Monday, November 22, 2010

Benedict’s Condom Quote, Far from Ex Cathedra, Is Falsely Seen by Church’s Enemies as Condoning Homosexual Acts.

 Carelessly Structured Remark, Inept Vatican Press Office, Duplicitously   Rebellious  L’Osservatore Romano Join to Encourage Liberals That He Contradicts an Article of Faith—Which He Doesn’t. 
      Joy among militant secularists and enemies of authentic Catholicism knows no bounds today as a loosely structured remark by Benedict XVI…brimming with particularized theological meaning was released by a rebellious, out-of-controlL’Osservatore Romano and then bobbled by the laughingly inept Vatican press office…starting an heretical conflagration that rages worldwide—with liberals seeing it as evolving into a repudiation of Church opposition to artificial contraception that stems from the 1st century A.D.   More radical hostile observers pretend to see a slight “understanding” of homosexual relations if prophylactic means are used to avoid the spread of sexually transmitted disease.
        All “interpretations” of the remark as leading toward relaxation of Church teaching are false—sometimes willfully so.
                                    Not “From the Chair.”  
       Nor should Benedict’s offhanded remark in an interview with a journalist be seen as an expression of ex-cathedra (“from the chair”) or infallibility.
        An infallible pronouncement pertains to faith and  morals under which there are two conditions: (1) That he has the intention of declaring something unchangeably true and (2) that he speaks as shepherd and teacher of all the faithful with the full weight  of his apostolic authority and not merely as a private theologian, with the doctrinal definition coming from the supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit.
        Example: The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, the promulgation that the Blessed Virgin was sinless from her first moment of existence made in formal pronouncement by Pius IX in 1854.
       A distinction must be made between infallibility and impeccability. Infallibility involves immunity from error when delivered ex cathedra. Impeccability which means perfection.   Peter, the first Pope, was infallible in exercise of his office but not impeccable as we saw with this three denials of Christ.  Aside from Jesus Christ, only His mother was impeccable.  
                                         What Benedict Said.
         The statement appears within a wide ranging interview with German journalist Peter Seewald to be published in a book entitled Light of the World: The Pope, the World and Signs of the Times whose English edition will be released shortly by Ignatius Press.  Seewald’s earlier book-length interview with the pontiff resulted in the transformation of the journalist from agnostic to Catholic—so Seewald’s purpose in the interview was not hostile but salutary.
        Seewald asked this question: Does the Church oppose the use of condoms?
      Theologian Benedict’s answer while not impeccable in phrasing considering  today’s cesspool moral climate, is nevertheless in line with the traditions of the Church:
     “The Church, of course, does not regard them as a real or moral solution, but in individual cases, the intention to reduce the risk of infection may represent the first step to leading a more human and authentic sexuality.”
       Granted that could be considered as quite a stretch.
       He added: [Using a condom] is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.  That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.”
      No problem there.
       Finally here is the sentence that has produced the controversy:
      “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom where this can be the first step in the direction of moralization, a first assumption of responsibility…”
        He never says use of condoms is good.  He regards use of them to avoid aggravation of a intrinsically disordered act by imparting infectious disease could be the beginning of responsibility. Think of an alcoholic who while he’s slugging down a tumbler of whiskey says to himself:  “That’s it.   I’m off this stuff forever.”
        Okay for a theological conversation but for general popular reading as Seewald was preparing, incompetent when the ways of this secular, hedonistic world is concerned.
              Once Again, L’Osservatore Romano’s No Friend.
        I guess you have to take into account the thousand-plus custom of Roman nonchalance but L’Osservatore Romano is not ipso-facto the official Vatican newspaper but then again it  is.   It usually gets first dibs on important releases of information but it free-lances scandalously for which it should be severed from the appearance and actual circumstance of being the Church’s Rome house-organ.  It’s a scandal the way it’s run.   It lists the top ten best rock-and-roll albums including some with scandalous double entendre song titles but the hopelessly muscle-bound Vatican bureaucracy never thinks to censure it. 
           Just last month it issued a startling pronouncement not checked or verified with anybody in the Church. It said that The Simpsons often vulgar TV cartoon shows are…get this…”are among the few TV programs for children in which Christian faith, religion and questions about God are recurrent themes”!   That started a bandwagon effect of  jokes.   Is the Pope Catholic? was the story line on Fox News.   Homer Simpson a Catholic?  Must be following Stephen Colbert’s lead! was the headline in theWashington Post.  But the London Daily Telegraph got it best:
        “He is an idle pea-brained glutton with a permanent craving for doughnuts and Duff beef but Homer Simpson has been declared a true Catholic by the Vatican’s official  newspaper.”   Technically there’s a question whether it’s the official newspaper but Vatican ineptitude has caused the confusion.
         Why doesn’t somebody do something about it?   Probably some monsignori’s brother-in-law runs it is the probable explanation.   That’s Ital-ian you know!
         What L’Osservatore did in this case should get its editor sacked.   Along with a few other papers it got the Benedict book under embargo, meaning that it was to be held until concurrent release.  It turned rogue and published the Benedict statement.  Not by mistake.  There’s little doubt that L’Osservatore is hostile to many theological concepts in the Church.   Some years ago it flatly contradicted the popes on the issue of physicians doing all they can to keep ill patients alive!
        Do you wonder how long the Church will take to reform…improving the quality of newly-appointed bishops…cracking down on  some seminaries which are veritable hot-houses for growing lavender priests…when the Vatican can’t even get around to canning the editor of L’Osservatore for disloyalty and/or ineptitude who works right down the street? 
       Then there’s the sleepwalking Vatican press office.  The blaze about Benedict started over the weekend but it didn’t get around to returning press calls for many hours. Who’s in charge? Probably some archbishop’s nephew. 
        No wonder the Church is divine.   It has to be since it survived dunderheads like L’Osservatore, the Vatican press office and legions of do-nothing cardinals and archbishops here and abroad for untold generations. 


