Concering this report from the AP regarding remarks from Pope Benedict XVI on condom use, everyone is expecting clarifications. We can be pretty certain of that, but in the meantime, I’ll offer one.
The key phrase that explains everything that will go right over the vast majority of people’s heads? ”Re-develop the understanding”.
From the AFP [emphasis mine]:
Benedict offered the example of a male prostitute using a condom.
“There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be … a first bit of responsibility, to re-develop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes,” Benedict was quoted as saying.
The scenario offered is of someone in a state of complete ignorance about Catholic teaching. A prostitute doesn’t understand much at all about morality. Perhaps the only morality he can muster is that he shouldn’t do something intentionally that could kill another person. The fact that the Pope used a prostitute as an example shows he’s referring to that type of person. Someone who actively, and as a profession, engages in sex outside of marriage has no inkling of what the Christian moral teaching is on human sexuality. Most of the rest of us have more culpability on the matter than a prostitute. Because most of the rest of us are not prostitutes, we have more “responsibility” than that “first bit of responsibility” a prostitute can muster.
As long as you have an ounce of moral responsibility in you, there is hope that you can “re-develop your understanding”. “Re-developing” your understanding means coming to a more Christian perspective on things. Common sense should tell you that someone who is HIV-positive who goes around intentionally infecting others with HIV is more evil than someone who would say no to that. The Pope was using the extreme example of a prostitute to explain just such a difference.
Does this mean that the Pope is going to approve of the use of condom distribution to prevent AIDS? Nope. His very next statement shows where he is on that.
“But it is not the proper way to deal with the horror of HIV infection.”
The Catholic track record in Africa on this issue is better than the non-Catholic track record.
From the Times-Online:
The head of a Harvard-based AIDs prevention centre says the Pope is “correct” to claim that condom distribution risks aggravating the transmission of HIV.
Last week Benedict XVI incurred the wrath of AIDs campaigners and criticism from the Governments of France and Germany for saying, en route to Africa, that AIDS could not “be overcome by the distribution of condoms.” In comments condemned as “scary” and “alienating” by members of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Benedict XVI lauded monogamy as a way to combat the spread of AIDs. He said that condom distribution risked exaggerating the spread of the virus.
Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Center at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies said this week: “The best evidence we have supports the Pope’s comments.”
So, there you have it. Condom distribution exacerbates the AIDS crisis. In Catholic areas of Africa, where condoms are not distributed and it is taught that sex is forbidden outside of marriage, there is greater success.
Claims that the Pope has ‘softened’ or ‘shifted’ on the issue of condoms are false. Condoms are still off limits. The Pope was using an extreme example of a prostitute to demonstrate a point about “intention”.
“In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality.”
God judges based on the intentions of the heart.