Rorate Caeli
NOTE OF THE CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
On the trivilization of sexuality
Regarding certain interpretations of "Light of the World"

Following the publication of the interview-book Light of the World by Benedict XVI, a number of erroneous interpretations have emerged which have caused confusion concerning the position of the Catholic Church regarding certain questions of sexual morality. The thought of the Pope has been repeatedly manipulated for ends and interests which are entirely foreign to the meaning of his words – a meaning which is evident to anyone who reads the entire chapters in which human sexuality is treated. The intention of the Holy Father is clear: to rediscover the beauty of the divine gift of human sexuality and, in this way, to avoid the cheapening of sexuality which is common today.

Some interpretations have presented the words of the Pope as a contradiction of the traditional moral teaching of the Church. This hypothesis has been welcomed by some as a positive change and lamented by others as a cause of concern – as if his statements represented a break with the doctrine concerning contraception and with the Church’s stance in the fight against AIDS. In reality, the words of the Pope – which specifically concern a gravely disordered type of human behaviour, namely prostitution (cf. Light of the World, pp. 117-119) – do not signify a change in Catholic moral teaching or in the pastoral practice of the Church.

As is clear from an attentive reading of the pages in question, the Holy Father was talking neither about conjugal morality nor about the moral norm concerning contraception. This norm belongs to the tradition of the Church and was summarized succinctly by Pope Paul VI in paragraph 14 of his Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae, when he wrote that "also to be excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means." The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought. On this issue the Pope proposes instead – and also calls the pastors of the Church to propose more often and more effectively (cf. Light of the World, p. 147) – humanly and ethically acceptable ways of behaving which respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meaning of every conjugal act, through the possible use of natural family planning in view of responsible procreation.

On the pages in question, the Holy Father refers to the completely different case of prostitution, a type of behaviour which Christian morality has always considered gravely immoral (cf. Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 27; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2355). The response of the entire Christian tradition – and indeed not only of the Christian tradition – to the practice of prostitution can be summed up in the words of St. Paul: "Flee from fornication" (1 Cor 6:18). The practice of prostitution should be shunned, and it is the duty of the agencies of the Church, of civil society and of the State to do all they can to liberate those involved from this practice.

In this regard, it must be noted that the situation created by the spread of AIDS in many areas of the world has made the problem of prostitution even more serious. Those who know themselves to be infected with HIV and who therefore run the risk of infecting others, apart from committing a sin against the sixth commandment are also committing a sin against the fifth commandment – because they are consciously putting the lives of others at risk through behaviour which has repercussions on public health. In this situation, the Holy Father clearly affirms that the provision of condoms does not constitute "the real or moral solution" to the problem of AIDS and also that "the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality" in that it refuses to address the mistaken human behaviour which is the root cause of the spread of the virus. In this context, however, it cannot be denied that anyone who uses a condom in order to diminish the risk posed to another person is intending to reduce the evil connected with his or her immoral activity. In this sense the Holy Father points out that the use of a condom "with the intention of reducing the risk of infection, can be a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality." This affirmation is clearly compatible with the Holy Father’s previous statement that this is "not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection."

Some commentators have interpreted the words of Benedict XVI according to the so-called theory of the "lesser evil". This theory is, however, susceptible to proportionalistic misinterpretation (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Veritatis splendor, n. 75-77). An action which is objectively evil, even if a lesser evil, can never be licitly willed. The Holy Father did not say – as some people have claimed – that prostitution with the use of a condom can be chosen as a lesser evil. The Church teaches that prostitution is immoral and should be shunned. However, those involved in prostitution who are HIV positive and who seek to diminish the risk of contagion by the use of a condom may be taking the first step in respecting the life of another – even if the evil of prostitution remains in all its gravity. This understanding is in full conformity with the moral theological tradition of the Church.

In conclusion, in the battle against AIDS, the Catholic faithful and the agencies of the Catholic Church should be close to those affected, should care for the sick and should encourage all people to live abstinence before and fidelity within marriage. In this regard it is also important to condemn any behaviour which cheapens sexuality because, as the Pope says, such behaviour is the reason why so many people no longer see in sexuality an expression of their love: "This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also 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" (Light of the World, p. 119).

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

So, may Catholic agencies distribute condoms or not? That is the basic question.

