November
22
  3:34:13 PM

Pope’s comments on condoms launch controversy


 

Well, I’m glad that I am not handling Vatican public relations. Here’s a curly one about condoms from Joseph Ratzinger speaking as a private individual, and not as “The Vatican”, or “The Holy Father”. Understandably, it is difficult to separate the two, which is why we have a controversy. See Jack Valero, of Catholic Voices, a UK group, attempting to explain it to the BBC in the YouTube video above.

Here’s what happened, as related by Rachel Donadio, of the New York Times, in an unusually nuanced piece.

Back in July Peter Seewald, a German journalist who scripted two previous books of interviews with Cardinal Ratzinger, interviewed him again. This new book, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” will be published this week by Ignatius Press. (Boy, are they going to clean up on this one!)

In the book, [writes Ms Donadio] Benedict said condoms were not “a real or moral solution” to the AIDS epidemic, adding, “that can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.” But he also said that “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.”

There have been various interpretations of this brief remark. Janet Smith did a good job in Catholic World Report.

Let me try to interpret it myself.

The Pope is being subtle, a bit too subtle for 30-second sound bites. He was just making the psychologically realistic point that if (for instance), the Iranian government were to commute the punishment for adultery from stoning to beheading because it was swifter and more merciful, that would mark a moral advance. Its conscience, its sense of human rights would have begun to stir. Which, in itself, is a good thing. It’s far from being enough – as they are still executing women in an incredibly barbaric way. But it would give a glimmer of hope that someday their attitude would soften even further.

The point the Pope made related to gay promiscuity -- if someone starts using condoms so as not to endanger others, that indicates a tiny step forward towards more compassion, and even towards a proper understanding of sexuality. But gay sex, with or without condoms, remains wrong. 

I suggest that we all read the book before getting too excited.

 
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