Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By

11/23/2010 (5 years ago)

Zenit News Agency (www.zenit.org)

Pope Benedict XVI was advocating conversion, not condoms, in the striving for moral behavior.

'In the case of homosexual sexual activity, a condom does not act as a contraceptive; it is not possible for homosexuals to contracept since their sexual activity has no procreative power that can be thwarted. But the Holy Father is not making a point about whether the use of a condom is contraceptive or even whether it reduces the evil of a homosexual sexual act; again, he is speaking about the psychological state of some who might use condoms. The intention behind the use of the condom (the desire not to harm another) may indicate some growth in a sense of moral responsibility.'

Dr. Janet Smith

Dr. Janet Smith

Highlights

By

Zenit News Agency (www.zenit.org)

11/23/2010 (5 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: condoms, conversion, Pope Benedict XVI, Light of the World, Peter Seewald, Catholic morality


DETROIT, (Zenit.org) - A book-length interview with Benedict XVI, due to be released on Tuesday, is already causing controversy in the public spotlight due to the Pope's comments on the use of condoms. Some quotes from the book, "Light of the World" (Ignatius Press), were published ahead of the release date, prompting media opinions and a statement of clarification by Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office.

Janet Smith, a consultor to the Pontifical Council on the Family who holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, and has published extensively on the topics of sexuality and bioethics, explained in this interview the source of the controversy and what the Pope is really saying. She noted that in the book (p.119), to the charge that "It is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms," Pope Benedict replied (This paragraph is at the end of an extended answer on the help the Church is giving the AIDS victims and the need to fight the banalization of sexuality.):

"There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality."

The interviewer asked the Pontiff, "Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?" The Holy Father replied, "She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality."

Smith explains in the following interview, which she sent to ZENIT, how Benedict XVI was advocating conversion, not condoms, in the striving for moral behavior.

Q: What is Pope Benedict saying?

Smith: We must note that the example that Pope Benedict gives for the use of a condom is a male prostitute; thus, it is reasonable to assume that he is referring to a male prostitute engaged in homosexual acts. The Holy Father is simply observing that for some homosexual prostitutes the use of a condom may indicate an awakening of a moral sense; an awakening that sexual pleasure is not the highest value, but that we must take care that we harm no one with our choices.

He is not speaking to the morality of the use of a condom, but to something that may be true about the psychological state of those who use them. If such individuals are using condoms to avoid harming another, they may eventually realize that sexual acts between members of the same sex are inherently harmful since they are not in accord with human nature.

The Holy Father does not in any way think the use of condoms is a part of the solution to reducing the risk of AIDs. As he explicitly states, the true solution involves "humanizing sexuality." Anyone having sex that threatens to transmit HIV needs to grow in moral discernment. This is why Benedict focused on a "first step" in moral growth.

The Church is always going to be focused on moving people away from immoral acts towards love of Jesus, virtue, and holiness. We can say that the Holy Father clearly did not want to make a point about condoms, but wants to talk about growth in a moral sense, which should be a growth towards Jesus.

Q: So is the Holy Father saying it is morally good for male prostitutes to use condoms?

Smith: The Holy Father is not articulating a teaching of the Church about whether or not the use of a condom reduces the amount of evil in a homosexual sexual act that threatens to transmit HIV. The Church has no formal teaching about how to reduce the evil of intrinsically immoral action. We must note that what is intrinsically wrong in a homosexual sexual act in which a condom is used is not the moral wrong of contraception but the homosexual act itself.

In the case of homosexual sexual activity, a condom does not act as a contraceptive; it is not possible for homosexuals to contracept since their sexual activity has no procreative power that can be thwarted. But the Holy Father is not making a point about whether the use of a condom is contraceptive or even whether it reduces the evil of a homosexual sexual act; again, he is speaking about the psychological state of some who might use condoms. The intention behind the use of the condom (the desire not to harm another) may indicate some growth in a sense of moral responsibility.

In "Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World)," John Paul II spoke of the need for conversion, which often proceeds by gradual steps: "To the injustice originating from sin ... we must all set ourselves in opposition through a conversion of mind and heart, following Christ Crucified by denying our own selfishness: such a conversion cannot fail to have a beneficial and renewing influence even on the structures of society.

"What is needed is a continuous, permanent conversion which, while requiring an interior detachment from every evil and an adherence to good in its fullness, is brought about concretely in steps which lead us ever forward. Thus a dynamic process develops, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of His definitive and absolute love in the entire personal and social life of man. (9)"

Christ himself, of course, called for a turning away from sin. That is what the Holy Father is advocating here; not a turn towards condoms. Conversion, not condoms!

Q: Would it be proper to conclude that the Holy Father would support the distribution of condoms to male prostitutes?

Smith: Nothing he says here indicates that he would. Public programs of distribution of condoms run the risk of conveying approval for homosexual sexual acts. The task of the Church is to call individuals to conversion and to moral behavior; it is to help them understand the meaning and purpose of sexuality and to help them come to know Christ, who will provide the healing and graces that enable us to live in accord with the meaning and purpose of sexuality.

Q: Is Pope Benedict indicating that heterosexuals who have HIV could reduce the wrongness of their acts by using condoms?

