Pope's condom truth for World AIDS Day

19 Comments

The western media jumped to quick conclusions after Pope Benedict's concessionary remarks about condoms came to light a week ago. He was reported to have said in a book-length interview that it is acceptable to use condoms to prevent HIV-AIDS.

What was being touted as the Pope's 'condom conversion' was quickly clarified by the Vatican. Its spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi insisted it was not what it seemed. He said that nothing had changed, though clearly we had gained an insight into Benedict's creative openness to wayward means of preserving the dignity of those who might contract HIV-AIDS.

In a commentary for Eureka Street last week, the director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN), Father Paterne Mombe, said that for the Pope, condom use is 'not really' the way to promote HIV prevention: 'He acknowledges the relative moral value of the prostitute showing concern for protecting others by using condoms.'

The 'care and concern' context of the male prostitute's attitude is everything, while condoms themselves are relatively incidental.

That said, the Pope is of course hopeful that this attitude will also manifest itself in a form of responsible sexual behaviour that fully appreciates its context of human dignity.

It can only be a good thing if the media attention serves to raise awareness of HIV-AIDS in the lead up to Wednesday's World AIDS Day. 

The theme for World AIDS Day 2010 is 'Take Action. No Discrimination'. According to the organising body's Australian website, the day's observance encourages acceptance of those living with or affected by HIV-AIDS, and action to reduce the transmission of HIV by promoting safe sex practices.

The message is universal, though the strategies are different. For AIDS Councils around Australia – and charities such as the Australian AIDS Fund – condoms is the preferred preventative measure, with abstinence a distant and improbable alternative. For the Pope, it's the reverse.

There is no argument with regard to acceptance of those who are suffering. Neither AIDS Councils nor the Catholic Church condemn people who are HIV-positive. Revelation of HIV-positive status can stigmatise the person and destroy the human relationships that sustain his or her life. But this will not be the case if those affected are affirmed by those around them and general attitudes of the community.

The text of a performance piece, published in a recent AJAN newsletter, speaks of couples living in a 'discordant' relationship, where one partner is HIV-positive and the other claims to be HIV-negative. It is an honest and understandably confused testimony to the reality that acceptance is difficult but not impossible.

Many times I felt lonely and lost
People living positive don't trust those living negative
People living negative reject you; when they do welcome you they are suspicious.

The constant to strive for, it seems, is the care of one human being for another, whether it is manifest in condom use, sexual abstinence, or acceptance of the other's HIV status.


Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street. He also teaches media ethics in the University of Sydney's Department of Media and Communications.

Topic tags: Michael Mullins, world aids day, hiv-aids, ajan, Take Action. No Discrimination

 

 

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Existing comments

My daughter who is 54 years old, injected drugs when she was young and infected with HIV in late 80s, her husband died 18 years ago and she has survived but is very unwell. She has had another partnership for 12 years and it is only recently she commented to me that her partner has stress relating to restrictions on the intimacy of the relationship. It is a situation that only the two people involved really know about - the Pope and the other men in the power base in Rome should keep out ot it. They need to say their prayers as we do
margaret o'reilly | 29 November 2010


The church's position on condoms is essentially a reductio ad absurdum given the moral consequences of it application which leads to the needless destruction of human life. In most rational belief systems this would lead to a jettisoning of such a tenet to bring the corpus of beliefs back into some acceptable balance or equilibrium. Failure to do so leaves the belief system in a state of stress and if not resolved ultimately into disrepute.

While individuals largely successfully excise this discredited tenet it is surpising, and counterproductive, for the institution to continue to argue its defence. Ordinary folk have long ago passed judgement on this spurious and harmful tenet.
John Edwards | 29 November 2010


The church's position on condoms is essentially a reductio ad absurdum given the moral consequences of its application which leads to the needless destruction of human life. In most rational belief systems this would lead to a jettisoning of such a tenet to bring the corpus of beliefs back into some acceptable balance or equilibrium. Failure to do so leaves the belief system in a state of stress and if not resolved ultimately into disrepute.

While individuals largely successfully excise this discredited tenet it is surpising, and counterproductive, for the institution to continue to argue its defence. Ordinary folk have long ago passed judgement on this spurious and harmful tenet.

John Edwards | 29 November 2010


If the reports that Pope Benedict has made concessionary remarks about condom use being acceptable to prevent HIV-AIDS are correct then perhaps this is a first step to rationalise condom use across the board.

