for the moment…

Posted on Wednesday 24 November 2010

After Condom Remarks, Vatican Confirms Shift
New York Times

November 23, 2010

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI clearly acknowledged on Tuesday that the need to prevent diseases like AIDS could outweigh the church’s long opposition to the use of condoms. It was a significant and stunning personal pronouncement from the conservative pope after more than two decades of heated debate inside the Roman Catholic Church and condemnation by health workers who said the church’s ban on prophylactics was morally indefensible during the AIDS crisis.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesman, said that for Benedict, the use of condoms by people infected with H.I.V. could be “the first step of responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk to the life of the person with whom there are relations.” “Whether it’s a man or woman or a transsexual,” he added.

Though Benedict did not endorse the general use of condoms or change official church teaching — which still strongly opposes contraceptives — his words ricocheted around the globe, greeted with anger from some conservative Catholics and enthusiasm from clerics and health workers in Africa, where the AIDS problem is worst. The pope also considers the continent to be a major area of growth for the church.

We’re in a new world,” said the Rev. Jon Fuller, a Jesuit priest and a physician at the Center for H.I.V./AIDS Care and Research at Boston Medical Center. The pope is “implicitly” saying, he said, “that you cannot anymore raise the objection that any use of the condom is an intrinsic evil”…

I feel a bit like I felt when George W. Bush reluctantly commented that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Like, "What else is new?" And I wrankle at “We’re in a new world!” The world is just like it was yesterday. What’s "new" is that an old man in a dress is a bit more aware of the obvious. They’ve had this kind of problem before.

After 1610, when he began publicly supporting the heliocentric view, which placed the Sun at the centre of the universe, he met with bitter opposition from some philosophers and clerics, and two of the latter eventually denounced him to the Roman Inquisition early in 1615. In February 1616, although he had been cleared of any offence, the Catholic Church nevertheless condemned heliocentrism as "false and contrary to Scripture", and Galileo was warned to abandon his support for it — which he promised to do. When he later defended his views in his most famous work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, published in 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found "vehemently suspect of heresy," forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest…
There’s now a statue of Galileo in the Vatican – little comfort to the man, Galileo, who spent the end of his exceptional life in disgrace. But enough of that kvetching. Given the life the Pope’s lived, he is probably doing the best he can right now. It’s a weak showing from where a lot of us sit, but that’s going to have to be enough for now.
    A story: Our Safari guide in Kenya, Tony, was quite a character. He’d grown up as an orphan in Mozambique; educated in Catholic schools; then off to college in California. He’d left the Catholic Church and become a Baptist, because of the AIDS thing. He told the story that the government of Kenya [hard hit by the AIDS epidemic] covered the country with condom dispensers that gave out free condoms. These dispensers began to disappear, and the government agents thought "Great! They’re taking them back to their remote villages." At least they thought that until they found piles of the dispensers in the jungle, burned to a crisp with a cross sticking out of the pile. The Priests had been having ceremonies burning the evil condoms and preaching against them in the jungle [where they were most needed]. I think they chunked the whole project altogether in order to take the machines out of the dialogue – something to "preach against."
The Church is in a bind. If they do the right things, they are afraid they’ll open the gates of hell. If they recant clerical celibacy, anti-contraception, anti-Condoms, they feel like they are going to be condoning societal hedonism. If that’s what they’re worried about, why not preach against that directly? Why not do what’s necessary to make the life of clerics livable? Why not protect their flock from AIDS? the world from dangerous overpopulation? Any fool, reading their Bible knows what Jesus would do. Judge not that ye be not judged. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Love thy neighbor as thyself. They’re hung up on their position as "The Church," carrier of morality to the corrupt Roman Empire instead of "The Church," carrier of the teachings of Jesus. But for the moment, let’s be thankful [on Thanksgiving] that, at least, there’s a new message to the parts of the world that desperately need to hear one.

World Catholicism

    November 25, 2010 | 11:41 AM

    I agree with your above statement at the end. As usual I hope you will forgive me for going off topic. I just read George Packer’s book review of George W Bush’s “Decision” in New Yorker Magazine and I think you’ll find it honestly critiqued. Packer had written a book about his support for going to war in Iraq and his disappointment with the US’s misteps in the war..I think he’s earned the right to fact check Bush’s book. I’ve been amazed with how kind many people have been to Bush while interviewing him about his record. Packer’s review is a near perfect antidote.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.