What Did The Pope Really Say?

First, keep in mind that Papa Ratzinger was talking to a guy who had a microphone.   How is that the same as an official act of the Vicar of Christ exercising his magisterium?

Also, he was asked if the Church is opposed in principle to the use of condoms.  He responded – and it may be important to read all the words.  My emphases:

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.

Peter Seewald

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“Of course” means that the Church’s teaching is pretty clear.  Also, just as the Pope clarified in a presser on an airplane on his way to make an apostolic visit, condoms are not a real solution because they fail both to prevent disease and conception.  They are not a “real” solution.  They are not a “moral” solution because of the motive for their use in most cases.   Nevertheless, sin is also wrapped up with “intention” in individual cases.  Furthermore, there is a human way to respond to the problems for which some people claim condoms are the answer.  Condom use is a more human way in individual cases such as that which the Pope identified in his non-magisterial interview.   That doesn’t mean that it is yet a good way.  It is simply better than the disastrous way employed before a decision was made to move towards a more human way.  Also the word human implies that the acting subject is a person, an image of God.

That is a quick glance at what the Pope said.

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30 Responses to What Did The Pope Really Say?

  1. Charles E Flynn says:

    The Ignatius Press blog has a handy set of links to worthwhile commentary:

    http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2010/11/here-is-a-partial-round-up-of-some-of-the-commentary.html

  2. I happened to be watching FOX news in Dallas when this report came on and it was all reported so casually, right after a report on two homosexual men that had been arrested last year at the Rainbow night club. My first thought was, “Yea right! You got that wrong; there is no way!” Poor Holy Father.

  3. JulieC says:

    Hmmm. Thanks so much for the clarification, Father, but I’m having trouble with this phrase of yours: “Condom use is a more human way in individual cases such as that which the Pope identified in his non-magisterial interview.”

    [I think you have a problem with the Pope's commments.]

    I know you’re trying valiantly to put a better spin on the Holy Father’s ill-considered foray into the realm of theological speculation, but I’m afraid that language like this opens a huge Pandora’s box and unwittingly creates an enviroment where people will begin inventing multiple exceptions for condom use and not just for HIV+ male prostitutes.

    I’m afraid what will be quickly forgotten in ensuing discussions is that the Church has always condemned condoms (and artificial contraception) as an instrinsically evil act—no matter what the circumstances or the intentions or even the genders of those involved.

    Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is very useful for explaining why condoms use is always evil. He described the use of contraceptives in marriage as “conjugal adultery,” since the device is preventing a full gift of self to the other by suppressing the fertility of one of the partners. One of the two partners is rejecting a vital expression of the other and the two are essentially mutually masturbating instead of participating in a life-giving, loving act. (Please forgive the language.)

    Hence, condom use aggravates the evil of adultery since, on top of the sin of adultery, the partners are adding onanism to their infidelity. In like manner, condom use aggravates the sin of fornication.

    If one applies the principles in John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility to the act of sodomy (my fervent apologies to the Polish Pope for even attempting this, but hey, I didn’t open this can of worms, his successor did), condom use makes the perverse act of sodomy that much worse from a teleological point of view. We’re talking of degrees of evil here, but the partner who uses a condom is suppressing his fertility and even in this degraded act is not making a total gift of self.

    From the point of view of the Theology of the Body (not Christopher West’s dumbed-down version, I might add) “unprotected” sodomy without condoms is probably more “human” and has some small degree more of “good” than “protected” sodomy with condomss.

    If you add prostitution in the mix, that of course compounds the evil even more, but, I’m speculating that “unprotected” sex with a prostitute is, by the same principle, better than “protected” sex with a prostitute since the perpetrators are not, again, adding onanism to the equation.

    As for the HIV+ male prostitute, which is probably the lowest and most degraded perversion of the conjugal act, it ought to be simply made clear that condoms don’t work, as the Pope originally said on another occasion and the use of them even by male prostitutes doesn’t mitigate the situation in the least.

    Of course, I’m not Dr. Alice Hildebrand, but from my understanding of Catholic moral theology and many readings of Wojtyla’s Love and Responsibility, the rationale behind the Church’s dogmatic condemnation of artificial contraception is that it prevents life AND it turns a mutual act of self-giving into mutual self-gratification.