Surely, one reason is as good as another. Can the use of condoms now be justified to prevent unplanned pregnancies on health, lack of wealth or any other reason declared relevant to the family or to the individual? Will concessionary condom use negate the need for many abortions on demand?

Condom and pill use by many and growing numbers of the faithful are here to stay. Two child families in two garage homes demonstrate this, have done for years despite the tunnel vision of celibate men in ivory towers.

Dermott Ryder | 29 November 2010


"The constant to strive for, it seems, is the care of one human being for another",

[Add here: By concern for their physical well-being and more importantly their Eternal Salvation]

"whether it is manifest in condom us" [NB:Rejected by the Church!]

"sexual abstinence,[Upheld by the Church] or acceptance of the other's HIV status"

[Understood in a fashion that does not betray moral teaching. [The litmus test of authentic holistic care]

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." [MATHEW 10:28]

A] The Holy Father has not and CANNOT approve the use of condoms in marriage.

B]It is contrary to Catholic Teaching.

C] The Holy Father does not condone the use of condoms as a means of "care" for the other.[nor do a litany of world authorities in medicine and government policy - despite opponents in those fields]

D] To use condom in marriage as a means to a good end is to use evil to obtain a good.

[An action contrary to Catholic Morality - and such action having nothing in common with principles of double effect or correctly understood principle of lesser evil].


E] It shows no care whatsoever for the spiritual well-being of another to add to the physical horror the worse and added depravity of immoral Mortal Sinfulness under the smokescreen of Care for the other, but callous disregard for their Eternal Salvation.
Trent | 29 November 2010


As a retired journalist, I mourn the replacement of straight forward "correction" with the modern day 'clarification"

Days were when commentary that was wrong was admitted as such.That said,if the Vatican's media man, Fr Lombardi, feels he has to "clarify" papal remarks,the simple in the pew layman/woman should also be given more leeway that is presently afforded.

On "awareness", especially with Wednesday's World AIDS Day in mind,I feel Australia's constantly rising HIV infection rate is not helped by the soothing commentary by some that HIV is a "manageable" disease.That tends to cloak its deadliness. It remains a killer, even though millions valiantly strive to live with it as best they can.

When I established the Australian AIDS Fund as an AIDS-care charity almost a quarter of a century ago, it was because I was inspired by the bravery of the then NSW pre-schooler, Eve van Grafhorst, the first Australian child to be HIV infected via a blood transfusion. She and her family were virtually driven out of Australia by a mix of fear, hysteria, ignorance and discrimination.She struggled to combat that.

Subsequently, in Victoria, I established an annual awareness day...School AIDS Day...in Victorian Catholic schools...held on the nearest school day near her birthday in July..and using her as an example that AIDS was not something far away in Africa...but that it also had a white face..and was also present in Australia.

Catholic AIDS Ministry in Melbourne still marks the day...but not in August...and has deleted all reference to Eve and her example.

To me, that deletion of Eve has removed the heart of what real HIV/AIDS awareness was meant to be all about.Something perhaps that Melbourne's Catholic Education Office could one day 'clarify".


Brian Haill - Melbourne | 29 November 2010


Trent, just one point. Using a condom to prevent infection is not obtaining a good through an evil act. Using a condom is neither good nor evil by itelf. It is a neutral act that has two result one bad ( the prevention of conception)and one good (the prevention of infection).

The prevention of infection is not obtained via the prevention of conception. This means that the principle of double effect will allow the use of condoms as long as the intention is the prevention of infection, not contraception. You don't need to be an expert theologian to know this, so the Pope, who is one, is correct in allowing the use of condoms in certain circumstances.

I also think he's right in not advocating any widespread recourse to condoms in Africa, because in most African communities sthe method just won't suit the culture. It wouldn't be taken up widely enough, and the resources which might have been available to more effective programs. To sum up, infected individuals may use condoms as one part of their care for their partners, but widespread condom programs shouldn't be encouraged because they just wouldn't work. Not immoral - just ineffective and counterproductive.
Joan Seymour Albion, VIC. | 29 November 2010


IN REPLY TO JOAN SEYMOUR
A]The condom is evil by an 'analogy of extrinsec attribution'
B]The intrinsically evil contraception is an actual integral factor in the use of condom-despite the integral accompanying prophylactic purpose and action[re HIV]
C]][to claim focus on one element in the actual condom action[vis a vis HIV prophylaxis] is absurd as Crim Al Capone pleading his 'St Valentine machine gun' was aimed at one person-so he wasn't a mass murderer-in fact he argues he missed his intended victim[killed by another!!] despite unintended collateral fall out[DUR AL!!]

