Like most Catholics I was shocked this past Sunday when I found out that the pope issued a statement condoning condom use in certain extraordinary cases. When I first heard this I scratched my head it just did not make any sense. I even began thinking the worst that our beloved pope was caving in to the pressures of the international community regarding condom use as a way of preventing AIDS. But upon reading the actual statements of the pope I was reassured that he was in no way advocating the use of condoms. I will explain the Pope's statement with the following four points:
- Context is everything. This past Sunday the pope conducted an interview with a German Journalist in light of the scheduled release of his new book titled, Light of the World. In the interview the Pope used the hypothetical example of a male prostitute who decided to use condoms as a way of stopping the spread of AIDS. The Pope's point was that this choice by the male prostitute was “a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility.” His point was not that condom use should be condoned as a way of AIDS prevention. His point instead was that this first, selfless decision by the male prostitute was a step in the right direction towards moral responsibility. (To read the entire article click here.)
- The International News Media Simply Got it Wrong. Desperate for a reversal in the Catholic teaching regarding contraception the international media deliberately took the Pope's comments out of context. (For example read this and this.) Take for example the title of the Reuters article, Vatican broadens cases for Condoms to fight AIDS. This title is deliberately misleading ,the pope did not issue a statement or a teaching regarding the use of condoms as a way of preventing the spread of AIDS. As I mentioned in the previous point the Pope was simply speaking in the hypothetical.
- The Pope did not issue a public statement of a reversal in church teaching. The Pope's answer although baffling was not a public statement or an official reversal in the Church's position regarding contraception. The pope was simply making a personal, philosophical point regarding moral responsibility.
- Several Ecclesiastical members have gone on the record to correctly explain the Pope's statement: In the wake of this public relations nightmare several bishops have gone on the record to correctly explain the Pope's statements. For example Australia's Cardinal George Pell and Bishop Anthony Fisher issued a statement saying, "He was very clear, as in his previous statements, that he is against condoms altogether." In Africa Ugandan Bishop John Katende explained, "The Pope would never promote condom use. He only promotes morals and values." Finally in the US, Fargo Bishop Aquila said, " Pope Benedict XVI “is not condoning the use of condoms but making an observation regarding the awakening of a sense of responsibility in the people who are caught up in the habitual sin of prostitution.”