Monday, November 22, 2010

Mixed Blessings?

I picked up the Washington Post Express at the bus stop this morning. There it was, a photo of the Holy Father (not the one here, but we take what we can get), with the headline:

MIXED BLESSING: Pope's support of some condom use may mark a change in stance the church isn't ready for

I think it's the press that wasn't ready. Here's what was reported in the aforementioned periodical, in a piece by Victor L Simpson for the Associated Press:

Just a year after he said condoms could be making the AIDS crisis worse, Benedict said that for some people, such as male prostitutes, using them could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection." ... The pope says in his own writings that he takes personal responsibility for the remarks, meaning they are not official church teaching.

The “intention” of “assuming moral responsibility.” That is an important distinction here. In the case of a married couple with the husband infected by HIV, he might have a specifically informed intention NOT to impede nature through the use of a barrier method, but instead to prevent his wife from becoming infected. That does not change the objective moral error of using a barrier method, but it might possibly mitigate the degree of error for the husband. That said, to determine its moral objectivity requires complete honesty with oneself, and diligent recourse to one's confessor, so as to examine one's conscience more properly. Again, this is not the same as saying that using a condom is morally acceptable. The key here is the intention of the user, which is something that an empty suit on the evening news is in no position to determine.

Here's a quotation from the Pope, as it appeared in the actual Peter Seewald interview, courtesy of Father Z (with the good Father's trademark emphases preserved):

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.

Sounds a lot like what I said, doesn't it? And I didn't even look at his explanation for help with mine. "Great minds ..."

Meanwhile, in this clip from ITV News, writer Austin Ivereigy says using condoms as a contraception are still forbidden, but he manages to muddy the waters just the same. Despite the good intentions of those who attempt to explain the whys and the wherefores, there are two things that will be ignored in all the fuss over this.

1) For all the complaints that the Church has not shown sufficient compassion to HIV/AIDS victims, one-fourth of said victims throughout the world are being cared for in facilities under Catholic auspices. In some parts of Africa, they stand alone in this regard.

2) Most Catholics, including the real brainiacs here in the United States, will get their entire catechism lesson on this subject from newspapers like the Washington Post, and little else.

Here's where they should really go:

Jimmy Akin (for the National Catholic Register)
Simcha Fisher
Carol McKinley
Catholic World Report
Leticia Valesquez
Father John Zuhlsdorf (1, 2, or 3)

... and, of course, I'm always available right here, when my day job doesn't get in the way.

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