Nov 30, 2010
The first and perhaps most important thing to say about Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks on the subject of condoms and AIDS is that they in no way change the Church’s teaching that contraception is wrong.
If the Pope’s comments were a “game changer,” as Father James Martin, SJ, of America magazine says, this wasn’t the game.
Nor did Pope Benedict depart from his previously stated position — the position of the Church — that abstinence is the morally correct course of action for someone infected with HIV.
Sexual abstinence may not be popular today, but morality is about what’s right, not what’s popular.
So what did the Pope say about these matters that was new in his book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, published in English as “Light of the World” (Ignatius Press)? Just this.
If someone infected with HIV nevertheless persists in sexual activity despite its wrongness, at least it should be in a way that involves the least potential harm to the other party — by using a condom, that is. This is a minimal step in the direction of responsibility. It was here that Pope Benedict offered his now-famous example of a male prostitute.
I don’t mean to dismiss the newness of this papal statement. It will be discussed for a long time to come. But to call it a “seismic shift” in Church teaching, as an AP story did, was over the edge. What the Church has long taught remains fully intact.
Contrary to some of the commentary, Pope Benedict was not advocating the choice of the “lesser evil.” Evil, whether lesser or greater, may never be chosen.