Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Pope and Condoms *UPDATED*

"I've often said that if a sports reporter was as clueless about his subject as the typical religion reporter is about his, he couldn't keep his job for a week. The Pope and condom story is the latest confirmation of that observation."   -- Paul Thigpen

I have been asked to address the recent statement of Pope Benedict regarding condoms.

I will throw out some quick thoughts, but for far superior analyses, go here (Fr. Fessio), here (George Weigel), and here (Archbishop Chaput).

I don't have much to add to those pieces, but I will do what I usually do, which is to take my simple mind and put things in the simplest way I know how:

  • In the Pope's example, the person deciding to use a condom is already engaging in gravely sinful activity (prostitution). Using or not using a condom does not in any way change the morality of the act; the person is still committing a terrible sin, which can never be condoned.
  • In the Pope's scenario, the condom is not being used for contraception, but as (perceived) protection against disease. Is condom use a legitimate way to stop the spread of AIDS? According to the Pope: "[The Church] of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution"; however, the intention of not wanting to infect your partner with a deadly disease may be "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality." In other words, there may be a stirring of the conscience that sex is about love, and not merely "a sort of drug that people administer to themselves."
  • It's as if a drug addict was deciding if he should shoot up his partner with the clean needle, or if he should just use the dirty one that's more convenient. That moment of concern for the other might be a step towards morality. It's not the use of the needle that is good; rather, the good is found in the concern for the other. Christianity is all about love, and love is all about willing what is best for the other. Pope Benedict was musing on one of his favorite topics (and the subject of his first encyclical): Love. Even in the midst of a moral hell, there can be movement toward love.
  • It is expected by every faithful Catholic on the face of the earth that the media will distort the words of the Pope on any sexual issue, spewing sensational, ignorant or even intentionally misleading headlines all over the globe.
  • As in the past, faithful Catholics have looked past the erroneous headlines to uncover the actual story, which is a non-story: No new teaching was given, no changes were made to the moral law. Of course.
  • Finally, even if the Pope had waxed eloquent about the moon being made of green cheese, a philosophical musing by a Pontiff in the middle of a long and fascinating interview with a reporter does not rise to the level of an official Church teaching; it is not an exercise of the Magisterium. Not.even.close. 

So, here we sit, with the Deposit of Faith intact, as it has been for 20 centuries and will be forever more. But this latest papal interview sure did give the world something to talk about! I do think all the hoopla is ironic, given that the world was long ago supposed to have written off the papacy as an irrelevant, dusty old relic. Yet even the Pope's most nuanced, non-authoritative utterances seem to carry incredible weight and power, even with the secular media. Go figure.

UPDATE: Speaking of condoms, I just read this on my daughter's blog! I couldn't resist posting it here.


  1. BAM! First comment!
    Condoms are designed (and used) as contraception; using a condom will not protect from disease. Would it be considered wrong for a loving, married couple were to use a condom?

  2. Ahhhh...what a post title! ;) This is my favorite part:

    "I do think all the hoopla is ironic, given that the world was long ago supposed to have written off the papacy as an irrelevant, dusty old relic. Yet even the Pope's most nuanced, non-authoritative utterances seem to carry incredible weight and power, even with the secular media. Go figure."

    So true!

  3. I've actually been following this story quite closely, and I think that the drama surrounding it is fascinating.

    I read an article somewhere (I forget where, so sorry I can't link to it), that the Pope's teaching on condom use did not change anything for a different reason than any of the ones you mentioned:
    -the Catholic Church teaches that each and every sexual act as husband and wife needs to have the possibility of producing offspring
    -the Catholic Church rejects the use of condoms as they hinder conception (i.e. don't allow for the sperm to reach the egg) and remove the procreative aspect of the conjugal act
    -the prostitute is not going against the Church's teaching (anti-contraception because it removes the procreative aspect of the marital union) by using a condom, as he is not married

    I thought this was an interesting way to look at it, and an argument I would use to defend the Pope's recent words if I were Catholic myself. Again, if I misrepresented something, feel free to correct me.

    Of course I think it's obvious that I disagree very strongly, but I do feel the need to make that known very clearly.

