks me again.

    In the end it is God and the soul. The rest is straw.



    ["Funereally?" Give me a break! That's nonsense. Don't you have any trust? Yes, so the dark side will try to run with this. You don't believe the Holy Spirit triumphs in the end? That's a sad sort of faith. I see more and more of this doldrum, negativist, stuck-in-the-day and unable to take the long-view sort of Christianity, lately, and I really have no patience for it. Jesus was very clear that the life of faith was not all roses and sunshine, but a long, protracted and supernatural battle. "Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail..." That's the clue, right there, that you hold fast, because the battle is ongoing until He returns. Man up. The media is only the media, and the dark is only the dark. The light pierces it. And is not overcome. Benedict has--like Gandalf and his rod/stick thingy--struck out with intention and there are sparks of light flying. I firmly believe that good will come of this. We may not understand how, why or when, because our minds are not God's, and his timetable is not ours. But I know he will not abandon us, and that the fight goes on. In the end, it IS "God and the soul" as you say. It has ever been thus. But I am not "shamed" by this. I'm excited, not "funereal." admin.]

  • Maureen

    The point is that, when people know zero about morality, their first moral impulse often makes them decide to do something morally wrong. They are flailing around, society presents them with lots of sinful things and pretends they’re good, and they basically have no idea what they’re doing except that they’re trying to be good.

    A kid may try to give another kid a gift by stealing something. That doesn’t make stealing less wrong, and maybe deep inside the kid knows it. But an adult who realized what the kid was trying to do would probably talk to him differently about the theft than one who thought the kid just stole for his own gain.

    The pope is saying not that condoms are okey-doke; but that Christians need to let people know the right way to live, because otherwise, they’re just left guessing and flailing and believing condom commercials. And obviously, people do just that, as the mainstream media is demonstrating this weekend.

  • Richard

    No sale, Elizabeth. I’m excited too–when I see a train hurtling toward me at a distance of five feet. Jesus percipiently asked if, when the Son of Man returns, he will find any faith on the earth. I can see why.

    Benedict is a crafty old campaigner who knows full well the power of a sound byte. I don’t think he sinned. But I certainly think that he blundered.

    God will prevail. But the darkness, too, is forever. Many will be lost in it.

    Knowing as well as you the difference between sense and nonsense,


    [No sale, Richard. I don't think he blundered. I think he is paving the way for illumination so that many will be able to find their way out of the darkness to which they have unwittingly subscribed. But we'll have to agree to disagree. I trust the workings of the Spirit; they always have a way of working out, in ways that were not obvious amid the tumult. -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Another thing that must be considered here, is the evils of the sex/trade-human trafficking racket.

    Yes, providing condoms to prostitutes might limit the spread of STD’s to a certain extent (though condo9ms are far from infallible), but the evils of buying, selling and abusing children and young women for the sex trade will still remain. Prostitutes, whether male or female, are frequently unable to choose anything, let alone whether or not they can use condoms to protect themselves from disease; shouldn’t the Pope be condemning this?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    And when I say “condemning this” I mean condemning human trafficking, not condemning Prostitutes for not being given condoms (Their pimps are beyond caring about that.)

  • Stefanie

    Crafty? Our Benny? Uh, not at all. Like someone else posted somewhere else today, B16 is a typical professor — he talks through his argument, picking up energy and steam as he goes. That’s why he’s so good at ‘off the cuff’ remarks and can pull from a Catholic (and agnostic) treasurehouse of sources.

    We Catholics have always put all our trust in ‘nonsense’ — the giving of the 10 commandments, the virgin birth of Jesus, that the death of Jesus = our salvation from the power of satan & sin, that everyone’s body will rise again whether they sinned or not in order to be reunited with their souls and to be judged by the One who loved us ‘from the beginning’ — yah, that all makes perfect sense.

    And the ‘darkness’ is not forever! Temporary ‘darkness’ is in purgatory where all of us must go first after death. Yet Jesus is there to still show us the way if we choose it. (“the spirits in prison”). In that darkness there is no more satan — who is the prince of THIS world, not of purgatory. No more distractions. There is no darkness in Hell or Heaven — it will indeed be bright enough–even in hell– to see where we are and we will know why the Final Judgment put us there.

    Our King went into the darkness so that he could show us how to walk out of it and into His Marvelous Light.

  • Jeff

    I love BXVI, but at times like this we need a Pius XII.