CMike said...

Why couldn't the statement be as short as: "The New York Times was incorrect in reporting that the Church's moral teaching on condom use has changed. The teaching is, as it has always been, that condom use is gravely immoral and cannot be condoned under any circumstances."

Clear. Concise. What else do you need?

Duarte said...

@ CMike: Firstly, because it was not just the NY Times who misinterpreted the Pope; there are other ountries in the world beyond the USA. Secondly, because the additional details are important, and without them someone might even wonder whether the CDF was not simply contradicting the Pope.

dcs said...

So, may Catholic agencies distribute condoms or not? That is the basic question.

The Holy Father did not say – as some people have claimed – that prostitution with the use of a condom can be chosen as a lesser evil.
...
In conclusion, in the battle against AIDS, the Catholic faithful and the agencies of the Catholic Church should be close to those affected, should care for the sick and should encourage all people to live abstinence before and fidelity within marriage.

Anonymous said...

"A thief who formerly murdered his victims decides that going forward he will merely beat them senseless. This could indicate an interior movement in a positive moral direction for the thief." If I say this I am not endorsing theft, nor murder, nor beating people senselessly. All I am saying is that by ceasing to murder, this thief could be moving in the right direction such that he could eventually see that theft and beatings are also evil, and so see the need to stop doing those also.

Neal said...

I'm having trouble understanding this. Perhaps someone can help me out.

In the case of a prostitute with AIDS, as provided in the text: according to the CDF, if she goes about her work without using a prophylactic, she sins against the fifth and sixth commandments (murder and adultery, respectively). If she uses a prophylactic, she sins against the sixth commandment only. But, as I understand it, in so doing she also commits a sin against nature by deliberately frustrating the procreative aspect of sex. This last bit seems to have gone unmentioned in the commentary; likewise, it would seem to have some importance. If I am missing or misunderstanding something, I would be grateful for enlightenment.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

As Dante might have put it: "He's still Hell, but he might be climbing to a higher Circle. He's moving toward the Exit."

Anonymous said...

We have this:

"In this sense the Holy Father points out that the use of a condom 'with the intention of reducing the risk of infection, can be a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.'"


It might be a step, even a well-intentioned one but it absolutely cannot be a morally licit step to don a condom for the sole purpose of reducing the chance of spreading AIDS. The reason is that such a procedure also risks spreading AIDS, since condoms do not always work, if used often enough, will likely fail and thereby spread the disease.

Moreover, one may never commit and evil act that good may come from it (Romans 3.8). Therefore, in no way should any Catholic suggest that there is something positive about male prostitutes coming to don condoms when they did not do so before. The only positive change in theie behaviour is a change from sodomy to abstinence. All other responses are illicit and evil.

So, agina, there is one and only one licit response for the male prostitute and that is discontinue all acts of sodomy. The Pope, according to this statement, would seem to agree. What is needed is to make emphatic that abstinence from sodomy is the only morally licit way to reduce the risk of spreading AIDS.

P.K.T.P.

Anonymous said...

Anon. wrote:

"As Dante might have put it: "He's still Hell, but he might be climbing to a higher Circle. He's moving toward the Exit."

The problem is that the exit from Hell is locked shut.

I wonder if it has ever occurred to anyone that AIDS is there in the first place to dissuade acts of sodomy. Trying to find ways to continue in sodomy without incurring AIDS is obviously not a good thing in any way.

P.K.T.P.

Anonymous said...

CMike:

How well you put it.

P.K.T.P.

DM Reed said...

The CDF is far better at public relations than Lombardi any day of the week; they have to come in and clean up L'Osservatore Romano and Lombardi's messes.

Now that it has issued a document clarifying the misinterpretations of the Pope's recent remarks, it's time for the CDF to issue a document clarifying the misinterpretations of the documents of Vatican II.

Anonymous said...

Neal: you are right. Condomistic intercourse is more sinful because unnatural.

I am a pharmacist. For years I have refused to sell condoms. Now the Pope says that their use may be a first step for someone towards a moral life. Does this mean I can/should now stock condoms? The clarification clarifies nothing for me.

Anonymous said...

Folks,

Consider using the Principle of Double Effect (to actuate a cause that will have both a good and bad effect) when thinking about condom use.

