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Monday, November 22, 2010

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.


joe said...

Having sex outside of marriage is a sin. Using any artificial means to prevent pregnancy is another sin. Marriage is the union of man and woman. So the male prostitute is doing a sinful act whether he uses or doesn't use a condom. His using a condom doesn't prevent pregnancy. By having sex with a male he is already violating the first rule mentioned above and whether he uses a condom or not he is violating the second rule. Even when we sin there can still be some good in it. The pope is just saying, yes he is sinning but at least he is caring about saving his own life, as opposed to having a complete disregard for life. I see what he is trying to say and it in no way condons condom use just because using it may be a little more responsible. To me it is like someone throwing another off a boat in the middle of the ocean. If he does it and gives the victim nothing it is bad, and if he does it and gives the man a plastic bag with 2 sandwiches in it, it is also bad but there is a hint of responsibility in it.
That's about the best I can do with it.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Brendan said...

I agree with joe. This is not so complicated.

Patrick said...

This story may be a little more complicated than it appears. The BBC reported this morning that in the Italian version of this interview the Pope actually uses the phrase for female prostitution, but the Vatican insists that he was referring to male prostitution. This may be a translation issue as well as poor wording of his statements in his own voice.

Paul said...

YOU CAN NOT TAKE IT OUT OF CONTEXT!!! Joe is right - he is simply speaking about the mentality of the person!

For an HONEST analysis of the WHOLE quote, check out:

Steve Kellmeyer said...

God bless Janet, she doesn't have a clue in the closet.

Try this one instead:

Jordanes said...

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?

Well, it is only the intention not to cause harm that he approved, not the condom use (i.e., the means of trying to avoid doing harm).

However, he would have been better to have said nothing than to have given this half-answer, this half or not even half explanation that has generated more confusion and given more scandal than if he had remained silent.

This is a disaster.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


I understand the distinction you are trying to make, but in practice, between homosexuals, it is a distinction without a difference.

The only reason homosexuals use a condom is because they intend to reduce disease transmission.

And, he's just doubled down today: ANYONE who has this intent moves towards objective good.

"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."

"This is if you're a man, a woman, 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.

Jordanes said...

And, he's just doubled down today: ANYONE who has this intent moves towards objective good.

Yeah, that's Lombardi for you. He doesn't know what he's talking about, but anyway I don't trust that his explanation accurately, grammatically depicts what the pope told Seewald.

But whether or not Lombardi is explaining the pope's words correctly, his comments today are only making a very bad situations immensely worse.

"In a multitude of words, there wants not sin," said Solomon.