  4. The prostitute may not be going against the Church's teaching in terms of anti-contraception, but he is going against the Church's teaching on sex outside of marriage and (if I've been keeping up with this story properly) homosexual acts. "Husband and wife" is also probably stated because the Church doesn't condone sexual acts between couples who aren't husband and wife... but that doesn't mean the Church would find the use of condoms acceptable in a sexual act that's not between husband and wife.

    and @Angela - that's my favorite part too! The pope is someone to listen to when he says something that can easily be misinterpreted to agree with mainstream culture, but otherwise he has no idea what he's talking about!

  5. Right, Liesl. So none of the Church's teachings have changed, because sex outside of marriage has always been wrong, just as contraception within a marriage always has been.

    Sorry if I was unclear. Definitely aware that the Church frowns upon premarital sex ;)

  6. Liesl, thanks!

    And Mrs. M, you weren't too far off base, as it is true that since a male prostitute cannot have sex which is either procreative or unitive, it really doesn't even matter all that much what he does with a sheath of latex.

    You know more than most Catholics, by the way! ;)

    LaBlah, it would be wrong for a loving, married couple to use contraception. I will write a post on this one day. It's a favorite subject of mine!

  7. My BIL, who is in the seminary, studying to be a priest (yay!!), was discussing this with us over the break and I was having some trouble wrapping my mind around it BUT the whole drug user example really helped put it into perspective even more!

  8. Sigh....I have to seperate myself from the constant misrepresentation of the Pope and the Church or I would literally be sick to my stomach every day.

    Blessed are the persecuted...

    Mrs. M-I like you! I hope you stick around!

  9. Mrs. M - Your thoughts are similar to the ones I had when this story first broke! And Leila's summary (as well as her links) fills out the rest of the picture.

    Sometimes the twisting of the pope's words REALLY bother me, but sometimes, like this situation, it's more of an opportunity to discuss and clarify.

    And Leila, yes, please do a post on contraception within marriage!

  10. Your daughter's post is adorable! I get the same thought in my head when I see the Vi.agra commercials...ewwwww! Must we advertise this stuff so publicly? Gross.

  11. I love Mark Shea's take on this subject as well (but then, I'm a sucker for a good Star Wars/Catholicism crossover):

    ROME -- In a startling change to the Catholic Faith, Pope Benedict XVI announced today that tossing people down elevator shafts could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility "in the intention of reducing the risk of having your own son electrocuted to death before your very eyes."

    The Imperial Mainstream Media Center has taken this as a signal that the Church intends to canonize Darth Vader for his saintly courage in tossing Emperor Palpatine down an elevator shaft as the latter was torturing Darth Vader's son to death with huge bolts of electric Force energy. In addition, the Imperial Mainstream Media Center has also declared that the pope therefore means to say that destruction of whole planets, as well as the subjugation of billions of inhabitants all over the galaxy, the betrayal of his closest friends, the slaughter of the Jedi and their younglings, and his conversion to the Dark Side "don't matter."

    But most importantly, according to an Imperial Mainstream Media spokesman, "The point is, throwing people down elevator shafts is now formally accepted by the Church as moral behavior and Catholics need to think about how to incorporate this new development of doctrine into their lives. If you feel that throwing people down elevator shafts is the safe and right thing for you, then," says the Imperial Mainstream Media Center, "we believe the pope means to say, 'Do it with my blessing.'"

  12. I've had a really hard time with understanding why he said this and what exactly he meant. I think you've done a great job of clarifying, Leila, and I'm going to hop on over to read Chaput's take as well.

    What I'm getting from this is that it's always immoral to use contraception, but the fact that a male prostitute is going to because he think it might help protect his partner demonstrates a step towards right thinking. The condom is still wrong, it's just good that he's thinking of his partner.

    Is that it?

  13. Lauren, that sounds exactly right.

    LaBlah, I recommend Dr. Janet Smith's Contraception: Why Not? for a thorough explanation of why contraception is wrong for spouses.

  14. JoAnna-thanks for the link! Hilarious. I love Mark Shea.

  15. Well done, Leila. The drug addict example is particularly helpful.

    I want to add that the media's response, so typical and predictable, always just makes me smile to myself. Not a smirk, but a little, quiet bit of peace. It's ok to be misunderstood. Jesus said we would be.