    In evil acts like sodomy, fornication and adultery, condom use robs these encounters by degrees of the remaining vestiges of dignity and meaning—-making them even more degrading, vicious and perverse.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    If two men are engaging in sinful activity, is it not an extra sin to actually be giving one of the men a death sentence from AIDS in the process? This seems like a clear distinction to me. Of course, sin is sin, but one can add to the first sin by adding more. Sodomy, then murder…common sense on the Pope’s part, while still keeping with the teaching of the Church. As to whether condoms work or not, that is another question, and debatable. I think it is important to make these moral distinctions, as we are rational and can help sort our the moral chaos of our century.

  5. That’s the point. When clueless people start trying to do something moral, they flail around and often do bad things, under the impression that it’s something good. A physician of souls has to understand what people’s intentions are, as well as what evil they actually commit.

    A pastor has to condemn theft, and even a kid understands that stealing is wrong. But a pastor also has to understand whether the kid stole the flowers out of meanness or to give them to his mom. It doesn’t make stealing or any other evil deed right; but it’s important to understand whether someone’s trying to get better or worse, if you want to help him stop sinning.

    This works the opposite way, too. Sometimes people think they’re defying the oppressive evil Church by doing good, when actually they’re doing precisely the deeds that the Church recommends and commands. We’re a very confused society, which makes that sort of moral confusion very likely.

  6. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    You can’t achieve good through evil means.

    When offered the choice between furthering a greater evil and a lesser evil, the answer is to not be complicit in either.

    Continence is always a choice for someone with the ability to put on a condom.

  7. Do people not understand that even when people sin they are choosing something which they perceived to be a good at that time? Choices are always made in favor of a good.

  8. jeffmcl says:

    I read that the “official” Italian text has a different wording than the English–it refers to female prostitutes and uses the word “justified” in reference to condom use. This would significantly change the meaning of the text. Has anyone seen the Italian version?

  9. Lurker 59 says:

    @jeffmcl

    Yes. I have posted this elsewhere but let me repost it here.

    Hi all. I have been doing a bit of research on this. Let me give it and ask for some help.
    1.) The Italian of the l’Osservatore Romano reads

    Vi possono essere singoli casi giustificati, ad esempio quando una prostituta utilizza un profilattico,

    2.) The AP is using the OR text to create this translation which is the only translation I have seen in English reporting (they are also correcting the female prostitute back to make prostitute)

    “There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom

    3.) The official English text as published by Ignatius from an advance copy of the book http://piadesolenni.com/pope-oks-condoms

    “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom,

    4.) I have run across some people who have stated that the German journalists are using the term “rechtfertigen” which means justified, which may be the OR text translated back into German.

    Given that the English book does not use the term “justified”, we have the following question that need to be answered.

    A.) What is the actual text of the German book as it will be published. Can anyone track down someone with an advance copy of the German book?
    B.) Why does the English text differ from the OR text (why does the OR text incorrectly refer to a female prostitute) ? Is the OR text actually the text from the Italian book?

  10. Ernesto Gonzalez says:

    The Pope could be trying to create teaching moments in order to strengthen Catholics. At the same time, he could also be forcing Catholics to engage intellectually and dogmatically with the contemporary world, which, though it views itself as reasonable and intellectual, is anything but. Nuance is a good place to start, since it reveals the intellectual poverty or dishonesty of our societies’ many talking heads. Wouldn’t this be an essential part of the new evangelization?

    The situation may be analogous to the “unknown god” or Pope St. Gregory the Great’s advice concerning pagan temples. In both cases, the saints were trying to take good intentions that were directed to improper objects and redirect that intention to its proper object.

    This may be why the Pope focuses on the “banalization of sexuality,” which is a confusion (culpable or not) of the proper object of sexuality:

    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.

  11. RichR says:

    So, when the Pope talks about a “first step in moralizing”, what is being said is that the male prostitute, steeped in sin, may choose to protect the other person from death via AIDS by using a condom, and I right? It is not that the act, itself, is good, but there may be an initial spark of light creeping into the person’s consciousness. The hope, of course, being that they will follow that glimmer of light and leave prostitution and prophylactics all together.

