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Monday, November 29, 2010

Be A Good Rapist?

The Holy Father, as a private theologian, opined that the use of condoms with the right intent might be a step towards the good.

Let's run with that.

If conception is always a gift - and it is a point of Catholic doctrine that conception is always a gift - then a rape that does not result in conception is a greater evil than a rape that does result in conception.

So, isn't a rapist who rapes with the intent to impregnate desiring the good?

If we are going to argue that intention can lessen the evil of an act (a neat trick with an intrinsically evil, act, but let's pretend), couldn't we argue the rapist who intends to impregnate is making a much greater move towards the good then the rapist who uses a condom to prevent mere disease transmission?

After all, the latter only intends a transient temporal good, while the former intends an immortal good, the creation of a new human person.

So, while rape is always damning, at least the one who intends to impregnate is more cognizant of what the sexual act entails and is making a greater move towards the good.

Nicht wahr?

Moral Pygmies

If you want to see why many people are confused about Church teaching on human sexuality, you need look no further than the "moral theologians" of the Regina Angelorum. Father Thomas D. Williams is a Michigan-born Catholic priest, professor at Regina Apostolorum University in Rome, gives an interview to National Review's "The Corner" which hopelessly mashes the Catholic understanding of sexuality and life transmission.

First, let us consider what "sexual" means. According to Merriam-Webster:
1: of, relating to, or associated with sex or the sexes
2: having or involving sex
Now, according to the strict meaning of the word "sex" and "sexual" refer to reproduction, the union of two different DNA contributions. That is why biology differentiates between asexual reproduction (where two different DNA contributions are not required) and sexual reproduction (where two different DNA contributions are required).

What Does The Church Teach?

In addition to these points of straight biology, three further points of Catholic doctrine should be kept in mind:

1) Since reality is truth, the findings of theology cannot contradict physical reality. As CS Lewis liked to point out, even miracles don't necessarily contradict reality - all that is necessary for a miracle is that God acts within a situation by directly manipulating the physical world according to natural laws.

Just as we can directly manipulate the physical world to eradicate a disease organism within the human body, and yet this healing is not considered miraculous, so God can directly manipulate the atoms and molecules within the body and bring about a healing, yet violate no physical laws. We call the second "miraculous" because we do not know when or necessarily precisely how God acts in these situations. According to this way of thinking, the only difference between a medical healing and a miraculous healing is that human actors bring about the first, the divine actor brings about the second, but both operate within the natural laws of the universe.

One result of this point of doctrine: if an act brings about the union of two different DNA strands, it is sexual reproduction - it is a sexual act. Thus, technically speaking, even the union of gametes in a Petri dish is a sexual union, although no sexual organs interpenetrate. It is certainly a human reproductive act, as would be any union of two different human DNA strands in such a way that a new human being results.

2) God is always the author of human life, He directly creates and infuses the human soul. It is not the case that the human actors either create or infuse the human soul. The human soul is the principle of life. Without a soul, the union of egg and sperm would accomplish nothing at all. No conception that results in a growing human person can take place without a life principle, a soul. No human being can come into existence unless God wills it.

3) Human life is always a very great good, an enormous gift. No matter how it is engendered, whether through the embrace of a loving sacramentally married couple in the privacy of their own homes, or via a brutal rape or a test-tube medical act, the human life that is engendered would not exist without God's intervention, without God's willing it. God only wills the good, so the existence of the human life is always a good. Always. We may have done evil to accomplish this good, but God never does evil, so the life that results is good, even if the means used by the human actors to bring about the union of sperm and egg were evil.

Doing Evil That Good May Come

Now, given these principles, watch the absolute nonsense that spews from the mouth of the professor of moral theology from the Angelorum:
Some people are saying that the Church considers contraception to be morally evil, but in cases where human life is at stake, it could be a lesser evil. In other words, protection from disease trumps the moral prohibition of contraception. This is incorrect. Catholic morality never accepts that evil may be done to attain a good end.
This moral pygmy seems to forget that, by definition, when contraception is being used, human life is already at stake regardless of the presence of an STD. An STD merely damages, often only temporarily, the already existing life of a person. But, as the Fathers pointed out, contraception is the attempt to keep a new human being from coming into existence. When we contracept, we don't just damage this possible new human being, we take from this possible new human being everything he could ever have, including his very existence.

So, we have two adults, one or both of whom know an STD may be present in this situation, but they act in such a way so as to protect themselves, or at most, perhaps the other person, while by that very same act, deliberately trying to destroy the very possibility of existence to another person, their own child. And this is a move towards the good? Preferring your own health to another's very existence is good?

According to this reasoning, the absence of a virus or bacterium is of greater moral weight than the presence of a human being. That's impressive.

But They Intend The Good!

Do they?

It is the case that the use of the condom in a heterosexual act is intrinsically evil precisely because it is contraceptive. That means the use is damnable regardless of the intention.

Now, given that there is an inherent intention to frustrate conception bound up in the heterosexual use of the condom, to what extent does the stated intention - the desire to reduce disease transmission - to what extent does THAT intention lessen the inherent evil?

It could very easily be argued that the very intention to do a proximate and temporary good (stop disease transmission) blinds us to the much greater permanent evil that we are inflicting (the frustration of the desire we are supposed to have for children).

Aquinas argued that sin is choosing a lesser, temporal good over a greater more permanent good, choosing the good instead of the best. Isn't that exactly what is happening here?

Isn't it the case that heterosexual condom use, even with the "good" intent, is NOT actually ameliorated by that good intent, because that "good" intent acts as a lie we tell ourselves in order to hide the great evil we are doing?

In other words, can it not be argued that in the condom use promoted by private theologians such as the Pope and Father Williams, we are "doing good" so that evil may come of it?

Thus, Father William's conclusion that "protection from disease trumps the moral prohibition of contraception" is ridiculous on several levels. It makes absolute hash of Catholic theology, the idea that the existence of human life is of more importance than possible damage. But he isn't done trashing Catholic doctrine:
What many fail to realize is that the Church’s opposition to contraception refers specifically to sex between husbands and wives. In his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI placed his condemnation of contraception in the context of married couples, and never intended it to be applied to every conceivable sexual act.
In direct violation of Augustine and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, indeed, in direct violation of the very meaning of Paul VI's Latin phrase "coniugal commercium", Williams then goes on to repeat the canard that the Church has only taught Magisterially about contraception in marriage, a position that's already been demonstrated to be ludicrous on its face.
Let’s take an extreme case: that of rape. Would the use of a condom by a rapist add a moral evil to his already heinous act? It is, after all, a sexual act. By no means. There is nothing about the act of rape that merits respect of a supposed “unitive” and “procreative” meaning of the act. These are entirely missing, though the act is undoubtedly sexual.
Again, let us turn to Merriam-Webster and see how well the man understands English.
Definition of PROCREATE

transitive verb
: to beget or bring forth (offspring) : propagate
intransitive verb
: to beget or bring forth offspring : reproduce

Latin procreatus, past participle of procreare, from pro- forth + creare to create — more at pro-, create. First Known Use: 1536
So, we have a sexual act that begets but is not procreation? Prithee, how does that work? By the very fact that a pregnancy is engendered, the act is procreative since it brings forth, or creates, another human being. You and I may not like the way it is done, but insofar as conception results, procreation has occurred. We have here a theologian who violates the first principle of theology - truth cannot contradict truth, theology cannot contradict physical realities.

Can Rape Result In Good?

Indeed, if conception is always a gift - and it is a point of Catholic doctrine that conception is always a gift - then a rape that does not result in conception is a greater evil than a rape that does result in conception. But good luck trying to find a 20th-century Catholic moral theologian who points this out.

After all, isn't a rapist who rapes with the intent to impregnate desiring the good?
If we are going to argue that intention can lessen the evil (a neat trick with an intrinsically evil, act, but let's pretend), couldn't we argue that this rapist is making a much greater move towards the good then the rapist who uses a condom to prevent mere disease transmission?

Instead of considering this, most moral theologians in the 20th century labor under the mistaken impression that since the rapist is an invader, the rapist's sperm are invaders that the woman has a right to fight off.

So, let us consider their idea.

