Pope Benedict Misquoted on Condoms — Again


The ruthless promotion of condoms by Western government and international organizations is responsible for millions of deaths in Africa from AIDS-related diseases. Throughout this tragedy, the Church and its leaders have stood foursquare against this lethal approach, arguing that abstinence and fidelity are the only sure defenses against AIDS. Unfortunately, poor editing at the Vatican newspaper has given the bad guys a propaganda opening to suggest—wrongly—that the Pope himself had somehow endorsed condoms.

This past weekend, in a particularly embarrassing journalistic feeding frenzy, the mainstream media fell all over itself to see who could most egregiously misquote Pope Benedict XVI.

For those who are unaware of the “controversy”: On Saturday the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an excerpt from an upcoming book, Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times. The book, which is slated to be released in English by Ignatius Press tomorrow, is essentially a long interview with Pope Benedict by journalist Peter Seewald. In it, Seewald engages Benedict in a discussion of the Church’s take on condom use, particularly in Africa.

The editors at the usually reliable L’Osservatore Romano made two critical errors. First, they decided that they would be the only major news source in the world to violate the book’s strict press embargo, releasing Italian-language excerpts from the book before the official launch date. Secondly, they inexplicably decided that they would only publish a tiny segment of Benedict’s statements on condom usage, without any context whatsoever.

Here is the quote that has drawn so much attention:

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps
when a male prostitute uses a condom, where 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.
But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV
infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of
sexuality.

This paragraph doesn’t strike me as at all ambiguous. Benedict is merely pointing out that when people like prostitutes use a condom, it can be seen as a faint glimmer of responsibility, a tiny baby step on the road to moral recovery. And he goes on to explicitly rule out condoms as a solution to HIV/AIDS, pointing out that the epidemic will only end when human sexuality is understood in its proper context of faithful and responsible human love.

Of course, for those who delight in mischaracterizing the Church’s position, this was all the opening they needed. The internet was instantly ablaze with headlines like “Pope says condoms acceptable ‘in certain cases’,” and “Pope Endorses Condoms for Male Prostitutes For AIDS Prevention”. Our personal favorite is this story from Britain’s The Telegraph, which claims, impossibly, that “after decades of fierce opposition to the use of all contraception, the pontiff will end the Catholic Church’s absolute ban on the use of condoms.” What?

Fortunately, The Catholic World Report released its own excerpt of Benedict’s remarks with the surrounding context (and a proper translation), which makes the Pope’s original meaning abundantly clear:

People can get condoms when they want them anyway. But
this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the
question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm
itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be
Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last
resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the
sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality,
which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude
of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a
sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the
fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the
struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value
and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s
being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as
perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where 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. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV
infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of
sexuality.

Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is
actually not opposed in principle to the use of
condoms?

She of course does not regard it as a real or moral
solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in
the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a
movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living
sexuality.

There is little mistaking the Pope’s meaning in this quote (be
sure to
read the
entire excerpt
). He points out that condoms can’t possibly be
halting the spread of HIV, since the disease is rampant where
condoms are widely available. He notes that even secular sources
agree that a condom-only solution is no solution at all, and points
to the “banalization of sexuality” as the primary
culprit for the spread of AIDS.

But what is truly unacceptable here is the fact
that L’Osservatore Romano omitted the clarifying follow-up
question, where Benedict assures Seewald that condoms are not
“a real or moral solution,” and reiterates that their
usage is often just a “first step” toward a truer
morality. If that quote had been released along with the more
ambiguous preceding one, this entire firestorm might have been
avoided.

At any rate, this entire controversy appears to be yet another
media frenzy about … nothing. Once again, the Pope made
some highly intelligent, nuanced remarks about a controversial
subject, remarks that ham-fisted reporters across the globe proved
completely incapable of processing.

But don’t expect any retractions from the media anytime soon. It
labors under the delusion that the Church stands in the way if a
modern, evidence-based solution to the AIDS epidemic. The reality
is that it is the international AIDS Establishment, with its
billions of dollars of funding and its rigid sex-at-all-costs
ideology, that has not only failed to stop the epidemic, but has
actually encouraged its spread.

The Pope and his Church view Man as a creature, only a little
lower than the angels, who is capable of sacrificial love and
sexual self-control. The AIDS Establishment (along with the
population controllers and the pro-abortion groups) view Man as
nothing more than an intelligent ape, subject to the same selfish
behavior and uncontrollable ruts as his lower brethren.

The media, unfortunately, is firmly on the side of the apes.

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