I doubt any of you are waiting for my explanation on the Pope's interview...but just in case I thought I'd file a post.
I've realized yet again that the media has one goal - confusion. If you can confuse a Catholic on one thing, then you increase their chances of being confused on all other teachings. This condom thing is no different.
The quick back story: The pope sat down with journalist Peter Seewald from Germany for their third interview. The first two interviews were published prior to Pope Benedict's election as pontiff, but this third interview was conducted last year at some point. The book is due out tomorrow and is titled "Light of the World." Having read the first two books, I was blown away by how cogent and precise the Holy Father is even in real time.
Anyways, a few excerpts of the book were leaked by the newspaper L'Osservatore Romano (The third idiotic thing the paper has done recently - see my post below on Homer Simpson being recognized by the paper as a Catholic). One of the excerpts involved the Holy Father saying that on the issue of contraception to prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa condoms may at least be a first sign of conversion for someone like a male prostitute; the Pope noted that it may be a FIRST SIGN that he is starting to recognize the dignity of the other.
The press has taken this and sprinted with it. Seemingly every website you go to you see "Pope says condoms are okay in certain cases" or something similar. This is such an amazing twisting of words! He said nothing like that. As Thomas Peters said nicely, the Pope said if an alcoholic goes from 20 drinks a day to 15, that is a SIGN that they are turning around - BUT DRINKING 15 DRINKS A DAY IS STILL A SIN WITH DEADLY RAMIFICATIONS. The Pope isn't saying, "In some circumstances 15 drinks are okay."
It is important to first understand that the intelligentsia, the cultural elite and the powerful in Europe and the U.S. have long been pushing for contraception to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa. Some of these people genuinely are concerned with the AIDS epidemic, but I believe most of them are really just hoping to tear down the Church and her teachings on contraception in general and believe if they can get the Church to cave on Africa, then the ban on contraception in general will fall.
Here are my observations on the issue
1) The Church is not changing her teaching on the fact that contraception use, every time and in all circumstances, is a mortal sin. The Pope just traveled to Africa a few months ago and said that not only does condom use not stop the spread of AIDS, condoms actually cause the disease to spread more rapidly. Before diving into that, don't you think the Pope would have said then - "Actually, I just did an interview with a guy, it is coming out in a few months as a book, and in there I'm going to admit to a change in the Church's unchanging and unaltered teaching on contraception that spans the millenia"?
2) Why does the Church teach that condom use is not going to stop the spread of AIDS, and in fact helps cause the spread of the disease?
a) Practical Reason - IT DOESN'T WORK! It only takes one sexual encounter without a condom to pass on the HIV virus, and so in order for condoms to work in preventing the spread of the disease, there would need to be unlimited access to condoms - unlimited because the inherent assumption if you are passing out condoms is that you could never ask someone to actually abstain for any moment of their life from acting on their sexual urge (more on that in a moment). There is no way to get unlimited access to condoms for all the people in Africa. You would literally need to have condoms falling out of the sky over the entire continent continuously in order to guarantee unlimited access. In addition to that, condoms, in perfect conditions, fail about 10% of the time. Russian Roulette has odds of 1 in 6; apparently the condom people are saying "Africans, here are some slightly better odds, 1 in 10, and we'd like you to play thousands of times throughout your life."
This practical argument is furthered by statistics. Mother Teresa's sisters went into three African countries and taught natural family planning to the women using a simple bracelet of cord so that if they had AIDS they could lessen the chance of giving birth to a child with the disease. They also taught abstinence to the men and women already suffering from the disease to help prevent them from passing it on to those who were not yet infected. The results have been ALARMING (although largely unreported - hum??) especially when the statistics of those three countries are compared to the three most aggressive "condom solution countries"; countries who put all of their effort into using condoms to help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. As Wayne Laugessen notes:
"In Uganda, where there has been an intensive AIDS prevention program centered on abstinence, HIV among 15- to 19-year-olds has dropped from 25% of the population in that age group to 9%," Mulcaire-Jones said.
"During the same period in neighboring Kenya, Malawi and Zambia — where AIDS prevention involved condom distribution and no change in sexual behavior patterns — there has been no drop in new infections," he said. "Why? Because in ideal, perfect conditions — in which the condoms are worn properly and are in perfect condition — condoms fail one in 10 times. So in perfect conditions it's not much of a guarantee, and they're seldom used in perfect conditions."
b) Theological reason - it assumes that the people in Africa lack the ability to control themselves. If you are saying the only way to prevent the disease in Africa is to make the sex safer because the Africans surely could never learn to actually control themselves, inherent in that argument is that they are somehow subhuman.
So condoms treat people as less than human, fail 10-15% of the time, and there is no way to guarantee a life time supply to anyone, and yet this is the solution? The Church's solution is the only one that WORKS! Nonetheless the media and the powerful of the world continue to confuse with soundbites and a relentless campaign to promote contraception because they want everyone to be like them - nihilistic, sterile, and full of rage because there is no hope for a brighter future.
Contraception is always a mortal sin, the Pope still thinks so, the Church still thinks so, and the Church isn't going to cave on the issue - ever.