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Thursday, November 25, 2010



He seems to have a lot more problems with Fr Lombardi than with Pope Benedict. I wonder if Catholic teachers should have a PR manager. The job description means to manage the message so the public will relate to it better. But should the church be doing that. I know in Belgium you had the Archbishop teaching and the PR guy trying to do damage control. That was a mess. At some point you need to say this message is counter-cultural and we need to leave it that way.


Dr Long may well be correct in his academic analysis of the pope's comments but the comments were made to a journalist to be published in a book meant to have a fairly wide readership, not one restricted to the lofty heights of academe. We are having a state election on Saturday here in Australia and one of the local candidates, an ex Catholic who attended primary and secondary Catholic schools, had this to say as one of her reasons for becomming an ex Catholic "One [reason] of which is topical at the moment with the Pope recognising that there is a role for condoms in the prevention of the spread of diseases like AIDS..."

The government in the Philipines are apparently also using the comment to push their agenda.

As father John Boyle said, even when the pope is speaking as a private person "he is always Peter."

The pope is an extremely intelligent man. Is it possible that he made the comment in the way he did without realising how many ways it could be parsed? Or are many people correct in that he is putting on the table a possible change in the Church's teaching on condoms?

Lauri Friesen

I must admit to being somewhat discouraged by faithful Catholics' criticisms of the pope's discussing condom use, in any way, shape or form. Evangelization is always a risk, and in our current times, those who would destroy the Church will twist and misrepresent every word that Pope Benedict, and many others, utter or write in their mission of bringing Christ to the world. In this particular instance, Pope Benedict appears to have been trying to give hope to those who feel trapped in a life without God, by showing them that they can begin to find their way back to the path of truth with even the smallest concession to the good of another. It may be simpler to just make pronouncements and judgments, but that is not evangelization. I would hope for more charity in the hearts of the faithful for their principal shepherd and pastor, expressed in a willingness to follow where he chooses to lead them.

Christopher Blosser

There seems to be a rift developing between those who say "yes, the Pope affirmed the limited use of condoms in exceptional circumstances" -- and those who maintain he didn't. On one side you have Fr. Martin Rhonheimer, Dr. Austen Ivereigh and even Fr. Lombardi himself. On the other side, you have Janet Smith, Fr. Joseph Fessio, and Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.

So which is it?


My guess is that there is going to be a formal Vatican document that clarifies the issue. As most Catholics who follow these things know, some time ago Pope Benedict directed the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers to study the issue of whether it is licit for a married couple to use a condom in marital relations when one of the spouses is infected with HIV and the condom is used for avoiding infection of the other partner. According to news reports the Heath Care Workers Council study was done and delivered to the Pope earlier this year. It is rumored that the report advocates a teaching that condom use is appropriate for the purpose of preventing infection within marriage. I don't think the Pope's recent statement necessarily means that the Pope agrees with the report - maybe he does, maybe he doesn't, I don't know. However, given the existence of the report and that it was prepared at his direction I think it can be safely said that when he made the recent statement he was fully informed about what the issues are. The fact that Pope Benedict addressed the issue in Light of the World when it had already been the subject of a report prepared at his suggestion also suggests that the issue will be formally addressed by the Vatican.

Mark Brumley

Christopher: Janet Smith, Fr. Joseph Fessio, and Cardinal Raymond Burke are correct, in my view. I do not see any indication that the pope took Father Rhonheimer's side in the condom debate, which I take to be essentially the view that condom use to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS is, all other things being equal, good. That is not something the Pope signed off on.

The Pope commended the intention of the condom user in wanting to avoid inflecting another, but the Pope also described the practice of using a condom as not "a moral solution", which would seem to be at odds with Father Rhonheimer's position.



I agree with you. As I closed my post:

Obviously, the much cited words of the Pope should be taken in the context of the Q-&-A that preceded it, on the question of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Here the Pope clearly states: “we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms”; that “the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality”, and that the condom “it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection” and later, that even in such circumstances it can neither be regarded as a “real or moral solution.”