Apart from a very few, very unusual cases of immune response, sperm by itself causes no harm to the woman. How it is introduced into the woman may be very harmful indeed, but the actual presence of the sperm is harmless. The worst that happens is it simply dies. The only other thing it may do is this: it may unite with the woman's egg. Sperm doesn't do anything apart from die or unite. That's it. It's a pretty innocuous invader.

Now, if sperm unites with egg, in order for conception to complete, a human soul, a human life principle, must be created and infused into this new entity or the union of egg and sperm cannot result in anything at all.

Only God can create and infuse the human soul necessary to create a new human being.

So, if we wish to argue that the woman has a right to "fight off" sperm, to what purpose would these sperm be fought? To kill them? But they are going to die uselessly anyway.

The only possible reason to kill the sperm is... to prevent unity, that is, to prevent conception!
But conception, the gift of life, is a positive good that comes to us directly from the hand of the Creator God via the direct and immediate creation and infusion of the immortal human soul.

So, what reason would a Catholic woman have to prevent conception, to prevent the gift of life, which is always a gift from God, according to Catholic doctrine? For certainly the good Father Williams does not wish to argue that children who result from rape are evil consequences?

If we wish to say that such a conception is an assault, or a further assault, upon the woman, are we not saying that God is a rapist? For it is most certainly He, and He alone, who can complete the conception of a child within the womb of any woman. Yet 20th century moral theologians blithely insist that contraception in the case of rape is acceptable, even though we have no hint of such a concept (pardon the pun) anywhere in the Tradition of the Church.

And this deformed "moral theology", in which the possibility of conception is seen as a negative event, if not a positive evil, an event that must be actively opposed, this same "theology" is now being used to support the idea that the possibility a disease might be prevented is more important than the possibility a child's existence might be prevented. Disease bacteria trump human beings.

Father Williams natterings are pure biologism, an explanation that focuses entirely on the natural consequences and completely ignores the supernatural interventions.

To put it another way, our benighted professor is not doing theology, he's engaging in blind absurdity, a form of tertiary theological syphilis, as it were, which deprives the theologian of his faculties and renders him not only sightless, but a gibbering idiot to boot.

A Sign of Contradiction

As an example of the self-contradiction he is now forced to engage in, Father Williams says condomized sex with a prostitute is a positive lessening of evil since this is just sexual commerce and has no other meaning, while condomized sex between an engaged fornicating couple may be harmful because "it still accustoms them to disassociating sexual intercourse from its procreative meaning."

So, the use of a condom doesn't dissassociate procreation from sex in the case of a prostitute, but it does in the case of an engaged couple? Because... why?

Is the prostitute less of a woman than the fiancee?
Does the prostitute's womb count for less than that of a "real woman's" womb?
Is the john less objectively worthwhile than the affianced?

Let's put it another way.

CAN anyone actually devalue the objective good of the sexual act or the objective good of the participants?
Can I define what sex means?
If I cannot, then what difference does it make if I give money to my fiancee after sex (so she can buy that new negligee or oil change) versus my giving money to the prostitute after sex (so she can buy that new negligee or oil change)?

Have any of these "moral theologians" ever read the Fathers? Do they realize that the Fathers uniformly agree that the use of contraception makes the wife into a prostitute? Even Gandhi - a pagan - recognized this and used exactly those words to describe contraceptive use.

So, 20th century moral theologians aren't certain if turning your fiancee into a prostitute is a bad thing, but they are sure that having condomized sex with a prostitute is better than not using a condom in the act? Hmmmm...

It is a great and terrible thing to behold an unbaptized pagan man with a greater understanding of divine law than an ordained Legionary of Christ priest, a moral theology professor of the Angelorum. Would it be remiss of me to point out that the founder of the Legionaries had his own difficulties in deciding what was correct sexual behaviour? Would it be wrong of me to point out that National Catholic Register is a Legionary publication?

Given all this, the irony of Father William's closing words, coming from the mouth of a man who followed the "charism" of the (in)famous Marcel Maciel, is shattering:
Honestly, in my mind the greatest damage done is by Catholics, and even moral theologians, who misrepresent the Church’s position on contraception and thereby stoke the confusion that already exists.
Truer words were never spoken, Father.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jimmy Akin's Response

Jimmy Akin has a response to my analysis concerning whether the Church's 20th-century Magisterial documents refer to sex within marriage (he even illustrated it with a picture of someone - himself as a youngster(?) - trying unsuccessfully to digest a copy of HV).

He argues that my analysis is too broad because:
For this argument to be sound one would have to show that the phrase "coniugale commercium" (translated in whatever language the Fathers and Doctors were writing in) was used to refer to sexual intercourse without reference to whether it was occurring in marriage.
This is the crux of his argument.
I don't think it is accurate.

Since the marital act is the normative sexual act, statements made about the normative act would also apply to all the actions which marital sex norms, i.e., all human sexual activity, as well. Every human sexual act references in some way back to the normative act, which only takes place within marriage. So, whatever is said about the general principle, the marital act, necessarily also applies to all other sexual acts. Indeed, these other sexual acts are considered unnatural precisely as they vary from the normative act.

That's how norms work.

Take, for example, statements made about the Scripture, which is normative for all theological discourse. It is a basic principle of Scripture study that, since all Scripture is true, and truth cannot contradict itself, Scripture cannot contradict itself.

Does this mean that a theologian can create a self-contradictory argument as long as the Magisterium hasn't specifically told the theologian not to attempt this?

Obviously not - what is true for Scripture will be true of every discussion that draws its strength from Scripture. Scripture is the norm that norms all other theological norms. Thus, a theological argument which is based on Scripture must be non-contradictory. Ultimately, all theological arguments find some basis in the Scriptures or in the living equivalent of Scripture which is Tradition-Liturgy.

The theologian cannot violate Scripture as he proposes his premises and conclusions - Scripture is the norm, so no Catholic principle can violate what it teaches. Insofar as any teaching DOES violate what Scripture teaches, it is not a Catholic teaching.

In an analogous way, the marital act is the normative act for human sexuality.
Insofar as any sexual act violates what married sexuality should be, it is not a fully human sexuality.

We would expect that Magisterial documents would only refer to the normative, since Magisterial documents try to lay down general principles, whereas the Fathers, who were almost all bishops, were generally addressing specific populations (their flocks) who had specific problems.

The Fathers would not be expected to use the normative phrase precisely because they were teaching their specific groups of people in these specific situations. The papal writings, on the other hand, especially those in the 20th century, are intended in no small part to be summaries of the Fathers.

Thus, there is no particular reason to think the phrase Akin is hunting for would necessarily appear exactly as such in the Fathers' writings, while we would be rather surprised NOT to see the general, or normative phrasing, used in documents intended to summarize what the Fathers wrote.

In short, papal writings (Magisterial summaries) would use the phrase while the Fathers would have no particular reason to do so. But, since the Magisterial summaries are precisely summaries of the Fathers, both sets of documents would be discussing exactly the same thing, even if the phrasing wasn't exactly the same.

Akin's analysis of HV is based on that of 20th century moral theologians whose opinions are occasionally interesting, but ultimately not relevant nor binding on anyone. I don't need to know what any 20th century theologian, moral or immoral (sorry - couldn't help myself), said about anything, much less what they said about Catholic theology, in order to understand and correctly explain Catholic theology.

Indeed, if we were to be brutally honest, 20th century moral theologians have generally not had a terribly good record when it comes to Catholic teachings on human sexuality. A good Catholic can make a strong argument that one is better off by ignoring such modern "experts" completely.

The writings of the Fathers and Doctors, however, are quite a different kettle of fish. While these writings are not infallible, their writings must necessarily be considered before a judgement can be made on any subject of Catholic Faith.

I am very grateful for Jimmy's putting together the list of Father's quotations from which I drew.

However, Jimmy's skill in compiling the list doesn't change the contents of the quotes.

That is to say, his service to us all does not change the fact that Augustine specifically pointed out conjugal acts are only conjugal insofar as they are both valid and licit.

That point has to be examined and dealt with.

