Needless to say, before his new book has even hit the shelves it has stirred much controversy all across the media. Did the media get “it” right this time? Is this a BIG DEAL or much ado about nothing? Is this Pope Benedict’s personal opinion? If it is his personal opinion, does it depart from Church Teaching? I have read articles from various media sources across the internet including that of both Jimmy Akin and Dr. Janet Smith. Both Akin and Smith have posted very well written articles on the matter and both clarify the pontiffs statements. The media has twisted the Pope’s words (which isn’t that surprising) to fit their own cause of remaking a long held principle of the catholic Church, claiming that the Pope said that the use condoms can be justified in some cases. That is not what he said.
First, I would like to point out that this is an interview book and this is not a Church encyclical or anything of the sort. Second, the Pope can have private opinions which may be wrong, and he even points this out in his book. Jimmy Akin emphasizes that The L’Osservatore Romano did a major disservice to all the public, Catholic or not, by releasing excerpts which fail to show the entire context of Pope Benedict’s statements.
Here is text from the Pope’s book:
Seewald: . . . In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.
Benedict: . . . In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. [EMPHASIS ADDED] Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease. As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.
Jimmy Akin points out that the Pope’s overall argument is that condoms will not solve the problem of AIDS. Akin reiterates this:
1) People can already get condoms, yet it clearly hasn’t solved the problem.
2) The secular realm has proposed the ABC program, where a condom is used only if the first two, truly effective procedures (abstinence and fidelity) have been rejected. Thus even the secular ABC proposal recognizes that condoms are not the unique solution. They don’t work as well as abstinence and fidelity. The first two are better.
3) The fixation on condom use represents a banalization (trivialization) of sexuality that turns the act from being one of love to one of selfishness. For sex to have the positive role it is meant to play, this trivialization of sex—and thus the fixation on condoms—needs to be resisted.
Here is the statement which the media devoured and seized upon:
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. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality. (EMPHASIS ADDED)
Jimmy Akin points out that Pope Benedict says “may” and not “is”. Then, Pope Benedict goes on to reiterate that “it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.”
Janet Smith has posted excerpts from the Pope’s book. I am posting some of those excerpts below.
The Pope stands by his “controversial” remarks that he previously stated on the use of condoms to prevent AIDS: “that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.”
Pope Benedict stated: “I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.”
Pope Benedict is correct in stating that condoms will not solve the problem of AIDS. Condoms lessen, but do not eliminate, the risk of transmitting HIV, thus they do not make sex truly safe.
I encourage you to take a look over at The American Catholic where lively chatter has been going on covering the latest controversy.
An interview with the Pope does not change the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding condoms or otherwise.