  16. on the male prostitutes: Leila didn't specify male, but many commentors did. Later, the Vatican clarified that he wasn't only talking about male prostitutes, it was both men and women. a secular post:

    I did find a catholic oriented one that said the same: http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=24285

    although most seemed to say this caused more confusion:

    Not saying this changes the discussion, just want to make it clear we are only talking about male prostitutes - when we are only talking about males, it is easy to rule out possible contraception. When women are included, possible contraception.

    I am NOT saying that he is endorsing contraception, as Leila points out. I basically accept Leila's paragraph:

    "In the Pope's example, the person deciding to use a condom is already engaging in gravely sinful activity (prostitution). Using or not using a condom does not in any way change the morality of the act; the person is still committing a terrible sin, which can never be condoned"

    but I'll comment on that separately.

  17. Regarding this comment: "Yet even the Pope's most nuanced, non-authoritative utterances seem to carry incredible weight and power, even with the secular media"

    My personal feeling about the pope is similar to my feeling about Comcast. They are a very powerful company who uses their power in a way that I do not agree. When they are called out (for example about the recent Netflix controversy with L3), I am interested because the power they used that I disagreed with is being exposed. When a story comes out about them, I read with intense interest.

    In the same way with the pope, his previously radical stance on condoms (never should be used!) was - in my opinion - incorrect. He, like Comcast, seems to wield incredible power in certain areas of the world. And any little change, even in his own opinion and not the Church's teaching, is welcome, and I am very interested in it.

  18. The Jewish Orthodox have a lot of rules that sometimes get in the way of real life. An example: elevators on the Sabbath. If you've ever stayed in an orthodox hotel over Friday night, you probably experienced the Sabbath elevator. The elevator runs constantly from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, stopping for 4 or 5 seconds at every floor. The reasoning is: you aren't supposed to do "work" on the Sabbath, but if something is already going (and was started before the Sabbath or is run by a non-orthodox Jew), then you can use it. So you can still remain orthodox and use this elevator. It's not contradicting god's will.

    You may well guess, this is a matter of some controversy in certain circles. You certainly are wasting a lot of energy. I mean, that elevator running constantly overnight uses way more energy than one that sits and waits to be called (and does "work").

    Similarly, you're not supposed to plant things in the ground on the seventh year, so outside the Knesset (Israeli govt building), they put plants in pots and the put those pots in the ground. Plants in pots are ok. But they look and function like plants in the ground.

    These two examples are obviously "workarounds". I believe the word for this is casuistry.

    I submit that the pope is practicing casuistry - an elaborate argument that technically allows a sin (suggesting people use condoms), but uses some complex arguments to get around why it is not really a sin. From what I can tell from Leila's paragraph, it's not really a sin to use condoms because the other thing (sex outside of marriage?) was a sin in the first place.

  19. Mai, did you know that is is licit to use the Pill for some medical purposes? (Although there is always something more effective... the Pill is generally not good medicine, putting aside contraceptive purpsoses.)

    There is nothing inherently wrong with using sheaths of latex for disease prevention. We do it with gloves. Whether a homosexual couple does it with condoms in unmentionable areas does not touch on the issue of contracepting. With a female prostitute, we have more layers to the question, but I think it's a fair bet that many female prostitutes are already on hormone contraceptives or sterilized, and the condom is not used for contraception.

    That begs the question, and I will be back soon with more, when I can...

  20. But the point is, Mai, that Benedict's opinion has NOT changed, nor has Church teaching, and his comments are perfectly in line with Catholic moral theology. The Mark Shea article I linked above explains this in greater detail.

  21. Mai, the example of the Orthodox Jewish laws are examples of what we Catholics would call "disciplines" not "doctrine". For more on that:


    It's true as JoAnna says that nothing has changed in Church teaching or Benedict's opinion. That is the bottom line.