If we accept the interpretation of Jimmy Akin and the 20th century moral theologians, we must conclude that the Popes have never written about the use of contraception in marriage because such an act is not a conjugal act and their encyclicals only discussed conjugal acts. We are forced to that conclusion because Augustine forces us there and neither Jimmy nor the 20th century moral theologians have adequately dealt with Augustine.

A thought experiment could, perhaps, settle the point.

We all agree a sacramental marriage can be annulled if it is not consummated - the spouses must engage in "coniugale commercium" in order to have a sacramental marriage which cannot be annulled.

If a baptized man and woman exchanged sacramental vows, but engaged in only condomized sex on the wedding night, would either one have grounds for annulment of their sacramental marriage the following day, on the grounds that the marriage had not actually been consummated?

I honestly don't know the answer to that question, but I suspect the answer is, "Yes, the marriage could be annulled on the grounds of non-consummation." The couple did not engage in a conjugal act. They engaged in a non-conjugal act, an act in which no "commercium" took place. It doesn't matter that the act appeared to be sexual and was between two baptized persons who took the vows of sacrament and are even now in the bonds of a sacramental marriage. The sacrament can be broken because the sexual act was not "coniugal commercium."

If so, then my point Augustine's point stands.

"Conjugal act" must be taken to have a broader meaning then 20th century moral theologians are wont to give it and Akins is inadvertently in error because he follows their erroneous lead.

"Conjugal act" must be considered a reference to the normative act, and therefore, by implication, a reference to ANY sexual act so conducted.

If we are really forced to accept that the meaning of the phrase is to be restricted to just valid, licit marital acts then we are faced with the spectacle of encyclicals which appear to address contraception, but which actually do not, because they used the phrase "coniugale commercium" and not "sexualis".

This seems to me a much more serious context problem than any that I may have stirred up.

Jimmy's case is actually worse than I initially thought.
I just noticed one of his own commentators has pointed out that the word "commercium" CAN, in fact, refer to illicit sexual intercourse (see the quote below).

So, it seems the 20th century moral theologians have struck out again.
They didn't even get the Latin right.

From the exhaustive Latin dictionary by Lewis and Short (use here is a single citation and within fair use):

com-mercĭum (con-m- ; ante-class.; sometimes ‡commircĭum ; cf. Vel. Long. p. 2236 P.), ii, n. merx.

I. Commercial intercourse, trade, traffic, commerce: “mare magnum et ignara lingua commercia prohibebant,” Sall. J. 18, 5; Plin. 33, 1, 3, § 7; Plin. Pan. 29; Tac. Agr. 24; Liv. 4, 52, 6: “salis,” id. 45, 29, 13: “commercium hominum in locum aliquem mutui usus contrahunt,” id. 38, 18, 12: “neque Thraces commercio faciles erunt,” id. 40, 58, 1: “jus commercii,” Dig. 49, 5, 6.—

B. Meton.
1. The right to trade as merchants, a mercantile right: “commercium in eo agro nemini est,” Cic. Verr. 2, 3, 40, § 93; cf. id. ib. 2, 2, 50, § “124: L. Crasso commercium istarum rerum cum Graecis hominibus non fuisse,” id. ib. 2, 4, 59, § “133: ceteris Latinis populis conubia commerciaque et concilia inter se ademerunt,” Liv. 8, 14, 10; 43, 5, 9; cf. Dig. 41, 1, 62; 30, 1, 39; 45, 1, 34.—*
2. An article of traffic, merchandise, wares: “commercia militaria,” Plin. 35, 13, 47, § 168; for provisions, id. 26, 4, 9, § 18; cf. Front. 2, 5, 14.—

3. A place of trade, market - place: “commercia et litora peragrare,” Plin. 37, 3, 11, § 45; Claud. in Eutr. 1, 58.—

II. In gen., intercourse, communication, correspondence, fellowship; lit. and trop.: “quid tibi mecum est commerci, senex?” Plaut. Aul. 4, 4, 4; id. Bacch. 1, 2, 9; id. Stich. 4, 1, 15: “mihi cum vostris legibus Nihil est commerci,” I have nothing to do with your laws, id. Rud. 3, 4, 20: “commercium habere cum Musis,” Cic. Tusc. 5, 23, 66: “commercium habere cum virtute,” id. Sen. 12, 42: “dandi et excipiendi beneficii,” Val. Max. 5, 3, ext. 3: “agrorum aedificiorumque inter se,” Liv. 45, 29, 10: “plebis,” with them, id. 5, 3, 8; 41, 24, 16: “linguae,” Ov. Tr. 5, 10, 35; Liv. 1, 18, 3; 9, 36, 6; 25, 33, 3: “sermonis,” id. 5, 15, 5; cf.: “loquendi audiendique,” Tac. Agr. 2 fin.: “commercia epistularum,” Vell. 2, 65, 1: “hoc inter nos epistularum commercium frequentare,” Sen. Ep. 38, 1: “communium studiorum,” Suet. Claud. 42: “sortis humanae,” Tac. A. 6, 19: “belli,” stipulation, treaty, id. ib. 14, 33: “belli tollere,” Verg. A. 10, 532; so, “belli dirimere,” Tac. H. 3, 81.—Plur.: “est deus in nobis, et sunt commercia caeli,” Ov. A. A. 3, 549.—

B. Esp., forbidden intercourse, illicit commerce: “libidinis,” Val. Max. 8, 2, 2: “stupri,” Suet. Calig. 36.—Absol.: “cum eā mihi fuit commercium,” Plaut. Truc. 1, 1, 77.—
2. In law, = collusio, Cod. Th. 3, 11, 4; cf. ib. 11, 4, 1 al. [emphasis added]

Excerpt taken from:

A Latin Dictionary. Founded on Andrews' edition of Freund's Latin dictionary. revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by. Charlton T. Lewis, Ph.D. and. Charles Short, LL.D. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1879.

I hate to stir things up, but lexicologically speaking, while regular intercourse within marriage is the presumed definition within the Magisterial texts, there is a weak sense, indicated in IIIB, above, in which commercium can refer to illicit sex, with the modifier coniugale acting as a modifier referring to two object types that go together (a man and a woman rather than a man and a man or a man and a beast). Thus, coniugale commercium in its weaker sense can refer to sexual intercourse outside of marriage. The context in which the Maisterial documents were written indicate the strong sense is being discussed, but outside of that context, the phrase, coniugale commercium, does not have to refer to the sexual act within a marriage. [emphasis added]

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jimmy Akin, Pope Benedict and the Magisterium

While Jimmy Akin is usually a marvelous commentator, part of his recent discussion of the papal remarks on condom use is somewhat inaccurate. He says:

Well, as I’ve noted before, on more than one occasion, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states (quoting Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae):

“[E]very action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil [CCC 2370].

I’ve boldfaced the phrase “conjugal act” because it’s the key to understand what is being said. Many gloss over this phrase and assume it means “sexual act.” It doesn’t. “Conjugal”—like its Latin equivalent, coniugale—doesn’t mean “sexual”; it means “marital.”

If you are having sex with someone you are (heterosexually) married to then you are engaging in the marital act. Otherwise, not. If you are engaging in sexual behavior but not with someone you’re married to then it is a different kind of act (masturbation, adultery, fornication, etc.).

What the Church—in Humanae Vitae and the Catechism—has done is say that one cannot deliberately frustrate the procreative aspect of sexual intercourse between man and wife....

And so it’s left the field [of sex outside of marriage] largely to moral theologians to discuss and not really treated it on the Magisterial level.

As much as I hate to say it, Jimmy Akin is in error on this point.

While it is true that the 20th century Magisterial pronouncements on contraception all discuss the "conjugal act," it is NOT the case that this phrasing is only meant to reference the sexual act within marriage.

For precedence, we have the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, who clearly forbid the use of contraceptives regardless of the marital state of the participants.

Consider, Aquinas for instance, whose Summa was enshrined with the Scriptures on the altar at the Council of Trent. He had no compunctions about discussing the relative merits of sex outside of marriage, going even so far as to grade the various levels of damnation that masturbation, fornication and bestiality inflict upon those who practice such vices (he judged fornication the least damnable, since it was at least ordered towards the conjugal act, lacking only the vow of marriage for liceity - for his complete discussion, click here.)