===============================
the principle of double effect also underlines:
"...the evil must be only an incidental by-product and not an actual factor in the accomplishment of the good;..."
FATHERJOHNGEORGE | 29 November 2010


Fatherjohngeorge misses and fails to refute Joan’s key statement - “the prevention of infection is not obtained via the prevention of conception”. Thus, his definition of double effect only supports her point: the so-called “evil” of contraception is neither a by-product nor a factor in the accomplishment of the good of infection prevention (if the condom failed, infection might result without conception), so it is hardly a case of good by evil means. Moreover, his Al Capone example is not up to the task: he cannot expect us to equate the identical multiple evils of killing A and B and C etc instead of or as well as D with the two dissimilar results - one good, one so-called bad - of infection prevention and contraception respectively.
Stephen Kellett | 29 November 2010


A reply to Jane Seymour.

Apart from Fr. John George's excellent reply to your comment, I would like to point out some facts.

The condom is made for particular sexual acts. That is its purpose. It is an immoral purpose with a particular purpose and is a Mortal Sin.

Any sexual act outside marital congress for procreation is a terrible offense against God. It is a Mortal sin. Just one Mortal Sin at death sends the soul to eternal hell.

If a partner in a marriage has protracted a sexual disease, then they must desist from the conjugal act as they cannot place their partner's health in jeopardy (also a sin). The only answer is abstinence.

To be willing to send your soul to the devil for a few moments of bodily 'pleasure' is a huge insult to God and is ludicrous
Trent | 30 November 2010


The cheek of Margaret O'Reilly - the Pope has to live in this world just as much as she and has as much right to have his say. The whole mess of sexually-transmitted HIV, venereal diseases, promiscuity, adultery, pornography, prostitution, pedophilia, broken lives and the waging of war on the innocent unborn when condoms fail (as they often do) would not exist if people took to heart the Pope's message about the true meaning of human sexuality and its attendant values of pre-marital abstinence, marital fidelity, chastity, modesty and self-control.
Sylvester | 30 November 2010


A reply to Jane Seymour.

Apart from Fr. John George's excellent reply to your comment, I would like to point out some facts.

The condom is made for particular sexual acts. That is its purpose. It is an immoral purpose with a particular purpose and is a Mortal Sin.

Any sexual act outside marital congress for procreation is a terrible offense against God. It is a Mortal sin. Just one Mortal Sin at death sends the soul to eternal hell.

If a partner in a marriage has protracted a sexual disease, then they must desist from the conjugal act as they cannot place their partner's health in jeopardy (also a sin). The only answer is abstinence.

To be willing to send your soul to the devil for a few moments of bodily 'pleasure' is a huge insult to God and is ludicrous


Trent | 30 November 2010


Trent, it's not just a few moments of pleasure, it's also an expression of love between the couple. And why did you write 'pleasure' in quotes, as if it's not even real pleasure.

I believe artificial contraception is wrong, not just in Christian morality but in natural morality, because it frustrates the natural functioning of the body. But protecting the life of another is a greater good than allowing your own body to function naturally. So if abstinence is genuinely too hard for a couple, it's the next best thing.
Gavan Breen | 30 November 2010


I don't wish to turn this site into a forum, but I must answer Gavan Breen whose surname is the same as members of my own family.

"it's not just a few moments of pleasure, it's also an expression of love between the couple. And why did you write 'pleasure' in quotes, as if it's not even real pleasure."

Real pleasure is to please God. The primary purpose of the marital act is procreation and the education of children. Any benefit such as unitive love is of such a secondary nature as to place the benefit meaningless COMPARED to the primary motive.

"But protecting the life of another is a greater good than allowing your own body to function naturally. So if abstinence is genuinely too hard for a couple, it's the next best thing."

There is no 'best thing' next to abstinence. Our Lord does not allow any temptation that we can't overcome. Our particular body doesn't need a compulsory sexual act to allow the particular body to function and survive.