  1. Tom, while everyone is having a field day with this, I think there will be benefits from it. The ‘condom issue’ has been kicking around for some time and much confusion has been caused by false claims, pseudo-science and the particular agendas of certain groups. In the field of morality there has also been confusion with mixed messages being sent.

    Some time ago the Vatican Congregation which deals with health issues submitted a report for study/approval – presumably to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The report was shelved for, reportedly, a couple of reasons:

    1. There wasn’t agreement about the conclusions among those compiling it (shades of John XXIII’s Commission on Contraception which preceded the issuance of Humanae Vitae).

    2. It was deemed too difficult to promote and explain to the faithful and fears that it would be misinterpreted.

    Just as in the past (Regensburg, the Williamson affair and the SSPX, etc.), the Holy Father’s words/actions were seen as shocking and ‘scandalous’. But they ultimately resulted in clarifications, debate and positive results.

    I have the same hope here and a first step might be to resurrect that report and pronounce upon it.

  2. Another thought, Tom. It has been reported that the first 50,000 copies of the book have sold out and the Vatican Publishing House is engaged upon printing a second run of 50,000. While that may be good news for the coffers of the publisher, I see another potential positive result: more people may actually read the whole book!

    As in the previous ‘interview books’ of the Holy Father by Peter Seewald, I expect there to be a wealth of information, wisdom and pastoral insight in “Light of the World”. So, the Holy Father will reach a wider audience and much good may come of this. While Pope Benedict freely admits that his responses are his personal views and people may disagree with him, they will contribute to revealing the true nature of this Pope – not the rigid legislator that many thought him to be, but a humble man trying to live out his calling which was not his choice, but is his destiny.

    I suspect that some of the more ‘effective’ incidents in Our Lord’s life were not the ones where He ‘laid down the Law’ but the ones where His compassion and humanity were evident: the Woman at the Well, Lazarus, the Woman taken in Adultery, the Good Thief, etc.