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Monday, November 22, 2010

When Hell Freezes Over....

A recent excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI's new book, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times, to be released tomorrow, has many in the mainstream media frothing at the mouth with headlines stating that the Pope has softened the Catholic Church's teaching on the use of condoms and artificial birth control.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The controversy was prompted by statements the pontiff made in the book in relations to the moral use of condoms to contain the spread of Aids; specifically Pope Benedict describes an "exceptional" circumstance where a male prostitute would use a condom, as a first step in realizing a moral responsibility of his actions by trying not to infect another.  Time Magazine's Howard Chua-Eoan writes:

Benedict's so-called condom concession was not a huge one. He still proscribes the use of condoms as contraception (as he does the birth control pill). His specific example, that of a male prostitute choosing to use a condom in a conscious choice to prevent HIV infection, is couched as "a first step in the direction of 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."...
Fr. Federico Lombardi, of the Vatican Press Office puts it this way:

"... the pope takes into consideration an exceptional situation in which the exercise of sexuality may represent a real risk to the life of another person. In such a case, the pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality, but maintains that the use of the condom to diminish the danger of infection may be "a first assumption of responsibility", "a first step in a movement toward a more human sexuality", as opposed to not using the condom and exposing the other person to a fatal risk.
"In this statement, the pope's reasoning certainly cannot be defined as a revolutionary shift
It amazes me how so many "journalists," as well as naysayers, either misunderstand the role of the pope and the Catholic Church or purposely try to impose their ideology upon a two thousand year old institution, so as to conform to their personal perspectives and/or justify their understandings of right and wrong. 

In a response to the recent press coverage, Pope John Paul II biographer George Weigel writes:

This latest example of pack journalism was a disservice in itself, and it also highlighted several false assumptions that continually bedevil coverage of the Catholic Church and the Vatican and one specific media obsession that is, to be brutally frank, lethal in its consequences.

The first false assumption beneath the latest round of media condomania is that the Church’s settled teaching on sexual morality is a policy or a position that can change, as tax rates can be changed or one’s position on whether India should be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council can change. To be sure, the theological articulation of the Catholic ethic of sexual love has been refined over centuries... But it has not changed and it will not change because it cannot be changed. And it cannot change or be changed because the Catholic ethic of sexual love is an expression of fundamental moral truths that can be known by reason and are illuminated by revelation.

The second false assumption beneath the condom story is that all papal statements of whatever sort are equal, such that an interview is an exercise of the papal teaching magisterium... Reporters who insist on parsing every papal utterance as if each were equally authoritative — and who often do so in pursuit of a gotcha moment — do no good service to their readers.

The third false assumption was a “historic change” of Catholic teaching of the sort that was misreported to have taken place would be announced through the medium of an interview. It will perhaps come as a blow to the self-esteem of the fourth estate to recognize an elementary fact of Catholic life, but the truth of the matter is that no pope with his wits about him would use the vehicle of an interview with a journalist to discuss a new initiative, lay out a pastoral program, or explicate a development of doctrine...
Truth does not change according to modern times and man's will, nor does the Church's moral teachings.

Anything to suggest such change is, at best, wishful thinking...

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