From Domine, Da Mihi Hanc Aquam an interesting observation (mentioned also by others) about the IPhone application meant to prepare one for confession.
Typically, the worst part of the press has not lost the occasion to be misleading and superficial, possibly engendering in the most acutely lapsed Catholics the idea that it be now possible to, so to speak, self-confess and self-absolve oneself with the help of an iPhone application.
Of course, the readers of this blog very well know how things stand. But it might be useful to be vigilant and decidedly refute every opinion set in circulation by the uninformed. It might be even better to try to casually throw the app in as preparation to confession, just to have a good thing mentioned… 😉
If we remember the confusion generated by Pope Benedict’s careless words about condoms, we have the idea of what damage can be created among the very many for whom Catholicism is only as a distant voice, and who will receive Catholicism as a distant and often distorted echo. They shouldn’t be neglected and the effort to have as many doctrinal points as possible right among the majority of the general public is, in my eyes, essential if we want these lost sheep to come back to the fold.
Condomgate continues to rage and, if it was necessary, shows with increasing evidence the damage made to the Catholic cause by the careless example chosen by the Holy Father.
As I have (easily) predicted in the past, the discussion is now – among cafeteria catholics and all those who don’t want to accept Church teaching whenever it doesn’t suit them – about the Pope not having justified the use of condoms in certain circumstances, but having justified it anyway or, in some other version, being wrong in not doing it. In both cases, dissent is rearing its ugly head. This is a serious matter because we are not talking of individual weakness here, but of rebellion. Rebellion is the realm of Satan and his minions. A Catholic must accept the teaching and when he sees himself unable to understand it he must pray that he may get the right understanding. If he fails, he must pray more. Submission to the Church is first, understanding of it is second. Credo quia intellegam, non intellego ut credam.
With the basis of reasoning clear, let us examine the condom question again. I have often repeated that a sinful behaviour doesn’t justify particular modalities to carry the sinful activity. It doesn’t, because the activity is unjustified. This must be the cornerstone of every reasoning in the matter.
A killer is not justified in his killing his victims in a less cruel way. A violent husband is not justified in punching his wife whilst wearing boxing gloves. A sodomite is not justified in wearing a condom whilst committing sodomy. Therefore, it can’t be said “Pope Okays use of condom by sodomy” any more than it could be said “Pope Okays use of boxing gloves in beating wife”. This must be clear because these are simple facts (and rather basic facts) of Catholic moral teaching.
Now, the army of “understanding” journos goes on saying “oh well, what about the case of husband and wife? Should the Church not give her assent to the use of a condom by a husband with AIDS to protect his wife’s health by an intercourse we know is going to happen?”. This is as logical as to ask: “Should the Church not give her assent to the use of boxing gloves to protect his wife’s health by an attack we know is going to happen?”.
The answer to this is: the husband with AIDS must refrain from intercourse exactly as the violent husband must refrain from beating his wife. That the use of boxing gloves might be, from the part of a husband, a first step & Co, & Co. doesn’t change an iota in the answer to the questions.
This is where the profoundly secular thinking of the “compassionate” troops clearly shows up. In their reasoning we find the complicity with sin so typical of the anti-Christian world. Wrong behaviour is simply seen as inevitable. People are, in fact, not even asked to avoid it because I can’t credibly say to a violent husband that he is supposed not to beat his wife whilst endorsing his use of boxing gloves.
The simple truth (a truth with necessitates of a Christian prospective to be properly understood) is that not having sex is not more impossible than not beating one’s wife. Whilst there might be difference in the degree of difficulty to achieve this (some people have a very strong sex drive) there is no doubting the fact that none of the two are impossible to achieve.
The lawmakers all the world over reason the same way. They don’t give to imprisoned child rapists sheep and hens so that they have something to rape whilst in jail; nor do they give to the jailed violent husband some substitute animal in order for him to perform his necessary bodily function of being violent. They both land in a jail with no way to give in to their tendencies and – unsurprisingly – they don’t die.
Similarly, even in the changing world of criminal law felonies remain forbidden even when due to compulsion and the compulsion may diminish the severity of the punishment , but can never exclude it. You can’t decriminalise violent drunken behaviour because one is a drunkard, or child rape because one acted “compulsively”. Simple common sense.
Also, lawmakers never say “let us find authorised ways of practising child raping or bestiality, because they are going to happen anyway”. That’s not how it works. Moral imperatives don’t tolerate justified way of violating them because when you accept the justification, you are destroying the moral imperative. No raping. No domestic violence. No bestiality. No sodomy. No infection of your spouse. These are the only acceptable answers.
Sex is not unavoidable. Sodomy, as exceptionally pervert, is even less unavoidable. Hundreds of millions of people live in chastity every day and he who thinks that the army of singles – even in the most corrupted Western countries – is composed of people who just need to have sex has a very skewed perception of the real world outside of the film industry.
We live in a world where progressive (often: homosexual, or lesbian, or promiscuous) journalists tell us that sex is something that just must happen. Bollocks. Every village of Christian Europe, everywhere, in all centuries past, tells a very different story. Not in the sense that people were saints, but that celibacy was something accepted and lived in a way simply unacceptable (because inconvenient) to the modern thinking by a great number of people.
The argument “but they are going to do it anyway so let us find ways to limit the damage” smacks of saying “but rapes through african militias are going to happen anyway so let us find ways to have the girl raped in a more gentle way”.
He who says that shows that he hasn’t a great problem with rape, after all.
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.
We are now informed of the following statement from our beloved Lombardi:
I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine,” Lombardi said. “He told me no.. The problem is this … It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship.
