As we all know, heterodoxy lurks from all corners. We find it among bishops (look at the United Kingdom, and seek no further); among priests (the last “strange” homily was from that Jesuit from Wimbledon saying on the lines of “hell is a way of saying that we shouldn’t shortchange ourselves with second class choices”); we find it among politicians a’ la Nancy Pelosi and – obviously – we find it among journalists a’ la BBC.
Now how would a progressive, heterodox journalist describe the notorious excerpt? “A change in Church teaching” would be a way; a “softening” would be another; a third one might be a show of “compassion”. Let us see why this is wrong.
1) Church Teaching doesn’t change. Circumstances are always changing, but moral categories never change. We live and die in a world confronting us with exactly the same moral choices of St. Thomas Aquinas’ time. If this wasn’t the case, we’d need a new Gospel and a new Christ. We need no new Gospel and no new Christ; the Truth has been transmitted to us and it is valid for all times and for all (ever changing) circumstances.
Right is right even if no one is right and wrong is wrong even if everyone is wrong. There is no way on the planet the use of a condom should be considered any differently in 2010 than in Humanae Vitae’s time (sodomy had already been invented; sexually transmitted diseases too) or, come to that, in Romans’ times. We are dealing with moral categories here, not with technological advancements.
2) The one with the “softening” is also funny. It implies that the Church’s teaching about the use of condom is, well, wrong somehow. That it should be “improved”. Poor little sodomites, to whom the Church, which tells them not to commit sodomy in the first place, also makes it impossible to enjoy sodomy in the proper way…..how cruel is that! Don’t ya feel for them, mate? Such a thinking can earn one some kudos in a homo bar or in a BBC studio, but is certainly not Christian. The Church says hard words when she is confronted with harsh situations, with hardened sinners, with abominations, with serious danger to one’s soul. Not only is this the charitable thing to do, but it is the most practical advice. Condoms will never eliminate the risk of infection, chastity will. Condoms will never be conducive to eternal salvation, chastity will. There’ s nothing hard in telling the truth, and nothing to be softened. Truth will make you free and will, possibly, lead you to a long and healthy life instead of a painful agony of spiritual and physical self-destruction.
3) Third one is the one with the compassion. To allow a sodomite to commit such an abomination would be “compassionate”; to suggest the best way to multiply the number of his unspeakably lurid (in all senses) acts would be “compassionate”; to satisfy the desire of the sinner to sin with as few conscience pangs as possible would be “compassionate”.
What has become of us. When the moral instance gives way to the consideration for the comfort of the sinner, we have a clear case of false compassion. When not the sinner as human being is being helped, but the sinner is helped on his way to sin, we have false compassion. When “compassion” is not seen as eliminating the sin from the sinner, but the danger from the sin, we have false compassion. When the physical health of the sinner (through the use of condoms) is considered more important than his spiritual health (through chastity), we have false compassion.
Really. What has become of us.
Let us make no mistake, this was an own goal. A perfectly useless and perfectly avoidable one. One which puts into question the ability of the Pontiff to defend Catholic teaching in a way not capable of manipulation by the secular media. This is a falling back to the days of John Paul II, when Catholic doctrine was not overtly contradicted – of course not – but badly represented in a way which made manipulation easy and widely spread. Read the words of the Pontiff again and you’ll see that whilst not contradicting Catholic teaching in the matter, his words open the way for misunderstanding and manipulation. He didn’t “change the rules”, at all. But his careless wording will allow superficial people to think so and the press to report so.
Last time I looked, the use of condoms was not morally justified. It is not justified because it is artificial contraception. Let us look at this again, what does the Church says about the use of condoms? That it is not morally justified. Oh, and we also know that it is not morally justified. We also know that if it is not morally justified no Pope can ever make it morally justified, because the Pope is not the maker of the rules, merely their custodian.
Ah well, we have this down then.
Now, let us all be aware of simple facts of life: that the Church knows that people are sinful. Whilst never justifying sin, the Church has always acted in a way meant to use common sense and sound judgment. The Church has always – when circumstances so required – accepted facts of life as a lesser evil. But she has always been attentive to say that this does not make the evil justified. The Church has, in fact, no system allowing the faithful to “choose the lesser evil”, even when she herself accepts (not justifies) the fact of life that evil will happen. A Catholic may never choose evil, and that’s that. It is evil to commit sodomy, and it is evil to use a condom. The Church can’t take the sodomy out of the equation and say “if you really couldn’t stay away from another person’s backside, then you may use a condom“. The Church says that you don’t commit sodomy, period.
The Papal States allowed prostitution. Prostitution was, in fact, rather an industry in Rome before reunification. But this doesn’t mean that the Church considered going with a prostitute “justified”, nor that it thought that it was justifiable in some circumstances, nor that she said that if you go with a prostitute, then you may use a condom.
