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.
Does anybody think the Holy Father didn't know exactly what he was doing when he framed his answer the way he did? What a "teaching moment" he has created around the world. I only pray that many more priests seize this opportunity to properly catechize the faithful and the world on the beauty of the Church's teaching regarding human sexuality and the gravely immoral nature of contraception (in whatever form).ReplyDelete
The thought that the only two choices are abstinence and "never ask(ing) someone to actually abstain for any moment of their life from acting on their sexual urge" is a false dichotomy.ReplyDelete
Your point about some people believing "Africans surely could never learn to actually control themselves" is just as illogical. It assumes that all people share the same moral views on sex as you, which isn't true.
If they don't share the same moral views on sex as the Church, then they aren't going to have any problem breaking the Church's teaching.ReplyDelete
If a person out there DOES care about the moral teachings of the Church on issues of sexuality, or like many who I see in confession, WANT to know what the Church teaches on the issue but have been left largely uninformed due to the dissenting nature or cowardice of their priest, then this post serves to elucidate the Church's teaching on the issue.
Father John, I totally agree that you should inform those who wish to be informed about the actual teachings of the church...Catholic or not. I also agree that people who don't believe in the church's teachings are going to care too much (except possibly for former Catholics who have vestigial guilt!) if they break said teachings.ReplyDelete
But, I think non-Catholics would care a WHOLE HECK of a lot if a priest said that they think Africans are subhuman. That is you making a conclusion on their thoughts on condom use through the lens of your morality. You may not agree with their views on Aids prevention, but you cannot seriously believe that they think Africans are subhuman. This is analogous to people who say that "since the Pope doesn't allow condom use, he must want people to die."
Your false dichotomy between abstinence and "never ask(ing) someone to actually abstain for any moment of their life from acting on their sexual urge" is very interesting. Could it not be possible that people are making a conscience decision to have sex versus some sort of failing to control an urge?
I see your point - you are saying that perhaps some people in the condom camp think periodic abstinence is possible for people, but that condoms are still needed.
I think there is also a false dichotomy in what you are saying in that a decision to have sex is either a) a conscious decision or b) acting on an urge. Anytime we act on an urge, we still experience ourselves as making a conscious decision.
I see what you are saying but I still think, even with your point being granted, that saying condoms are the only solution to the AIDS crisis in Africa suggests that abstinence, on the whole, will not work - and thus there is an inherent philosophical assumption involved in that decision - even if a person doesn't think abstinence will NEVER work.
I turn to the Pope on this one: "Misery is not produced by people who bring up children to learn faithfulness and love, respect for life and self-restraint, but by those who try to talk us out of morality and who see man only in a mechanistic way: the condom seems to them more effective than morality, but when they think you can replace the moral dignity of man with condoms, so as to make his freedom no longer a danger to him, they they have stripped man of all dignity."
Actually, I agree with you that when people are acting on an urge they are making a conscience decision. I don't see a dichotomy at all, rather a spectrum of decisions. Some people decide to remain abstinent through out their lives, some people only have sex within marriage, some people have sex with nearly anyone they can as long as they have a condom, and some people are...well no too choosy at all, etc. None of these imply that one you decide to have sex you have given into your urges completely and will have sex no matter what. Not true.ReplyDelete
I don't think that condoms are the only solution to AIDS. My apologies if it seemed as if that was my opinion. I wasn't arguing against abstinence as much as the arguments that you made against condoms.
I ask this with all respect and seriousness - if you are for abstinence as the solution to AIDS, and not condoms, then what argument would you make for abstinence besides the one I put forth?ReplyDelete
I am not for abstinence and against condoms. I think a very valid pro-abstinence argument is that it eliminates one vector for the spread of AIDS. You did put forth this argument and I had no problem with it.ReplyDelete
what are you for then?ReplyDelete