    Just for fun, I would like to play around with the dirty needle analogy some more. A needle is not inherently evil. It is an inanimate object. It has no "moral" significance one way or the other. But sometimes a needle can be used for good (vaccinations, IV's to administer healing medicines, etc.). Sometimes, needles can be used to do bad things (stab people, poke out an eye, etc.). Sometimes, needles can be used to facilitate evil things (immoral drug use). If a needle is being used to facilitate evil things, can that needle use be seen as a positive good? No. Can we say that a junkie who thinks to use a clean needle (as opposed to a dirty needle) to facilitate the sin might have taken a step in the right moral direction? Yes, we can see where ("on this or that occasion" as the Pope says) that might be seen as a stirring of the conscience.

    Much like Fessio's comments about the padded pipes that muggers might use to lessen the injury on another.

    Does that make sense? Sometimes I'm just thinking out loud.

  22. By the way, a condom (a sheath of latex) can even be legitimately used to collect a semen sample for analysis if the condom has a hole in it so that it cannot be used to contracept. So, the sheath of latex is not inherently evil.

    Are condoms a good way to stop the AIDS crisis? No. And the Pope is not arguing that issue at all. So, we have to understand the issue he is talking about. He's talking about a disposition of the heart.

  23. Thanks! I feel much better about that!

    I was listening to Catholic Answers Live and they had an interview with George Weigel, who wrote the forward to the book in question. It's worth listening to.


    The link you provided to Archbishop Chaput gives great background information. Thank you!

    Leila- LOVE your sweet daughter. It must make your heart burst with pride!!!

  24. Lauren, it does! I love her and I want to be her!

  25. I loved this: "Even in a moral hell, there can be a movement toward love."

    Thanks for sharing!

  26. I just had to say...I LOVE your daughter's rant! She could not be more right! :)

  27. Thank you, Sarah and Christina! :)

    FYI, I loved Stacy's take on the condom thing:


  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Leila, your comment from 11:25 makes everything the Pope said make sense.

    "There is nothing inherently wrong with using sheaths of latex for disease prevention. We do it with gloves. Whether a homosexual couple does it with condoms in unmentionable areas does not touch on the issue of contracepting."

    As you've said, the condom is to prevent disease, because there's no possibility of conceiving a child, as there even could be in the case of, say, an 80-year-old woman.

  30. Oh, thank you so much Leila! A kind of funny, but not really, story this week. Someone not Catholic who has been concerned because we have so many kids (#7 next coming out next month) let me know that she and her husband heard it on the news that the Pope said I could use condoms now. :-(

    I just love your blog and your writing.

  31. Yes, and there is nothing WRONG with the sabbath elevator running all day long. People aren't WORKING on the sabbath. I'm just saying, from an outsider point of view, both of these types of things seem like such mental gymnastics to get around being able to do something that is inherently wrong. Casuistry.

    I had actually read that before, in those IVF debates that brought me here, that it is "OK" to use a condom to collect semen for analysis purposes as long as you poke a hole in it. Seriously? That is just as gymnastic-like as putting potted plants in the ground so that you don't violate the fallow year.

    What is so incredibly disturbing to me about semen collecting with a poked condom is that this group has very vehemently abused people whose husbands masturbate into a cup for such analysis. I can see how you think these two things are incredibly different, but people who have not been indoctrinated into the catholic culture simply roll their eyes at such a minor distinction. Even many who have been indoctrinated but are thinking rationally generally roll their eyes (you call them "Cafeteria Catholics" I think.)

    From the 'lamestream media', an article from Ross Douthat http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/condoms-catholicism-and-casuistry/. He says: The natural law permits me to rigorously chart my temperature and/or measure my cervical mucus every day in an effort to avoid conception, but it doesn’t permit me to use a condom? Really?

    And, Leila, are you dismissing the fallow year as not as "important" as your Catholic truths? Is it that you think that no other religion's truths are as important as yours?

  32. MaiZeke,

    I understand why not wanting to use condoms seems confusing. It's both a small distinction and it's everything.

    Most fundamentally a marriage is built on trust and absolute trust in a spouse and God requires one not to put trust in latex at that most intimate moment between two people. That moment is founded on prior communication and knowledge of each other in a million different ways. A couple knows prior something of the chances of conceiving and accepts that ultimately children are not really objects to be planned. They are gifts to be born of love.

