The Pope did not endorse the use of condoms

Peter Seewald


You will be hearing a LOT about this.

Keep in mind that the Holy Father did not endorse or “open the way” to greater use of condoms.

From CNA:

Pope Benedict advocates right sexuality, not condom use, in fight against HIV

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2010 / 07:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Excerpts of Pope Benedict XVI’s new book are already causing a stir. Though some media reports claim he offers a change in papal teaching about condom use, Pope Benedict in fact says that a humanized sexuality, not condoms, is the right response to HIV.

The Nov. 21 edition of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano (LOR) will release excerpts of the pontiff’s book “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.”

The book contains the Pope’s responses to questions from Peter Seewald, a German reporter who spoke with him over a week last summer about the most sensitive and important questions in Church life today.

The 21 themes treated in the book are edgy and the reception of the Pope’s words is likely to be varied, but his answers offer a unique look into his teachings and his perspective on the Church and the world.

In the excerpts, just two brief paragraphs provide the Pope’s response to a question on sexuality in the world today. He says that concentrating on the use of the condom only serves to trivialize sexuality.

This trivialization leads many people to no longer see sex as an expression of love, but as a self-administered drug. The fight against the banalization of sexuality is part of a great effort to change this view to a more positive one.

According to one much-commented excerpt printed in L’Osservatore Romano, the Pope concedes that there can be single cases in which the use of a condom may be justified.

He uses the example of prostitutes [actually, I believe the Germans of the interview speaks about male prostitutes, which changes the dynamic] who might use prophylactics as a first step toward moralization, that is, becoming moral. In such a case, condom use might be their first act of responsibility to redevelop their consciousness of the fact that not everything is permitted and that one cannot do everything one wants.  [The press will say a) that the Pope has endorsed condoms, b) has opened the way to endorsing condoms c) still has gone far enough to endorse condoms.  What the press will not do is report accurately what the Pope said.]

While secular outlets such as Time Magazine characterized this remark as “a stunning turnaround” for the Church, Pope Benedict goes on to explain that this is not the true and proper way to defeat HIV. Instead what is necessary is the humanization of sexuality. [The Church’s moral theologians have said for a long time that there are those rare cases in which the use of a condom, which is still looked at as an evil, can incur less guilt of sin depending on the circumstances.]


There is going to be a lot of buzz about this Condom Conundrum.

I wish I didn’t have jet lag.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. EXCHIEF says:

    You are right of course. The media is making a HUGE thing out of this

  2. the_ox says:

    I understand that the press has and will twist this, but even after reading your post and clarification of what the Pope said – I am still deeply deeply troubled by his language about the use of condoms as a ‘first step toward moralization’. I thought the Catholic Church held that sodomy was a sin that cried out to heaven for justice? I do not fathom how the Pope could find it possible for any type of ‘moralization’ being developed in the midst of depraved sin? How many other sins could we now say have within them ‘steps toward moralization’ if only we somehow find a method or technique to make the sin less heinous? This is not Catholic.

  3. Federico says:

    This is all stupid.

    The media is missing the point.

    Condoms are not evil.

    Contraception is evil.

    In my previous days, condoms were provided as part of my survival kit as a pilot. They were not intended for sexual intercourse. Condoms just happened to be a really convenient and compact device to store water. Canteen or condom? Easy, pack the condom; smaller and lighter to pack. Fill it with water when you come upon a source.

    So, would the media have a feeding frenzy if the pope said it’s OK for pilots (or campers) to pack condoms for water storage?


  4. Clinton says:

    My response to all this is to take note of the media such as Time magazine that mischaracterize
    the Pope’s comments. Clearly, those media outlets that get it wrong are either incompetent or
    are deliberately misstating the Pope’s remarks. Either way, it’d be foolish to trust those media
    to be responsible and accurate in the future.

    I wonder if any of those hysterical/irresponsible news outlets will bother to ask Mr. Seewald
    if their take is accurate?

  5. Federico says:

    the_ox, I think the pope made a different point.

    Sodomy is a grave evil. Whether you wear a tuxedo or a condom in the middle of it, does not change its nature. Since there’s no contraception, there’s no inherent evil associated with the use of condom anymore than there would be with the wearing of a tuxedo.

    It’s the sodomy that’s a sin, not the use of the condom (or tuxedo).

  6. Traductora says:

    It was definitely mischaracterized, mostly because it was a subtle thought way beyond the reach of the press. He is saying that this person (living a life that is immoral by definition) is perhaps thinking about protecting others from his behavior, which does indicate the development of some moral sense.

    The problem is that the press was trying to get him to affirm contraception and gay sex (summed up as “condoms”) and unfortunately they got the sound bite they wanted.

  7. Luvadoxi says:

    If contraception is evil, why is it allowed in Catholic hospitals for rape as long as it can be proven that conception hasn’t occurred and there is no risk of destroying a new human life? And why is contraception approved for women in war-torn countries where they live in daily risk of being raped? And for that matter, what about the exceptions to abortion, like removal of the fallopian tube in ectopic pregnancy? Isn’t is disingenuous to say this is not an abortion–there’s no way to spin it; it is a direct taking of a life to save the mother, no matter how much it is regretted. I’m so confused by Pope Benedict’s statement. Perhaps I should be grateful, though. It’s really making me confront rather than deny the doubts I’ve had about Church teachings all along. I haven’t been able to get a satisfactory answer from anyone. Like if you’re out in the wild and there’s no doctor and a baby is coming and the head is too big….what do you do…let both the mother and child die? Or do what you have to do to get the baby out of there so the mother can live? What is the Catholic position? Why is is so difficult to get clear teaching on ANYTHING? I’ve been a faithful Catholic now for 7 years (convert) and I can’t get an answer to these life issues because it’s all so politicized. I’m beginning to think non-abortifiacient birth control is ok…in fact, I’ve always, having been a Protestant before, if I’m honest with myself, always believed there’s nothing immoral about it between married couples trying to space children. Someone help me out here before I lose my faith, please.

  8. kgurries says:

    Hopefully we can think about the Pope’s words calmly without jumping to conclusions. The Pope does suggest the possibility of exceptional cases where condom use can be justified. The basis for the justification seems to derive from the “intention” of the moral agent. In this sense condom use for the pupose of “artificial contraception” is not morally equivalent to condom use for the pupose of “avoiding the spread of infection”. (e.g., just as “murder” is not morally equivalent to self defense. Both involve the “evil” of killing human life, however, one can be justified in exceptional cases while the other is always wrong). Of course, none of this touches on the permanent valididy of Humane Vitae. What the Pope is touching on is something that the Church has not yet fully expounded.

  9. LaudemGloriae says:

    @ the_ox : you have said it exactly

    Heart breaking. Just heart breaking …

  10. Prof. Basto says:

    One can already read the actual words contained in the book, which have been published in today’s (Sunday) edition of L’Osservatore Romano, and are also found in the newspaper’s section of the Vatican website. Here is the fragment (in Italian, as found in L’OR):

    La sessualità

    Concentrarsi solo sul profilattico vuol dire banalizzare la sessualità, e questa banalizzazione rappresenta proprio la pericolosa ragione per cui tante e tante persone nella sessualità non vedono più l’espressione del loro amore, ma soltanto una sorta di droga, che si somministrano da sé. Perciò anche la lotta contro la banalizzazione della sessualità è parte del grande sforzo affinché la sessualità venga valutata positivamente e possa esercitare il suo effetto positivo sull’essere umano nella sua totalità.
    Vi possono essere singoli casi giustificati, ad esempio quando una prostituta utilizza un profilattico, e questo può essere il primo passo verso una moralizzazione, un primo atto di responsabilità per sviluppare di nuovo la consapevolezza del fatto che non tutto è permesso e che non si può far tutto ciò che si vuole. Tuttavia, questo non è il modo vero e proprio per vincere l’infezione dell’Hiv. È veramente necessaria una umanizzazione della sessualità.

    So: (1) the Pope’s example is of a female prostitute (prostituta). (2)The pope grants that prophylaxis is better than no prophylaxis, it is an act of responsability, but it is no true solution, no moral solution; (3) The pope says that condoms are not the true way to beat HIV, and that an humanization of sexuality is required; (4) to concentrate on the aspect of prohylaxis (in this case, condom use as a means of prevention of disease) means (is equal to) the banalization of sexuality (this is right in the first sentence); (5) the banalization of sexuality must be fought against.

    So, while the pope is saying for a prostitute to have sex with a stranger with a condom is more responsible (perhaps a lesser evil?) than having sex with a stranger without one, and that thus some special cases of condom use may be justified (not as a good but as an initial responsible step within the spectrum of evil actions), but that condom use is not a true solution, not a moral solution. Because if the prostitute is a prostitute, with or without condoms, she is sinning, she is performing an evil act reprobated by God and is dehumanizing her sexuality. The Church cannot treat condoms as if they were a good, or a true solution, because whenever condoms are used sexuality is still treated as something banal, and condoms actually contribute to the behaviour of banalization of sexuality.

    That seems to me to be the totality of what the Pope is saying. That said, it does appear that there is a minor change of stance, perhaps the clarification of a special case, in which the Pope is indeed saying that the use of a condom would be appropriate as a first act of responsability, not excluding the wrong, sinful and immoral character of that sexual act.

  11. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and calm down and carefully read what the Holy Father actually said. I’ve tried to help people understand it a little on my blog through a bit of satire – might help explain it for some people:

    The Pope didn’t say male prostitutes should use condoms. Nor is it legitmate to compare condoms to dinner jackets (though I understand the French for rain coat is similar!). The Pope said the fact that a male prostitute decides to use a condom might indicate some moral movement on his part – that sex has consequences and anything does not go after all. That’s all he said.

    But in simple moral terms – you cannot possibily argue that a homosexual prostitute having sex with a man using is condom is in any way a greater sin than having sex without a condom.

  12. LaudemGloriae says:

    The notion that condoms are not intrinsicly evil because one might use them for some purpose other than contracepting is hardly applicable in this siutation where it is in fact being used in a gravely sinful act.

