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The Pope November 29, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic.
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I was out of town, but I heard about the Pope’s condom comments.  I don’t know what to think, other than granting a book length interview during a Papacy is both unprecendented and seemingly not very wise.  I pray that one day the Vatican will get a top-notch 1950’s PR team together.  That would be an improvement by about a century. 

UPDATE: This is a complete disaster.  The comments above (I deleted them later) were based on early analysis of events as of last weeked – subsequent “clarifications” have been far, far worse – apparently, women, men, whomever can use condoms at will provided they intend to prevet the spread of VD.  This, although not Magisterial, would represent a HUGE change in Church Doctrine, a disastrous change, because hte Truth cannot change, right?  I think the Pope was trying to speak extemporeanously without causing the firestorm he caused last year with his comments on a flight to Africa, and he appears to have stumbled in to a potentially bigger controversy.  No wonder he looked so lost and exhausted last night at the Vigil for Nascet life. 

Seriously, tell me how this is not a serious problem.  This opens the door hugely wide for contraceptive use, a radical change in Church Doctrine (contraceptive use has been opposed since the inception of the Church, all the Fathers were opposed, vehemently so), and an incredibly muddle-headed moral analysis, to boot.  I’ll have to seriously consider SSPX if this train of “moral theology” continues.  I would say the Vatican-SSPX and Vatican-Orthodox talks just hit an enormous impasse.

UPDATE2:  I don’t know how much blogging I’ll do today – I thought of a number of items over the last week I wanted to cover, but right now I’m not certain I’ll get to them.  I found a copy of the Ratzinger Report at my father in law’s old house, and I’m reading that, and I had some thoughts last night, because in that other book length interview, the Pope seems to indicate exactly the opposite of what he’s saying now, just as he seemed to say a year or so ago on that fabled flight to Africa, when he decried any condom use for AIDS prevention.  But now, it’s apparently a positive moral good to use condoms.  In fact, the Pope’s statement is very hard to wrap one’s head around, as it is worded in some seemingly contradictory manner, but it’s the followup by Fr. Lombardi that I have a very hard time understanding, and that makes me very unnerved:

“I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine,” Lombardi said. “He told me no. The problem is this … It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship.”

This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point. The point is it’s a first step of taking responsibility, of avoiding passing a grave risk onto another,” Lombardi said

My first problem with the Pope’s statement is the assumption that the use of a condom is a positive good, a “more moral” act than not using one, at least in terms of AIDS prevention.  This is a contradiction compared to what he stated on that flight to Africa.  Secondly, with the expansion of the argument to include not just male on male sex, which would be a limited case and not much affect Church Doctrine since 2 men going at it can’t be fecund, anyway, but including men and women using condoms to prevent AIDS from spreading, this IS a huge change – no Catholic Pope ever in the history of the Church has said there were any circumstances in which a woman and man could use a condom in their sexual activity.  AIDS is not such a game changer that it requires a redefinition of the Church’s stance on this key moral issue – there have been potentially deadly venereal diseases from time immemorial, including syphillis and secondary infections stemming from gonorrhea.  So this expansion of the argument beyond that originally presented in this new book length interview is enormous.  If Fr. Lombardi is faithfully representing the Pope’s views, I do not see how this is not a very significant change – it is being argued that in order to prevent the spread of a disease, male-female couples can use a device that renders procreation impossible.  I pray there will be further clarifications of this (read, retraction).

But think about the current situation, folks – now anyone could justify using a condom to prevent the spread of venereal disease, and have such use seemingly sanctioned by the Pope.  It was stated even married couples can use condoms – so anyone could say “hmm….I did have unprotected sex one time years ago, and while I’m now trying to live as a faithful Catholic, I could have a disease, I better use a condom, and that way, we may not have umpteen kids, too.”  The marriage act is thus frustrated.   

The only good thing about this is that this interview is not a Magisterial pronouncement, but it’s nevertheless not good.