Indeed, several Fathers specifically mention infidelity as a reason participants indulge in contraception and abortion, and those contraceptive/abortifacient extra-marital acts are still specifically and explicitly forbidden:
"[Christian women with male concubines], on account of their prominent ancestry and great property, the so-called faithful want no children from slaves or lowborn commoners, [so] they use drugs of sterility or bind themselves tightly in order to expel a fetus which has already been engendered" (Refutation of All Heresies 9:12 [A.D. 225]). ~ Hippolytus
"For necessary sexual intercourse for begetting [children] is alone worthy of marriage. But that which goes beyond this necessity no longer follows reason but lust. And yet it pertains to the character of marriage . . . to yield it to the partner lest by fornication the other sin damnably [through adultery]. . . . [T]hey [must] not turn away from them the mercy of God . . . by changing the natural use into that which is against nature, which is more damnable when it is done in the case of husband or wife. For, whereas that natural use, when it pass beyond the compact of marriage, that is, beyond the necessity of begetting [children], is pardonable in the case of a wife, damnable in the case of a harlot; that which is against nature is execrable when done in the case of a harlot, but more execrable in the case of a wife. Of so great power is the ordinance of the Creator, and the order of creation, that . . . when the man shall wish to use a body part of the wife not allowed for this purpose [orally or anally consummated sex], the wife is more shameful, if she suffer it to take place in her own case, than if in the case of another woman" (The Good of Marriage 11–12 [A.D. 401]). ~ Augustine
"Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility [oral contraceptives], where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well. . . . Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his [natural] laws? . . . Yet such turpitude . . . the matter still seems indifferent to many men—even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks" (Homilies on Romans 24 [A.D. 391]). ~ John Chrysostom
"Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion so that she is unable to conceive or condemns in herself the nature which God willed to be fecund? As often as she could have conceived or given birth, of that many homicides she will be held guilty, and, unless she undergoes suitable penance, she will be damned by eternal death in hell. If a woman does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman" (Sermons 1:12 [A.D. 522]). ~Caesarius of Arles
Now, these are all good quotes, but the next one is the real kicker:
"I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility. . . . Assuredly if both husband and wife are like this, they are not married, and if they were like this from the beginning they come together not joined in matrimony but in seduction. If both are not like this, I dare to say that either the wife is in a fashion the harlot of her husband or he is an adulterer with his own wife" (Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17 [A.D. 419]). ~ Augustine
In fact, according to both Augustine and all subsequent Catholic doctrine, no contraceptive act can be conjugal because the very contraceptive act itself breaks the marriage compact and is therefore done outside of marriage. That is, even married people who contracept are not participating in "the conjugal act" because the act of contraception renders the sexual act non-conjugal.

Note that Augustine's reasoning is exactly parallel to the idea that the Bride of Christ, the Church, is sinless. How does She manage that, given that each individual Christian is a sinner? This is possible because when any one of us sin, the sinner is no longer part of the Body of Christ. We need to go to confession in order to be made sinless and be re-united to the sinless Body.

So, in light of Augustine's insights, if we take Jimmy Akin's understanding as correct, none of the Magisterial documents actually discuss contraception, since all of them concern themselves only with the conjugal act, and contraception renders the act non-conjugal or extra-conjugal.

This is obviously an absurd conclusion.
Akin's reasoning must be wrong.

So, what is meant by "conjugal act"?

In order to reconcile the writings of the Fathers with the Magisterial documents which base themselves on the Fathers, we must assume that "conjugal act" does not strictly confine itself to meaning "the sexual act that takes place within marriage", rather, it must mean "the sexual act that is supposed to take place within marriage (but often does not)".

Have we any precedent for such a referencing?
As a matter of fact, we do.

When we meet someone like George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush, we refer to each of them as "Mr. President." Why do we do that? After all, none of them is president anymore. Yes, none is president, but all three once held that office, so in order to honor that memory of them, we refer to them as "Mr. President" even though they are not properly in office anymore. They were once elected to that office, and that fact must be honored.

In Magisterial documents such as Scripture, we see St. Paul do the same thing when he calls the members of various communities "saints" - he calls them what they are striving to be, not what they are right now. He uses the language of perfection (that which will be perfected), not the language of imperfection, when referring to holy things and holy people. He refers to them by the office they will one day, through God's grace, hold, the office they are elected to hold - that's why they are called "the elect."

In the same way, the "conjugal act" is a holy act, a holy office, and it deserves honor. So, the Church in her documents always refers to the sexual act as the act that is proper to marriage: whenever possible, She calls it "the conjugal act." Indeed, in order to honor its holiness, it is called that even when we are actually (or also) referencing the sexual act outside of marriage, precisely because that act properly belongs only in the sacred office of marriage.

So, Pope Benedict's private theological opinion on the matter of condom use is not unusual in addressing the question of the relative merits of different kinds of sex outside of marriage. Augustine, Hippolytus, Aquinas, and numerous others constantly did the same. This is not exactly a new problem.

Similarly, saying that one kind of act may not be as bad as another kind of act, yet both acts may still damn you to hell, is also not a new habit for private theologians, whether that private theologian be the Pope (in this instance) or Aquinas. After all, it was just eight hundred years ago that Aquinas pointed out how someone who chose fornication over masturbation has chosen a less damnable (albeit still damning) sin, because fornication at least involves a real person and a real possibility of procreation, while masturbation is just an illusory pleasure-taking.

In order to find precedent for Benedict's private theological speculations, we need not make up examples about bank robbers or muggers. Such examples have nothing to do with marriage or the marriage act or the violation of the holy institution of marriage. They really don't apply.

We need only go back and examine the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, comparing their examples to the examples set before us today.

So, is the Holy Father's private theological opinion correct? Is it the case that the use of the condom with the intent to reduce disease transmission less damnable than using the condom without that intention? Probably. Aquinas, whose love for such fine distinctions is precisely what makes him the greatest doctor of the Church, would almost certainly agree that it was.

And that is heartening.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is Ed Peters A Shill?

I think Ed Peters is a shill.

The Pope's most recent, and as it turns out, most controversial book is coming out under Ignatius Press, via Fr. Fessio and his well-known intimate friendship with the Pope.

Fr. Fessio is no fool, and he undoubtedly read the book closely, edited it to some extent, the whole nine yards.

Now, I'm no fan of LOR - I think they've been pretty puerile lately - but LOR is being set up as a scapegoat on this condom fiasco.

Ignatius and Fr. Fessio should have seen this coming, especially in the US market.

There is NO WAY ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH that this passage from the papal interview would not have eventually been seen by the secular press and blown up, whether this week or a month from now doesn't really matter.

LOR happened to scoop the MSM on it, but that's about all they did "wrong," and I'm not sure it's wrong for even the Vatican newspaper to scoop the secular media.

In past articles, on Simpsons or the Beatles or whatever you want to name, we have LOR's juvenile nattering to contend with. But in this article, LOR played it straight - they just quoted what the Pope said.

It isn't LOR's article that causes the trouble, it's the Pope's words, and now, his clarifications. There wouldn't be a problem if the Pope hadn't said something risible.

If Ed was being honest, he would point a finger at Fessio and Ignatius, who should be helping the Pope cover his assets. These guys knew about that passage long before LOR did, and they didn't change it or cut it, so what does that tell you?

Fr. Fessio and Ignatius, for whatever reason, left this in the book so LOR could scoop it out. Ed Peter is shifting the blame onto people who had absolutely nothing to do with any of this mess, besides pointing out that the passage existed. Lots of Catholic bloggers are piling on, in an attempt to pretend that this is all LOR's fault.

But LOR didn't create this nut house.
Ignatius Press, Fr. Fessio and Pope Benedict laid this one out.
Sorry, but you can't point the finger anywhere else.

For all we know, it isn't even the fault of Fr. Fessio and Ignatius.
Perhaps they DID point out the passage as a problem and Benedict vetoed its exclusion.
We don't really know.
But, much as I hate to say it, I don't think LOR can be blamed for this firestorm.
They just happened to be the messenger.

From the Guardian:
Now it would appear that the contraceptive effect disappears in the light of health imperative; it is even, apparently, true that married couples may now use condoms when one of them is infected.