    Also, why would one buy into the lie that condoms would in fact make the act safe? There are few lies that have wrecked as many lives as the lie of “safe sex.”

  13. catholicuspater says:

    What’s making this matter even worse is that the Vatican is not backtracking on the spin the press is giving on the Pope’s statement. Far from it, Cardinal Segreccia is quoted as saying that the Pope is indeed carving out an exception where condoms may be used:

    [“Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, the Vatican’s long-time top official on bioethics and sexuality, elaborated on the pontiff’s comments, stressing that it was imperative to “make certain that this is the only way to save a life”. Cardinal Sgreccia said the condom question was one that “needed an answer for a long time,” adding: “If Benedict XVI raised the question of exceptions, this exception must be accepted… and it must be verified that this is the only way to save life. This must be demonstrated.”]

    So, does that mean that since my wife was told by her doctor that a further pregnancy would her endanger her life, then we too can use condoms now???

    I’m sorry, but this is the sort of gobbledygook nonsense that will only strengthen the hand of the traditionalists while making Catholics like myself who have made numerous sacrifices in our married life to comply with this teaching look like idiots and outmoded dinosaurs.

    If the Pope wants to be taken seriously when he speaks about the hermeneutic of continuity then statements like this are a disaster.

    Did Pius XI in Casti Connubii talk about exceptions for male prostitutes? Or did Paul VI in Humanae Vitae give any indication that condoms were ever acceptable? Did John Paul II in 27 years once, anywhere, at any time, ever hint that artificial contraception was ever anything less than intrinsically evil?

    Of course not. The problem is that the whole world now believes that the ambiguity introduced by the Pope and positively confirmed by a high-ranking Vatican cardinal as a change in the Church’s teaching. This situation is going to create scandal and confusion and needs to be corrected immediately.

  14. Prof. Basto says:

    In continuation to my previous post…

    Having attempted to describe my interpretation of the above passage of the Holy Father’s book, I feel compelled to add three personal opinions:

    1. The Church should stick to teaching people what is good; She should stick to telling people to do what is right, without equivocations or concessions. She should not teach people that if they are not willing to do what is good and what is right, then they should choose better, cleaner, more responsible ways of commiting an evil act. The Church’s teaching should not include preferences among possibilities of evil actions, but an unconditional call to good Christian behaviour.

    2. The Pope spoke in a private capacity in a book, as doctor privatus, and not in an act of magisterium; nevertheless, he has, I must respectfully say, contributed to creating confusion about the Church’s teaching. Such a delicate topic should not have been dealt with in a conversation reported in two paragraphs.

    3. I would welcome a magisterial clarification, perhaps a CDF instruction or declaration, on the exact meaning and limits of what Pope Benedict is saying. I believe the Pope must now explain with some lenght his position. He used an unfortunate word, “justified”, when I don’t think he actually meant to say that the action was trully justified. The context indicates that Benedict XVI still considers his example to be an example of wrong and sinful sexual act, so that the conduct of the prostitute cannot be said to be “justified”. In his example, the condom use is a justified precaution in an unjustified and immoral act. And as such it is no true solution, as the Pope himself points out.

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    This makes absolutely no sense. I certainly hope the pope did not say anything like this.

    A person in the act of engaging in homosexual sex is already committing a mortal sin. It makes rather little difference at that point what else they might do, honestly. Nothing is good morally at that point. It’s all trash.

  16. catholicmidwest says:

    So giving “permission” of sorts to use condoms under such circumstances is quite meaningless, honestly. It means literally nothing.

  17. Prof. Basto says:

    I’m sorry, but this is the sort of gobbledygook nonsense that will only strengthen the hand of the traditionalists .

    I beg your pardon?

  18. Geremia says:

    This has, as with his Regensberg Address, been blown way out of proportion. And it boils down to semantics and mistranslation. My comments are in brackets; this text comes from Catholic World Report.

    There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when [Could perhaps be “if” in the German original.] a male prostitute [really “female prostitute” in the Italian translation; see below] 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. [Viz., if a prostitute uses a condom, then she is on her way to thinking of her sexual partner as a human. He does not say that condoms of themselves can make contraceptive or homosexual sex less dehumanizing.] But it [condoms in general, not specifically condoms used to prevent disease] is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

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

    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 [Note: He does not say this “first step” means using condoms.] in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

    The Italian translation from L’Osservatore Romano seems better, but it lacks the last ¶ above; my literal translation is in brackets. An important difference is the feminine article una in una prostituta; he refers to a “female prostitute,” not a “male prostitute.”

    Vi possono essere singoli casi giustificati [“There can be single justified cases”], ad esempio quando una prostituta utilizza un profilattico [“for example when a (female) prostitute utilizes a prophylactic (‘a medicine or course of action used to prevent disease’ (New Oxford American Dictionary); also: ‘condom’)”], e questo può essere il primo passo verso una moralizzazione [“and this can be the first step toward a moralization”], un primo atto di responsabilità per sviluppare di nuovo la consapevolezza del fatto che non tutto è permesso e che non si può far tutto ciò che si vuole [“a first act of responsibility to redevelop the awareness of the fact that not all is permitted and that one cannot do all that one wants”]. Tuttavia, questo non è il modo vero e proprio per vincere l’infezione dell’Hiv. [“Yet, this is not the true and proper way to overcome the contraction of HIV.”] È veramente necessaria una umanizzazione della sessualità. [“A humanization of sexuality is truly needed.”]

    Notice how the Italian is much clearer than the vague, weasel-word-filled English translation.

    Does anyone have the German original? Thanks

  19. Lucia Maria says:

    This article by Janet Smith is a good clarification on what the Holy Father’s words actually mean.

  20. cblanch says:

    Things have been going too well for the Church in the last week…I think the dark side is just freaking out and grasping at straws!

  21. catholicmidwest says:

    On the other hand, it can be pointed out that *IF* a person is so far over the line morally that they’ve sunk low enough to seek sexual gratification from a person of the same gender (to whom they cannot possibly be married in the natural or supernatural order), *THEN* taking the therapeutic option of trying to prevent themselves from ravaging disease is something they could probably do, since they’re already in moral trouble of the first order anyway.

    However, since when is the pope giving out therapeutic advice on how to avoid physical damage to those who’ve already decided to turn on everything holy and good? I don’t get it. That seems like a job for social workers or something, no?

  22. cato_the_younger says:

    Luvadoxi – Please see the National Catholic Bioethics Center on this issue:

    The National Catholic Bioethics Center wishes to assist individuals and institutions working with the ethical issue of early induction of labor. The following is the NCBC position regarding the application of Catholic moral teaching and tradition to the issue.

    The application of Catholic moral teaching and tradition to this issue is directed toward two specific ends: (1) complete avoidance of direct abortion, and (2) preservation of the lives of both mother and child to the extent possible under the circumstances. Based upon these ends, the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services provides directives which set the parameters for the treatment of mother and unborn child in cases of high-risk pregnancies:

    47. Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.

    49. For a proportionate reason, labor may be induced after the fetus is viable.

    The principle of the double effect is at work in each of these two directives. Actions that might result in the death of a child are morally permitted only if all of the following conditions are met: (1) treatment is directly therapeutic in response to a serious pathology of the mother or child; (2) the good effect of curing the disease is intended and the bad effect foreseen but unintended; (3) the death of the child is not the means by which the good effect is achieved; and (4) the good of curing the disease is proportionate to the risk of the bad effect. Fulfillment of all four conditions precludes any act that directly hastens the death of a child.

    Early induction of labor for chorioamnionitis, preeclampsia, and H.E.L.L.P. syndrome, for example, can be morally licit under the conditions just described because it directly cures a pathology by evacuating the infected membranes in the case of chorioamnionitis, or the diseased placenta in the other cases, and cannot be safely postponed. However, early induction of an anencephalic child when there is no serious pathology of the mother which is being directly treated is not morally licit, emotional distress notwithstanding. Early induction of labor before term (37 weeks) to relieve emotional distress hastens the death of the child as a means of achieving this presumed good effect and unjustifiably deprives the child of the good of gestation. Moreover, this distress is amenable to psychological support such as is offered in perinatal hospice. Lastly, induction of labor before term performed simply for the reason that the child has a lethal anomaly is direct abortion.

    I hope this helps. I will be praying for you.

  23. Prof. Basto says:

    This makes absolutely no sense. I certainly hope the pope did not say anything like this.

    I’m starting to wonder whether what the Pope has said in a private capacity in a book interview can be repeated by him as more than a private opinion (he spoke as a “doctor privatus”, just like his book on Jesus is not a magisteral act and his predecessor Benedict XIV’s treatise on canonization is considered non-magisterial an (important) private text of a doctor privatus) .

    Perhaps the charism of the office, the graces of state, will prevent the pope from restating this strange stance in a public capacity speaking on behalf of the Church; that is, perhaps the pope’s personal view expressed when he gave the interview must conform to the magisterium. Perhaps the magisterium does not conform to the pope’s private opinion. Perhaps such a stance cannot make it into the magisterium.

    In that case, however, we are faced with a bit of a scandal. So the Church, the Pope as Pope, and his Curia, must now clarify what is the magisterial position.

    It is also possible that the pope will recognize that he was misinterpreted.

  24. Prof. Basto says:


    Contrary to Fr. Z’s first impression, the text of the Holy Father’s interview shows that his example is of a female prostitute. Not that the professional actions of a female prostitute are moral. But the word used was gender specific. Italian has gender specific nouns. So Fr. Z’s guest that the pope was reffering to a male prostitute was not confirmed.

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    Nice, now we’re telling people how to do evil things a little more therapeutically, is that it?

    This is a mess.

  26. Tony Layne says:

    Jimmy Akin drills into the matter pretty well.

