Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 6:54 AM
After all, just last year he spoke in such doctrinaire and absolute terms about the abomination of condoms that I felt moved to note that:
What most distinguishes Catholic teaching in Africa (and throughout the rest of the developing world) from Protestant teaching is the zealousness with which Catholic missionaries are spreading the perverse message that the use of condoms – not only as a contraceptive to prevent unwanted pregnancies but even as a prophylactic to prevent HIV/AIDS – is an abomination against God.
(Pope’s hypocritical warning about ‘new colonialism’ in Africa, The iPINIONS Journal, October 5, 2009)
I was reacting to the following instruction the Pope gave to Africans during his first papal visit to their HIV-ravaged continent last year:
Traditional teaching of the Church on chastity outside marriage and fidelity within it had proved to be the only sure way of preventing the spread of HIV and Aids…. [Aids] cannot be overcome by the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.
(Pope instructs Africans to risk their lives to save their souls, TIJ, March 23, 2009)
Clearly there is nothing relative in this teaching about the use of condoms. On the contrary, it states a moral (and, he would have you believe, scientific) absolute!
What are mere mortals to make then of the Pope now offering absolution in some cases for those who use condoms:
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…
[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.
(L’Osservatore Romano, November 20, 2010)
Of course, by this moral reasoning, one could argue that using a condom to protect a spouse or lover from contracting any STD or, God forbid, HIV, is “a first assumption of responsibility” that should also be morally acceptable. For the intention here would be to prevent the transmission of infection, not the development of life.
In any case, there’s no gainsaying the fact that this latest pronouncement means that the Pope was wrong (i.e., all too fallible) when he pontificated last year that the use of condoms increases the spread of HIV/AIDS.
But if this new does not constitute the proverbial slippery slope into the moral relativism the Pope decries, I don’t know what does. For example, why shouldn’t married couples who are genetically disposed to recurring miscarriages infer now that they have the Pope’s blessing to use condoms to prevent this killing of a fetus every time a pregnancy occurs?
Indeed, to be morally consistent, the Pope would have to grant absolution for the use of condoms in every case where the intention is not solely to prevent a healthy pregnancy. Because to draw a red line anywhere else would be to sanction moral relativism ad absurdum….
Nevertheless, instead of condemning him as a hypocrite again – for retreating from his absolute, inhuman and inhumane pronouncement against the use of condoms, I applaud the Pope condoning their use … ”in this or that case.” For this clearly marks his first step toward a more enlightened view of the complex dynamics, considerations, and motivations involved in human sexuality.
* This commentary was written and submitted for syndication on Sunday, November 21.