I’m very saddened, but unfortunately not surprised, to see the liberal media bandwagon spinning and twisting the Pope’s comments on condoms. The reality is the Church continues to rightfully teach that the use of artificial contraception in any form is dangerous due to the “de-humanizing” such practices have on human sexuality – and by extension the human person. Despite the “spin” on the Pope’s comments by the liberal media and progressive liberal “Catholics,” nothing has changed in Church teaching. Neither the Church, nor the Pope, approves the use of condoms or other artificial conception in any case.
First, one must understand, as many do not, that the Pope is allowed to express personal opinion on any matter he wishes – just as we all have that right. Despite what some think, Catholicism does not hold that whatever the Pope says is automatically “official” teaching of the Church. The Doctrine of Papal Infallibility only applies to teachings related to faith and morals, and even then, it must be specifically and clearly invoked. Most people don’t know that the popes have very, very rarely exercised this authority, despite their voluminous writings from audiences, homilies, letters, etc. To make an infallible statement on the teachings of Jesus Christ is a very serious process and never something done in mere casual conversation with a reporter. In this situation, namely an extended interview with a reporter, the Pope’s comments are personal opinion, not “official” Church teaching. Even so, again despite the “spin” put on his words, what the Pope said is consistent with Church teaching and actually shows tremendous charity on his part.
Second, most people, including many Catholics, completely fail to understand Church teaching on human sexuality. Briefly, the Church teaches that since God is infinite love and created everything out of His infinite love, all His creation is good. It is actually a very old heresy going back to the early days of Christianity to claim the body and sex are somehow “bad” or inherently evil. We must also understand God created not because He had to create, but because He wanted to create out of His free will and His infinite love – which again reinforces the very goodness of His creation.
When it comes to humans, not only are we part of the goodness of God’s creation, we are even more special since we are created in His image. How are we taught to treat gifts of great value, like a special family heirloom? We’re taught to treat it with great care as a sign of respect to the giver of that gift – we honor the person by cherishing the gift he or she gave us. Our humanity, which includes our sexuality, is the greatest gift we can ever receive, for it is only because of that gift that we exist. Therefore if we truly desire to love, honor and serve the Lord, we must treat His gift, our humanity, with the absolute greatest respect. Consequently, we must refrain from doing things which “dehumanizes” or goes against the nature of humanity – which includes things like promiscuous sex, unmarried sex, engaging in homosexual acts, abortion, artificial means to prevent the gift of human life and so forth. All these things work to destroy our human nature – we need only look to today’s society for abundant proof of this fact.
Pope Benedict XVI, as anyone who reads his writings comes to know, is a very intelligent, scholarly and intellectual person. While on one hand, this is very good as one can gain very deep insights by reading his work, on the other hand his is not writing which lends itself to the short sound-bites so many rely on as their sole source of information today. As we see in this situation, one comment in a book-length interview, before the book is even released, is taken out of context and twisted to mean something else. A society fed on nothing but sound-bites eats it up and never bothers to discover the truth for themselves.
All the headlines completely ignore this line from the Pope’s comments: “[The Church] does not regard it [use of condoms] as a real or moral solution.” Saying it’s not “a real or moral” solution means it is not the right choice, not an “acceptable” choice and not a moral choice – in other words, it is bad and immoral. If one bothers to read the Pope in context, he makes it clear up front that he does not approve of condom use by anyone.
However, and here’s where the charity I mentioned comes into play, the Pope goes on to say that if someone infected with a STD uses a condom to prevent disease transmission that fact (again, while not the right choice or moral choice) might indicate the beginning of a proper understanding of human sexuality in that person. He’s really saying the first step to fixing your problem is the recognition you have a problem in the first place. If we never recognize we have a problem, especially a moral problem, we can never begin taking steps to resolve that problem. Only if we begin taking personal responsibility for our actions can we begin moving into the light of understanding and Truth.
Unfortunately, in all the media “spin,” we completely fail to grasp the Pope’s real message, a message applicable to all of us. For far from being an affirmation of condom use, the Pope’s message is actually an affirmation of hope. The hope we should all share as Christians that even the greatest sinner will eventually recognize his sins, open his heart to God, beg forgiveness and redemption and thereby gain entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. That is the Pope’s real message. The headlines should actually proclaim:
“Pope says Hope of Redemption Possible for even the Greatest of Sinners”
Here are some links which further expound on the Pope’s true message: