Pope Benedict the XVI’s book-length interview, “Light of the World,” recently outlined views on topics such as condom use, which, through abundant media coverage, has created controversy throughout the Catholic community, including Seton Hall.
According to Catholic World Report, the Pope said, “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.”
Essentially, the Pope was not insinuating that condom use is “morally justifiable,” but rather addressing a current social issue, which the Catholic currently does not condone, according to Fr. John Grimm, assistant professor of Moral Theology.
He said the media has perhaps “unwittingly” misinterpreted the Pope’s remarks.
“He in fact said that the use of condoms ‘is of course not a real or moral solution,'” Grimm said. “He in no way said it was a morally good deed to have extramarital sex with a condom. It is ludicrous to suggest that he would ever endorse prostitution, homosexual sexual acts or contraception.”
The Pope also clarified that the Church does not recognize condom use as a moral solution to sexuality, but can be, in the intention of reducing the risk of HIV/AIDS infection, “a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”
Fr. John Morley said the Pope’s comments were very limited, and in no way made any assertion to the justification of condom use, but rather illustrated how those living with HIV/AIDS can attempt to protect their partners.
“He was, in no way, referring to the use of condoms as contraceptive for married or unmarried couples,” Morley said. “He was speaking of those men, infected with the HIV/AIDS virus who are still sexually active.”
Morley added that many men have sexual relations with partners without informing their partners that they are infected, ultimately endangering the life of their partner.
According to Professor Alfred Frank, who is also a Roman Catholic Deacon, the comments made by the Pope, and the conversation which ensued, clearly indicatesthat Church teaching has not changed.
“The example explains how a condom user might have a noble purpose in mind and that might be an indication an even greater faith conversion is imminent by that person,” Frank said. “By framing the argument in his highly nuanced way, Benedict signals that more discussion is possible on an issue the Church considered closed since the 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae.”
Humanae Vitae, a letter circulated to the Catholic Church in 1968, written by Pope Paul VI, reaffirmed the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church regarding controversial topics such as abortion and contraception.
Frank also noted that polls show that American Catholics have “long since moved on” after “largely rejecting” the teachings of Humanae Vitae.
Although the comments remain controversial to the Catholic community and beyond, Grimm said he thinks the Pope made the comments because, in his previous two book-length interviews, he has shown no hesitation in dodging hard questions.
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