Saturday, November 20, 2010

Condoms, a Book Excerpt, the Pope, and Getting a Grip


Updated (November 21, 2010)
The following is among the shortest, and most lucid, clarifications of yesterday's SNAFU I've run into:(A tip of the hat to MatthewWarner, on Twitter, for the heads-up on that link.)
Update (November 20, 2010)
I've added to the News and Views links at the end of this article. It seems that L'Osservatore Romano may have jumped the gun on releasing news about an upcoming book. About the Pope: not by the Pope.
[Expletive] hit the fan again.

This time, it's Pope Benedict XVI (allegedly) saying that condoms are okay. Thereby proving whatever it is that needs to be proved this week.

Maybe it'll be that the Pope hates homosexuals and wants to kill children - or perhaps the other way around.

Now What? Another Pope Rumor

Over the decades, I've heard and read some quite inventive things in the news. And even more wide-ranging flights of fancy as folks who heard someone talk about a headline they saw add their bit to the story.

Today's flying fewmet density reminded me of the recent elections - and suggested that I should find out what the Holy Father actually said.

As nearly as I can tell, one of the major sources - maybe the source - of this fuss is a none-too-exciting excerpt from a book. Here's a link and a copy of the remarks, as posted:
"Pope Benedict XVI discusses condoms and the spread of HIV"
Book Excerpt
The Catholic World Report (undated: apparently November 20, 2010)

"An excerpt from Light of the World, Peter Seewald's book-length interview with Pope Benedict XVI

"From Chapter 11, 'The Journeys of a Shepherd,' pages 117-119:"

"On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican's policy on AIDs once again became the target of media criticism.Twenty-five percent of all AIDs victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you
stated that the Church's traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church's own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.


"The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on AIDs. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many AIDs victims, especially children with AIDs.

"I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

"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."
That was a bit of an anticlimax, wasn't it?

This sort of thing usually is.

An even more boring - but informative - discussion of the Holy See's view on related matters is online at the Vatican's website:By now, about an hour and a half after I skimmed through that book expert, some folks are saying that the news media did a fine job of reporting the story. Well, maybe they did.

Now, my take:
  • Do I take this 'Pope says use condoms' thing seriously?
    • No
      • This looks like another silly rumor
    • Yes
      • Some practicing Catholics feel hurt and betrayed by the Pope
        • Possibly because they haven't learned to take news and commentary with a few pounds of salt
        • That's sad
  • Do I believe that that today's fuss is some kinda plot?
    • No
      • Tempting as it is to whip up a conspiracy theory involving space aliens and Elvis
I'm quite certain that folks who are convinced that Catholic teachings are hateful and wrong - that, for example, human beings cannot control their sexual urges, and shouldn't be expected to do so - will see today's fuss as 'proof' that the Pope is a doo-doo head but too stupid to realize that he's (allegedly) contradicted himself. Like I wrote, back when pedophile priests were all the rage:Do I think that, if I dug deep enough, I'd find a situation in which a practicing Catholic could use a condom for it's on-label purpose? It's possible. The Catholic Church doesn't deal in sound bite theology or one-size-fits-all draconian rules.

Do I think that, if I dug deep enough, I'd discover that the Catholic Church advocates the sort of irresponsible hedonism that quite a few Americans seem to think is a 'right?' No. Not really. It's not that we don't like fun - I'll be getting back to that idea, eventually - it's that the Catholic Church takes human beings seriously, and acts accordingly.

And that's a whole lot of other topics.

Somewhat-related posts:News:Views:
A tip of the hat to Christomicro and CurtJester, on Twitter, for drawing my attention to the book excerpt.
And a big thank you to LisaGraas, on Twitter, for drawing attention to planetcatholic's inclusion of this post in today's The Planet Catholic Daily.

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