    I read that even St. Thomas enumerates degrees of grave sins. This does not mean that he promotes “less grave” sins as being okay, but that they are, in fact, less grave. They still kill the life of grace if done willingly.

    It seems to me that this is a finer point of theology that is not for the average person in the pews, but rather, for confessors and theologians. Certainly not for the media.

    If I’m wrong, someone correct me.

  12. MJ says:

    EoinOBolguidhir, YES YES! I agree with you 100%! Good cannot be achieved through evil means. When choosing between a greater evil and a lesser evil, the correct answer is to not be compliant in either. Chastity is always a choice.

    Father Z, I’m afraid I must take issue with your point, “Do people not understand that even when people sin they are choosing something which they perceived to be a good at that time? Choices are always made in favor of a good.” When people sin, they are choosing a “good”, but that “good” could translate to “the good feeling of physical pleasure” or “the good feeling of gluttony” or “the good part about not getting caught stealing/lying/fill-in-the-blank”. I doubt that when people sin (mortally) that they believe they are choosing a good — for the very definition of a mortal sin would contradict that notion. Perhaps with a venial sin people are misled into thinking something is “good”, but that cannot be a “good” in and of itself — it can only be a “perceived good”.

  13. Jim of Bowie says:

    I think you are exactly right, RichR and I’m disapointed that many, normally erudite, commenters on this blog can’t see it.

  14. cblanch says:

    I also agree with you RichR. And, I can’t imagine Pope Benedict “dumbing down” his response simply because it IS a finer point in theology. For him to know better and respond in a way that some would say protects “stupid people” would be prideful, lying and elitist. God bless the Pope!

  15. Mrs McG says:

    “Choices are always made in favor of a good.”

    Hmmm…I don’t think the phenomenologist philosophers agree with the Thomist proposition. They would say that choices are not always made because they are a misperceived “good,” but because the end sought is something subjectively satisfying.

  16. Ernesto Gonzalez says:

    MJ:
    That is Father Z’s point. Even when people choose to sin mortally they are choosing a perceived good. In the case of mortal sin, they know that the perceived good is in fact evil, but they choose to perceive it as a good anyway. They, in effect, place the good expected from the evil act on a higher level than the evil of the act itself. It’s the old ethical problem of akrasia, which only the Catholic doctrine of original sin has answered.

    I also agree with RichR’s reading, and cblanch’s statement. Elitist indeed!

  17. I think RichR has it right. Theology isn’t meant to be “dumbed down.” Of course this doesn’t mean that the Church should teach in jargon (and I don’t believe she does), but we should always consider the possibility of our own error in understanding before accusing the Church of teaching error.

    Also I think Fr. Z has it right as well (in article and comment). People don’t choose a thing they believe is wrong and harmful to themselves (unless they have an impaired judgment), though they can choose wrongly on what is good objectively.

  18. Mrs McG says:

    What is the objective good in eating too much ice cream or smoking cigarettes. People choose these activities knowing that they are bad/harmful, but seek the subjective pleasure they bring, which can not be described as an “objective good.”

  19. Lori Pieper says:

    Well now, folks, I didn’t comment yesterday because I was writing my own blog :) But here is an answer to the above question:

    The German text of the first part of the passage has surfaced on Italian Vaticanist Sandro Magister’s site. He evidently doesn’t know German, because he’s still relying on the Italian. But I know German and have translated it.

    In a way, it deepens the mystery. There is certainly no trace of the sentence that appears in such radically different ways in the Italian and the English. Instead, there are the simple words of the Pope “I would say when a male prostitute . . .” What gives? At any rate, no trace whatsoever of the idea that condom use is “justified” in any circumstances. It almost seems as though the person (in the Vatican) who did the Italian translation has an agenda of his (or her) own, in wanting to have the Pope say something he didn’t say.

