Thursday, November 25, 2010

What the Pope really said about condoms

The world’s press is a slut when it comes to taking pot shots at the Catholic Church. Everyone wants to be the first to unravel dirt about Her, even when there isn’t any to be found. Hearsay is good enough, so long as they can spin a yarn for the world to believe the Church is nothing but an ancient relic, no longer to be held as the voice of God for the salvation and moral good of mankind.

So when Pope Benedict XVI answered a question regarding condoms in relation to someone using it to prevent the spread of Aids, his words were twisted to mean the Church has suddenly changed its teaching of over 2,000 years, which can never happen. The Church has and can never change its doctrines and, in this case, the use of contraception.

In this particular instance, L’Osservatore Romano, was the culprit. The paper self-styles itself as the Vatican newspaper but has long lost its stature as a defender of the Catholic faith as it leans more to the whims and fancies of its secular journalists and editors. In the report on Pope Benedict’s comments on condoms, it mistranslated the original German language of the interview to indicate the Church now allows the use of condoms in particular cases, especially by prostitutes in the service of their clients.

What the Pope said when asked about this:

“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”

The Pope never said that condoms are justified in such instances, but that its use may signal the first step in a change of heart in the prostitute that he or she could take further on the road to repentance. Needless to say L’Osservatore’s report was picked up by newspapers and television and radio news stations around the world to announce the purported change in Catholic doctrine. There is now confusion and many faithful Catholics, and men and women of goodwill faithful to God are caught in a bind on what the Church actually teaches.

To begin with, the Catholic Church has consistently taught that sex outside of marriage is always wrong and the use of contraception is in direct violation of the Divine plan in the creation of life. The only method taught by the Church is abstinence in family planning. Sex outside of marriage and prostitution is not in the natural order in the creation of life and therefore immoral. So the question of using contraception in these cases does not even come up for justification when their acts are sinful for a start.

How can there be any good in a sinful act to lessen the impact of another sinful act? Evil is evil, period.

A clear understanding of what the Pope actually said can be found in the analyses of several commentators. Among them is Father Joseph Fessio, a Jesuit priest and founder and editor of Ignatius Press in his commentary “Did the Pope justify condom use in circumstances?”. Some excerpts:

“It is important to note that there are two very serious mistranslations in the Italian version of the Pope’s remarks, upon which many early reports were based, since the embargo was broken by the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. (That’s another story.) First, the German speak of ‘ein Prostituierte’, which can only be a male prostitute. The normal German word for prostitute is ‘[eine] Prostituierte’, which is feminine and refers only to a woman. The Italian translation ‘una prostituta” simply reverses what the Pope says.
Equally problematically, ‘giustificati’ = justified, was used in the Italian translation of ‘begr√ľndete’, and arbitrarily resolves the ambiguity one-sidedly. The Pope responded: She [the Church] 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’.”

… “Here’s an example of this distinction that parallels what the Pope said. Muggers are using steel pipes to attack people and the injuries are severe. Some muggers use padded pipes to reduce the injuries, while still disabling the victim enough for the mugging. The Pope says that the intention of reducing injury (in the act of mugging) could be a first step toward greater moral responsibility. This would not justify the following headlines: ‘Pope Approves Padded Pipes for Mugging’, ‘Pope Says Use of Padded Pipes Justified in Some Circumstances’, ‘Pope Permits Use of Padded Pipes in Some Cases’.”

Read more of Fr Fessio’s analysis: Did the Pope justify condom use in circumstances?

Other commentaries:
1) Cardinal Burke: What the Pope really meant
2) Falsely quoting the pope