    @ Luvadoxi: There are clear answers. There just aren’t easy answers. And nowhere is it written that doing the right thing will always make you feel better than if you do the wrong thing; in fact, Satan loves to use compassion against us. Yes, the life issues are heavily politicized, but that’s precisely because we’re dealing with issues that cut straight to the core of our identity … not only as moral human beings but also as a nation and a culture. I hope, when you decided to convert, you didn’t have it in the back of your mind that we’re issued an exhaustive list of acceptable responses to moral conundrums at Confirmation which relieves us of the responsibility of making our decisions for ourselves. A good religious formation makes the answers easier to reach … but not necessarily easier to carry out.

    BTW, there is a Catholic solution to spacing children out (I mean, besides restraint): Creighton-model Natural Family Planning. There are more resource at Catholic News Agency.

  27. Prof. Basto says:

    The analogy Christopher McCamley used in his blog is a good one:

    “The Holy Father was asked in a recent interview to comment on the behaviour of terrorists who plant no warning bombs in heavily populated areas of cities, close to schools and nurseries. He said it was a bad thing.

    He was then asked if it was better if the terrorist telephoned in bomb warnings so that buildings could be evacuated.

    The Holy Father said that while engaging in such acts of terrorism was always morally wrong, telephoning a warning “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 political issues or demands for justice”.

    Media: “So you’re saying it’s okay to plant bombs so long as you use phone warnings?

    Holy Father: “No, of course not, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of serious injury or death to an innocent person, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of policital action”.”

    However, the pope shouldn’t have used the word “justified”. It is too strong a word for an still intrinsically immoral and evil act. The word justified gives the false impression of a permitted act. And an act that is still immoral and sinful is, strictly speaking, still not permitted, still not justified, even if the wrong, abhorent action is performed in a “more responsible” way . I believe it was not his intention, but the use of the world justified will create much confusion.

    And, bottom line, the Pope should have stuck to the line of saying “condom use is always contrary to morality” without several caveats, just like, in the example above, he would say “a terrorist act is always abhorent”.

  28. Prof. Basto says:

    Nice, now we’re telling people how to do evil things a little more therapeutically, is that it?

    That is it. And it is a mess.

  29. Prof. Basto says:

    Yes, yes, no, no.

    I’m going to bed. A glorious day was ruined.

    Quamdiu, Domine?

  30. bookworm says:

    The kerfluffle over this reminds me somewhat of the fuss that was made years ago when Pope John Paul II, in one of his audience talks that became the basis for the “theology of the body,” said it was a sin for a man to lust even after his own wife. What he MEANT, of course, was that a man should not treat even his own wife merely as a sexual object, but that was not what the secular media “heard.”

    If I’m not mistaken, Church teaching against contraception is based on its theology of marriage, and the whole reason contraception is wrong is because it goes against the meaning and purpose of the MARRIAGE act — it undercuts the complete self-giving that the act was meant to express. At least that’s how its always been explained to me.

    However, sex outside of marriage is already mortally sinful no matter what, and the lack of commitment between the couple undercuts the meaning of the act also — turns it into, basically, “telling a lie with their bodies.” If that is the case, then it seems to me, that they do not make that act any MORE sinful by using condoms or any form of birth control, nor do they make it any LESS sinful or less “false” by not contracepting.

    We know that openness to life is an essential element of marriage, but what relevance does it have in a non-marital sexual relationship which is intrinsically immoral? (By “openness to life,” I mean, of course, openness to conception that has not yet occurred — once conception occurs, it should go without saying, then the couple definitely has an obligation to be “open” to the life that is already there.) If it’s a sexual relationship OUTSIDE of marriage that we are talking about, isn’t contraception kind of a moot point?

    With all that in mind, it seems to me that what the Pope is talking about is a “lesser of two evils” situation — fornication engaged in with some minimal protection from disease vs. fornication engaged in with no protection whatsoever from disease. Neither choice is good or “justified”, but one might be a little less evil than the other. The “good” and proper choice is and always will be chastity.

  31. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Prof Basto:

    With respect, I think your analogy is inapt.

    A better analogy I think might be someone who plans to go on a bender and get totally intoxicated–or stoned.

    That person talks to a friend about it, who tries to persuade him not to do it, because it is gravely sinful.

    The friend is incapable of persuading him against drinking himself into a stupor; but does persuade him to give up his keys so he doesn’t drive in such a state.

    A person who engages in sodomy is committing a mortal sin; but I don’t agree with anyone who would argue that it no longer matters, morally, whether or not he also infects someone with a deadly disease. Of course–OF COURSE!–he should do neither; but like the one set on a drunken binge, it is less evil if he does not also then cause even more evil.

    Moral reasoning often involves such distinctions.

    So, yes, an operation that saves a mother’s life is permitted, even if the unintended, unavoidable consequence is the loss of an unborn baby. It’s the classic principle of double effect, as someone else explained above.


    Regarding contraception, you have to refer back to Pope Paul VI’s teaching in Humanae Vitae; the issue is a violation of a marital act. An act of rape is…NOT a “marital act”! It is an act of aggression, and anyone suffering an act of sexual assault is certainly entitled to defend against it. The situation involving a sexual act between a rapist and his victim is entirely different from that of a couple engaging in a marital act; the latter is morally obliged to keep the sexaul act open to the transmission of life; but that has nothing to do with rape. So if someone who has been raped–but is not pregnant–is not doing anything immoral by seeking to prevent a pregnancy when it has not occurred.

  32. kgurries says:

    I think there are two distinct “acts” that need to be clarified. In the first place is the the intrinsically evil act of fornication. Secondly, there is the act of “condom use” with the specific intention to reduce the risk of infection. Clearly the Pope is addressing only the question of the morality of this second “act” — but within the given context of the first (intrinsically evil) act. All of this adds to the complexity — and therefore unavoidable confusion.

  33. Luvadoxi says:

    Thank you for the prayers and the good suggestions and thoughts. The comparison with killing as self-defense/defense of others kind of made sense when I read it. Also the idea that the doctrine could still be developing; or that the Pope was speaking in a non-magisterial capacity.

    The principle of double-effect still has me wondering, though, if it isn’t just a fancy way to excuse evil–like it seems like in ectopic pregnancy, the 3rd condition isn’t being met–remove the tube, remove the baby….same result. I mean, I think it makes sense that you *do* this to save the mother’s life, just as I would be hard-pressed not to remove the baby (supposing that I had the skill) out in the bush to save the mother’s life, even if it meant killing the baby (although maybe that’s more comparable to the methotrexate method? Or maybe it’s all the same.). But deep down, maybe I couldn’t do it, conscience-wise. I’ll have to think and pray on it more. Maybe this, as well as the condom issue, is still developing in doctrine?

    And as far as non-chemical contraception, yeah, I have my doubts if I’m really honest with myself, but deep down I’d feel the twinge of conscience violating Church teaching in this area. I can understand the frustration of the poster who has made sacrifices to follow Church teaching, only to find out maybe it wasn’t necessary??? Anyway, if it’s any consolation, I know a lady who was devastated when the Church changed the discipline about meatless Fridays–her whole Catholic world fell apart. But during the time those fasting rules were in effect, Catholics were bound. So I think if you’ve followed your informed conscience, even if it turns out you didn’t need to do those things (and I don’t really think the Church will change those teachings), the Lord will richly reward you for it. Just my 2 cents. Like someone said, we need to take deep breaths and wait and see!

  34. Magpie says:

    I nearly died when I read this on NCROnnline. *sigh*

  35. LawrenceK says:

    Luvadoxi: The principle of double effect is a longstanding method of moral theology, and it (or its equivalent) are accepted by orthodox moral theologians.

    There is not, however, unanimous agreement on how this principle is applied to ectopic pregnancies in particular. I’m not saying I disagree with Cato the Younger’s comments above, but I think it is important to always identify the level of certitude involved. Most moral theologians consider removing a fallopian tube (and indirectly causing the death of the baby) justified. Similarly, most moral theologians consider it moral, if a hand grenade falls in the trench next to your platoon, for you to choose to throw your body on the hand grenade, saving your comrades (and indirectly causing your own death). In either case, the indirect result is not intended: the Catholic doctor is trying to save the mother, and would like to save the baby if he could. The soldier is trying to save his comrades, and would like to save himself if he could. There’s no direct intent to do evil.

    But others disagree — not with the principle, but with the prudential question as to whether the death can really be considered “indirect”.

  36. catholicmidwest says:

    I didn’t “nearly die.” I shrugged.
    I’m a convert and have been around the Catholic Church more than 25 years. The Catholic church has a few indispensable things, like the Eucharist, but I’ve come to realize that a lot of it is an all out mess. We have at least a dozen active crises at any given time and this hasn’t changed the whole time I’ve been Catholic. Being a catholic convert is a bit of an exercise in learning to stomach the ever-present craziness and tone-deafness in the church…..We can’t even get our own translations right without decades of internecine BS. It’s not easy to convert and stay converted and that’s probably why the second most populous denomination in the US is ex-Catholics–a statistic I don’t doubt in the least.

  37. Ezra says:

    Things I fail to understand:

    1. Why did the Osservatore Romano run selected quotations from this, the most controversial section of the book, without context and/or explanatory commentary? Those are the quotes that were picked up by the secular media, and are now forming the basis of “Church changes teaching”, “Pope reverses position”, “Condoms a-OK” stories all over the wires. The OR‘s recent track record in terms of generating unhelpful headlines (ranging from the mildly so to the catastrophically so) is undeniable.

    2. Why did Pope Benedict use the word “justified”?

    3. Why do wise men like Pope Benedict and John Paul II agree to these interview-type books, which – as they tell us themselves – have no status as teaching, and yet frequently lead to confusion about Catholic doctrine? Crossing the Threshold of Hope had infelicitous expressions which were used as “evidence” that all religions lead to heaven. Now we have this book, which’ll be used by the usual suspects to push for the legitimisation of non-procreative sexual activities. Can we perhaps consider returning to the days when the public statements of pontiffs were weighed for months – yet when uttered were of such clarity and force as to cause even her enemies to know the Church’s meaning? Could we stop the informal chats with journalists who are either hostile to, or ambivalent about, the Church’s teaching?