But all of this is getting lost in the mix, buried by those with the desire to read within the Pope’s remarks a qualified affirmation of condom use. I agree w/ Dr. Long here that Fr. Lombardi's "clarification" seems to have done more harm than good in leading readers to the unwarranted conclusion that use was affirmed.

Agnes Goh

Assuming that the use of condoms between spouses for the primary purpose of preventing serious infection is licit, would it be an act of self-giving love for the infected spouse to engage in intercouse with the uninfected spouse, even if the latter consents or seeks intercourse? Would it not be more loving for the infected spouse to abstain?

If such condom use is licit, it would be very difficult for the wife (usually the uninfected spouse) to say "no".

Mark Brumley

Christopher, I agree with you. It seems to me that Father Lombardi probably should have left "not so well enough" alone.

I think reasonable people can raise the question of whether it was prudent of the Holy Father to address the issue in the format of a journalistic Q & A book such as Light of the World. But that is a different issue from what he said.

Given the confusion, it would seem important for a high-level official clarification to be issued, either from the Pope himself or from CDF. I'm of two minds about from which would be preferable. But I think one or the other should issue a statement. It would not require a formal judgment re: the Rhonheimer debate, although that would be helpful. It would be very helpful to say that the Pope was commending the condom user's intention not to infect someone else, not act of the condom use itself. I think that's clear from his published remarks, especially in the answer to Seewald's follow up question, but it's worth revisiting because plenty of people seem not to have bothered to read it carefully. The headlines have already told them all they think they need to know.


Condoms are NOT used to avoid the spread of disease. One can avoid spreading disease simply by being chaste.

Rather, condoms are used to have sex. THAT is their purpose. They are used to facilitate having sex. Even when used within marriage for a non-contraceptive purpose, the reason for using the condom is to have sex. The question is -- is that sexual activity (1) an act of love, an act of self-giving, or, (2) given that one of the spouses has a disease that may very well be deadly and is passed by sexual conduct, is it an act of selfish use, an act of giving into and satiating one's animalistic passions? Is the condom usage an act of true freedom, or is it merely indicative of one being a slave to sexual desire?

If an infected married really and truly loves his spouse, is it really an act of love to put that spouse at risk of contracting that disease, knowing that even under ideal conditions, condoms are not always 100 percent effective?

Is not the real act of love to engage in marital chastity?


Personally I agree with Agnes Goh and Bender and I would be surprised if the Pope disagreed. A formal Vatican document asserting that abstinence is the only moral way to prevent HIV infection would end the present controversy and confusion (although it would of course ignite the usual round of outcry from the usual suspects).



You are absolutely right. We live in an age and culture that looks at sex as some sort of right, and the possibility of not engaging in it doesn't even enter the calculation.

That is why I believe that it is imperative that the Church keep the discipline of celibacy, because it is such a contradiction to the culture, and a thorn in the side of so many who want to perpetrate the ideology that supports that culture.

The unfortunate situation here is that by making any commentary, as the Pope has done, draws us into the presumption on the part of those fully entrenched in the culture that we accept its premise.

It is also why the teaching of abstinence has received so much opposition and open vitriol. It tends to support the very idea that people can actually make the choice to not have sex. Heresy to the culture. And it brings up that hateful specter of personal responsibility which carries with it the additional danger of weakening the certainty of entitlement.

Shamefully, there are many Catholics who see their obligation to the poor within this paradigm, and will consequently support moral evil and jump on any faint glimmer that the Pope may be capitulating and "bringing the Church out of the Dark Ages."

Todd Newbold

Bender -

I agree with your analysis. When my wife and I went to Catholic Natural Family Planning, we were told that a condoms physical structure does not block the minute size of sperm cells and all other cells may they be healthy or infectious. Is this true?

Todd Newbold

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