This is a huge shift in understanding. It has opened a genuine split in the church, as our reports from Africa make clear. And that is precisely why the liberals, who have won this fight, are now anxious to claim that nothing much has happened. It is an iron rule of Catholic argument that teaching never changes: it only develops. And the more it in fact changes, the more necessary it is to explain that this is only development and a deeper exposition of what the church has always taught.

A liberal friend of mine just spent about five minutes explaining that the church had always been in favour of prostitutes using condoms, and had never held that they were intrinsically evil, and that all it had been looking for was a chance to clarify this point without misleading its enemies. So there was no change here, no doctrinal change at all … then he added "But now the Pope has told the right-wingers to fuck off! That changes everything."

John Allen of NCR essentially agrees LOR did nothing wrong.
Given the source, I'm not sure it's a good thing to have him agree with me, but there it is.

Anyone Can Use A Condom?

Well, the Pope has doubled down on his statement concerning condoms:

"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." [There is that insistence that condom use is a move towards objective good. Again.]

"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.

The clarification is significant.

Yeah, I'd say that last sentence was the understatement of the year.

Here's the problem.

In order to be able to use condoms, the principle of double effect must apply.
In order for the principle of double effect to apply, the following must be true:
  1. The nature-of-the-act condition. The action must be either morally good or indifferent.
  2. The means-end condition. The bad effect must not be the means by which one achieves the good effect.
  3. The right-intention condition. The intention must be the achieving of only the good effect, with the bad effect being only an unintended side effect.
  4. The proportionality condition The good effect must be at least equivalent in importance to the bad effect.
1a) The use of a condom in a heterosexual encounter is not morally good or indifferent. Insofar as it is contraceptive, it is intrinsically evil. Fail on Test #1 for heterosexuals.

However, insofar as the use of a condom is NOT contraceptive, it is NOT evil. Since the use of a condom between homosexuals is not a contraceptive act, Pass on Test #1 for homosexuals.

2a) Since the seminal fluid which carries the sperm also carries the STD, and these two cannot be differentiated or separated, the means of achieving the bad effect (stopping the sperm from being communicated) is identical to the means for achieving the good effect (stopping the STD agent from being communicated) - the same barrier prevents both from obtaining. Fail on Test #2 for heterosexuals.

Since the presence or absence of sperm is immaterial to the sodomitical act, Pass on Test #2 for homosexuals.

3a) All that you have, according to the Pope, is a good intent - the desire not to transmit disease, either to yourself or to others or both. Pass on Test #3 for both groups.

4a) The good effect, keeping disease from being transmitted, is a lesser good than preventing the coming into existence of an immortal person who has the capacity to praise and glorify God for all eternity. Disease and death are temporally self-limiting - at most, they will only apply for a few decades out of eternity, while the person that may be conceived will exist for all eternity. The difference in goodness is infinite. Fail on Test #4 for heterosexuals.

Since homosexuals cannot bring an immortal person into existence, Pass on Test #4 for homosexuals.

In order for double effect to apply to the use of condoms in marriage or any other encounter, all four tests must pass. As you can see, for heterosexuals, three out of four do not. For homosexuals, all four tests pass and condom use is not a problem.

Indeed, as I pointed out yesterday, the principle of double effect doesn't even apply to the homosexual act, since the homosexual act has only one effect - pleasure. There is no procreation, thus there aren't two effects whose relative merits have to be judged, as there are for the heterosexual act.

But, of course, because the Vatican is not bothering to explain any of this, and because the Ignatius Press book does not bother to explain any of this, all of this is being ignored. The Pope's failure, the Vatican's failure, to adequately contextualize the Pope's words is creating a firestorm.

As I said yesterday:
Just as an action can have multiple consequences, so I can have multiple intentions when I carry out an action.

According to the Pope, when I use the condom, I may sin through the intent to commit sodomy or fornication, but I do NOT sin by intending to reduce disease transmission.

Insofar as I use the condom only for that purpose, I do not sin.

Indeed, according to the Pope, insofar as I use the condom for that purpose, I take the first actions towards moral good, the humanizing of the sexual act.

It's counter-intuitive, but that's what he himself says in the first part of his answer.

Now, when it comes to sodomy, there is NO difference between the use of a drug that reduces the probability AIDS will be transmitted and the use of a condom.

So, it is absolutely the case that the Pope is endorsing the use of a condom to prevent disease transmission per se because when I use it FOR THAT INTENTION, I am moving towards the good, which the Church endorses.
So this is not a question of "how to sin in the least offensive way."

The Pope is saying anyone who uses a condom with the intent to reduce disease transmission is doing objective good - taking "a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility."

And, just as an aside, the Washington Times reports today on the development of EXACTLY the same kind of drug I hypothesized in my example yesterday: a drug that when taken daily by an HIV-negative person reduces the incidence of AIDS acquisition and transmission by 70%.

Several people have asked whether this isn't really just an academic question.
After all, how many people actively involved in sinful sexual activities are worried about condom use?

As I've pointed out previously, the way people rationalize sin is impressive. How many times have we heard the story of the priest or bishop who thought homosexual activity didn't violate celibacy vows?

Similarly, is it really outside the pale for those same priests or bishops to insist that they didn't want to use a condom during their "celibate extra-curricular activities" because the use of a condom was sinful?

No, I don't think this was ever just an academic discussion.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Answering Questions

When it came to "is he endorsing this" it was in regards to "is the Pope endorsing using condoms"

The answer is clearly no.
Ok, so he's not endorsing the idea that anyone take "a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility"?
Ok, wow, I don't know how I missed that.

I thought the Pope was in the business of endorsing that people move towards "moralization and a first assumption of responsibility," but you say he doesn't endorse that AT ALL, so there you go.
Mea culpa.
I'll have to pull all these posts and apologize.
If you can just confirm for me one more time that the Pope DOES NOT endorse "moralization and a first assumption of responsibility," I'll go ahead and do all those things.

The Pope clearly states that it is limited to preventing the spread of infection. It is that intention which is that "first step", not the condom use.

Of course, of course.
That's why he said the USE of the condom by the male prostitute is a step towards moralization and a first assumption of responsibility.

Because, clearly, a male prostitute who uses a condom is NOT using it because he's worried about infection.
He's obviously worried about getting his partner pregnant - that's the primary thing he's worried about and intending to avoid by the use of the condom, right?

When a drug addict says "hey, maybe I should stop doing smack because I'll lose my job", the most we can say is "well, it's a start!" You shouldn't be doing drugs anyway, but at least they are beginning to realize there are consequences to their actions.

Yes, that's right.
He is beginning to realize that there are consequences to the actions.
Now, what would be analogous to condom use here?
Clean needle exchange?
So, would you think the Pope would say that the intent to avoid the transmission of infection by seeking out clean needles is a first step towards moralization and assumption of responsibility?
And would the Pope say that the intent is good and humanizing, but the actual seeking out of and use of clean needles instead of any damned thing the kid picks up off the street is not something that he could endorse?

Because there's only three possibilities here: (1) stop use entirely, (2) seek out and use clean needles, or (3) use any old thing.

You see, in both of these cases, the intention is bound up with the use.

Condoms are generally agreed to DECREASE the pleasure in the experience, so the only reason anyone would use a condom is to avoid infection or pregnancy, and with the pregnancy issue pretty much dead, that means the intent behind using the condom and the actual use of the condom are virtually indistinguishable. Same goes with the needles - the trouble and possible ID associated with clean needles makes them more likely for you to get caught by cops and forced off your habit, which addicts don't want. So the act of looking for and using clean needles entails the necessary intent. By endorsing the intent, you necessarily endorse the use.

That is, the use of condoms as contraceptives may be intrinsically evil (evil regardless of intent), but the use of condoms as disease prophylactics is NOT intrinsically evil - it's bound up deeply with the intent.

Someone who has spent their life thinking of condoms as intrinsically evil is not going to make that distinction, as many of the Catholic commentators have not.

You can distinguish the intent and the use with pregnancy and condoms ("I intend to make love to my wife, so I'll use a condom" is a wrong answer, because no matter what your stated intent, the very act has a meaning which cries out against conception)

But, you CANNOT make that distinction when condoms are used to prevent disease transmission by male prostitutes (assumably involved in a homosexual liason).

