Friday, December 3, 2010

Pope Benedict's comments on condom use

Much has been said, and much has been written, about what Pope Benedict XVI is supposed to have said, or what he is not supposed to have said, in his interview with Peter Seewald, which is now part of his book The Light of the World.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register journal (not to be confused with the dissident ‘National Catholic Report’), Cardinal Raymond Burke gives a very interesting insight into his thoughts concerning the ‘controversy’ set in train by the media worldwide following some of Pope Benedict’s comments.

Cardinal Burke, when asked: What is the Pope saying here? Is he saying that in some cases condoms can be permitted?, replies:

‘No, he’s not.  I don’t see any change in the Church’s teaching.  What he’s commenting on – in fact, he makes the statement very clearly that the Church does not regard the use of condoms as a real or a moral solution – in the point he makes about the male prostitute is a certain conversion process taking place in an individual’s life.   He’s simply making the comment that if a person who is given to prostitution at least considers using a condom to prevent giving the disease to another person – even though the effectiveness of this is very questionable – this could be a sign of someone who is having a certain moral awakening.  But in no way does it mean that prostitution is morally acceptable, nor does it mean that the use of condoms is morally acceptable….’

To the question: Is ‘the world’ assuming too quickly that the Pope all of a sudden is open to ‘compromising’ on condoms, that this may be a small yet significant opening toward ‘enlightenment’ for the Catholic Church? …, Cardinal Burke has this to say:

‘From what I’ve seen of the coverage in the media, I think that’s correct, that that’s what they’re trying to suggest.  But if you read the text there’s no suggestion of that at all.  It’s clear that the Pope is holding to what the Church has always taught in these matters.  … The text itself makes it very clear that the Church does not regard it [the use of a condom] as a real or moral solution.   And when he says that it could be a first step in a movement toward a different, more human way of living sexuality, that doesn’t mean in any sense that he’s saying the use of condoms is a good thing.’     

In reply to further questions put to Cardinal Burke, he replied as follows:
NCR - So, if nothing has changed in Catholic teaching on sexuality or the use of condoms, has the conversation changed anything?
CB - ‘I don’t see it at all.  What I see is the Holy Father is [sic] presenting a classical position of the Church from her moral theology.  Self-mastery, self-discipline is not an immediate accompaniment, so we have to understand that it may take people time to reform their lives.  But that doesn’t suggest that he’s diminishing the moral analysis of the immoral actions of the male prostitute, for instance.’
NCR - It seems that perhaps some of what he says in the answers to Seewald’s questions might lead to a renewed conversation on the nature of married love and sexuality.
CB - ‘That’s what I would hope, and I think that’s what the Holy Father was suggesting in the beginning of that part of the conversation with Peter Seewald where he engages in that whole point about the trivialization of human sexuality.’        

The entire interview with Cardinal Burke can be accessed on the website of the National Catholic Register.   It is well worth reading