    The local hierarchies aren’t, in most cases, going to bother clarifying the context or meaning of the remarks. If we’re lucky, perhaps we’ll get something half-decent from Fr Lombardi, or – infinitely preferable – the CDF. In the meantime, you’ll have “Catholic pundits” announcing (as Damian Thompson is already doing) that this constitutes evidence of a change in Church teaching – often because those selfsame pundits are living lives inconsistent with the moral law, and it suits them to imagine as much. The faithful, most of whom don’t have either the time or the knowledge to root around the internet for the Dr Janet Smiths and Jimmy Akins of this world, will be left with the impression that the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception is nuanced, ambivalent, mutable. There is a real danger souls will be lost.

  38. LawrenceK says:

    Also, keep in mind that Thomas Aquinas found it worthwhile to rank sins in order of wickedness. When he said that sin X was worse than sin Y, was he encouraging his readers to commit Y? Certainly not. Did these passages in the Summa create a “slipperly slope” that lured medieval minds into approving of Y? Certainly not.

    Therefore, when the pope says that it’s worse for an HIV-infected male prostitute to have homosexual sex without a condom (violating the 5th and 6th commandments) than for him to perform the same act with a condom (violating the 6th commandment), why would any of the commenters on this blog conclude that he is creating a “slipperly slope” that will lead Catholic to conclude that contraception is permissible?

    It is important to remember that the vast majority of self-identified Catholics do not actually pay attention to what the Pope says when they make sex-related decisions. Do you really think that there are Catholics who reject contraception, but who will start using it because of a distorted article about the Pope in the New York Times? I’m sorry, but we have to be realistic. Catholics who reject contraception are a minority subculture within the Church, and this subculture consists of Catholics who are smart enough not to trust the New York Times’ summary of what the pope says!

  39. Charles E Flynn says:

    Those of you unfamiliar with the principle of the double effect might find this article helpful:

    I wonder what was revised in it in 2009.

  40. QMJ says:

    First, from what I read earlier my understanding is that our Holy Father was talking about male prostitutes. The Italian has nothing to do with determining whether he was or not. The interview was in German and the original text of the book is in German. It would be helpful if someone who reads German and has read the German text could clarify this.

    Second, I am troubled by the reactions of many of the people commenting. I think our Holy Father has just a little bit better of an understanding of moral theology than us blog commentors. He is our Holy Father, and we should trust him. This is not the first time he has said something that surprised me. Every time he has it has been a wonderful opportunity to gain deeper understanding of the mysteries of our faith. It has also taught me that there is what Benedict XVI says and that there is my interpretation of what he says. This is why I like reading his interviews more than reading his books: there is less of me and more of him.

    Third, I strongly recommend reading the article by Dr. Janet Smith linked above by Charles E Flynn. There is also a link to it at Americanpapist. Dr. Smith does a very good job of clarify what the pope is saying and what in particular he is talking about and what he is not. Please read it.

  41. QMJ says:

    One more thing, what the pope said is not scandalous. The media distorting it the way they almost always do is.

  42. bookworm says:

    Perhaps another factor to be considered is the fact that in many instances and in many parts of the world, prostitutes don’t necessarily embrace that lifestyle entirely of their own free will — they are forced into it either by extreme poverty or by others who threaten them and/or their families with violence if they don’t comply. Is it really wrong for them to attempt to limit the physical damage brought upon themselves and others any way they can?

    Another poster asked why contraception is allowed after rape, or even before rape if there is a high likelihood of it occurring. That’s because contraception is intrinsically evil ONLY within the context of a consensual sex act. Rape is an act of violence and the victim has every right to protect herself from the consequences of that act if — and only if — conception has NOT yet occurred. If conception has occurred, of course, then the innocent life created by the act must be protected.

    The difference between contraception within marriage and contraception after rape is like the difference between locking your spouse or child out of your home and locking a burglar or thief out of your home.

  43. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Here’s how I explain the application of the principle of double effect, in the case of a women having a life-saving operation that results in the death of her unborn child…

    Suppose a car is tottering on a bridge–two people are inside. You must act to rescue them; but because of how the two people are positioned in the car, when you pull out the person nearest to you, the car will lose balance and fall, killing the other.

    Of course, if you could save both, you would; but that opportunity is not presented to you; you must act as you can. Nor do you have a choice about which person to save; you simply can save the first, and that’s all you can do.

    That’s what happens with the mother; you would save both the mother and child if you could; but if you do nothing, both will die. The operation to save the mother is morally proper in that case.

    Remember, all the elements of the principle of double effect must be present; it’s not permission to do wrong; it’s a way of resolving a situation where you are incapable of separating a bad effect from a good effect.

  44. catholicmidwest says:

    “Do you really think that there are Catholics who reject contraception, but who will start using it because of a distorted article about the Pope in the New York Times?”

    That’s not the point, Lawrence. The overwhelming majority of Catholics pay absolutely no attention to what the Church says on at least a dozen topics, including for instance, birth control & abortion. Our statistics on those 2 issues, for example, do not differ in the slightest from statistics applying to the general culture. What the church says one way or the other makes no difference to those numbers.

    The fact is that the church has consistently muddied the waters and made it less clear what the average Catholic is supposed to believe. People now think it’s ALL negotiable. That’s WHY what the church says doesn’t matter to them anymore.

  45. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, people don’t see the inherent truth of what the Church tells them. They don’t associate natural law with their actions or think that they will be held responsible in any way. After all, they don’t hear about it on any real basis.

    And they honestly think God doesn’t care what they do. They might even think that God luvvvs them enough that he might not want to see them inconvenienced, if he even notices what they do at bedtime. A far stretch? Not really. Devotionality has replaced theology completely for many, many people.


    All contraception (including condom use) is intrinsically evil. That is, it is always and everywhere wrong, regardless of the circumstances. The pope is not making any exceptions, even in the male prostitute case. (the original German most definitely says “male”) He’s simply saying that the prostitute who uses a condom could possibly be using a condom because he doesn’t want to infect people. While such use is still wrong, at least the prostitute realizes that it’s bad to infect people. That’s all the pope is saying.

    This is a far cry from condoning condom use, even in the specific example cited by the Holy Father.

    Yes, the media is having a field day. But this is because they aren’t smart enough to understand what Benedict REALLY said (similar to What Does the Prayer REALLY Say). Of course, it would have been better to just say that condom use is always wrong and leave it at that. I agree 100% with what the Prof. said in post #14.

  47. catholicmidwest says:

    Yes, EtVerbum,
    But that distinction is lost on at least half of the listeners by definition. It would have been far better just to remark that condom use is always immoral. Period.

    If the interviewer had posed the example of a homosexual prostitute, then it would have been a great opportunity to restate the immorality of BOTH homosexuality and prostitution.

  48. anna 6 says:

    Go to Amy Welborn to see the full quote…the MSM have missed the point…no shock there.
    …and in English, it’s “male prostitute.”

  49. Lurker 59 says:

    The problem is in the use of the term justified. The Italian in question, as given above is

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

    The interview should have been given in German not Italian. Could guistaficati be a (intentionally) mistaken translation of a different German concept? It is very very hard for me to imagine Pope Benedict XVI using that term in this instance since it is such a loaded term especially when one is talking about morality. It seams out of place for one as theologically astute as our Pope to use in this instance. Recourse to the origional German would be helpful.

    Does anyone have a link to the origional German?

    All in all it is a very large mess.

  50. catholicmidwest:

    Isn’t that what’s so amazing about the Church? The Church has gone though many, many hard times/scandals over the past 2000 years. Just read Church history–each time period has its own trials. (For example, just think what it must have been like to live through the Great Schism of the late 14th/early 15th century. At least now we are united under one pope.) And yet the Church continues to emerge from every scandal, hardship, and persecution, and She will continue to do so until the end of time. Any human institution would have fallen apart long ago. But the Church is a divine institution, established by Christ Himself, against which “the gates of hell shall not prevail.”

    So more hardships = more proof of the Church’s indestructibility. Of course, we don’t desire them. But in our 2000 year history we’ve been through worse than a pope’s remarks on condoms being misunderstood in an interview.

    So stay strong in the Faith and God bless!

  51. catholicmidwest says:

    Please. What you’re giving me is a lousy excuse for rotten behavior on the part of people who ignore church teachings. Just because the Church happens to be indefectible doesn’t mean that every Tom, Dick and Harry can drag it around in the dirt for their own amusement. Speaking of your rationale to me……sorry, but I am not entertained by such rationalizing.

  52. LaudemGloriae says:

    “Do you really think that there are Catholics who reject contraception, but who will start using it because of a distorted article about the Pope in the New York Times? ”


    There is enormous pressure to disregard the Church’s teaching on this subject and many faithful are hanging on by a thin thread.

    I am a little surprised at those who would say that the Pope is speaking his personal opinion and not ex cathedra etc. He is still the Pope. This is a published interview. Does anyone believe this wasn’t a prepared opinion statement?

  53. Lurker 59:

    No where does the word “justified” appear in the English. But remember, the Italian is a translation of the original German. The Italian translation already has the mistake of saying “female” rather than “male” prostitute, as the orginal German says.

    This remindes me of the ICEL lame-duck translations. Except this time it’s Italitan, not English, that has the faulty translation. I wouldn’t be suprised if whoever translated it (a liberal?) did this on purpose. It highly doubt that the word “justified appears in the original German. Does anyone know for sure?

  54. Lurker 59 says:

    The AP, Yahoo, and other places look to me as if they are are running with internal translations from the Italian.
    AP English quote

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

    Dr. Pia’s blog quotes the book differently which I am assuming is from the book as it will be printed in English.

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

    As we can see, the italian guistaficati is being brought into the English as “a basis” rather that justified, as the AP would have it. This indicates that there may be a problem in the Italian transaltion that the AP is using to create their English translation.

  55. chonak says:

    So it’s the Osservatore Romano’s turn to score an “own goal” against the Pope, and on the eve of the consistory, too! Another brilliant move by the Vatican’s communications apparatus. These organizations can’t be re-org’d soon enough.

