Sunday, November 21, 2010

What a weekend!

Just last week Pope Benedict issued an extremely important (and long-awaited) document on the Bible, the first such document in over forty years. Aside from a few perfunctory mentions,  the worldwide press hit the "snooze" button.
They're wide awake now.
In case you saw headlines to the contrary, let me just clarify what the Pope did not say in his informal interview with German journalist Peter Seewald. Benedict did not say that condoms were "OK" for male prostitutes or even "acceptable." What he said in no way constitutes an "historic change" (sorry, Tribune). He especially does not say that condom use would be "justified" in certain cases, though some papers put that on Page 1.
What he did do (in response to a specific question about the Church and AIDs in Africa) was propose the very hypothetical and deliberately extreme example of a male prostitute coming to an initial realization that he could be infecting customers with the HIV virus. If such a person began using condoms to minimize (certainly not eradicate) that risk, this would be an example, the Pope said, of a person making a first step toward awareness of the other as a person. In other words, the Pope wasn't talking about condoms as much as he was about people and their relationships (and the "banalization" of sexuality that causes so much heartbreak).
Benedict seems to have gone out of his way to propose a scenario that would explicitly not involve a contraceptive intention: there is no way to interpret his example as even a grudging toleration of contraception. Instead, the focus is on the interior act of the person who, in a flawed and incomplete way, demonstrates concern. Even when everything else is out of sync, acting with a view to someone else's good is commendable.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for clarifying so well.