The same for condoms. In Fascist Italy the use of condoms was a criminal offence in general, but it was allowed inside of brothels and the Church never said a word against this, obviously tolerating a lesser evil. But this didn’t mean that the Church said that it was in any way justifiable to use a condom, or that fornication is justifiable in those circumstances where you really have blue balls and are on your way to better yourself. The Church merely recognised the existence of a fact of life (original sin; leading to lust; leading to prostitution) and dealt with it the best she could. She certainly didn’t provide any justification for sinful behaviour. One must stay away from the brothel, period.
She also never said that for a prostitute to use condoms might have indicated an awakening of her better moral nature. This is simply naive and misleading. The prostitute uses the condom to avoid pregnancy and diseases, as everyone else. Whatever awakening there might be in the single circumstance, any speculation about the fact that she might express this by using condoms only suggests in the less attentive that a prostitute is justified in using condoms.
The fact that a sin happens doesn’t mean that it is fine for it to happen. The fact that by committing a certain sin a worse sin can be avoided doesn’t make the sin fine. The more or less adventurous considerations as to the motives with which a person commits a sin don’t justify the sin, either.
A mexican drug cartel member in the very first, extremely vague step of his redemption may start torturing enemies in a less cruel way before killing them, but this doesn’t mean that he is allowed to torture and kill them.
After the careless words of the Pope, the entire world will now start saying that the Pontiff considers the use of condoms justified in certain circumstances. This is simply how the world goes and it is very naive to think that it may happen any other way.
Not only must a Pope never tamper with doctrine, but he must never be perceived as to be doing it. Never ever. It is his duty, whenever he explains the position of the Church in certain circumstances, to do so in such a way that no misunderstanding are possible and no Catholics confused. But this is exactly what has happened this morning, with Classic FM (5 million listeners every day) clearly giving the message that the Pope has modified the Church’s position.
When the press thinks they can say that, it is a clear sign that a Pope has communicated in a very poor way.
The Pope’s statements will confuse honest Catholics and will provide an infinite amount of excuses (not only about condoms) to lukewarm Catholics concerning everything that it difficult to accept to them. This was absolutely avoidable and seriously undermines the Pope’s efforts to fight aids in the right way.
Classic FM is the biggest radio station for classical music on the planet. It is listened daily by more than 5 million people. As it is fitting for such a broadcasting heavyweight, they have their own news team.
Unfortunately, this news team sounds like the lovechild of the “Guardian” and the “Independent”; so much so, that I generally switch away before the news as there’s nothing worse than beginning the day by being infuriated by those people.
This morning, I imprudently omitted to do so and therefore I heard that the Pope would held today 1) an ecumenical ceremony 2) in a “show of unity with the Anglican church” (the very words! I kid you not!).
I almost had my caffellatte going down the wrong pipe. Besides the obvious absurdity of the “show of unity” with an ecclesial community of which the Church doesn’t even recognise the validity of the order (and which, by the way, goes to show the extent of wrong information and utter tosh spread even by national media outlets), I was not at all pleased at hearing that still another “ecumenical encounter of the wrong kind” would take place. The words led me to assume that it would be a mass, which would be unsurprising by people thinking that this would be a “show of unity”; but honestly I do not remember the exact words now as the “show of unity” bomb and the caffellatte took all my attention.
Can you imagine Pius IX having an ecumenical Mass with the so-called archbishop of Canterbury? Pius X perhaps? Pius XI? What about Pius XII?
There is a reason for this. Whatever the theological gimmicks used to justify such exercises, every ecumenical Mass engenders the idea that there be no big difference whether one is Catholic or Anglican, whether his communion is the Real Presence or a fraud, whether the celebrant is a priest or a layman, a Catholic or a Heretic.
This cannot be right and in fact it isn’t. Every old doctrinal text or booklet will tell you that a Catholic is supposed not to pray together with members of other faiths, let alone participating to ecumenical masses.
Therefore, after succeeding in sending my caffellatte down the right pipe and as I felt the usual adrenaline surge of such occasions, I thought that this was a very bad mistake.
Thankfully, though, the website of the papal visit seems to give a different view. The program merely mentions a “fraternal visit”, with the Evensong. The papal visit website doesn’t even say whether it will concelebrated. It might be that the Pontiff merely listens, I do not know yet.
Bad as this is, this not an ecumenical mass, which softens the blow considerably. Still, I do think that this is a mistake and that the Papal visit should have sent a stronger message in defence of Catholicism and should have paid more attention in order to avoid any confusion between the Only Church and the rest. You can be diplomatic without being ambiguous after all.
How inappropriate this Evensong is, is showed by the likes of Classic FM, for which this largely diplomatically motivated encounter becomes “a show of unity”. One could say that the Pontiff is not responsible for the superficiality of utterly ignorant liberals and one would be right; but once again we are in front of the importance of sending a clear message.
A lot of people inform themselves only superficially; the Church should, if you ask me, help even superficially informed people not to have any doubt about what is what.