    All I can say is that the person who did the Italian translation should be shot. (After a trial, of course). The English certainly doesn’t alter things to the same extent. But why add anything at all? The original German makes the whole thing seem like more of an aside rather than a developed statement. Anyway, here it is:

    “Die bloße Fixierung auf das Kondom bedeutet eine Banalisierung der Sexualität, und die ist ja gerade die gefährliche Quelle dafür, dass die Menschen in der Sexualität nicht mehr den Ausdruck ihrer Liebe finden, sondern nur noch eine Art von Droge, die sie sich selbst verabreichen. Deshalb ist auch der Kampf gegen die Banalisierung der Sexualität ein Teil des Ringens darum, dass Sexualität positiv gewertet wird und ihre positive Wirkung im Ganzen des Menschseins entfalten kann. Ich würde sagen, wenn ein Prostituierter ein Kondom verwendet, kann das ein erster Akt zu einer Moralisierung sein, ein erstes Stück Verantwortung, um wieder ein Bewusstsein dafür zu entwickeln, dass nicht alles gestattet ist und man nicht alles tun kann, was man will. Aber es ist nicht die eigentliche Art, dem Übel beizukommen. Diese muss wirklich in der Vermenschlichung der Sexualität liegen”.

    The mere fixation on the condom means a banalization of sexuality and something that is already precisely the dangerous source for the fact that human beings no longer find an expression of love in sexuality, but only a kind of drug that they administer to themselves. Therefore the struggle against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the wrestling for sexuality to be positively valued and for making it possible for its positive effect on the whole of a person’s being to develop. I would say when a male prostitute uses a condom, this can be a first act in a moralization, a first piece of responsibility taking, in the process of developing an awareness once again that not everything is permitted and that a person cannot do everything he likes. But it is not the real way to overcome evil. This must really lie in the humanization of sexuality.

    More on my blog:

    http://subcreators.com/blog/2010/11/21/the-pope-the-press-and-condoms-oh-my/

  20. QMJ says:

    “When offered the choice between furthering a greater evil and a lesser evil, the answer is to not be complicit in either.”

    The Pope isn’t saying the moral thing to do is to choose the lesser of two evils. He is saying to do so is to indicate a “first step” toward a moralization. The Pope is not focusing and advocating the act. He is looking interiorly at the person and the progression (it doesn’t happen with the snap of a finger) of their moral development. A male prostitute choosing to use a condom after his routinely not using them shows a step toward a better understanding of sexuality and a step toward a moral way of living. A step, a step, a step: not actually having yet reached moral living. What you are saying does not apply to what the Holy Father has said. Two different things.
    Another example via Janet Smith: A bank robber uses a loaded gun and is willing to kill people. The same bank robber continues to rob banks, but decides he is not willing to kill people so he starts using an empty gun. He is still not living a moral life, but his decision to not use a loaded gun is good and is a first step to recognizing what he is doing is wrong, a first step toward living morally. The Pope isn’t advocating that bank robbers use empty guns. He is advocating that they not rob banks or anything else for that matter. While advocating that, he is recognizing that their decision to not use a loaded gun is a step in that direction. The same thing with the male prostitute using a condom. He advocates that these men stop prostituting themselves and live chaste lives. He also recognizes that their decision to use a condom could be a first step in that direction.

  21. Prof. Basto says:

    John Allen’s take (article in the BBC website).

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11813319

    He basically argues that the pope hasn’t changed any teaching; that the question of a married couple who wants to use a condom not for the sake of contraception but for the sake of avoiding HIV is still supposedly an open question; that while it is morally wrong to have sex outside of marriage, or worse, with a prostitute, if the person will still go ahead this clarifications serves merely to say that there is no additional problem in using a condom; on the contrary, in that specific scenario condomitic sex would be more responsible; and he also adds that the pope only spoke in private, and that his words do not constitute an edict capable of altering the Church’s official stance.

    Interestingly, he also claims that the media is placing undue spin and is “sexing up” the pope’s remarks.

    My posting this is not an endorsement of his views; I post it just for the sake of information about his opinion.

  22. Lurker 59 says:

    @Lori Pieper

    THANK YOU so very very much! I have been looking for that information.

  23. Andrew says:

    Lori Pieper:

    This is the singlemost significant comment I’ve read so far about this subject! Thank you. I am putting you in charge of the L’Osservatore Romano effective immediately.

  24. Lurker 59 says:

    (re-posting this here so those who are not reading all the threads have the same information)

    An update to what I have been tracking.

