22 November 2010

.... BUT ....: the Pope and the condoms

I'm not in the habit of attacking the Sovereign Pontiff. Moreover, I don't usually criticise his advisers and assistants, because so often his critics attack them simply as a craven and cowardly way attacking the pope himself but doing it by proxy. For similar reasons, I haven't even ever attacked his Press and PR people.

But ... as a humble and simple pastor, I really would prefer that items which are going to hit the headlines were not sprung on us late on Saturday, so that we're short of time in getting things straight ready for enquirers after Sunday Mass. As with this condoms business.

Having contemplated the BBC translation of the German texts, I see what the Holy Father's words mean. He is saying that if a rent-boy has unprotected sex, he is committing two sins: the mortal sin of homosexual genital intercourse; and the mortal sin of risking communicating a lethal infection. If, however, he uses a condom, while he is still committing the first of those mortal sins, he has to a degree excluded the second. By so doing he has, as we might say, taken a step in the right direction. But he has still committed a mortal sin and is still, objectively speaking, not in a state of grace. There is a sense in which it is not as bad to commit one sin as it is to commit two; but the commission of one mortal sin still means that one is objectively in that state of alienation from God which we Christians call Not Being In a State of Grace.

Our enemies, of course, do not understand (and have no interest in understanding) about Being In a State of Grace. Secularists are, even when they hold Oxford professorships, a generally dim lot ... dim because of a bigoted determination not to understand. They just want to ask blunt and unnuanced questions about "Is it All Right to use condoms?". Within this toddler-level mode of moral discourse, our Holy Father's simple statement of the moderately obvious is bound to seem to them like a "change in his implacable opposition to the use of condoms". So we have to listen to these dreary half-wits condescending to a rather abler mind than theirs by saying that "the pope has at least learned a little from experience". Thank God, he has done nothing of the sort.

Behind all this there is the determination of secularists to spread, by hook or by crook, fornication, adultery, and most other sexual disorders (not at the moment paedophilia, of course, because that is at the moment a handy stick with which to belabour the Church). They bleat incessantly about the plight of AIDS victims in Africa, but only a fool would believe that these well-heeled and malevolent chatterers lose a moment's sleep worrying about such problems. Often sexually incontinent themselves, their relentless desire is to remake humankind in their own corrupt image. The Devil has blinded these intellectual giants to the fact, obvious to any simpleton reading the papers, that the sexual licence which they so successfully promoted in the second half of the twentieth century has led to an explosion of lethal bodily ailments such that even a classical utilitarian in the dear simplistic old John Stuart Mill tradition would be able to discern their immorality in promoting the vices which are so dear to them and so deadly to the multitudes whom they are successful in corrupting.

This business may have several outcomes. The lying classes may be successful in their attempt to create an impression that the Catholic Church is now gradually "seeing sense" on condoms, and thus to reinforce those who have been deceived by the Spirit of the Age into their wrongdoing. On the other hand, it is so obvious that what the pope has said has a nil bearing on questions of morality of contraception and of homosexuality that they may soon return to pointing this out and attacking him on all their old familiar grounds. Given Screwtape's skill in getting the best of two contradictory worlds, they may very well go for both these mutually exclusive conclusions simultaneously.

Perhaps some of the Pope's 'friends' (with 'friends' like his, who needs enemies?) will say that he has expressed himself in a way that lays him open to being misunderstood. But think about it. He has very carefully done exactly the opposite. Had he taken, for his exemplum, a heterosexual couple one of whom was infected with AIDS, he would have indeed left himself wide open to the superficially plausible accusation of a U-turn opening the door to the liceity of contraception within marriage. By using the exemplum of a rent boy, he has made this impossible. Nobody could seriously think that, overnight, a pope had so far moved from the Church's previous moral teaching as now to uphold the liceity of homosexual intercourse and of prostitution ... simultaneously.

Nobody, that is, except journalists verging on imbecillity or mired in habitual mendacity.

15 comments:

GOR said...

Congratulations, Father! Your third paragraph is the best and most succinct clarification I’ve seen of what the Holy Father not only said – but meant – by his words.

Much ink has and will be spilt – and pixels generated – to explain, excuse, clarify, nuance and generally misuse Pope Benedict’s words. But you have put it all in a nutshell. Bravo!

Have you considered writing for l’Osservatore Romano? They could use you…

Fr John Abberton said...

I understand it was the "Osservatore Romano" that leaked the discussion about condoms. (I am becoming increasingly impatient with the vatican newspaper). may I recommend the inteerview on Zenit with Dr. Janet Smith who is a wonderful moral philospoher?:
http://www.zenit.org/article-31026?l=english

Fr LR said...

May I be so bold?

-----
Headline:
POPE PROPOSES PROPHYLACTIC PARADIGM: aka “rubberisticus faggus dikus”
-----

Is it just me or are we all wondering what in blazes was the pope was thinking? Why even go there at all? Damn.

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

Amen and amen! Pitch-perfect, succinct, and true down to the commas. Thanks for that.

Hayden said...

This is sure to confound those who felt that the "bad" of adultery was cancelled or mitigated somewhat by the "good" of not wearing a rubber. The obvious meaning of our Pope's teaching must of course now be understood that the "bad" of adultery is now cancelled by the "good" of wearing a rubber in certain circumstances! Wonderful, all the acts of adultery I was hoping to commit but for the prohibition of condom usage, is now acceptable since I get to wear a rubber? Yeah! This might be a good Monty Python skit...

Father John Boyle said...

Yes, yes, yes, the Pope has not changed Church teaching on contraception, but... I feel his words are confusing and imprecise. Here is a quote:

She (the Church) 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.

Which, cases, precisely? How is such behaviour a movement toward a more human way of living sexuality, i.e. a movement away from a less human way of living it.

Sorry, I don't get it.

The Flying Dutchman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Flying Dutchman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Flying Dutchman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Flying Dutchman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Flying Dutchman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Flying Dutchman said...

Fr John Abberton has referred to an interview with the moral philosopher, Dr Janet Smith. Here is an article by her on this same topic:
"Pope Benedict on condoms in Light of the World."

I found this quite helpful.

Hayden said...

I have a hard time distinguishing the words of the H-Father in this instance from the words of Paul in 1 Cor 7:1-15? It seems clear that both men acknowledge that there is prefered path for human sexuality but each offer alternatives for the weaker ones in order to shepard them gradually from carnality and towards piety on some level. It seems to me that Fr. Hunwicke rightly points out that the focus is on the path to grace for those outside of grace as opposed to the use of condoms serving as a litmus test of being in grace. Surely the recent message cannot be read by the faithful to indicate affirmitively somehow that the use of condoms for adultery or to cut-off the path to new life for the sake of carnality is somehow pious. The world will probably take it that way (hence my earlier crude joke, sorry) but we are not guided by the acts of man but the spirit of God.

Is their really any honest discussion about these savages commiting adulterous acts somehow electing not to use condoms because the Catholic Church is against it? That would seem peculiar wouldn't it? It seems that the Pope, like Paul, is trying to wrestle a wild bull into the pen as opposed to addressing problems within the church congregation (but perhaps not faithful).

Fr LR said...

Upon further consideration, I realize that condoms for male prostitutes is a make-or-break issue for the church. I'm glad I've got some authoritative talking points on the subject now. My next question is whether pasties on strippers indicates a shift toward the good?

RJ said...

Dear Father John: I think you have highlighted the wrong words in your post. If one were to highlight *in the intention*, it would be much clearer.