By endorsing the intent to avoid disease transmission, the Pope necessarily recognizes the use of condoms as acceptable for avoiding disease transmission because, in the instance of a male prostitute, that's the only meaning they are likely to have.

Let's try a different thought experiment.
Let's say the Pope had been asked about taking drugs that reduce the transmission of AIDS.
Would the Pope say, "The intent to take such drugs is good, but we cannot endorse the taking of such drugs."
Of course not - the drugs are morally neutral and they provide good to the human person.

Now, if asked, "what about people who take the drugs with the intent of engaging in fornication or sodomy, so as to reduce disease transmission."
Obviously, the Pope would say, "Well, the intent to engage in fornication and sodomy is bad. We can't endorse that. But the intention to reduce disease transmission is a good."
But would the Pope say, "We don't endorse the taking of AIDS reducing drugs by sodomites?"
Obviously not.
Yet that's exactly what all the Catholic commentators seem to want to have him say.

By the very fact that he says, "the intention to reduce disease transmission is a good" THAT IS AN ENDORSEMENT of the use of the drug per se because this drug and all drugs like it do exactly what the Church says is good, and I cannot sin by doing what the Church says is good.

Let's put it another way.
Just as an action can have multiple consequences, so I can have multiple intentions when I carry out an action.

According to the Pope, when I use the condom, I may sin through the intent to commit sodomy or fornication, but I do NOT sin by intending to reduce disease transmission.
Insofar as I use the condom only for that purpose, I do not sin.

Indeed, according to the Pope, insofar as I use the condom for that purpose, I take the first actions towards moral good, the humanizing of the sexual act.

It's counter-intuitive, but that's what he himself says in the first part of his answer.

Now, when it comes to sodomy, there is NO difference between the use of a drug that reduces the probability AIDS will be transmitted and the use of a condom.

So, it is absolutely the case that the Pope is endorsing the use of a condom to prevent disease transmission per se because when I use it FOR THAT INTENTION, I am moving towards the good, which the Church endorses.

Indeed, everyone assumes he deliberately tried to qualify his statement to exactly that case of homosexual liason and precisely that intention.

This is part of what makes his reply so bad.
The most difficult aspect of his reply is that he failed to do what everyone assumes he meant to do.
He never limits the male prostitute's actions to homosexual actions, which leaves the whole blessed answer too open-ended.
Unfortunately, due to the extraordinary badness of his reply, you can read that reply to mean that male prostitutes can use condoms in heterosexual encounters as well because the Pope doesn't discuss that aspect at all. You'd be reading it out of consonance with the Magisterium, of course, but I think it's safe to say that the reply will commonly be read that way.

Now if he says "well maybe I should start drinking more to help", the sentiment is still right (recognizing there are consequences to his actions), but the medicine in this case is no effective cure.

Sure, the prostitute wants to avoid infection, so he uses a condom. Wanting to avoid infecting someone with a terminal illness is a good thing. Yet that's not sufficient. Using a condom is still wrong.

But the Pope doesn't say using a condom is wrong.
Show me the passage where he does.
He says it is a step towards the good if used with this intention.

Instead, the solution is a "humanization of sexuality." That is why the Church says that condoms cannot be a real or moral solution to the issue at hand.

I'm not trying to treat the Pope as infallible here. Part of it is simply trying to give the man the benefit of the doubt. Another part is reading the context, and taking the entire matter into account. In the end, it was an imprudent statement. Yet the Pope wasn't saying "condoms are good for this"

Yes, he was.

Steve, you're the only commentator I've seen who brings out the fact that it needs to be clarified that the pope is not speaking of contraception, as he is only referring to a male prostitute. This urgently needs to be clarified by the Holy See, assuming that is in fact what the Pope meant.
That's why the Vatican "clarification" to date is an epic fail.
It doesn't address that aspect at all.
Look at this mess of a reply:

The head of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, has issued a statement clarifying passages of the book Light of the World, in which Pope Benedict discusses AIDS and condom use.

The statement says Pope Benedict states that AIDs cannot be solved only by the distribution of condoms, and, in fact, concentrating on condoms just trivializes sexuality, which loses its meaning as an expression of love and becomes like a drug.

At the same time, the Pope considered an exceptional situation in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real risk to the lives of others. In this case, the Pope does not morally justify the exercise of disordered sexuality, but believes that the use of condoms to reduce the risk of infection is a “first step on the road to a more human sexuality”, rather than not to use it and risking the lives of others.

Father Lombardi’s statement clarifies Pope Benedict XVI has not reformed or changed the Church’s teaching, but by putting it in perspective reaffirms the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of love and responsibility.

What the heck is THAT?

"Disordered sexuality" - Father Lombardi, I hate to have to point this out, but fornication is disordered, contracepted sex is disordered, homosexuality is disordered, so are you saying a man and wife can use a condom after all?
That fornicating heterosexual couples should use a condom?
This clarification is worse than the original statement.

The Vatican is trying to play cute with the answer and draw all these nice distinctions in order to accommodate venereal disease (which is all AIDS is), and it CANNOT WORK.

We've had VD since sex was invented, and condoms have always been thrown out of bounds, so what makes AIDS any different?

Syphilis kills you just as dead, and arguably more horribly (take a look at the description of tertiary syphilis sometime), but that never swayed the Church before.
They're trying to finesse this thing and they are creating an epic fail.

Stop the Presses!

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

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 human way, of living sexuality.

Problem One

People are asking if the Pope approved condom use.
Lots of analysts are saying "no."

The Pope says in the first part of the answer that "[the use of] a condom can be... a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility."

Can any of these fine-feathered analysts explain why taking a first step in the direction of moralization or a first assumption of responsibility is NOT an endorsement of condom use?

Since when do we consider either moving towards morality or taking on responsibility BAD?

He says the USE - not the intention, but the USE - of the condom is "a first step" towards these wonderful goods of moralization and assumption of responsibility.

Are we saying the Pope does not recommend anyone become more moral or responsible?
Doesn't he himself say condom use may make someone move towards morality and being responsible? And isn't being more moral and more responsible the sign of becoming more human, that is, isn't it humanizing to take on these characteristics?

So how is that not a recommendation?

Of course it's a recommendation. The only reason we would think differently is that he contradicts himself when he answers the next question. If we look at the contradictory sentence, in the next answer, then we can draw the conclusion that condoms are not recommended, but in order to draw that conclusion we have to look at the answer to the next question and entirely ignore this answer.

After he recommends condom use as a way of improving moral understanding, the Pope then moves on to discuss how condom use relates to the very specific problem of HIV infection. But the two sentences of his answer don't seem clearly related.

That is, you can read the response to this first question as saying "In general, the use of condoms by male prostitutes brings the user closer to being responsible, but in the case of HIV specifically, we need to bring in a more human sexuality."

Which is, when you think about it, a darned weird answer.

Precisely because the journalist doing the interview sees this disconnect in the answer, he asks his follow-up question, "Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?" That is, the journalist is asking precisely if the first part is a general principle and the second part a specific digression.

Problem Two

The Pope answers by contradicting himself.

He says, in principle, condoms aren't a real or moral solution, but the intention to use them may be a "more human way of living sexuality."

But this contradicts what he said in the first answer.

After all, what on earth is the difference between "the humanization of sexuality" which is really, really what Catholics are supposed to be working towards, and a "more human way of living sexuality" which, apparently, is to be rejected as not being a "real or moral solution"? Why is moving towards moralization and responsibility not "humanization"?

Benedict seems to be making a distinction without a difference.

Isn't "the humanization of sexuality" the same as "a more human way of living sexuality" which is the same as "taking on responsibility"?

In order to humanize something, don't we have to live it in a more human way?

If we move towards being moral and taking on responsibility, aren't we becoming more human?

First, the use of the condom brings responsibility, then no....wait... the intent to avoid infection (by using the condom) is the humanizing thing.

So, intending to use the condom is good, but actually using it is not?
At least, not when HIV is involved?

A male prostitute who uses condoms is moving towards being more human except when he uses it in regards to HIV, unless he intends to "reduce the risk of infection", but not necessarily with condoms, which the Pope (according to apologists) isn't recommending even though the use of them might bring some of us towards being more responsible in certain cases?