Nothing we do gives us a right to use contraceptive measures to overcome sexual disease. It is obviously far safer for everyone to abstain from any chance of spreading disease.
Trent | 30 November 2010


reply to Gavan Breen
a]Gavan eternal damnation is worse than aids
b]only a randy bull would endanger the life of 'the other'
c]the abstinence message has worked wonders in Uganda Africa
NB:
http://www.lifesitenews.com/?/news/ugandan-abstinence-aids-prevention-program-equivalent-to-a-highly-effective

FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 30 November 2010


Trent's answer to Gavan Breen is evidence of nothing, as far as I can see, more than his ability to pulpitise extracts from some pugnacious penny catechism. Fancy thinking that to say "real pleasure is to please God" means anything useful! As if the ineffable, unencapsulatable God needs to be or could be "pleased" by anything we puny humans can do! This is anthropomorphism on a significant scale.

Trent, making love is pleasurable, in itself. Loving someone is pleasurable, and the sense that one is being loved in return, is perhaps the greatest pleasure. The latter does not always have to be experienced in sex of course (there are other expressions and experiences) but when it is, it strikes at a deep existential core. Forget this nonsense about sex being for procreation. Procreation only comes about through sex, for sure, but sex between loving couples happens because they want and need each other, end of story. We can dispute about whether better social goods come from monogamy, or not, or from contraceptive or non-contraceptive sex, but until we stop talking about sex as if it were merely a concession to the spiritually weak or inferior, all this theologising about sexual mechanics and the morality of condoms is hollow. I strongly recommend you emerge from your theological library into the sunlight and engage in real human relationship.
Stephen Kellett | 30 November 2010


REPLY TO STEPHEN KELLETT
A] cool it Steve! we all know sex is for loving but don't underplay reproduction either-with more offspring to love [no doubt the manicheaists saw sex as producing more evil matter like offspring]

B] Steve do you know numerous people today and yesteryear have sex to beget cuddly offspring-as the Thomists say "love is diffusive"

C] Sadly offspring don't always occur through love in sex-heard of rape?[read the pugnacious catechism on mortal sin of impure acts]

D] just to 'reality-check' your paean on love and sex:
i][the condom issue is integrally in discord with the 2 purposes of sex = marital love and procreation[essential to marital sex is openness to new life-within the 'safe'/fertile cycle of nature
ii][the condom obliterates the essential duality]
iii][every loving expression of love is concomitant in nature with remaining open to life
iv][love diffusion is inbuilt by nature-though not every coitus begets offspring
v]to uphold such gives great pleasure to god-to disrupt this love-program[with even questionable prophylactic condom device strongly displeases god unto damnation

[condoms have an atrocious lethal track record in Africa-abstinence is a winner in Uganda
FATHER JOHN GEORGE | 01 December 2010


For Mr. Stephen Kellett;

I suggest you read and undestand the 'pugnacious Penny Catechism.'

Real pleasure is to please God by obeying his Divine commands and completing all our actions so as not to offend the Majesty of
God, The Father, Son and Holy Ghost. By doing so we can live a most joyful life no matter what sufferings we may encounter during our particlar lives.

As for 'anthropomorphism on a significant scale', God Himself gave us the example of Father, Son and Holy Ghost so as to allow
'puny humans' to have some understanding of our One, True God. The 'pugnacious Penny Catechism' states "God made me to know
Him, love Him and serve Him and to be happy with him forever in Heaven".

"until we stop talking about sex as if it were merely a concession to the spiritually weak or inferior,"

I did not infer that the marital act was 'merely a concession to the spiritually weak or inferior.'

In fact, to remain chaste in a marriage and not to descend into immoral actions requires great moral strength on the part of married couples.

Many of our great saints were married and lived chaste lives, always true to God. Real pleasure in life is serving God, The Father, Son and Holy Ghost faithfully, obeying in humility all Divine laws and the Magisterium of our Holy Mother, The Church.

By the way, I have a large very loving family and I do 'emerge from my theological library into the sunlight and engage in real human relationship', trying my best to live my life according to God's will, with the help of the 'pugnacious Penny Catechism'.


Trent | 01 December 2010


Trent, my dictionary says pleasure is, among other things, 'the state of feeling or being pleased', 'enjoyment or satisfaction derived from what is to one's liking', 'worldly or frivolous enjoyment', 'sensual gratification', etc etc.

The meaning of a word is what speakers of the language, in general, mean when they use it or understand it to mean when they hear or read it. The job of lexicographers is to determine the meaning of a word, from its usage, and describe it. I believe them to be generally competent, and so I accept their authority. I accept the authority of the catechism in matters of faith and morals, but if the catechism uses a word in a way that does not conform to the dictionary, I accept the authority of the dictionary and say the catechism is wrong. I believe the catechism is wrong in its usage of 'pleasure' in the quote you give.
Gavan Breen | 02 December 2010


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