Saturday, November 20, 2010

Selective Hearing (Reprise): Pope and Condoms

I love reporters. Well, actually I wash my hands very carefully after dealing with anyone from the fourth estate. I know they've got newspapers to sell, headlines to titillate, and everything, but it really doesn't excuse their collective hearing problem.

If you'll remember Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Africa, he gave many speeches, blessings, teachings, and encouragement while he was there. There were also some off the cuff remarks regarding the proper way of responding to the African AIDS crisis through a "double effort [...] to renew the human person internally, to give spiritual and human strength to a way of behaving that is just towards our own body and the other person’s body."

Reporters' collective response was: "I'm sorry, did you say 'condom'?"

Here we go again. Headlines everywhere are screaming: "Pope says condom use OK sometimes".  This is disingenuous to say the least and scandalous to boot. The context of these quotes is entirely lacking. Of course, if you're the kind of Catholic who gets his theology from headlines, you've already got other, more serious problems.

Contraception is always and remains gravely evil regardless of the means. The Pope was saying that a prostitute who decides to use condoms as a way of preventing infection was taking "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more humane way, of living sexuality" although the Church "does not regard it as a real or moral solution".

Furthermore, he said it in terms of specific cases, not as a generalization.  The full quote from Reuters:

After the pope first mentions that the use of condoms could be justified in certain limited cases, such as by prostitutes, Seewald asks: "Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?"

The pope answers: "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 humane way, of living sexuality."
Anyone who knows anything about moral theology knows that things get murky quickly. Although there are objective standards of right and wrong, a person's intention can mitigate some of the culpability of an otherwise sinful action.  But can we expect our press to actually deliver accurately on such nuance and fine distinction?

Reporters: "I'm sorry, did you say 'condom'?"

1 comment:

kkollwitz said...

Of course B16 knew this would create a little firestorm, and is prepared to capitalize on it.

Just another teaching opportunity.


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