    1.) The Italian of the l’Osservatore Romano reads

    Vi possono essere singoli casi giustificati, ad esempio quando una prostituta utilizza un profilattico,

    2.) The AP is using the OR text to create this translation which is the only translation I have seen in English reporting

    “There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom

    3.) The official English text as published by Ignatius from an advance copy of the book http://piadesolenni.com/pope-oks-condoms

    “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom,

    4.) I have run across some people who have stated that the German journalists are using the term “rechtfertigen” which means justified, which may be the l’OR text translated back into German.

    5.) The actual German text from the book reads as follows

    Ich würde sagen, wenn ein Prostituierter ein Kondom verwendet,

    taken from Sandro Magister’s via Lori Pieper

    We can now conclude that the text of the OR is flawed and has introduced a word that is foreign to the origional statement of B16.

    The following questions need to be answered:

    A.) Is the l’OR text actually the text from the Italian book?
    B.) What influenced the Ignatius transation to ad a basis during the translation process?

    The more that this gets pulled apart the more that it appears to me that there is malice here because the meaning between the l’OR and the German is completly different and unwarrented.

  25. Lori Pieper says:

    Lurker 59:

    Yes, the OR article (up on the Vatican’s web site) does say this is the official Italian translation of the book, put out by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. It wasn’t a hastily done thing, and it wasn’t done by the folks at OR. But they are still at fault for breaking the embargo.

    This isn’t just a matter of an added word or two, but the addition of a whole clause to the original German sentence, one that was translated or interpreted in two different ways in the Italian and in the English. The Italian says,

    “There can be individual justified cases, for example, when . . .”

    The English

    “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when . . .]

    Not a word of this appears in the German. The Pope simply introduces his comment about the male prostitute with the words “I would say . . .”

    This is a rather serious difference. In the case of the Italian especially. I read by some commenter here on this site, I think, that the Pope himself sent the text of the book to the CDF for clarifications if needed. Or perhaps it was the translators who asked for the clarifications? This would almost make more sense. At any rate, we (possibly) get a clarification which was translated or interpreted in two different ways in the two editions. But it added something the Pope didn’t say and may not have intended. He may not have checked the thing after it was done. That’s my guess. Anyone have a better one?

  26. Lori Pieper says:

    Also, the German doesn’t say “to conquer the evil of HIV infection” as both the Italian and English have it. It just says “to conquer evil.” So he does clearly say that condoms are not the way to conquer the evil of the sin being committed.

    Also, the original, without that final phrase and the opening clause saying that there was either a “justified” use of condoms (or a “basis” for a more human view of sexuality) in the case he is talking about, it’s quite clear that the Pope is actually contrasting the case of the male prostitute, who only has a glimmering of a moral sense, with a genuinely humanizing view of sexuality. The case is almost an aside in what he’s really talking about.

    The question remains: Who’s responsible for all this?

  27. Jerry says:

    @JulieC – “I’m afraid what will be quickly forgotten in ensuing discussions is that the Church has always condemned condoms (and artificial contraception) as an instrinsically evil act—no matter what the circumstances or the intentions or even the genders of those involved.”

    Since you persist in asserting this claim, I must ask you to quote a source of authority which supports your contention that it is morally illicit to use a condom during a sexual act that has no chance of procreation (e.g., sodomy).

  28. MrTipsNZ says:

    Lori Peiper

    well done! I suspected from the start that something was not right in the translation from the German etc.

    As for what did BXVI really say? I think he simply said Deus caritas est and that even when people perceive evil as a good choice, God’s love and hope can still intervene. I think this whole episode speaks more to BXVI and God’s love of humanity, than of the secular preoccupation with condoms, and not even a dodgy translation could hide that fact.

  29. Lori Pieper says:

    MrTipsNZ:

    Thanks! I said more or less precisely the same as you in my blog post (linked to above). Unlike the press, which is all about the rules and how to break (or change) them, Benedict is all about the love. He is being a caring pastor here as a theologian and a teacher in the Church.

    Now if he could just keep his subordinates corralled and maybe medicated so they don’t wig out all the time and do crazy things like rewrite him. . .