    The issue with all the focus on condoms is that it takes the focus off of where it really should be in a marriage. I like the idea of elevating the most intimate act to the highest level of trust and communication too. It goes together and how beautiful it is when a child's life starts out that way.

    That's my take on it from trying to reason through the contraception issue. It makes sense to me. I don't think I could legitimately "insist on the value of the child in society" (from your Times piece) if I didn't live it in my own life too.


  33. Mai, with the condoms and the holes, it's about keeping intact the integrity of the marital act. I am going to ask for your patience here, because I have not yet done a post on contraception and Church teaching (and Natural Law). So, please just hang tight and I will get to that just as soon as I can.

    As for other religions' "truths".... I think you are talking about other religions' "disciplines" and "laws" (we Catholics have them, too). And yes, I think they are important for adherents to those faiths. But I am Catholic, and I only follow the "disciplines" of Catholicism. No one else is bound by Catholic disciplines.

    Again, I think you are confusing disciplines (binding rules and regulations) and doctrines (Truth).

  34. Yes - I think I'm trying to get the point across that I do get your point. I'm not confused, and I understand that from your point of view it is about the integrity of the marital act. I'm following the logic that you use. I don't think that further explanations by any of you will convince me that this is not casuistry (I can submit semen for analysis as long as I use this poked condom).

    I haven't read up on Jewish Law, but my impression is: there is an ultimate truth from which all of these laws are derived. Ultimate truth: rest on the sabbath. Derives down to, after many iterations, "use a sabbath elevator". Same with this situation - Ultimate truth: sex is about procreation, derives down to "poke a hole in a condom in order to give a semen analysis". If Rest on the Sabbath and Sex is for Procreation are ultimately different things, please let me know. Of course when I have some time I'll go look into what Jewish Moral Law. Or just ask a few of my coworkers.

  35. Also, my point of view on the collecting semen issue is that my husband is helping us both to make a baby, which is what we both want. We are married, we love each other, we are working toward this desired goal together. We are in fact strengthening our marriage and our love by having him do this. For most people who are in an infertile situation, the marital act doesn't produce anything anyway.

    I know perfectly well that none of you agree with that, based on the IVF wars that brought me into this blog in the first place. Argue away if you like, I'm just putting my opinion out there so that everyone knows what my opinion is.

  36. Mai, yes, I think I see what you are saying. For example, "Keeping holy the Sabbath" is a Truth, and we Catholics are bound (by discipline) to go to Mass on Sundays. However, the condom issue is different, and I will explain why when I can. I am out the door today, and I am not sure when I'll be back.

    (I do know that you are not going to be convinced, but by now we both understand that that's not the point of this dialogue. Remember, "I prefer clarity to agreement." I don't expect us to agree. I do expect that we can be crystal clear about our positions so that people can see exactly where we stand.)

  37. Mai,

    This is an excerpt from Dr. Janet Smith's "Contraception: Why Not?" that I linked above. It may help you understand why we feel the way we do re: condoms.

    Pope John Paul II has very profound and beautiful things to say about the meaning of sexual intercourse and I can only give you the briefest of descriptions of it here. He says that the sexual act was meant to be an act of total self-giving. You want to give everything you've got to someone you love. And when you're withholding your fertility, you're withholding something that belongs in the sexual act, something that actually belongs there. To withhold it means that you're not giving of yourself completely. I heard someone compare contraceptives to someone who says, "You know, you're having a bad hair day. Would you mind putting a paper bag over your head? You know, I want to make love to you, but I can't stand looking at that hair. It's driving me crazy." That's what a condom is and that's what a contraceptive is. It says, "I love you but I don't want a very important part of yourself here, something that actually belongs in this act."

  38. Off topic, but... I read your daughter's blog post titled "Lately I've been struggling" which brings up the question, "How do I evangelize/tell people my beliefs without being offensive?"

    Maybe if someone asked her about the living in sin question, she could say something like, "Well - you know me. I am Catholic, so when I get engaged I can't/won't live with him until we are married." And smile. If pressed as to why, say "Catholics believe that marriage is a holy sacrament, etc..."