UPDATE3: Many are saying that the Pope’s comments are not being fairly analyzed, or are being taken out of context.  Well, deal with it, that’s the world we’re in, and if one makes statements that are potentially explosive and with unclear or insufficient caveats, then the media will do what the media does, they’ll run with it if there is even a dim chance that their preferred interpretation can be reasonably drawn out from the statement.  It’s foolishly naive to try to argue that the media is somehow being unfair – it’s just doing what it does.  If you don’t want statements taken out of context, don’t make nebulous statements, and don’t have your chief PR officer seemingly take that statement about 12 miles further down the logical road.  Frankly, the caveat is insufficient – “The Church doesn’t regard condom use as a real or moral solution, BUT one could view condom use as a step towards morality if you’re already imbued in the pagan culture.”  Do you really think the pagans aren’t going to take that statement and run with it, seeing as it could be taken to endorse exactly what they want it to endorse?  It seems to make a positive good out of something that has always been declared intrinsically evil, the use of contraceptive devices.

UPDATE4: Unless I see something really interesting, I think I’ll drop it after this.  According to the SSPX commentary on this issue (thanks to commenter Tom), the Pope also, in this interview, described those who adhere as fully as they can to the Doctrine re-emphasized in Humanae Vitae (which did nothing more than re-affirm Church Doctrine since the Fathers) as “deeply convinced minorities” who offer others “a fascinating model to follow,” as if faithful Catholics are an interesting sociological specimen.  Is that a ringing endorsement of Church Doctrine which has been explained and clarified and repeated by Popes from the earliest founding of the Church through to this present day?

Comments

1. LarryD - November 29, 2010

Larry – read Jimmy Akin’s analysis of what the Pope said, and what he meant. Of course the media would jump all over the Holy Father’s words, and of course the elements within the Church who are in disobedience to Humanae Vitae would see this as a “crack” in Church teaching – except that it’s not.

Sometimes the Holy Father chooses words and themes in order to get people thinking and talking about issues – unfortunately, most people skip the thinking part and just get into the talking.

Rest assured, the Church’s teachings on contraception have not changed and will not change, no matter how badly the dissenters and heretics want them to be.

Fr Fessio has a good analysis on the Pope’s comments as well.

Peace

tantamergo - November 29, 2010

I’d agree, except for Fr. Lombardi’s comments, which he assures come direct from the Pope himself, totally unmodified, expanding the use of condoms to male prostitutes servicing women, cannot be seen but a change to the Church’s doctrine, for there is inherent in that situation an ability to prevent pregnancy. If Fr. Lombardi’s comments apply, then this is a huge deal. I noted Fr. Z’s solution to this was to just ignore Fr. Lombardi’s comments, hoping they were some kind of wrong interpretation.

I think we’ll have to see what comes out this week. They appeared to be doubling down last week.

And no, I’m not really joining SSPX.

LarryD - November 29, 2010

As Fr Z says, Lombardi isn’t the Pope. I doubt that what Gibbs says comes from the president, actually comes from the president 100% of the time.

tantamergo - November 29, 2010

I agree, and none of this talk is Magisterial anyway. All of you guys have an advantage on me, I was completely out of communication with the world for over a week, and came back last night to hear about this story (I actually heard a blurb on the radio about it going out of town, but couldn’t make sense of it). I’ve had less than 24 hours to process what most folks have been talking about for over a week, but I stand by my statement, that if Fr. Lombardi is accurately reflecting what the Pope has said, it’s a problem at least on some level. Magisterial or not, all Catholics are obliged to try to obey what the Pope says, even as a private theologian. Something like this is difficult to process.