The answer isn't nuanced, it is barely coherent.

Obviously the Church doesn't regard condom use as a complete solution, but how can anyone say the Pope hasn't endorsed condom use in at least some limited fashion as a means of "humanizing" sexuality, a way of moving towards the good?

If the Pope's first answer is wrong, if it is not the use of the condom that brings more responsibility and moralization, then he needs to explicitly say that and the first answer has to be amended to reflect that. But then he has to explain how intending to use something can be a movement towards the good while actually using it is not such a movement. Good luck with that.

And notice, the Pope never qualifies the statement to tell us that the prostitute encounter has to be just homosexual - all the commentators are assuming that, but the Pope never says it. That's a huge lacunae, and secular analysts are going to make hay with it.

The apologists can try to spin this one all they want (I would personally LOVE to put a good spin on these answers), but anybody who looks honestly at the Pope's discussion here cannot conclude anything except the Pope screwed up.

Ignatius Press should halt the release of this book until this passage is fixed.

Releasing it now, without correcting these statements and more fully qualifying them, is an offense to the Pope and to the Church Universal. In order to prevent further embarrassment to both, Ignatius Press has a duty to put off the release, shred whatever copies have been printed, and reprint after the answers have been corrected.

Look, there's no shame in this.

If the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which had hundreds of eyes looking at it for years, needed some corrections, expansions and better explanations, is it any surprise that a book-length interview might have a bit of a bobble in an explanation?

The only reason this particular bobble is a big deal is because it involves a hot-button topic. But to stand around and deny that corrections need to be made is simply absurd. It makes Catholics look stupid, which... well... let's just say we don't really need the additional help.

Ignatius Press, I know you got the Pope's go-ahead before publication, but you need to go back to him, explain the situation and FIX THIS.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Pope And Condoms

To illustrate his apparent shift in position, Benedict offered the example of a male prostitute using a condom.

"There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be ... a first bit of responsibility, to re-develop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes," Benedict was quoted as saying.

"But it is not the proper way to deal with the horror of HIV infection."

Benedict reiterated that condom use alone would not solve the problem of HIV/AIDS. "More must happen," he said.

"Becoming simply fixated on the issue of condoms makes sexuality more banal and exactly this is the reason why so many people no longer find sexuality to be an expression of their love, but a type of self-administered drug."

This is what the Pope will be quoted as having said in a forthcoming book-length interview coming out Tuesday, entitled "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times." It is based on 20 hours of interviews conducted by German journalist Peter Seewald.

What the Heck Is Going On?

The first question, of course, is how on earth could the Pope say this?

As an orthodox Catholic, you have two options:

Option One:

At the risk of being jejune, it is important to point out that the Pope may simply be wrong on this one. He is not teaching ex cathedra on a matter of faith and morals to the Church universal. He is simply expressing a private opinion to a journalist - not exactly the thing from which papal bulls are made.

Catholics are free to say that he's stark raving mad in having made this statement and move on. In that regard, the statement itself would not be a problem, as we would all disregard it. We would have bigger problems to consider.

Option Two:

But, if you prefer not to make quite that quick a judgement, we can study the statement in a little more depth.

The statement is problematic precisely because it is not heavily qualified enough. While the Pope was careful to make the distinction that condom use would be appropriate only for a male prostitute, he failed to expressly say that this male prostitute would necessarily be engaged in sodomy.

In order for the Pope's statement to make any sense, he has to have meant that.

That is, if we assume that he was referring only to the very narrow sphere of a sodomitical prostitution, then Pope Benedict XVI's statement may be defensible, although it is still, at the very least, startling to pious ears.

How does it work?

If the male prostitute were consorting with a woman, then the use of the condom would not be defensible, as it would be an attempt to close off the procreative act from procreation, which is not a permissible act or attitude.

But, the act of sodomy already is, by definition, closed off to procreation. Thus, the condom cannot contribute to the intent to close the act off from procreation, since male-male sex is never procreative and everyone involved presumably already knows this.

The only possible intent that could be associated with condom use in the sodomitical act is to reduce the possibility of disease transmission.

In this regard, although we don't normally consider condoms a medical solution to any known problem, condom use would be treated very much as the hormonal pill is when that pill is used primarily to treat an illness, and not primarily used or intended to be a contraceptive.

We already know that a medication which has the unintended side effect of infertility can be acceptable via the principle of double effect. The use of the condom here does not invoke the principle of double effect, since there is no double effect - the condom isn't preventing procreation, all it is doing is reducing the probability of disease transmission. It is acting as a preventive medicine or pill would that might likewise reduce disease transmission.

Reduction of physical danger to the human person is a good intent.

Thus, the use of a condom in this situation would be a sign that the male prostitute at least valued his own life to some minimal extent. The ability to recognize the inherent value of your own life is a good thing. Thus, "one may not do everything one wishes" especially if that wish involves suicide via sodomy.

Now, it should further be pointed out that the Pope did not say the use of a condom between any two sodomites is acceptable. He specifically qualified his remark to restrict it to the use by prostitutes, and male prostitutes at that.

This qualification is important. The prostitute is usually reduced to this state because of gravely serious circumstances in his life, a complete breakdown of support from others, the need to earn enough money to avoid starvation and a life lived in the elements. It is often accompanied by serious risk of harm from the pimp who controls the life of the prostitute. Not only is the sodomitical life so utterly destructive that it generally results in an early death, the life of prostitution is equally destructive with equally grim results. Combined, the life of a male prostitute is definitely ugly, brutish and short.

That is, male prostitution (like female prostitution) is a situation which is really a form of slow suicide. However, male prostitution is even worse than female prostitution precisely because there is no hope life may come from the evil being done. Thus, the use of a condom in this case - a situation in which the condom only has meaning as a device to avoid the transmission of disease and death - the use of a condom by the male prostitute in such a situation may actually represent an attempt to value one's own life.

But isn't the use of contraceptives intrinsically immoral?

Yes. But the decision to engage in sodomy is already the decision to engage in contraceptive sex, in the sense that it is a sexual act that has no possibility of transmitting life and thus not properly a sexual act in the full sense at all. The presence or absence of the condom doesn't add to or subtract from the life-giving aspect of the act (since it doesn't exist to begin with). Condom use is, so to speak, gilding the lily, in every meaning of the phrase. So, even though a male prostitute uses a condom, in a sodomitical act he's technically not using a contraceptive.

The problem, of course, is that this unexplained and un-nuanced papal statement seems to build a slippery slope.

If this argument can be used to support condom use between sodomites one of whom is a prostitute, then why could it not also be brought forward to defend the use of condoms by sodomites who are not prostitutes?

The difference here is that in a cooperative sodomitical act, the men are not forced into doing this for money, but instead choose to do it for pleasure. But that distinction will be lost on most.

If it can be used by male prostitutes, then why not by female prostitutes, who also value their own lives in their encounters with the men who exploit them?

The difference, of course, is that of procreative possibility, but that distinction will also be lost on the larger public.

Thus, although it may be true, the Pope's statement by itself certainly makes the life of the Catholic who would explain Catholic Faith to a non-Catholic rather harder than it was.

Even if the Vatican comes forth with further nuance, this papal statement will be pointed to as a "change in teaching" because no one will want to hear the nuance or the deeper explanation.

You could argue, and some undoubtedly will, that the use of a condom is always and everywhere wrong. That's a perfectly Catholic position to hold. And, as I said before, the Pope may easily be flat wrong in what he said.

But, for those who wish to provide an apologetic for the Pope in this instance, it is possible to construct one, even if additional qualifications (i.e., references to sodomy) have to be added to his original statement in order to make it orthodox, even if the reality that he lays out makes it harder for us to explain human sexuality to others.

If he failed to qualify his statement well enough, it wouldn't be the first time a Pope failed to be fully explanatory in a statement. Indeed, Pope Honorius I was proclaimed a heretic by the Third Council of Constantinople and the liturgy of the Church for roughly a thousand years due to his failures to fully qualify his statements. Will Pope Benedict XVI fall into this same category? That remains to be seen. But this is the line his defense will take when the time for defense comes.