1. The good effect must be directly intended
2. The action itself must be good or neutral
3. The good must NOT be produced by the evil
4. Proportionate reason to justify the foreseen evil.

Clearly condom use is not justified.

wheat4paradise said...

Anon 02:29, if you sell a condom to a prostitute, you commit a sin. If the prostitute uses the condom to prevent his client from being infected with AIDS, his fornicative act is still sinful on several levels, yet his intention might indicate a moral awakening that is salutary. In the same way, the robber who trades his real gun for a toy gun still sins in using the toy gun to commit robbery, yet his good intention in seeking to reduce the harm to other persons is a sign that his moral sense might not be totally dead.

An interesting question, not addressed by the CDF statement, is whether a condom is evil in and of itself. Surely a toy gun is not evil in and of itself, nor is a real gun. Is there any manufactured object that is evil per se?

Anonymous said...

Some of the commentators here, who have indicated that they are intelligent and educated Catholics in previous postings, are being deliberately obtuse in this matter. The document is straightforward and not difficult to understand.

LeonG said...

Far better it would have been had the pope said nothing.

All acts of prostitution & all acts using condoms are evil. The sin of both needs to be confessed with a Catholic priest in order to be forgiven. However, the liberal modernist mind seeks to relativise as was the case here. This process is potentially subversive as is demonstrated by the current controversy. Those of us with minds capable of finer discernment may understand fully the signification of such a statement. Nevertheless, in the public sphere most minds are incapable of such refinement while many seek to strain at gnats. Therefore, it is preferable to preach the truth only and to avoid making provocative assertions. Once again post-conciliar papacies have too much to say in too many words which often results in the need to clarify. This is where the fault lies.

Anonymous said...

@Anon (02:29)
Does this mean I can/should now stock condoms? The clarification clarifies nothing for me.

I think the answer lies in the note's re-affirmation of the Holy Father's previous comment that most of the media coverage glossed over: 'the provision of condoms does not constitute "the real or moral solution.'

In other words, while condoms may represent an individual's attempt at a solution (which is significant on a certain level from the standpoint of psychology and moral theology), it's still not a moral solution, or even a real one.

(As an aside, let's also not forget that condoms are not %100 effective at preventing HIV transmission - the users are still putting themselves at a significant risk of contracting/transmitting a fatal disease, just a lower risk than without a condom. A good analogy might be playing Russian Roulette with a twelve-chamber revolver instead of a five-chamber one.)

At any rate, while the good intention of attempting to prevent HIV transmission might reduce the culpability of the user in a given circumstance, the act of using a condom (even leaving aside the act of fornication or sodomy which provides the context) is still objectively immoral, and gravely so at that. Good intentions can never render moral an act which is, of its nature, objectively immoral: they can only mitigate personal guilt.

When the Holy Father talks about "the first step towards moralization" he's mostly talking about something which pertains to individual psychology. He's not saying that the act is any more moral, only that the intention behind it may signal a certain change of attitude in the individual. Such a change of attitude can be seen as good, but the way it is manifesting itself in action (in condom use) remains an evil.

Therefore it remains true that in the case which the Holy Father offered, there are three offenses against the Commandments: against the fifth, we still have an act which is endangering lives (albeit at a reduced risk than otherwise), while against the sixth and ninth we still have both fornication or sodomy and the additional unnatural act of using a condom. Without the condom, there are only two, but one of them (against the fifth) is now perhaps more serious because the risk is greater.

@wheat

I should think not. I mean, I would think that it's not immoral to use a condom as a balloon, for instance. It's the purpose for which it is made and generally understood to be sold that is problematic. That said, given that buying a condom (even for use as a balloon) rewards the manufacturer who we can safely presume did not intend, or even expect, you to use it as a balloon, such a purchase would likely be illicit. If they were handed out for free, though, there would seem to be no problem in puting them to some innocent end.

Anonymous said...

Rome permitted about 30 days to pass before issuing the clarification in question.

In the meantime, weeks of "Pope OKs Condoms" reports spread throughout the world.

Would any institution (to use that term in regard to the Church) other than the post-Vatican II Church (in reality, Rome) have permitted anything akin to the above situation to have festered for nearly one month?