2. mark docherty - November 29, 2010

It’s not a disaster, though I wish His Holiness would not be granting book-length interviews. It’s all based on double effect, and Father Z had several posts on it, I am attaching one of the links.

http://wdtprs.com/blog/2010/11/hells-bible-on-the-popes-statement-about-condoms/

3. Tom - November 29, 2010

I do not know how Vatican-Orthodox talks will be hurt, because the Orthgodox (at least the Russians) have no problems with condoms, as recently affirmed: http://www.directionstoorthodoxy.org/n/russian_orthodox_church_okays_use_of_condoms.html

On the other hand, the Society of St. Pius X has taken the Pope to task for his remarks:
http://www.dici.org/en/news/note-on-the-remarks-of-benedict-xvi-concerning-condom-use/

tantamergo - November 29, 2010

That’s news to me on the Orthodox, and another huge change – the Orthodox have never allowed the use of any contraceptive device, to my knowledge, but my knowledge of Orthodoxy is not exactly wide and broad. Interesting timing.

4. Chris Baker - November 29, 2010

It’s natural for the secular world to skew anything said by the Pope, either Magisterially or privately — not that the secular world knows the difference between the two.

I grow weary of the idea that the Vatican needs a more tech-savvy, bling-bling public relations wing. Even before Gutenberg, anything said by the Church or her priests has been twisted and distorted by heresy, dissention, and delusion.

tantamergo - November 29, 2010

What does it say when many doubt that Fr. Lombardi is accurately reflecting the Pope’s statement? Many dismiss Lombardi adding women to the condom comment out of lack of trust for him.

I’m not saying they need a hyper slick press apparatus, but something along the lines of that which functioned in Pope John Paul II’s Pontificate would be a substantial improvement. It’s more the personnel than the apparatus.

Chris Baker - November 29, 2010

It doesn’t really matter what Lombardi says. Neither what Lombardi says nor what the Pope says concerning this matter in this format has magisterial force. These are just personal opinions about personal opinions, not dogma.

Church teaching has not changed on this issue. Not one iota. Last thing we need is a press corp or public relations that will debrief or vet or spin anything a Church official says or does. Local catechesis on the parish level is what’s needed imo.

tantamergo - November 29, 2010

I don’t agree with part of your statement. There is a need for the Vatican to do a better job communicating Church Doctrine. You say catechesis needs improvement – I totally agree, but catechesis in our hierarchical Church starts at the top. If we are receiving muddled messages from the very top of the Church, that tends to filter down and cause even more confusion and mixed messages at lower levels. Unfortunately, in our present day Church, we have a very large percentage of priests, and even bishops, who do not agree with Church doctrine. When a statement like this comes from the Pope, it provides an even more cluttered environment in which these dissenting, possibly even apostate, individuals can operate. There is a strong need for a very clear message, and to keep the Vatican consistent in what it says. Under Pope John Paul II and his director of communications, a Spanish doctor whose name I forget, there was a very clear message and much better handling of the press, which played a large role in JPIIs popularity. This Pope has not had such an effective team, and has stumbled into serious problems repeatedly – the original condom comment, the Regensburg address, the SSPX/Archbishop Williamson issue, all point towards a fundamental lack of preparation for communicating core Catholic ideas clearly and without confusion, and without providing gaping openings through which the secular press can distort, obfuscate, and pursue their worldly agenda.

You know what Church doctrine is, I know what it is, but, unfortunately, huge numbers of Catholics either don’t know it, or don’t care. In the latter case, many are at times looking for reasons, excuses, if you will, on which to hang their rejection. My fear is that another excuse has just been provided.

I still believe this presentation, even as a private theologian, is ill advised and even dangerous. I am aware of the majority opinion among blogs similar to mine, and I am in the minority. But, the Pope is far more than a private theologian, and this statement will have very large effects in the coming years, mark my words.

5. Chris Baker - November 29, 2010

But isn’t it Church teaching that the Pope is infallible and this his only applies when he is doing so magisterially, not privately? It’s a clear issue. The distortions of the media concering the Church cannot be controlled or contained by an apparatus of any kind.

This isn’t a muddled message the Pope gave imo. It’s only muddled through the media misrepresentations.


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