  56. Sixupman says:

    Tamper with Natural Law at your peril, we can see the seeds of our own destruction all around us.

    The media in the UK, led by the BBC, have twisted the moral theological argument to the sensational. Sky TV, early morning news, did put up a, pro-contraception, lady who did place a more balanced interpretation of BXVI’s [apparent] statement. Ruth Gledhill, Times religious correspondent, revelled in the embarrassment to the Church.

    Is that Rome newspaper [rag] ‘stirring’ controversy again?

  57. QMJ says:

    “Does anyone believe this wasn’t a prepared opinion statement?”

    I do not believe this was a prepared opinion statement. I don’t have any good reason to believe that it is. I do, however, have reason to believe that it is not. There is precedence here. This is the third (that I know of) book length interview with Joseph Ratzinger to be published. The first, The Ratzinger Report, came about quickly. He did not see any questions ahead of time. All of his responses were “off the cuff.” In the second, Salt of the Earth, Peter Seewald says in his foreward, “He didn’t want to look at any of the questions beforehand, nor did he request that anything be omitted or added.” Why should I automatically believe that this interview with the same interviewer as the last is any different from the previous? And, yes, he is the Pope. We do need to take seriously what he says, however, there is a difference between his stating something in an interview and his defining a dogma ex cathedra. Those who wish to disagree with our Holy Father on this particular issue may do so and still be in good standing with the Church.

  58. Warren says:

    This is good. This is the perfect opportunity for clergy to speak on topics like NFP and authentic human sexuality. They can also preach about how fake science has masked the truth about programs which promote condom use when, in fact, the use of condoms contributes to countless people being infected due to the failure of so-called “infallible technology”. People are slowly realizing that “reduce the risk” is really Russian roulette.

    Of course, those clergy who miss the opportunity to clarify Church teaching and invite people into a deeper relationship with Christ and who instead promote harmful practices and wayward thinking will be exposed for who they are – wolves among the sheep.

    Ask the Holy Spirit to embolden priests to preach the Faith!

  59. Prof. Basto says:


    The Italian “giustificati” is in the Vatican website (L’osservatore Romano section) and in the pages of today’s printed version of that newspaper.

    So you see the big problem being formed. What was said was said in German, in a dialogue between Germans but, and what was said was said in a private capacity, with the answers given probably off the cuff, without previous knowledge of the questions, BUT, this being a book interview that was done with the Pope’s consent, an interview that has the Pope’s approval, the words being the Pope’s words, the official machine of the Holy See is being used to spread the word about the book and its contents.

    As such, there will be a press conference at the Vatican Palace, there are media notices published by the Holy See Press Office in its official bulletin, AND, fragments from the book are now published in the Pope’s own newspaper, owned and edited by the Holy See.

    And the fragments published in the Pope’s newspaper, a newspaper that is sometimes used even for the promulgation of official magisterial acts and laws of the Church, are published in Italian, with the word justified being used.

  60. Desertfalcon says:

    Having read through media coverage of this and the comments posted here, my only comment is that people really need to read EtVerbumCaroFactumEst’s comments above to retain their sanity on this issue and gain some clarity. He is spot-on.

  61. acroat says:

    Logically, it seems they were discussing male prostitues as it is the male who in the end deciding to use the condom. A woman could only make a request.

  62. Thomist says:

    Faithful Catholics know that Pope Benedict XVI is a faithful, Supreme Vicar of Christ.
    Useful commentary on the Pope’s non-Magisterial statements and how they are twisted are also here:

    and here:

    and here:

    It’s surprising how confused some can get and express it publicly, instead of themselves looking for the wise commentators.

    The use of condoms in marriage is “a grave sin” (Pius XI Casti Connubii, 1930) and “intrinsically wrong” (Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, 1968)

  63. Lurker 59 says:

    @Prof. Basto,

    Oh yes, I see the problem. The Italian is going to, and is being, treated by the press as the editio typica when it is really just a translation. I’d rather deal with the term “giustificati” as not being authentic to the origional statement of the Pope rather than to attempt to make excuses for laxity in such a word being used in this situation.

    Two questions are thus raised:

    1.) What is the German origional?
    2.) Is “giustificati” the actual text in the actual Italian book? (I ask this because the English that is used by the AP is not the actual text in the actual English book (Dr. Pia confirmed that her text is from an advance copy of the English text as will be published by Ignatius) thus it is possible, though doubtful, that it might not actually be the text from the actual book.)

    The German origional is most important to have because that will help us clarify if we are dealing with a lax off the cuff remark (which I would find to be highly out of character) or a translation problem.

    If it is a translation problem, then questions surrounding papal infallibility don’t get dragged into the mess as there is nothing in the whole statement that is truly problematic in the English text Dr. Pia has on her website beyond the term “giustificati”, which thankfully wont appear in the English text as published by Ignatius.

    I do agree with you that this warrents some sort of offical explanation / clarification.

  64. What shocks me is how many commenters seem to think that, as long as you’re spiritually dead from mortal sin, you may as well tack on a bunch more because they don’t count. But what really shocks me is the idea that, as long as you’re spiritually dead, the God of resurrection and salvation won’t ever touch you with any grace whatsoever.

    Of course God can touch mortal sinners with grace and have them respond! How else do they get to Confession — dragged there under duress? Why else did Jesus come to earth at all, and go to all the trouble of dying for us, if sinners could never turn from their sin even with His help? Of course priests should be watching for tiny signs of grace in sinners’ souls, however mistakenly or even wickedly the sinners respond at first! That’s an important part of their job of finding the lost and winning souls!

    And do you really think that God goes to all the trouble of having a subtle theologian elected Pope, just to want him to shut the heck up about anything more subtle than “no do sin, it bad”? Are all Church teaching and all her teachers to be dumbed down to the NYT’s level?

  65. JosephMary says:

    Statistics show, and our Holy Father knows well enough, that condoms have not been shown to stop the spread of AIDS. There is no such thing as ‘safe sex’. But he comments that a male prostitute shows at least some form of concern when he makes at least an attempt to stop infecting others or to protect himself. At least there is a recognition of a further harm that might be done that is deadly. This has nothing to do with contraception! And the sin is still there only there is a hint of concern for the partner instead of lust as usual with no concern at all.

    The Holy Father’s hugely successful trip to England left folks waiting to make a mountain out of a molehill. And even the ‘trads’ are saying well now I am going schism and when will we have a true pope. Our Vicar of Christ gets hit from every side. But then Our Lord did promise persecution and our Holy Father is no stranger to it….

    Catholic moral teaching has NOT changed! Yes, one might think so given the stance of some prelates but it has not.

  66. Paul Jackson says:

    Oh, here we go with another media crises. Already we are reading on the BBC about a softened stance on contraception. This is odd as in the Pope’s example there is no possibility of conception as he seems to be refererring to homosexual activity when he gives the specific example. Like Regensberg over again :-(
    I do like the blog-post from American Papist. ( and the analogy given by DR Janet Smith:
    “An analogy: If someone was going to rob a bank and was determined to use a gun, it would better for that person to use a gun that had no bullets in it. It would reduce the likelihood of fatal injuries. But it is not the task of the Church to instruct potential bank robbers how to rob banks more safely and certainly not the task of the Church to support programs of providing potential bank robbers with guns that could not use bullets. Nonetheless, the intent of a bank robber to rob a bank in a way that is safer for the employees and customers of the bank may indicate an element of moral responsibility that could be a step towards eventual understanding of the immorality of bank robbing.”

  67. sprachmeister says:

    Just to say that all German reports have said “männliche” or “homosexuelle Prostituierte” so it seems the Pope was referring to male prostitutes and the verb used was “rechtfertigen” which means “to justify”, “to warrant” or “to vindicate”.

  68. Kerry says:

    One wonders why the ‘media’ bothers with this. Why don’t they just make it up out of whole cloth? They will always get it wrong, so what is the difference if they twist or just invent their headlines?

  69. La Sandia says:

    Harrumph. The Pope may not have said anything wrong, but he should have known better. Have these past five years taught him NOTHING about the willingness of the secular press to distort his words for their own purposes, taking with them the mass of confused faithful? Media savvy has never been the Holy See’s strong suit, and now those of us faithful to Church teachings are going to have to do damage control with those that now say “but Pope Benedict said…”

  70. Prof. Basto says:


    Thank you. You see that the Vatican’s Italian translation published in L’osservatore Romano is misleading even those of us who are trying to read what the pope is saying in good faith.

    Now, the point about whether the example was of a female prostitute or a male prostitute really makes little difference (of course, the male prostitution being worse, due to the sin of sodomy), because in both cases there is the sinful sexual act outside marriage and the gravely sinful act of prostitution, that the Church cannot condone.

    As for the other linguistical question, it is troublesome to find out that in the original German the Pope, although speaking in a private capacity, said that the use of a condom was “justified” or “warranted” or “vindicated”.

    You can see in the word “rechtfertigen” the radical “Recht”, meaning “right”, “legal”. It is a radical that is also found in “Gerechtigkeit”, the German word for Justice. And the first translation of “rechtfertigen” in several dictionaries is indeed “justified”. So, the Pope said “justified”.

    Now he will probably have to correct his statements with a bunch of complex distinctions about what is justified, and lo, instead of a yes, yes, no, no doctrine, with two paragraphs the Church’s teaching on sexuality, or at least the pope’s personal adherence to it, has been left in murky waters.

    You can imagine John Doe thinking: “if even the Pope privatelly dissents from the strict Church teaching…” or, worse “the strict interpretation that the Church does not condone condoms has exceptions, and that’s according to Pope Ratzinger himself” or even worse “why do I care what the Church says, they can’t figure out their doctrine, their claim of a “semper idem” teaching is false, they keep changin’ everything. John Paul II said condoms were never permissible; Benedict XVI now says some cases are justified; perhaps if a liberal pope gets elected the next time several other cases will also be treated as justified”. So, there you have it: confusion, doubt, loss of Faith; the whole edifice of the magisterium placed in question.

