Some Of My Favorite Things

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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.


joe said...

Wow this is the gift that just keeps giving to our liberal brothers. The only good thing I heard out of all this mess is that the Pope at least says that it is still an evil just a lesser evil.
So it is still wrong but I'm sure the media will try to paint that in a different light.
God help us.

Patrick said...

I think the next controversy/correction/clarification to come out of this statement will now be: Which is more important, currently living life or potential future life? I think the larger masses have missed the evil/lesser evil portion of the argument.

nannon31 said...

Think about 4a at minimum. The birth of a child may lead to heaven but may lead to the opposite as in Judas' case.
This judgement you are making would vary as to each individual's sense of whether a majority or a minority reach heaven. You present the heaven option as a sure thing.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I trust in God's mercy and I give people the Christian charity of the doubt.

But even if they don't end up in heaven, their existence is a positive good or God wouldn't have brought them into existence.

It is doctrine that Satan is good insofar as he exists. He just doesn't do anything good with the existence he has been given.

If Satan's existence were not good, God would not continue to hold him in existence.

nannon31 said...

Historically if you go by the old saints like Aquinas, most people do not reach heaven. If you go by 20th century figures like Rahner, Von Balthasar, John Paul II and Benedict....few Might...Might perish. Maybe they too are an extreme because all 4 implied that Judas might not be in hell. Christ's words about Judas were obvious....

Mar 14:21 "For the Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born."

Jhn 17:12 While I was with them, I kept them in thy name, which thou hast given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled.

Christ said the second quote to His Father prior to Judas being lost in suicide. Hence it was the use of the prophetic past as when Isaiah talks of Christ in the past tense...." and we have seen him and there is no sightliness in him"...53:2.

So the last two Popes were too far in the opposite direction from least by one human being.

Check number two in your rendition of double effect as to whether you are conflating an act with the bad effect. The act for the hiv couple of using a condom is neutral because in their case, a condom is a twonfold object like your
nose....which is a conduit of both breathing and smelling.
The good and bad effect are then simultaneous....disease prevention and contraception (the latter in a minority of a month's acts of intercourse).

nannon31 said...

Preserving present life comes before creating new life in moral obligation. If you are starving yourself, you shouldn't be creating a new should be finding a way to survive.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Use of a condom by a heterosexual couple is a contraceptive act and therefore intrinsically evil.

End of discussion.

joe said...

Yes, plus if they are starving I doubt they're thinking of having sex.