Holy See in no way endorses condoms in AIDS prevention

Blogged by James Preece on 7th February 2012

It's been a while now since Pope Benedict's words in "Light of the World" about condoms. I did not personally find them very troubling because it was clear what Pope Benedict was saying, I was however troubled by the spin put out by people who wanted to claim he was saying something else. I ended up thinking that perhaps we would have been better off if he had said nothing on the matter at all.

By way of a reminder, he said...

Pope Benedict: 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.

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

Pope Benedict: 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.

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If we read the words in the proper order we see that Pope Benedict qualifies his sentences very well. He speaks only of a "first step" or "a movement toward" (e.g. not an arrival at a destination) and he refers to "intentions" and not actions. In short, he is a million miles from saying "using a condom to prevent aids is okay"

Of course, some people find that if they throw all these words in a pan and fry them up they can make an ommelette with the word "moral" and the word "condom" in the order they want.

Dr Austen Ivereigh for example, took the Pope's words (and the resulting CDF clarification) to mean this...

There is an important line in the CDF's clarification which is likely to pass unnoticed but which is, I believe, central to the Vatican strategy -- and I am sure it is a strategy -- for breaking the ice over this issue. It is that Pope Benedict's words do not signify any change "in the pastoral practice of the Church".

In other words, urging a promiscuous infected person to at least use a condom -- assuming that they are not ready or willing or able (and remember, many prostitutes in Africa sell their bodies to feed their children) -- is Catholic pastoral practice. That pastoral counsel is the beginning of a journey, as the Pope says -- the start of choosing life over death, morality over immorality.

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See that? Urging condom use is "Catholic pastoral practice", as I said at the time never have I seen such flagrant abuse of the phrase "in other words".

The Pope's words above relate specifically to the intentions of somebody who chooses a wrong method but at least is taking the first step towards realising there might be a right choice. Dr Ivereigh thinks that means we should urge people to use the wrong method.

Anyways, I mention all this today because while the above has been spread far and wide by the promoters of ambiguity, Dr Ivereigh and co have been strangely silent about the following which was recently submitted to the United Nations by the Holy See...

The Holy See reaffirms its reservations with the Resolution, especially regarding its references to “sexual and reproductive health” since the Holy See does not consider abortion or abortion services to be a dimension of such terms and regarding the term “family planning” as the Holy See in no way endorses contraception or the use of condoms, either as a family planning measure or in HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.

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In other words (ahem) the Holy See does not endorse contraception or the use of condoms in HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.

Strange - if urging condom use is Catholic pastoral practice then why on earth is the Holy See going to the trouble of telling the UN that the use of condoms in HIV/AIDs prevention programmes is in no way endorsed?