CathBlog - Blogging the Pope's condom drama


On the Pope’s widely reported comments allowing condom use for AIDS prevention, many bloggers are annoyed by the manner of its reporting in the media. Others deny its significance. Jimmy Akin of the National Catholic Register says: 

Okay, first of all, this is an interview book. The pope is being interviewed. He is not engaging his official teaching capacity. This book is not an encyclical, an apostolic constitution, a papal bull, or anything of the kind… And, as Pope Benedict himself notes in the book: "It goes without saying that the Pope can have private opinions that are wrong".

Amy Welborn was gobsmacked: “What’s most unbelievable about today is who broke the embargo – L’Osservatore Romano that’s who.  With a mistranslated section that’s what.”

The One True Faith said: “He has never, is not, and will never, 'OK' condoms.  Condoms promote promiscuity which in turn lead to a multiple of physical, emotional, mental, and societal problems.  One of which is AIDS.”

But one of the English speaking world’s best known bloggers - John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter - believes the comments are deeply significant. He says that while they “do not yet rise to the level of official church teaching,  they do suggest that Benedict might be open to such a development.”

The question of condoms arises in chapter eleven, in the context of Benedict’s March 2009 journey to Africa. That trip was largely overshadowed by controversy over comments the pontiff made to reporters aboard the papal plane, to the effect that condoms actually make the HIV/AIDS crisis worse. Benedict is clearly still annoyed by that reaction …

[He] goes on to say that his point was simply that one cannot solve the problem of HIV/AIDS merely by distributing condoms, something that even secular AIDS experts would concede.

Quentin de la Bedoyere at the Catholic Herald agrees:

The most that the Pope has done is to confirm what is already well established: that condoms, used properly and invariably, give a high rate of protection… This may be a hint, though carefully no more than a hint, that he approves of the step by step pastoral approach, which is already commonly used.

And Austen Ivereigh in America’s In All Things group blog makes what he believes is an important clarification:

There is no official magisterial teaching either about condoms, or about anti-ovulatory pills or diaphragms. Condoms cannot be intrinsically evil, only human acts; condoms are not human acts, but things… Now, it seems, Pope Benedict has decided to use the relatively informal, under-the-wire format of a book interview to signal what seems to the outside world as a historic shift but which is no more than expressing what is obvious. But it is a risky thing to do, and Pope Benedict's courage is to be saluted.

Get Religion, which specialises in commentary on media coverage rather than the issues themselves, quotes the extremes. It mentioned a tweet from London Times religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill that she was “About to do Sky News on Pope’s condom conversion!” 

Get Religion's conclusion:

The remarks are terribly fascinating, and explain some of the somewhat complicated teaching on the church’s concern for an individual’s moral progress. And the remarks are clearly way too complicated for the media to understand. Even some of the professional folks went for drama over accuracy.

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