I also wonder as to whether a post-Vatican II Pope can make a state and/or issue a document that does not require seemingly endless "clarifications."

"Vatican spokesman" Father Lombardi issued a "clarification" that failed apparently to have "clarified" the issue in question.

As soon as the controversy in question erupted, Pope Benedict XVI — and nobody else — should have "clarified" the matter via a public declaration.

Bare-chested acrobats accompanied by a woman in immodest, tight-fitting clothing paraded in front of the Pope.

A secular book interview that has required at least two Vatican "clarifications."

A 2007 motu proprio that awaits "clarification."

On and on the craziness goes.

What one earth has happened to Rome and the Church?

Seriously. What has happened to Rome and the Church?

Athelstane said...

Rome permitted about 30 days to pass before issuing the clarification in question.

Actually, my first thought was that 30 days is greased lightning speed for a CDF response on this.

While this statement certainly crushes some of the more absurd "Pope likes condoms" press interpretations, I am still not sure this really settles the intentionality debate between the Gormally/Long and Rhonheimer camps.

Anonymous said...

wheat4paradise said:

"If the prostitute uses the condom to prevent his client from being infected with AIDS, his fornicative act is still sinful on several levels, yet his intention might indicate a moral awakening that is salutary."

I hire myself out as a contract killer. My usual "modus operandi" is to use a machete for the executions. After a particular murder, I realize how particularly macabre the machete method is, and I switch to a .44 magnum (more quick and less painful). Would this ever be considered a possible first stirring of a moral awakening?

I suppose if one could answer in the affirmative, then you could draw the parallel with the condom.

As for me, I think the entire discussion is silly. I wish the Holy Father would realize that he's no longer a university professor entertaining his students with abstract questions designed for class entertainment.

Giles

Anonymous said...

"Actually, my first thought was that 30 days is greased lightning speed for a CDF response on this."

That is pathetic — not your statement, which, unfortunately, is true.

It is pathetic that during our age of TV, radio, print and the Internet, that the CDF — actually, the Pope — permitted about 30 days to pass before Rome responded to the massive damage that surrounded the Pope's condom-related remarks.

Shocking and unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Pope Benedict XVI just can't win, can he?

If anyone took the time to read his remarks in context, it was obvious (even to me) what he meant even without this clarification.

Delphina

Pascendi said...

It is tragic to see the Holy Father being constantly attacked by those who claim to be Catholic.

Anonymous said...

Pascendi & Delphina,

Why does criticism of the Pope after 45 years of faith destroying chaos, to which the latest condom remark debacle contributed, need to be classified as an "attack"?

It's time for some of the Ultramontanes on the board to reconsider some of their own criticisms.

Giles

Anonymous said...

Giles

Me? An "ultramontane"? That is so laughable.

Delphina

Anonymous said...

Delphina,

Until you answer the question contained in the first paragraph of my previous comment, I'd recommend that you put the laughter on hold.

Giles

Anonymous said...

Giles

Kindly point to my post where I said what you claim I have aid.

Still laughing, dear.

Delphina

Anonymous said...

Delphina,

"....dear"?

Hmmmmmmmm............

At any rate, Merry Christmas.

Giles

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Giles! And a very blessed Christmas to you as well!

Delphina

Pascendi said...

There has been faith destroying chaos prior to, and following the Incarnation. This is the way of Original sin. The Vatican Council; the Church, does not live in a vacuum - She lives in the world, though not of it. Her earthly members are not angels, but flesh and blood. The destructive elements that we see within the Church (as was seen over 2000 years; e.g. the evil actions of the Gallicans and the so-called "catholic" Louis XIV et al) are not due to the Church, her decrees, her councils, but because of a disregard of her decrees etc.

As in the recent attack on the Pope: the fault lies with the media, both secular and religious, and, sadly, with some of the Pope's own children who openly attack their father... this is the spirit of protestantism, of individualism that permeates society. It is the work of satan, exploring human pride.

As mentioned, we live within society, we are tainted by it. Catholics should be wary lest they succumb to the spirit of individualism, of pharisaism, of being a better pope than the pope.

Prayer is far, far more powerful than criticism. Criticism will not change hearts, convert, move sinners. Prayer will. Let us pray for the pope, for each other, we sinful Catholics who have failed the popes...