In any case, if the sodomy qualification is not added, and the Pope's statement is taken to mean that a male prostitute can use a condom regardless of whether his exploiter is a male paying money for sex or a female paying money for sex, then the papal statement would have been taken to have a meaning that directly violates the ordinary infallible Magisterium of the Church.

As it stands, the papal statement is not sufficiently nuanced and it definitely needs to be explained in greater detail by the Vatican.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Only Real Catholic Parishes

A brilliantly incisive comment from a dear relative of mine set me to thinking about the Latin Mass parishes around the country.
I think what made something like Newman special or a parish with a school is the commonality of people's experiences. Once you graduate or move beyond what many people are doing, you have chosen something different than the common experience, which automatically makes for an outsider feeling. It's exceedingly difficult to overcome. I once was a member of the church choir. Maybe I need to rejoin to have commonality with my fellow parishioners.
Now, what is said here is absolutely correct. Common experiences are what make for community. Once you have chosen something else (to be a commuter on a college campus that is mostly residential, or vice versa, for instance), you are instantly an outsider, not part of the life of the community.

According to Catholic theology and praxis, the liturgy is the height of Catholic community, and the Mass the height of the liturgy. Catholics are bound together as Catholics by the Mass. Yet is that really the case in most Novus Ordo parishes?

In my experience (and I've lived in four states and eight parishes in the last twenty years), it isn't. Far from being a unifying experience, the Mass is absolutely incidental to the community experience.

Isn't That Typical?
Think about the typical "parish life" - it's built around choir, Bible studies, mothers' groups, Scout troops, Knights of Columbus, and pre-eminent among all activities, THE SCHOOL.

Indeed, if you ask most parishioners who have children in the school which came first, the parish or the school, they would answer "the school." And they would sometimes be literally correct.

In the United States, it was not unusual for the school building to be erected first, with Masses celebrated in the gymnasium or cafeteria until the parish church got built. Most parishioners think the parish exists to support the school, that the school is the pre-eminent purpose of the parish, when it is actually quite the reverse. Indeed, I've seen pastors specifically instruct parish councils in the correct understanding after the parish council expressed the backward understanding and yet also have seen the parish council so dumbfounded by the instruction that they all uniformly refused to accept it could be true.

Now, to be fair, this pre-eminence of school over parish happened well before Vatican II was even a twinkle in John XXIII's eye, well before John XXIIII was a twinkle in the eye of the cardinals who elected him, in fact.

Predictably Protestant
But, it is the case that this mis-ordering of priorities is now a commonplace in Catholic parishes. No one, and by that I mean literally NO ONE in the typical Catholic Novus Ordo parish thinks the Mass is what forms their community. Despite their lip service, it's plain that even most of the bishops don't believe it.

After all, if the bishops and priests believed it, they wouldn't spend tens of thousands of dollars on programs like RENEW or Christ Among Us or whatever this year's "small group parish renewal" project is. None of these things are ever centered on liturgy of any kind, much less (God forbid!) the Mass.

Instead, the "small group projects" always center on creating small groups of families who gather in each others home to break bread, speak of Scripture (generally without benefit of guidance from priests, bishops or Magisterial documents), etc. In short, the Catholic parish renewal projects are always very Protestant in character.

And the effect is always predictably Protestant.
It works great the first year or so, starts to decline the second and third years, and when the boxed material from the publisher runs out, the groups disband. Everyone comments about "how great that was" and can't figure out why it deflated like a child's party balloon.

It never occurs to anyone that the whole experience was artificial to begin with, held together by dollars and the paper glue of some wit's Bible study. The "sense of community" was literally purchased with an invoice, and was therefore as solid as the exchange of goods and services between a man and woman interested in... mmmm.... ahem.... temporary mutual enrichment...

The Difference
But with an Extraordinary Form parish, it is not so. The people there are not there because they much like each other (although they may, they often don't) or because they have shared experiences (although they might, they often won't). No, they are all there because of the liturgy. If the pastor didn't offer the Mass according to the 1962 Missal, they wouldn't go, no parish would exist. Whatever community life flows from this parish (and it can be quite good), flows from it because the Mass brought these people together first.

Now, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule. For instance, I know of at least one pastor who offers the Novus Ordo in Latin ad orientem, and I think it can honestly be said that his parish has a large number of members who are there precisely and only because of the beauty and fidelity of the Mass he offers.

The point is, it is only the parish whose community joins together because of its common love for the Mass, it is only that parish community, which can be called a real Catholic community. Only the community which sees liturgical preparation in general, and sacramental preparation most especially, as the common binding heritage of the whole community, only that community really understands itself. Only the community which joins together primarily and precisely to celebrate that for which it has prepared itself is joined together by Christ Himself.

Every other parish, every parish that builds its "community" on the basis of its school, its choir, its small groups, its Scripture study, its Cub Scouts or Knights of Columbus, every such parish is not Catholic in any real or permanent sense at all, because it is not bound by that which is peculiarly Catholic - the sacraments, the sacraments and the liturgy which wraps itself around the sacraments like swaddling clothes around the Christ Child.

The first Catholic community came together in a stable, not to share coffee and donuts or to swap tips on how to tend sheep, but to worship the living God become the Son of Man, the Christ.

Let us imitate them.

Famous TOB Proponent of Westianism on Trial

The recent trial in Utah demonstrates how prudish Mormons can be.

They were the words Elizabeth Smart waited eight years to say, and when she spoke them from the witness stand Wednesday, they poured out with an intensity that brought jurors to the edge of their seats.

Brian David Mitchell was no prophet, she said. He was an unholy hypocrite.

You see? Calling a man an unholy hypocrite is just divisive, mean-spirited and an act of pure jealousy on her part. If she were pure like him, she wouldn't speak that way. The man was just using sound TOB ideas. He had a "hunger in his heart" and he resolved that hunger using Westian principles.
"Smart said she initially was tethered to a cable strung between two trees. She was raped on a daily basis, forced to smoke and drink and parade around naked in a game Mitchell and wife, Wanda Barzee, called "Adam and Eve." She said he called himself Immanuel and wrote a book outlining his religious beliefs called the "Book of Immanuel David Isaiah." He called his private parts "Immanuel's Pride," and his bed "Immanuel's Altar," she testified."
Remember, West espouses the idea that spouses should walk around naked like Adam and Eve, there are reports that West considers himself the ... hmmmm... how to say this delicately.... the "generative organ" of the Body of Christ and he certainly insists that the bed is an altar.

So, what we have here is a man following the natural Westian principles found in his heart, as Chris has described so often to his followers. Sure, his understanding may be a little distorted, but no more than Hef and John Paul II, who used to flog himself. Ah, if only Hef and JP II had listened to Chris, they would have become pure like Chris.

The big problem here is that we see typical American Puritanism and Manicheanism on display in this trial. These unenlightened folk just make us sad.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Why Not?

Over in the UK, Damien Thompson has discovered what no Catholic reporter over here noticed: Marco Rubio is no longer a practicing Catholic.

Though raised an Hispanic Catholic, he apparently stopped practicing about six years ago and now goes to some evangelical ecclesial community in Florida, which sees more of his money than any Catholic bishop ever did.

Now, here's my question.
On what grounds does any priest or bishop deny this man the Eucharist?

After all, our bleeding heart liberal priest/bishop friends are insistent that the communion rail is not the place for political fights.

They insist that Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi should receive.
So why not Marco?

I mean, sure, Marco hasn't been to Mass in a few years, but Joe and Nancy haven't been to a valid confession in decades (you have to be truly sorry for your sins for the absolution to be valid), and that doesn't seem to bother anyone.

Sure, Marco no longer believes in the Real Presence.
That's different from the majority of Catholics... how?

Marco is closer to Catholic teaching in his opposition to abortion, his support for subsidiarity and his understanding of government than any Catholic-schooled freak politician we've had since... well... since.... ok, help me out here...

So, honestly, what separates this man from reception of the Eucharist, according to our bishops?

I would truly like to know.

Some people are upset that Rubio gave tens of thousands to a Protestant church.



How is he different from the US Bishops CCHD, which gives millions to frankly anti-Catholic organizations? One could easily argue that Rubio's donations are much MORE Catholic than the USCCB's donations.