20 November 2010

What did the Pope really say about condoms?

As usual, Jimmy Akin has the best commentary yet on the Pope really said about condums - and what he didn't say about them.

Please, go read it, and properly inform those who actually believe what the mainstream media says about the Church.


  1. As usual I am reading "backward" and getting the OSV story before MSM. Should be interesting when I get today's paper later...

  2. Jimmy Akin's commentary is exactly the sort of thing I had in mind when I predicted that the Catholic Answers crowd would begin an intense spin effort to distance the pope from his remarks. (You can't get much more CA than Jimmy Akin.)

    In his commentary, Mr. Akin chooses to emphasize Benedict's use of "may"--i.e., "There MAY be a basis in the case of some individuals..." Fair enough. The pope is speculating about possible moral justifications for using condoms in some circumstances.

    What Akin fails to pay close attention to, though, is the pope's explanation of his 2009 statements about the AIDS crisis in Africa. Akin quotes what Benedict said in the book about those previous statements, and then proceeds to mischaracterize the pope's remarks. Here, in part, is what the pope said: "... we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done." A few lines later, the pope adds: "But this just goes to show that condoms ALONE [my emphasis] do not resolve the question itself."

    A reasonable person would read this explanation and see that the pope is pointing out the obvious: The AIDS crisis is massive, particularly in Africa. Many millions of people are already infected. Others will become infected tomorrow. The approach has to be pastoral; any solution must involve encouraging people to be faithful to their marriage partners. But please note that the pope never says that condoms cannot be part of the solution, or that they should never be used even when a marriage partner is already infected. Instead, the pope notes that condoms "alone" cannot solve the overarching AIDS crisis. Yet Mr. Akin is quick to turn the pope's remarks (above) into a complete and total rejection of any infected person ever using a condom.

    The problem, of course, is that the pope himself has given a hypothetical scenario (the male prostitute) where the principle of not spreading a deadly virus is poised (by the pope) as a possible justification for using a condom, at least in one or two limited contexts.

    Akin also tries to distance the pope (and the Vatican) from the pope's remarks by pointing out that these are merely interviews. Pardon me, but I can't believe the Vatican (or B16) would permit his name to be put on the cover if they had not vetted the contents of those soon-to-be published interviews. So this book is not the equivalent of an open-mike moment; not even close to it.
    [...to be continued]

  3. [Part 2...sorry for lengthy comments!]

    Obviously, as Akin pointed out, the pope was not speaking ex cathedra. (Of course, infallible pronouncements are incredibly rare. There have only been one or two teachings that have been defined as infallible since the 1870s, correct?) But one can't help get the feeling that Akin is telling us to not pay too much attention to the pope's statements in this book. (Nothing to see here! Please move on.) The CA crowd is glad to draw attention to other things the pope has said, however casually, over the years. (Yet, interestingly, CA apologists, when appearing on call-in CA radio shows, rarely mention JP2's request that Gov. Carnahan commute a death row inmate's sentence during the pope's visit to St. Louis in 1999. JP's frequent condemnations of the death penalty, esp in western societies, gets placed to the side so that Akin and other apologists can cite the not-quite-a-prohibition language of the catechism, and they end up re-reinforcing callers' belief that the death penalty is technically okay...despite what the pope said in interviews and various writings. Cherry picking of papal statements indeed. The CA crowd is very good at that.)

    There's a lot of cafeteria Catholicism out there. Disregard nuances in sexual ethics teachings, disregard thoughtful theologians, disregard what the pope just said about a possible exception. I disagree with the pope on many things. But I don't claim to be the loyalist that Mr. Akin implies (perhaps disingenuously) that he is. He is in his best spin mode right now, and he is pretty good at it. That's a shame, truly.

  4. Father, when I read today the clarification offered by Fr. Lombardi (who says he asked the pope directly for a clarification), I became even more convinced that the pope was indeed signalling an important shift in thinking regarding the great good of helping people to avoid becoming infected with a deadly disease.

    Seems to me, once again, that Mr. Akin is spinning hard in order to distance the pope and the Vatican from the pope's words. However, as you noted in your critique of the NY Times article, the pope is indeed a significant spokesperson for the Vatican. In this case, both Fr. Lombardi and the pope seem to be signalling a shift in thinking far greater than what Mr. Akin is willing to allow.

    The Deacon's Bench links to a UK article that quotes Fr. Lombardi: