Pope follows the Anglican lead on condoms
A few bishops and vicars might be jumping ship, but this ‘development’ in Roman Catholic teaching suggests that Rome is not as semper eadem as she likes to believe.
Pope Benedict XVI has ‘clarified’ the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which unequivocally prohibits of all forms of artificial contraception: abstinence and the rhythm method were the only means available to Roman Catholics of avoiding conception.
But Pope Benedict has decided that condoms may now be used ‘in certain cases’.
Cherie Blair will be delighted.
Whilst the Pope appears to have in mind the reduction of HIV infection, it is not clear why HIV should be preferred over any other sexually transmitted infection.
If one may wear a condom to reduce HIV, why may one not wear one to avoid catching chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, viral hepatitis, herpes… ?
The Pope reiterates that the Roman Catholic Church does not see condoms ‘as a real and moral solution’, but ‘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’.
That is a most interesting phrase, denoting benevolence, understanding and compassion.
Pope Benedict is essentially saying that condoms are the lesser evil.
This has been the Anglican position since the Lambeth Conference of 1930.
According to a book due out this week, the Pope offers the example of a male prostitute using a condom. He says: "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."
A male prostitute using a condom?
What happened to ‘go and sin no more’?
If a male prostitute (of either sexuality?) may use a condom to earn a living while he is ‘redeveloping’ his understanding of responsibility, why may not any man who is developing his understanding of what it mean to be a sinner?
By curious coincidence, this story is breaking on the very day when His Grace was wondering (on Twitter) when an infallible teaching on faith and morals is, in fact, infallible.
Humanae Vitae is evidently conditional, provisional and partial.
While the immutable principle remains, namely that contraception nullifies the creation of life through the sexual act, Pope Benedict is arguing (boldly, in His Grace’s view) that condom use which preserves life and avoids death is a responsible act.
This is really is quite a revolution in the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
For if the death which would ensue is an aborted baby – from within or without of wedlock – why may one not use a condom to avoid the manifestly greater evil of abortion?
Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae is evidently not an infallible pronouncement on faith and morals because we now learn that condoms are permitted ‘in certain cases’. So unless a papal teaching on faith on morals is explicitly infallibly promulgated ‘ex cathedra’, it is evidently provisional.
John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which decreed that women cannot be ordained, is similarly not of an ‘infallible’ status.
So might female priests be acceptable ‘in certain cases’?
Leo XIII's Apostolicae Curae, which decreed that Anglican orders are 'absolutely null and utterly void', was also not infallibly pronounced.
So might Anglican orders be valid and sufficient ‘in certain cases’?