  71. Sid says:

    Thank you, Father Z, for getting this out right away.

    The writebacker at 21 November 2010 at 7:52 am has touched on the real issue. As in the equally admirable Regensburger Rede, Benedict remains the university professor (and interlocutor with Habermas and the latter’s theory of discourse). Benedict is making an argument, a difficult argument, and making it nuanced and tight, as all good argument is. Alas! and alack!, because (1) the minds that resemble Homer Simpson and who habitually have bumper stickers for brains simply can’t follow such argument, and (2) the intellectually lazy won’t follow it, then (3) the intellectually evil will distort what he said.

    There’s probably not much that can be done about this, save what Fr. Z has already done. I’m with Benedict. Let him be the university professor. Clarity in thought and the professing of the best argument are virtues, however difficult the road to clarity may be. Yet to the purblind in mind and in will, even the plain and simple can’t be made pellucid.

    In passing: Geometry might be the most important course that we teach kiddies. For it teaches rational, step-by-step thought. Someone said that Euclid’s book is the 2nd most important book ever written. My geometry teacher 45 years ago told us that our proofs had to be so exact that even someone from Missouri would have to accept the QED.

    Even someone who writes for Time Magazine.

  72. Prof. Basto says:

    Where art thou, Father Lombardi?

    Unto the breach, Holy See Press Office, unto the breach!!!

  73. Faith says:

    Is there such a position as “media coach?” I see a need for church men to be coached before they give interviews. The Pope and others are too naive, and unskilled in the wily ways that the media reports. And the fault may not lie with the reporter. The editor choses the headlines. And publicity people hone in on buzz words and broadcast attention-getting hot buttons.
    I cringe when I see a bishop on Larry King, Glen Beck, et al. You know they’re going to get crucified. The poor churchmen think all they have to do is be honest and tell the truth. But that would only be broadcast as “What is the truth?” a la Pilate.

  74. LaudemGloriae says:

    A few responses. To those who assert that we are not intelligent enough to understand the Pope’s subtlety of theological thought – we get it. We understand what the Pope said. As others have said, it matters not at all the gender of the prostitute or the contraceptive nature of the so-called STD risk mitigation device. What is troubling is the argument that it would be a morally correct action to use condomns where the risk of HIV infection is present.

    A Catholic woman is married to a man who is habitual adulterer. She has previously been infected with STD by his activities. Can she insist on condom use in her marriage to protect herself? Statistics state that 50% of all married men and 25% of all married women will be unfaithful during their lives. Maybe we should all just use condomns all the time for disease provention mind you, not contraception. What should a married couple do if one is found to be HIV positive?

    Let’s explore that condom usage is a nonissue between homosexual partners. The problem with gay marriage (putting aside natural law) is that sacramental marriage is 1. unitive 2. faithful 3. fruitful We all know that gay marriage cannot be inherently fruitful. But it could be faithful. Can it be unitive with the use of condoms? No, just as with heterosexual couples this represents a witholding, a rejection of the other. If there is any risk of lethal infection, the only morally responsible loving action is abstinence.

    Yes, Aquinas did rank sins, for the purpose of applying the appropriate remedy of penance and to find the root causes of sin.

    Further, there is no such thing as safe sex. Even AIDS awareness compaigns have changed their language to “safer” sex. Recommending condoms is like stating it is more moral to play russian roulette with 2 bullets in the chamber than 5.

  75. dominic says:

    I don’t know, Faith, there certainly have been occasions (even recently) when I have thought something similar.

    But our recent experience (in the UK) of enduring 13 years of “government by spin”, where everything from the state (or even from anyone tangentially associated with either it, or the former ruling party) is tailored by public relations people to fit an approved line makes me wary of this. The un-spun, honest, approach of the Pope (in particular) is something that to my mind demonstrates the moral courage holy befitting of his position, even if it appears to have negative consequences in the short-term, or among the simple-minded (or malelovent)

    There is of course a tension between the instant demands of our press (all the more so in the 24/7 TV and internet age) and the need for the church to speak for eternity; and the problem is that the sort of typically nuanced and sophisticated – and very carefully considered and argued – approach of Pope Benedict does not lend itself to easy reproduction in the mass-media at all. I really don’t know what can be done about it, if anything; it is far better that we have a Pope who is a skilled theologian of sensitive and nuanced intellect than one who speaks in the language of tabloid headlines.

    I think there is a different issue that may lend itself to a more ready resolution; that the Vatican Press Office is perhaps not as sensitive to the harsher, cynical, tones of the press found in most Anglo-Saxon countries, as compared with that of Italy, and that some forethought in this regard could be useful. (the whole question of what has happened to L’Osservatore Romano of late is another matter, too…)

    But on a matter as delicate, complicated and controversial (and counter-cultural) as this…I really think that one can only reasonably expect much of the press to present this, at best, simplistically; and at worst wholly erroneously. (It is interesting, and positive, to note that overnight the coverage on BBC Radio news – on radio 4, the principal “serious” UK-wide station, has changed its references to explicitly refer to “male prostitutes”)

  76. CarpeNoctem says:

    While the pope is right in his statement and is standing on a great, deep moral tradition that verifies this assessment, again this is an example of completely mis-managing the media and the message coming out completely wrong. Others have discussed the particulars of the argument… a subtle and nuanced argument… so I will not repeat it.

    But when I heard this on the radio this morning and the gay-rights dude who spoke praising this “advancement”, there is one thing that needs to be reconized, which others have hinted at: In offering this ‘concession’, as the media will characterize it, there is a ‘poison pill’ that should be hard for homosexualists to swallow. Homosexual relations are something totally other than heterosexual sexual relations, and so (to grossly oversimplify the argument) it probably doesn’t matter what is done in the name of hygeine or some other ‘good’ in this midst of this most damnable evil. While there might be media and political clout in saying “the pope says this”, one should realize that this should be interpreted as a slap in the face to those who practice homosexuality, as these behaviors are so detestable and disordered as not to be deserving of any standard of respect, as the constant teaching of the Church does with ‘natural’ relations. FWIW… CN

  77. spesalvi23 says:

    What’s with the panic?!!
    My Goodness!!

    What he said in the book is the most rational thing to say about the described circumstances.
    Of course prostitution is a sin! Does is exist?? Yes!! Will it always exist?? Yes!!
    Does it make sense to prevent spreading deadly diseases during sinful intercourse?! YES!!
    Has the general use of condoms been condoned? NO!!
    Anybody with half a brain can see what he meant!! If people are not willing to understand and comprehend and reflect, because our world has turned them into sound-bite creatures, then they’re to blame for their own numbness!!

    Will the press distort whatever he says about nearly anything? YES!!
    Does he know that?! OF COURSE!! Does he care! NO WAY IN HE**!
    (Unless this matter will lead to violence.)
    Are people here having faith in their Pope and do they have some willingness or patience to let the matter settle a bit instead of running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off? NOPE!
    And that’s the sad part!!
    Brace yourselves for the day the book comes out and regain some rationality!
    Hyperventilation leads to NOTHING!

  78. Supertradmum says:

    The discussion on this website has been excellent. But, as a person in the pew, the comment by the Pope has just complicated my life. Coming from a family of secular agnostics and atheists, I had just decided to go to Thanksgiving dinner with my family. Now, I know they will bring this up and start an argument. Sadly, the vast majority of people, whether they have doctorates, like those in my family, most in university education, or those merely working, do not have time to read all these excellent comments and nuances. That the Pope was making a moral distinction is excellent. That his comments were in keeping with Thomistic Philosophy and the teachings in the Church on the different levels and types of sins, and the seriousness of such is also clear and good. But, most of the people who will read and run with this comment do not have the sophistication of rational discourse to unravel this. The Vatican media is part of the problem

  79. Athanasius says:

    The principle problem is the Pope failed to be clear. Although there is a certain degree of forgiveness and leeway public people should have for unprepared comments, one can make a mistake. This just happens to be a real big one.

    The use of a condom is intrinsically disordered. If anything, the situation proposed goes the other way, a male prostitute using prophylactics is not necessarily being responsible, he might be using it to continue his lifestyle thinking he has less chance of getting diseases. The problems are twofold:
    a)It took the media no time to suggest the Pope was making a link between condom use and “responsibility” , which his comments do seem to suggest
    b) the Pope’s comments seem to have given approbation to the idea that condoms protect from disease, which we know is not true since venereal diseases are up ridiculously.

    All in all this will go down as one of the worst papal gaffe’s rivaling L’Osservatore Romano, and probably will be the subject of endless clarifications.

  80. cato_the_younger says:

    LawrenceK – I was getting ready to write a response to Luvadoxi and see you and Charles E Flynn did a far better job than I.

  81. kgurries says:

    Here is an official “clarification” on the Pope’s remarks from the Holy See Press Office….
    Clarification on remarks on AIDS and condoms

    The head of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, has issued a statement clarifying passages of the book Light of the World, in which Pope Benedict discusses AIDS and condom use.

    The statement says Pope Benedict states that AIDs cannot be solved only by the distribution of condoms, and, in fact, concentrating on condoms just trivializes sexuality, which loses its meaning as an expression of love and becomes like a drug.

    At the same time, the Pope considered an exceptional situation in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real risk to the lives of others. In this case, the Pope does not morally justify the exercise of disordered sexuality, but believes that the use of condoms to reduce the risk of infection is a “first step on the road to a more human sexuality”, rather than not to use it and risking the lives of others.

    Father Lombardi’s statement clarifies Pope Benedict XVI has not reformed or changed the Church’s teaching, but by putting it in perspective reaffirms the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of love and responsibility.

  82. Athanasius says:

    Fr. Z: [The Church’s moral theologians have said for a long time that there are those rare cases in which the use of a condom, which is still looked at as an evil, can incur less guilt of sin depending on the circumstances.]

    Less sin is still not “justified”. For that matter what exactly is less sin? Or do we mean the person is not as culpable. Justified in moral theology means the act is good.

