CDF Clarification: Regarding certain interpretations of 'Light of the World'

Blogged by James Preece on 21st December 2010

Turns out that no actually, Pope Benedict didn't re-write the Catechism in his book length interview "Light of the World"...

The thought of the Pope has been repeatedly manipulated for ends and interests which are entirely foreign to the meaning of his words – a meaning which is evident to anyone who reads the entire chapters in which human sexuality is treated.

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Some interpretations have presented the words of the Pope as a contradiction of the traditional moral teaching of the Church. This hypothesis has been welcomed by some as a positive change and lamented by others as a cause of concern – as if his statements represented a break with the doctrine concerning contraception and with the Church’s stance in the fight against AIDS. In reality, the words of the Pope – which specifically concern a gravely disordered type of human behaviour, namely prostitution (cf. Light of the World, pp. 117-119) – do not signify a change in Catholic moral teaching or in the pastoral practice of the Church.

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The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought.

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In this situation, the Holy Father clearly affirms that the provision of condoms does not constitute "the real or moral solution" to the problem of AIDS and also that "the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality" in that it refuses to address the mistaken human behaviour which is the root cause of the spread of the virus.

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Some commentators have interpreted the words of Benedict XVI according to the so-called theory of the "lesser evil". This theory is, however, susceptible to proportionalistic misinterpretation (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis splendor, n. 75-77). An action which is objectively evil, even if a lesser evil, can never be licitly willed. The Holy Father did not say – as some people have claimed – that prostitution with the use of a condom can be chosen as a lesser evil.

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In conclusion, in the battle against AIDS, the Catholic faithful and the agencies of the Catholic Church should be close to those affected, should care for the sick and should encourage all people to live abstinence before and fidelity within marriage.

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The key quote for me is the one I have put in bold text, that "An action which is objectively evil, even if a lesser evil, can never be licitly willed" - this was the whole point of my sarcastic parody Sin now morally justified as long as you can think of something worse...

People keep asking "if people are going to have sex with a prostitute - surely they should use a condom?" - the answer is no. You cannot use the word "should" in this situation. The action will still be objectively evil and can never be licitly willed. It is like saying "If I am going to murder three people, surely I should only murder two?"

Prostitution with a condom is still an objective evil. It cannot be licitly willed. We may not licitly will it for other people.