  • Greta

    I have deep and profound respect for Benedict XVI and for the teaching of the Catholic Church as well as the trust in the fact that in matters of faith and morals that the Pope is infallible. My concern with this entire matter is that there are those in the Church in leadership positions who for generations have not agreed with Humane Vitae and have done everything possible to subvert the teaching resulting in millions who have fallen into sin. Many of these same leanings are not as adverse to homosexual acts as the church teaching and some have supported active gays in the seminaries over the years as everyone knows. When Benedict speaks or writes something, one would hope and I certainly believe that it has come with deep thought. However, at the same time, I think he is a little bit too Christlike in his trust of others who distort those words and at the same time he seems a little reluctant to try to straighten them out in a vigorous way. Again, this may be his faith and love, but in our world, there is a price that is paid by the sheep when the shepherd’s voice is allowed to be distorted. For generations after Vatican II, we had gross distortions of what happen in the counsel. I do not understand these matters as to why the Church is not more forthcoming with making certain that these distortions and outright dissent have not been stopped. Reading Church history, there was a time when strong dissent was not tolerated and if not corrected, action by the Church was taken. We seldom see that anymore. However, it will not change my strong belief in Benedict XVI or the Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ with His promise to be with us to the end of time. I just wish that at times, the Church leadership would fight vigorously for her teachings and when something like this happens, not wait weeks or months to have something solid and definitive that no one can misunderstand.

    ["he is a little bit too Christlike in his trust of others who distort those words" -- Greta, who was the victor? The world is always going to contain those who will distort something for their own purposes; Jesus certainly knew that, and so does Benedict. They understand that the whole process of redemption and salvation rests ultimately upon people choosing Christ, and on their intent. The wolves have always been there, will always be there, and some will fall into their clutches, and that is when we remember Christ teaching about the mercy of the shepherd for his sheep. As to your wishing that "when something like this happens, not wait weeks or months to have something solid..." First of all, nothing terrible "happened"--a light was shone into a crack--and I think less than 24hours is a pretty good turnaround for the Vatican! :-) -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Something is needed, definitely.

    But I don’t think this is it.

  • propitiousmoment

    What in the world is someone who has supposedly never had sex doing pontificating about how everybody else “ought” to be doing it?

    [So...someone who has never been injured in war has no business decrying such injuries? Someone who has never had an abortion cannot discuss it? Someone who has never written a law has no business telling lawmakers what they think of their legislation? Someone who has never been pope has no business telling anyone else how he oughta do it? Then I guess everyone should just shut up about anything they've never personally done? Gonna put a lot of writers, pundits, talking heads and umm...blog commenters...out of business, as we all shut up. -admin]

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    I think he is a little bit too Christlike

    That is NEVER a vice. We should all be “a little bit too Christlike.” If that is so in this case, then, again, the problem is not the Pope’s, the problem is everyone who fails to listen.

  • Joy McCann/Miss Attila

    Didn’t the Lord eat meals with prostitutes and tax collectors?

  • Jeff

    George Weigel has an excellent article over on this over at National Review. Typically brilliant and funny in places, where he talks about the media’s obsession with “Salvation by Latex” and “condomania.”

  • Steve Cavanaugh

    In Susan Howatch’s novel (the third of the “St. Benet Trilogy”, a continuation of her 6-novel “Starbridge” series on the Church of England) The Heartbreaker, the main character is a male prostitute; Gavin’s moral evolution is traced in the course of the novel, until his final freedom from a life which he finally is able to see is one of degradation. The novel’s storyline is a perfect illustration of the Holy Father’s comment over time, about a gradual “recovering of awareness” of the moral life.
    I suspect many, if not most, people require time to realize the full implications of what it is to be good, especially if they are grievously wounded. St. Paul, after all, while he had an immediate conversion en route to Damascus, then needed three years to understand just what this encounter with Jesus meant, and then spent the rest of his life going deeper into the life of Christ.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    You have a point, Steve, but this “recovering awareness” thing can get carried to the point of the ridiculous.

    You could, for instance, postulate a rapist, who always uses condoms, when assaulting a victim—after all, he’s recognizing their humanity, in trying not to spread disease, right? And, given time, he might decide to change his ways. Maybe.

    Or, you could have a slum landlord, who, though he abuses his tenants, gives them a nice Christmas present each year. Given time, maybe he’ll change, or start being nice. Or a man who travels to third world countries, to exploit child prostitutes there. He always uses a condom, so as to try not to spread disease, and gives them presents, and maybe he just needs more time to recover his awareness of the spiritual life.

    As I said before, this whole thing is becoming too nitpicky, and too complicated. And it could be seriously misinterpreted.

  • Joy McCann/Miss Attila

    I really don’t understand this school of thought wherein the Holy Father shouldn’t say anything that can be misinterpreted by the media.

    If that’s the approach, we ought to duct-tape his mouth shut.

  • Jeff

    I don’t think the school of thought is that all-encompassing, but more limited to areas like human sexuality which are easily prone to MSM distortion. It’s above my pay grade though, to borrow a phrase.