This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point, Lombardi said…
Now from this we learn as follows:
1) What here is all about is: the taking of responsibility towards human life. A chap went around totally not caring whether he would kill himself and many others in the process, but in what might be the first step towards taking responsibility he continues to do what is evil, but at least avoids killing an undetermined number of people.
2) If this is true of a man, it must be true of a woman too as it is not the case that a male prostitute at risk of aids would kill an army of homos, but a female prostitute at risk of aids wouldn’t kill an army of heteros. Makes sense.
3) What the Pope (or Lombardi, come to that) still hasn’t said is:
a) that the use of condom is endorsed or justified in any way;
b) that there is a general principle by which the Church says that whenever you are going to put someone in danger, you may use a condom;
c) that Church teaching has been modified in any way.
I am, therefore, at a loss to understand the following:
1) why the fact that the example would apply also to a female prostitute should change anything of what the Pope wanted to say.
2) On which ground this new distinction should be seen as “compassionate” toward the person using the condom. The Church is still saying that the sinner has not to sin. This is compassionate!
Let us make no mistake here: the Church is still saying to the homosexual what She has been saying from the start: repent, and sin no more. To say anything else like: “use a condom, because now I am compassionate” would be to become accessory of the sodomite’s sin.
Let us say it once again: the moral law is not concerned about suggesting ways by which sinning can be made less harmful. The church doesn’t say “if you really, really have to have an abortion, at least avoid using dangerous poisons”. The Church doesn’t say “if you really, really have to have premarital sex, at least be sexually faithful to your girlfriend”, & Co. What the Church does is saying an emphatic “no” to sodomy, to abortion, and to premarital sex.
That as a matter of fact the prostitute sodomite in question might start using condoms as a consequence of a first awakening to the value of human life doesn’t make his use of condom justified. Not in the least. Sodomy is not justified and the Church doesn’t suggest “justified” or “endorsed” ways to deal with what is not justified.
P.s. the continued discussion only enlightens how inappropriate the example was.
After the storm of the past days (promptly ceased after the secular press has discovered that they just got it wrong, but without giving the fact any relevance anywhere near to the screaming with which the “change in Church’s position” was announced) it might be good to say two words about lesser evil and double effect.
The idea of the “lesser evil” is the concept that if one evil is a given, than it is justified to act in a way that the evil is at least minimised. The concept is not a religious, but a political one. The examples are too numerous and too much of a day-to-day occurrence to bother giving them. Diplomacy is made of just that.
Christianity, though, doesn’t think in this way, because morals and politics operate on different planes. In morals, the question cannot be seen in terms of “if you must do evil, at least do the lesser evil”. The moral approach to evil can only be “don’t do evil”. As I have said yesterday, evil will at times be tolerated, but this doesn’t mean that the evil is justified or endorsed in any way.
Catholicism doesn’t know any “lesser evil” doctrine. When Christianity says that you shouldn’t kill, it means exactly this. Discussions about the endorsed way to kill a man are not part of Catholic moral teaching. To use Ronald Reagan’s immortal words: it is not about explaining how to do it, it is about explaining not to do it*.
Catholicism does know, however, the doctrine of the double effect, that I have briefly mentioned yesterday. I suggest that you make yourself acquainted with it, because in the next months or years you’re going to be unnerved by those “Christians by hearsay” who want to teach you about Catholicism and inform you that you are out of date because “The Pope has changed his teaching about condoms”. I feel my adrenaline level rising already.
You can find a nice (and beautifully short) explanation here. When you have read it, you’ll see that this is much different from the case where evil is chosen in the first place and you are dealing with the modalities of the evil. There are no justified modalities of committing evil (I mean here excluding the unavoidable evil coming from the double effect), because the evil act is not justified in the first place.
Let us elaborate on yesterday’s example of the mexican gang member. The Church can’t possibly say “where a Mexican gang member really wants to execute a member of a rival gang, it is justified to kill him with a pistol shot rather than raping and torturing him savagely before finishing him”. This can’t be said because the murdering of the man is not justified. Still, it is undeniable that the torture and rape of the man are further evil acts compared to the murder seen in isolation. Therefore, if the Mexican gang member decides to at least have some respect for the humanity of the rival and murder him with a shot in the head without first raping and torturing him, 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”.
In this case, not even the BBC would say that the Pope has “endorsed in limited cases the shooting in the head”. The teaching is exactly the same and neither torture nor murder are endorsed. Only, it is very rare that redemption simply explodes within a man’s consciousness; rather, there will be in most cases a progressive process of awakening. The male prostitute will, possibly, start using a condom, thus avoiding adding a potential massacre to the sodomy.
Why, then, all the mess? Because the matter of double effect and lesser evil cannot be simply implied by quoting a couple of sentences in a book without causing a great stir in people accustomed to a more brutal and simplified (particularly if journalists) way of thinking. It might be that the book in his entirety is such that no wrong impression is caused, but there can be no doubt that if you mention homos and condoms after the interviewer has asked whether the Church is, then, “not opposed in principle to the use of condoms” you are clearly looking for trouble.
What I am angry at the press for is not that the statement might have misled them, but that:
1) they don’t bother to ask the Vatican first, and
2) no one seems to notice that Catholic moral teaching just doesn’t change.
I mean, if a Muslim tells me that he has heard that the Pope has changed the Church’s position about condoms I can still understand the poor chap. Less so if he is a Catholic (of sort). Much less so if he is a journalist. But if they are Catholic journalists, then we are really in a bad shape.
*A short prayer for the Gipper is in order here, I think…