  83. AnnAsher says:

    The_ox spoke my thoughts and feelings as well. Absolutely terrible mistake for our intellectual, learned, Pope to ever utter in the same sentence the words ” condoms” and ” moral”

  84. Athanasius says:

    At the same time, the Pope considered an exceptional situation in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real risk to the lives of others. In this case, the Pope does not morally justify the exercise of disordered sexuality, but believes that the use of condoms to reduce the risk of infection is a “first step on the road to a more human sexuality”, rather than not to use it and risking the lives of others.

    This is still bad news. It begs the question: If the use of condoms stops disease, then why can’ the average joe use them? Why should he be unprotected against the various venereal diseases out there which, though they may not be as bad as HIV, they are still bad? This is the argument that not only the secular media will seize upon, but it is the logical conclusion of admitting condoms protect against disease and there is responsibility in their use to mitigate that. How many people in multiple relationships are little different than a prostitute in terms of their encounters? Maybe they’re being responsible too. This is why we need St. Thomas and scholastic theology.

  85. AnnAsher says:

    Re: Vatican press office release : ” first step on the road to a more human sexuality” No! Condoms, contraception of any sort, are a first step on the path to destruction! Look around us at the human culture since the introduction of contraception? We don’t need a sociologist. Is our culture more or less sexually moral?

  86. catholicmidwest says:

    Suburban Banshee,

    I am saying that there is no real difference between committing giant mortal sin that will send you to hell #1 with condoms and the same practice without condoms, yes. Being sort of morally dead is like being sort of pregnant. Not really a real distinction there. Yes, God acts to bring people around but how he does it neither you nor I know. So let’s not tell him what rules he has to follow, okay?

    The word “justification” is a HUGE word historically and theologically. It’ s never to be taken lightly. I’m surprised that the pope was not more sophisticated about this, particularly given his ethnic background.

    I really like this pope, but I think that on occasion he forgets principle #1 of leading people: They get far more out of process than principle when push comes to shove. Too much talk is loose talk, because even surprisingly with-it people don’t understand it if it gets very technical. Surprisingly, even quite intelligent people can become profoundly lost in constant qualification. And unfortunately constant qualification seems to be the order of the day. People would get 1000 times more good out of a sound practice demonstrated clearly & consistently from the Vatican than from any amount of chatter.

  87. kgurries says:

    John Allen gives some interesting background here:
    In chapter eleven of the book, Benedict tells Seewald that the anti-birth control teaching of Pope Paul VI in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae remains an important witness against the “banalization of sexuality.”

    Nonetheless, Benedict says that in carefully circumscribed cases – where the intent is to prevent the transmission of disease, not to prevent pregnancy – the use of a condom “can be 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.”

    The pontiff offers the example of a male prostitute, though the same line of reasoning could arguably be applied in cases of heterosexual couples where one partner is HIV-positive and the other isn’t.

    That question has long been a subject of Catholic debate, even among cardinals. In 2006, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Health Care Pastoral examined the question of condoms for married couples where one is HIV-positive and tentatively drew a positive conclusion, but no formal statement was issued – in part because of PR concern in the Vatican that such a limited concession would be heard by the world as blanket approval of condoms.

    In a Nov. 21 statement, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, said that the pope’s comments did not come out of the blue.

    “Numerous moral theologians and authoritative ecclesiastical personalities have sustained, and still sustain, similar positions,” Lombardi said. “Nevertheless, it’s true that they have not been heard until now with such clarity from the mouth of the pope, even if it’s in a colloquial rather than magisterial form.”

  88. AnnAsher says:

    Amen Prof. Basto! Amen, Amen, Amen!

  89. catholicmidwest says:

    Incidentally, PJPII was even worse. Yada, yada, yada, kiss the koran. Yada, yada, yada, go to those giant masses with bad music & liturgical abuse. Yada, yada, yada. It was utterly confusing and confounding. Thank God, those years are over. This pope has been far more clear most of the time and this is not that bad.

    I just hope they take a lesson and watch the qualifications in public. Making fine theological distinctions to the media (and to dogs) is never a good idea.

  90. catholicmidwest says:

    You said, “I’m with Benedict. Let him be the university professor.”

    There is the rub.
    He. Is. No. Longer. A. University. Professor.
    He hasn’t been a university professor for decades.
    No. He is the leader of the true Christian Church. It behooves him to act prudently in that role. Talking CASUALLY about *justification* in public on such charged and politically correct subjects, to the media no less, isn’t very prudent.

  91. AnnAsher says:

    Welcome Home to the Church.
    The people whom prepared you for reception have failed you since your still struggling with this issue. It should have been resolved, with full ascent to the Church, prior to reception. I admire your willingness to seek out proper instruction now. I too was misled in RCIA, over 12 years ago.
    Catholic hospitals are never *permitted* to administer contraception. Even in the extraordinarily rare occurrence of conception after rape (less than 1%) we do not punish the child for the sins of the father.

    I recommend contacting One More Soul via their website and getting a
    copy of their free CD on contraception. Then, read Theology of the Body for Beginners. Despite Christopher West’s recent troubles… This volume was a good read for me. These two introductions to why the Church teaches what She teaches were life changing for me. I hope they are for you as well. Please continue to seek to understand why the Church teaches certain things vs. Putting them aside (as I was encouraged to do in rcia). Though this is at first the more challenging path it is the only path that results in the true Peace of Christ.
    Pax Domini Sit Semper Tecum!

  92. catholicmidwest says:

    Note also that in this day and age generally speaking, even many people with PhDs don’t make fine theological or moral distinctions readily. In fact, most of them don’t. We’re very specialized now. I know plenty of people who are totally out in left field theologically but are spot-on when it comes to their disciplines (engineering, physics, chemistry, social work, etc). There are plenty of mormon PhDs you know? And even more atheistic ones. This is how that happens. The world is no longer in the middle ages, right? It’s all about process now. [Note that the big dust-up isn’t about a principle but a practice. Tip-off # 1,000,000. Vastly different than the reformation, BTW, even though the same words may seem to be involved, which means that’s probably being misconstrued too.]

    We have a mission to bring a historical and classical religion to these people. It’s possible because God doesn’t ask the impossible, but it’s difficult. BUT THIS IS THE WORLD WE’RE IN, AND THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE TO WORK WITH. Catholics generally don’t seem to *get* that and work appropriately. To wit, you can’t give them even a hint of a process that seems to make no sense to them. Give them processes that lead to what you want them to develop in themselves and then probe them to bring them to development. DUH. When will the people who run the Church once again *get* this?????

  93. kgurries says:

    Unfortunately the secular media will continue to spin this as a “change” in Church teaching. The reality is that this is an area of development. Clearly there is theological research and open discussion on this question. The Pope has apparently expressed his own (private) position — a position that is fully in accord with the constant teaching of the Church. Catholics need not be scandalized, however, the process of such “development” always carries the risk of internal divisions. Hopefully, Catholics on all sides of the debate will maintain charity and humility.

  94. catholicmidwest says:

    Fine & good, kgurries, for those buried deep within the faithful minority. But things like this have repercussions for those like Supertradmom’s relatives (see her post above) and others at the boundaries or outside of the church. Things like this have repercussions for evangelization and general understanding of the Church outside her boundaries. The world outside the Church’s boundaries is MASSIVE, must larger than that within. Many cradle Catholics seem not to be aware of this, but it’s the truth.

  95. Randii says:

    Orthodox catholics are mostly doing summesaults to try to defend this statement and say it is not a change.

    It is however. Read the statement in full. Cardinal Seggreccia has apparently confirmed that there are cases when contraception can be used. Is this the first step to acceptiong contraception in more “exceptionnal” cases. I’d say most probably.

  96. catholicmidwest says:

    Homosexual lovers don’t NEED contraception. You can’t get a baby from 2 guys in a bathhouse.

  97. catholicmidwest says:

    And the problem isn’t that practice is going to change. I mean it hardly matters morally whether a guy in a bathhouse uses a condom or not. He’s in deep crap morally anyway, just by being there with his trousers down. No. We have to be clear about this.

    The problem is that stray theoretical, even speculative, ideas have been tossed in the direction of the cretin media who are using it to make money, because of course, that’s their business in this world–to sell newspapers. It was a lapse of prudence, just one more in a long line of lapses in prudence, sad to say.

  98. Randii says:

    I disagree catholicmidwest. This has ramifications way beyond the apparently now sanctionned use of condoms by gay men. To protect their health. A move in a more moral direction as the Pope said.

    If a couple is married and one has an easily transmittable fatal disease and they have only had sexual relations in their marriage this new teaching says it’s moving in a moral direction for the gay couple in a similar health situation to use condoms but not the devout married couple?!

    Mark my words that this new teaching, a development on the church understanding of contraception, will eventually lead to a more lenient/open church teaching on contraception in general.

  99. catholicmidwest says:

    Oh of course you disagree. We’ve met here before and the only time I ever see you is when one of these topics hits the fan.

    It would hardly be possible for this teaching to result in greater contraception usage, Randii. Most people, including Catholics, already use birth control because for most modern people process trumps concept. It’s a post-modern thing and being unilaterally in the post-modern world you should know that as well as I do. It’s a shameful exhibition of how poorly the world understands eternity.

    It’s also one of the giant failings of the Catholic church not that people use contraception specifically, but rather that the Church doesn’t seem to be able to access what Augustine learned so long ago: It’s not so much about eloquence and ideas dictated in public as it is about living the faith as a way of life. NOTE well: I’m not anti-conceptual, but I know that concepts come concurrently with practice. Disembodied concepts are of no use to anyone. There is no understanding of theology without grace and presence in Church. TO WIT: YOU DON”T GET IT FROM THE NEWSPAPERS. =O

  100. Randii says:

    Catholicmidwest – read what the Pope said, read what right wing Catholics like Janet Smith are “interpretating” the Pope’s words to mean, then read a left wing Catholic writer’s “interpretation”.

    On this topic it’s those wwriting from the right that are twisting and turning and doing their best to make this statement not say what it clearly says. And the larger question of what is a clear change in the church’s position.