    There is no need to say "Because living together is sinful" when your friend just said her parents lived together for 2 years prior to their long and happy marriage.

    Just remember that as long as you keep the conversation about what YOU do/would hypothetically do instead of condemning the specific act, you can't be offensive (or if someone gets offended, it's not your fault). You are just telling people your opinion.

    Just remember you & your friends are very young and have no experience (yet) in these matters anyhow. As you live your life, the answers and nuance of experience will become clear. And though you may not agree with how other people live, you'll learn to understand why they do what they do. (hopefully)

  39. JoAnna - I actually think that pleasure is a very important part of the marital act. Speaking of Leila's daughter and her pleasure post, I've been meaning to put a longer post on my own blog about this but I just never get to it at night (32 weeks pregnant with a toddler at home and all).

    The short version is, I heard a radio show about how technology is causing us to become more distracted. BUT, he didn't say that technology is bad - there are enormous good things that come from technology. He compared technology to food. You need food to live, but too much of it and too much of the wrong thing in both cases (food and technology) are bad.

    Everything in moderation.

    I put pleasure in the same category. I read Leila's blog post and thought, well, uh, I like pleasure. I seek pleasure, yep. I don't think that makes me an immature selfish girl. Certainly we all know that my life is not ONLY dedicated to pleasure. Too much pleasure, or only pleasure, is certainly not good, but with the right amount of pleasure in one's life, life can certainly be ... pleasant.

    So I disagree with the statement that the marital act is only self-giving.

    Oh, and by the way? If my husband hasn't brushed his teeth in more than 24 hours, I ask him to please do so before he makes love to me. Smelly breath has no place in our sexual act.

  40. *oops - I read Leila's daughter's blog post ...

  41. Mai, We Catholics love sex, too. Don't you worry about that. ;)

    Maybe TMI, but I've done sex the secular way and the Catholic way.... I won't go back to the secular way, because there is no comparison. ;)

  42. Mai,

    Mrs. M was quite honest when she said that love (in her view) is about a feeling she gets. She said love is about getting rather than giving. She said once she doesn't get a certain feeling from her husband anymore, she will leave him. And vice versa for him. That is their agreement. Do you feel the same?

  43. Mai - I have three kids right now (5, 2, and 9 months) so I can empathize!

    I agree that pleasure is an important part of the marital act. The problem is, it's not the PURPOSE of the marital act, in Catholic theology. Here's another excerpt from "Contraception: Why Not?" that explains that concept:

    So, our society has this view that these three things -- sex, babies, and bonding, are separate and the Church says, "No, they're together." Now some people want to say, "Well, no, no, no. You've left something out here. Clearly, sex is for pleasure. And those who are having sex, they're doing what sex is for; they're having pleasure." And I'll say, "No, no, no. You've missed the point." There are lots of things that have pleasure attached to them. Pleasure is not the purpose; pleasure is the motive; pleasure is the consequence; but it's not the purpose. As a matter of fact, God attached pleasure to the things that he really wants us to do, that are necessary for our survival and for our happiness. So, it's pleasurable to eat and it's pleasurable to drink and it's pleasurable to sleep and it's pleasurable to exercise, and it's pleasurable to have sexual intercourse. It's pleasurable. That's not the purpose. That's not the reason we eat though some of us do. That's not the reason we sleep though some of us do. That's not the real purpose for these acts. They're restorative in many ways. They're necessary for our survival. So, God attached pleasure to everything he wanted us to do for, not our salvation, so much, as just our well-being. But we have to do it at the right time, and the right place, and in the right manner, with the right person, etc., etc. -- in the right way. Sure, eating is pleasurable, but there are limits to what you should be eating. Sexual intercourse is pleasurable, but there are limits to what you should be doing, and you have to seek that pleasure in accord with the nature and reality of what you're dealing with.

    As for smelly breath, I tend to agree. :) However, if my husband had a medical condition that caused chronic and incurable halitosis, no matter what he did, I'd love him in spite of it and wouldn't insist that he duct-tape his mouth shut every time we made love.

