Monday, November 22, 2010
The best comment so far on the Pope's words on condoms
The following words were penned by Fr. John Hunwicke, a priest of the Church of England who belongs to its most fervently "Catholic" wing, and whose theological and liturgical views are almost always more "Traditional Catholic" than those of most Catholic priests. He is expected to join the Catholic Church in the near future, and hopefully get ordained as a Catholic priest soon after. (For this reason I am not classifying this post under "Non Catholic Voices".)
From Fr. Hunwicke's excellent blog, "Liturgical Notes":
I'm not in the habit of attacking the Sovereign Pontiff. Moreover, I don't usually criticise his advisers and assistants, because so often his critics attack them simply as a craven and cowardly way attacking the pope himself but doing it by proxy. For similar reasons, I haven't even ever attacked his Press and PR people.
But ... as a humble and simple pastor, I really would prefer that items which are going to hit the headlines were not sprung on us late on Saturday, so that we're short of time in getting things straight ready for enquirers after Sunday Mass. As with this condoms business.
Having contemplated the BBC translation of the German texts, I see what the Holy Father's words mean. He is saying that if a rent-boy has unprotected sex, he is committing two sins: the mortal sin of homosexual genital intercourse; and the mortal sin of risking communicating a lethal infection. If, however, he uses a condom, while he is still committing the first of those mortal sins, he has to a degree excluded the second. By so doing he has, as we might say, taken a step in the right direction. But he has still committed a mortal sin and is still, objectively speaking, not in a state of grace. There is a sense in which it is not as bad to commit one sin as it is to commit two; but the commission of one mortal sin still means that one is objectively in that state of alienation from God which we Christians call Not Being In a State of Grace.
Our enemies, of course, do not understand (and have no interest in understanding) about Being In a State of Grace. Secularists are, even when they hold Oxford professorships, a generally dim lot ... dim because of a bigoted determination not to understand. They just want to ask blunt and unnuanced questions about "Is it All Right to use condoms?". Within this toddler-level mode of moral discourse, our Holy Father's simple statement of the moderately obvious is bound to seem to them like a "change in his implacable opposition to the use of condoms". So we have to listen to these dreary half-wits condescending to a rather abler mind than theirs by saying that "the pope has at least learned a little from experience". Thank God, he has done nothing of the sort.
Behind all this there is the determination of secularists to spread, by hook or by crook, fornication, adultery, and most other sexual disorders (not at the moment paedophilia, of course, because that is at the moment a handy stick with which to belabour the Church). They bleat incessantly about the plight of AIDS victims in Africa, but only a fool would believe that these well-heeled and malevolent chatterers lose a moment's sleep worrying about such problems. Often sexually incontinent themselves, their relentless desire is to remake humankind in their own corrupt image. The Devil has blinded these intellectual giants to the fact, obvious to any simpleton reading the papers, that the sexual licence which they so successfully promoted in the second half of the twentieth century has led to an explosion of lethal bodily ailments such that even a classical utilitarian in the dear simplistic old John Stuart Mill tradition would be able to discern their immorality in promoting the vices which are so dear to them and so deadly to the multitudes whom they are successful in corrupting.
This business may have several outcomes. The lying classes may be successful in their attempt to create an impression that the Catholic Church is now gradually "seeing sense" on condoms, and thus to reinforce those who have been deceived by the Spirit of the Age into their wrongdoing. On the other hand, it is so obvious that what the pope has said has a nil bearing on questions of morality of contraception and of homosexuality that they may soon return to pointing this out and attacking him on all their old familiar grounds. Given Screwtape's skill in getting the best of two contradictory worlds, they may very well go for both these mutually exclusive conclusions simultaneously.
Perhaps some of the Pope's 'friends' (with 'friends' like his, who needs enemies?) will say that he has expressed himself in a way that lays him open to being misunderstood. But think about it. He has very carefully done exactly the opposite. Had he taken, for his exemplum, a heterosexual couple one of whom was infected with AIDS, he would have indeed left himself wide open to the superficially plausible accusation of a U-turn opening the door to the liceity of contraception within marriage. By using the exemplum of a rent boy, he has made this impossible. Nobody could seriously think that, overnight, a pope had so far moved from the Church's previous moral teaching as now to uphold the liceity of homosexual intercourse and of prostitution ... simultaneously.
Nobody, that is, except journalists verging on imbecillity or mired in habitual mendacity.