Been promising to write this for two days and finally now have the time.

As we all know, the Pope has said some things in a new book which have caused a flurry of media excitement. The BBC demonstrates very clearly the response of many on hearing the headlines (but not the contextual substance) of the story.

Catholic reformers and groups working to combat HIV have welcomed remarks by Pope Benedict that the use of condoms might not always be wrong.

The Pope said their use might be justified on a case by case basis to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids.

The remarks, due to be published in a book next week, mark a softening of his previously hard line against condoms in the battle against HIV, analysts say.

Hmmm. Nick Baines was able to cut through all the froth to spell out what’s really going on.

This is a great example of people hearing what they want to hear, responding to it… and only then looking at the actual text of what the Pope said. So, the media story ends up being about the media handling of the issue rather than the content of what the Pope said … The Pope hasn’t changed his mind or the mind of the Roman Catholic Church on the matter of condoms, contraception or sexual morality. He hasn’t even opened the door to exceptions to the Church’s rulebook on these matters. He has answered a question with the precision one would expect from him (an academic), but with nuances too sharp for blunt interpreters.

But it’s Dave who gets right to the heart of the matter.

I have never sold sex, though I have purchased it. And I have talked about the issue of condom use with two different priests — neither of the dissident sort, and one is my confessor (the other priest spoke knowing of my SSA). The two men both said the use of a condom in a homosexual act is not a separate sin, over and above the sin of the homosexual act itself. And they both made, more or less, the same explanation.

In a very general non-technical way, if you say “the Church says condoms are always wrong,” that’s close enough for the proverbial government work and for almost all practical issues.But that common-sense understanding is not actually exactly true. The Church teaching is that **contraception** is immoral.

You might think that a distinction without a difference, and in most cases, you’d be correct. It is obviously the case that the usual and intended use for condoms either IS an act of contraception (in a male-female act) or presupposes an act that is already immoral (a male-male act) for reasons not unrelated to the Church teaching on contraception.

But the Church does not teach condoms are evil, and for the very simple reason that no “thing” can be a moral evil, only acts can be. A condom is not an act and so, like all the things men make, has no intrinsic moral qualities. If you wanted to, you could use it as a balloon. Even Zyklon-B was invented as a perfectly licit pesticide and is still made for that purpose.

So consider, in this light, the use of a condom in a homosexual act. Is it is an act of contraception? No … the use of the condom itself is not. How can it be, since the underlying act is not fertile and there is therefore no “ception” for a condom to act “contrary” to?

So the actual story is “Pope says yet again that sex outside of marriage is sinful”. Now that should cause (yet again) some newspaper headlines. Of course, as usual they would just short circuit the real issues and opinions and instead get us all confused as to what the Pope actually said.

Which makes me think of this.

Johnny. Playing Games. Johnny. Short Circuit. Johnny.

Get it?

Never mind…

1 Comment on “Condoms!

  1. Hi Peter,

    just quickly, here's another link to a BBC story on this –

    Given what's said there about gender I'm not sure that the real story is “Pope says yet again that sex outside of marriage is sinful” as such – isn't it more, 'Pope says condom use can be a step on the way to "a humanization of sexuality"'? (I'm quoting the Pope's words from the BBC's extract). Nick Baines certainly seems to me to be right that the Pope gives a crisply nuanced reply.

    /late night pedantry :)

    in friendship, Blair

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