    When has a Pope ever said using condoms can have moral elements? Was Paul VI in Humane Vitae wrong? Was that “dogma” interpreted too broadly all this time and now we are moving towards a devlopment of that dogma which will recognize some condon use as moral?

  101. catholicmidwest says:

    1. This is not about politics, Randii. You may see it through that lens, however. It certainly looks as though you do, in fact. Do you think God does? If he does, for how long has this been going on?

    2. Do you think you know better than Humanae Vitae? On what logical grounds? I’m curious.

    3. If a person has been willing to use birth control all along, why do you think it might matter to that person whether it’s moral or not? Seriously. What difference might it make to them? Do you think it would make them behave any differently? In what way?

    PS “Interpretating” is not a word unless you are a toddler, Randii.

  102. Maltese says:

    While the Pope’s comments could be construed to have some theological basis (though the phase “the first step towards moralization” is hard to justify), I find making them imprudent. The only conclusion is to add confusion, not clarity, to controversy.

    Make no mistake, condom use, by itself, even among married Catholics, is a mortal sin. Their use is no different than sodomy.

  103. Supertradmum says:


    I agree with you that most Catholics and people in general are anti-intellectual and incapable of the fine thinking which is usually found on this blog and commentator’s box. Knee-jerk reactions are the order of this day, when people feel what they believe, not think out what they believe. Priests in the pulpit need to be simple and clear in their teaching of the Truth, which in this diocese, is almost avoided completely.


    There is no change in the teaching of the Catholic Church on this matter. Long before this statement, the Vatican was clear about the transmitting of AIDS as not being helped by condoms, but leading to encouraging promiscuity. The Pope seems to have been referring and answering a very, very specific question about male prostitution, a hideous state of sin and corruption. The health idea was even true in the 1960s, pre-Humane Vitae, when women with life-threatening problems were allowed by their priests to use IUDs for medical purposes. That allowance did not create promiscuity in those marriages. The Church is clear on the fact that there are degrees of sin; some sins are those which in the Bible, “cry out to Heaven” for justice. I think that you are confusing a rather academic, but relatively common distinction in this case. Of course, the media, for its own greedy reasons and for a rather universal hatred of the Holy Catholic Church is making a hay-day out of the Pope’s statement. As to people’s interpretations, since when is either the Catholic media or the secular media experts on theological questions?

    All of these comments look either at the practicality of this statement, or the idealism of this statement. The Church has always tried to lead people to the highest degree of holiness. In the pagan world, in ancient times, people were sickened by gross sin. That has not happened yet, but it will.

  104. Jason Keener says:


    I wouldn’t be too alarmed if you find some of these biomedical and sexual issues confusing. To some extent, the Church is in the process of figuring it out too, as these are sometimes complicated matters.

    1. What the Pope said about condoms and male prostitutes makes sense, although the nuance on such a topic will be lost on the media and even on a lot of Catholics in the pews. Sexual acts between two males are certainly depraved, but the acts can be made even worse if through those acts someone is spreading a serious disease. It does make sense for the Pope to acknowledge that condoms could, for example, be worn by male prostitutes since the wearing of the condom would do the good of helping to prevent serious disease and would not involve the frustration of the procreative aspect sex. Of course, between two men there is no procreative aspect to frustrate. Just because the Pope says that male prostitutes would be justified in lessening the evil of their acts does not mean the Pope approves of depraved sexual acts. Where we cannot stop evil altogether, we should at least try to lessen it, especially when the spread of disease can also affect the larger population.

    2. Some theologians and even some bishops maintain that emergency contraception can be given to victims of rape because the rape victim has a legitimate right to repel the sperm that was introduced into her through an act of violence. The problem, however, is that this kind of contraception can also cause abortions by making it difficult or impossible for an already-fertilized egg (child) to implant. Of course, the rape victim has no right to expel an already-conceived child because that would involve the direct killing of an innocent person. Emergency contraception for rape victims could only be used if it was clear that no abortion would result. This knowledge seems difficult to ascertain, and for that reason, there is a lot of debate about whether or not and when emergency contraception can be given to rape victims in Catholic hospitals.

    3. No one can directly cause an abortion for any reason. If a mother and child are in danger, everything must be done to save both because both mother and baby have human lives. If a mother has a medical procedure that results in the death of the child, this can be permissible so long as the medical procedure was not directly intended at killing the child. For example, even if a Fallopian tube is removed containing an ectopic pregnancy that results in the death of the child, the life of the child was not necessarily attacked and directly killed. Rather, the child died as a sad and unintentional consequence of the medical procedure aimed at doing the good of helping the mother achieve health.

    Hope this helps!

  105. catholicmidwest says:

    So, what’s the least we can do and get away with it? And how can we move that boundary so that we can get away with even more?

    What was the point of being Catholic again??

  106. Supertradmum says:


    We must try to do the hard things, always, and never compromise. Some women saints chose death over abortion and some couples chose celibacy instead of using their marriage rights. The call to holiness is always to do what is most difficult, without making things more difficult. St. Teresa of Avila wrote of this dilemma-not to fast until one is ill, but to fast; not to pray until one is endangering one’s health, but to pray always. Can you not extrapolate that the laity are called to holiness by denying the world, the flesh and the devil, and living in chaste marriage relationships, open to children? All else is serious sin. Do not fret, as God always shows us the way and forgives our confusion , and sins, if we try to follow Him and His Church. Good spiritual advisers, like gold dust in my area, are a necessity. Try and find a saintly priest to help you, and all of us . And, thank you for your comments.

  107. Magpie says:

    Cardinal Schonborn caused a mini-stir when he made comments earlier this year on a matter of sexual morality. Anyone remember that? I believe it involved the same line of argument.

  108. Magpie says:

    Here it is:

    ”On homosexual couples, the cardinal said that an enduring same-sex union is preferable to a series of encounters, telling the journalists that “a stable relationship is certainly better than if someone simply indulges in promiscuity.”
    Regarding Catholics who divorce and remarry, the cardinal said the Church might need to reconsider the idea that they should not receive Communion, pointing out that “many people don’t even marry at all any longer.”

  109. S. Murphy says:

    Catholicmidwest: the point is the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
    The dispute over condoms, or over who has sufficient reading comprehension to grok the Pope’s relatively simple statement is a small area in which the practical application of the commandment, ‘love thy neighbor’ is being worked out. Obviously, using your neighbor as a random f*ck-buddy isn’t loving; making it a financial transaction is even less loving; including depraved indifference to (your parter’s) human life to the financial transaction is about as close to hell as you can get while still breathing. Removing the depraved indifference from the transaction is a very small step in the right direction. That’s all.

  110. Supertradmum says:

    Yes, I remember. All dioceses should have savvy media specialists who are traddies, who understand the world.

  111. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m not sure that holiness is simply a call to zero in on pain, any more than it’s a call to feel good about your “spirituality,” as post-modern man might quip on his ipod touch.

    I think that holiness is about living the life of faith in cooperation with the God of the Church, the God of natural creation, the God of scripture, the God of the Jews as understood more fully in the New Testament and Tradition from which it comes and which is embodied in the Catholic Church. I firmly believe that sometimes living this life is beautiful and purposeful–something many people have forgotten–even though it may have necessary hardships at times.

    Hard-core ultra-traditional Catholics sometimes look like marines bent on self-immolation to me, and sometimes I think that the suffering becomes another religion in itself for them. On the other hand, soft-core contemporary Catholics seem to be living with some kind of “me-filter” between them and everything else including elemental reality, the “me-filter” being their personal “god”–themselves. Scary. Scary. Horrifyingly double scary.

  112. catholicmidwest says:

    S Murphy, agree.

    My main point is that tossing the speculative idea out for the media to slurp up like dogs was imprudent. The Vatican needs to think and think hard about what they’re supposed to be doing out there. This ain’t it.

  113. S. Murphy says:

    Cmw: Marines tend to be bent on self-immolation only when covering the grenade is the only way to protect other Marines. But I think your middle paragraph is exactly right; and your last one matches Chesterton’s comments on the balance of Orthodoxy… in _Orthodoxy_, iirc.

  114. Randii says:

    Magpie – also remeber that Archhbishop Nichols of the UK said recently as to the possibility of homosexual marriage in the church in the future something to the effect – who knows? It was covered in CWR.

    All these little moves or expressions during the reign of a conservative Pope is like Nixon going to China. If the church is to make changes in key areas like divorced not being able to receive communion it will come during the reign of a conservative Pope IMO.

    These may be the first such openings though it’s probably decades away before the church makes significant changes in these areas.

  115. S. Murphy says:

    “My main point is that tossing the speculative idea out for the media to slurp up like dogs was imprudent.”

    cmw – got it, although I think he has a choice between letting the dead bury their dead, and not speaking at all. His comment to Seewald answered all the pseudo-questions NPR et al have used to sew confusion. Now, if his ‘brother bishops’ choose to cover his back, like they failed to in the Williamson affair, the faithful who show up for Sunday Mass might not stay confused for long.

    Oh well. ;-\

  116. catholicmidwest says:

    Good gravy, Randii. One little imprudence in the media, and you’re thinking that we’re going to throw everything overboard. My, we have our little hopes up, don’t we?

    I might as well ask you personally: What’s the least we can do and get away with it? And how can we move the boundaries so we can get away with even more?

    PS What is the point of being Catholic exactly?

  117. catholicmidwest says:

    S Murphy, the biblical context for “let the dead bury the dead.”

    “19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
    20And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
    21And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
    22But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

    Now put it into a practical context in the situation.

    The church is not in the medical therapeutics business.

  118. catholicmidwest says:

    It may be very easy to say something like, “Surely it’s better if you’re going to do A to make sure you don’t hurt somebody physically in the process.” That doesn’t mean we should be tossing controversial freebies out for the media to roll in. And that’s exactly what happened, in essence. Prudence should have been more evident.

    A good question: What did the Vatican think would happen exactly after this sentence was uttered in public?? Did they not think that far ahead?