  44. I don't think the smell of one's breath is inherent to the nature of the sex act.

  45. Anonymous, thank you! I think that's great advice, and I have sent it on to my daughter. :)

  46. Just one last question here... What is the secular way and what is the Catholic way? Is it a position or something? LOL!

    But really, I hope you aren't implying that non-Catholics cannot have amazing, giving, loving, sacred sexual experiences.

  47. Anonymous, ha! :)

    No, I'm not implying that. I'm giving my own experiences of life before I knew, understood and lived Church teaching, and after. I have heard the same from others who have lived "both ways". When you use anything the way it was designed, it's always better ... mind, body, soul. ;)

    By the way, there are many non-Catholic Christians who reject sterilized and contracepted sex. So, it's not merely a Catholic thing.

  48. about the comment that Mrs M said that love is about getting, and if she doesn't get a certain feeling, she will leave, and so will he.

    My husband and I have no such agreements. He's been through a divorce already, and it was painful for all involved. Neither of us are planning anything of the sort. I personally don't feel that love is only a getting thing - it's a feeling certainly, but the decision part of it is very big for me. I'm attracted to him, certainly, he makes me happy, but there are a lot of men who could do that. This one I decided to stick with.

  49. Ok, I read through the Fessio commentary this morning.

    First, Fessio says: "Did the Pope “justify” condom use in some circumstances? No."

    The pope says: "There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization ..." with the exception that and if only when and etc etc

    And after many paragraphs of explanation, Fessio concludes that "In sum, the Pope did not “justify” condom use in any circumstances." So, never is it ok to use a condom.

    First of all, we know the Vatican has confirmed that we are not only talking about men here. Secondly, "There may be a basis in the case of some individuals ... where this can be a first step ..." Really? He's turning that around and saying condom use is never justified?

    Sure, certain individuals who are sinning anyway. It's only to protect against HIV transmission. Whatever. But there may be a basis where this can be a first step - that's "justification in some cases". I think that the conservative catholics are being too hard on the mainstream media.

    I also think that the conservative catholics, with this elaborate explanation of what the pope DIDN'T say, are actually disagreeing with the pope. Which is interesting.

  50. Mai, I re-read Fr. Fessio's article twice to see your points. I don't see it. I think the analogy of the padded pipe is clear. Is it justified to used a padded pipe to mug someone? No. But could it be a first step toward something better. As I said, even in a moral hell, there can be a step toward love. It's a disposition of the heart.

    As for conservative Catholics disagreeing with the Pope.... that happens all the time. I am not sure of your point? I am sure if I sat down and had a long conversation with any of the Popes, I would disagree with some of what they say.

    The Pope has not changed the Church's teaching (he did not and he cannot). And in addition to that, an interview does not constitute a teaching of the Magisterium. You may not like that or understand it, but it's true.

  51. Thanks, Mai, for your position on love. I happen to agree that one chooses to love a particular spouse, and that there are a lot of men who could make a woman happy. I don't believe in "the one" that has been planned by God for all time, but that is another post. :)

  52. Mai, you may find this post especially thought-provoking. From Fr. John Muir:


  53. Mai, let me clarify again (forgive my constant stream of thought!). I said that "I don't see it" when I went and re-read Fr. Fessio to look for your point. What I meant was, "I don't see where the Pope 'justifies' condom use under some circumstances." (In the same way I wouldn't say he "justifies" the use of padded pipes for muggings or clean needles for shooting up.)

    I do see that you and others might see that he is saying some condom use is justified.

    I can see that.

    I think it may be our mindsets that make us see it differently. Here's how:

    You see that condom use is good and responsible. The Pope saying something like he did makes it look like he is "waking up" to that. That he taking a baby step towards the truth.

    I see it (and I think the Pope is saying) that the "baby step" has nothing to do with the condom use, but has to do with a step towards concern about the other. An awakening of conscience. And, that first step is not "toward better, more consistent condom use" but in fact "away from illicit sex and condom use altogether".

    Does that make sense?

    Our last, great pope, JPII was a profound philosopher. Our current wonderful pope, Benedict, is a brilliant theologian. It makes their discussions and interviews and writings so very interesting, but there are the obvious pitfalls in throwing it all out there to the world. :)


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