What the Pope really said about condoms: "not a moral solution"
As journalists continue to interpret the Pope's recent comments on condoms 180° wrong, I thought it fitting to share an excerpt of what he actually said.
Pope Benedict XVI: As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.
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. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.
Peter Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms? Benedict XVI: She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.
So that's the context. You can read the full excerpt at Catholic World Report. For now, I'm not going to go into the validity of the Pope's comments, which I do think are correct. But even someone who disagreed with the Pope's comments should agree that he has been badly misrepresented. This blog post is to educate any readers of what the Pope actually said, and show how badly his comments were distorted in the media and elsewhere.
For instance, in today's Chicago Sun-Times, an unknown contributor admitted that the Pope said condom use was "not a moral solution." Despite that, this author concluded that the Pope's comments were an "acceptance of the use of condoms"!
To help anyone who could still be conceivably confused, consider the following parallel. Let's say there are two thieves. One thief breaks into a home and steals the TV, cash, but declines to steal a big personalized gold trophy. A second thief breaks into a similar home and steals the TV, cash, and the personalized gold trophy. If I said the first thief may have exhibited some sign of prudence that indicates a step closer to moral consideration than the second thief, it doesn't mean I am approving the first thief's actions.
So if you read confounding comments like the Sun-Times piece above, and if you're feeling like you're living in the Twilight Zone where up is down and hot is cold, don't worry, you haven't lost your mind. Such interpretations of the Pope's comments are indeed 180° incorrect.