Smith: No. In his second answer he says that the Church does not find condoms to be a "real or moral solution." That means the Church does not find condoms either to be moral or an effective way of fighting the transmission of HIV. As the Holy Father indicates in his fuller answer, the most effective portion of programs designed to reduce the transmission of HIV are calls to abstinence and fidelity.

The Holy Father, again, is saying that the intention to reduce the transmission of any infection is a "first step" in a movement towards a more human way of living sexuality. That more human way would be to do nothing that threatens to harm one's sexual partner, who should be one's beloved spouse. For an individual with HIV to have sexual intercourse with or without a condom is to risk transmitting a lethal disease.

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.



Comments


More U.S.

Former Catholic priest arrested in connection with beauty queen's murder - 56 years later Watch

Image of Now a married grandfather, former Catholic priest John Feit is accused in the 1960 murder of 27-year-old Irene Garza in 1960 (CNN).

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Many thought, but few actually believed that a small town Catholic priest would be capable of such a savage crime. Fifty-six long years later, former priest John Feit, now a married grandfather living in Arizona has been arrested in connection with the 1960 ... continue reading


Ash Wednesday and Lent. It Works if you Work It Watch

Image of After receiving the ashes, we are exhorted to leave the Church as penitents and pilgrims and continue in a Christian way of life every day

By Deacon Keith Fournier

If we enter into the observance of Lent with our entire person, it can draw us, at its' closure, into a deeper embrace and experience of the power of the Resurrection, beginning right now and stretching into eternity. Our frequent liturgical celebrations present ... continue reading


No Catholic or other Christian Should Support the Candidacy of Bernie Sanders Watch

Image of Senator Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America, denies the fundamental Human Right to Life of children in the womb.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Legalized abortion on demand is an open rejection of the entire ethic of being our brothers (and sisters) keeper. There can be no enduring lasting solidarity upon which to build a secure future in a culture that kills its own children and calls it a right. No ... continue reading


Mardi Gras' several names and traditions: How is it celebrated around the world? Watch

Image of Mardi Gras is famous for its colors, masks, beads, food, floats and more (Pixabay)!

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

People around the world celebrate Fat Tuesday each year with regional traditions - but did you know it is a celebration with roots in Christianity?  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Fat Tuesday" is English for the French "Mardi Gras," and is traditionally ... continue reading


7 Fun facts about Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras celebrations Watch

Image of Mardi Gras first became a holiday in 1582.

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday; it comes directly before Ash Wednesday. "Mardi Gras is a raucous celebratory affair that serves as a final shebang before the 40-day abstinence of Lent," explains The Huffington Post. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Amidst all ... continue reading


605,000 undocumented immigrants to receive driver's licenses in California Watch

Image of California driver's licenses do not bestow any federal benefits to the recipient. State sources say the law is intended to make California roadways safer.

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Thanks to a new California law known as AB60, which took effect on January 2, 2015, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV has handed out 605,000 driver's licenses to undocumented workers. It is estimated that 1.4 million migrants will receive licenses under ... continue reading


Center for Medical Progress releases another Planned Parenthood video despite injunction Watch

Image of Pro-life CMP stands against abortionists NAF (imgsuccess).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

After ousting illegal actions performed by Planned Parenthood clinics, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), and its founder Daniel Daleiden, have been ordered to cease further distribution of illegally-obtained Planned Parenthood footage. Unfortunately for the ... continue reading


Huff Po Gestapo, beats down Trump, First Amendment with editorial billy club Watch

Image of Huffington Post has found a way to turn the First Amendment into a billy club for their PC police duties.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Liberal mouthpiece, The Huffington Post (not to be confused with an actual news organization) is pandering to liberal readers by posting an addendum at the end of every story about Donald Trump. The addendum labels Trump a "racist" and a "serial liar." LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Lower Your Nets For a Catch! We Are All Called to Evangelize Watch

Image of Lower your nets for a catch

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The New Evangelization is meant to bring about an authentic renewal of the Church so that she can then undertake a new missionary outreach to the whole world. Only a Church fully alive in the Lord and filled with His Spirit can carry out such an evangelical ... continue reading


'Church ladies' finally force phony priest in Los Angeles to authorities Watch

Image of Erwin Mena  was arrested by Los Angeles police for allegedly impersonating a Roman Catholic priest and on suspicion of grand theft (Los Angeles Times).

By Mary Rezac, CNA/EWTN News

For months, Erwin Mena donned vestments, called himself "Padre," and convinced Southern California Catholics that he was a priest, police say. Los Angeles, Calif. (CNA/EWTN News) - He was good at it, too, reportedly. He attended seminary in El Salvador for a time ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • St. Paschal: Saint of the Day for Thursday, February 11, 2016
  • Palm Sunday HD Video
  • Can you answer these four challenging questions about Lent?
  • Daily Readings for Thursday, February 11, 2016
  • Stations of the Cross - Fourth Station: Jesus meets his mother HD Video
  • Is Valentine's Day...? (Take the quick survey!)
  • Take this thought provoking Stations of the Cross survey

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Joel 2:12-18
12 'But now -- declares Yahweh- come back to me with all your heart, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17
3 For I am well aware of my offences, my sin is constantly in ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
1 'Be careful not to parade your uprightness in public to attract ... Read More

Reading 2, Second Corinthians 5:20--6:2
20 So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were urging you ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 10th, 2016 Image

St. Scholastica
February 10: St. Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict, ... Read More