Archive for 2010

The Pope and Condoms Part 2

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

The media players have had a field day with the Pope’s comments dealing with condoms.  By review, it started with the pre-embargo publication of the comments of Pope Benedict XVI to journalist Peter Seewald in a book-length interview titled Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and The Signs of the Times (Ignatius).  Journalist Seewald noted the criticism of Pope Benedict’s previous comments against the use of condoms to counter the spread of AIDS in Africa.  In response, the Pope first noted that the Catholic Church is in the forefront of those who are helping victims of AIDS.  Then he added:

“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.”

Seewald: 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.”

Those comments unleashed a blizzard of comment.  Some opined that the pope was inferring that using condoms was okay if the intention was to try to prevent the spread of disease.  Not so.  Dr. Janet Smith and Fr. Joseph Fessio explained that he was in no way saying that the use of condoms by homosexuals made their sodomy morally permissible.  Fr. Fessio used the analogy of a mugger using a padded pipe rather than an unpadded pipe to knock people over the heads.  Would the more merciful use of the padding justify the mugging?  Once the subject is turned away from attention-getting sex, the matter becomes very clear.  You can read their explanations at .

The papal spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombari, S.J. added this on November 24:

… the pope takes into consideration an exceptional situation in which the exercise of sexuality may represent a real risk to the life of another person. In such a case, the pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality, but maintains that the use of the condom to diminish the danger of infection may be “a first assumption of responsibility”, “a first step in a movement toward a more human sexuality,” as opposed to not using the condom and exposing the other person to a fatal risk.

It seems to me that the Pope is saying that there can be multiple sins involved.  If a person with a deadly disease would copulate to deliberately infect the other person, that would be the sin of malicious homicidal intent, and that could render sinful even an otherwise permissible marriage act, and it would add to the sinfulness of any copulation that is already immoral by reason of not being a true marriage act.  If a person who knows he has AIDS or is HIV positive copulates with a healthy person, the infected person adds at least the sin of rashly endangering the health and life of another person.  Whether the copulation is homosexual or heterosexual, the use of a condom to try to slow down the transmission of the disease could be considered as at least a step in the right direction of trying not to harm someone.  However, such an action even with the best intention in no way lessens the evil of the non-marital copulation, just as the use of padding on a pipe doesn’t justify mugging.

I still think the Pope missed a good opportunity for teaching about the immorality of sodomy, as I wrote in my blog of November 22.

Please pray for the Pope every day.  The office of the papacy does not carry with it a guarantee of never making mistakes in prudence.  He really needs to give the world an instruction on sexual morality.  It is no longer just a private matter.  The immoral use of sexuality has generated several of the largest health and social problems in the world today.  It’s probably too late for him to come out with a Casti Connubii 80th anniversary encyclical by December 31st but it’s certainly not too late for him to have something of that nature ready by Ash Wednesday.  If that sounds like a good idea to you, maybe it might help for him to hear from you.  Spread the word.  A small avalanche of mail might give him the encouragement he needs.  A suggestion follows.

John F. Kippley
November 27, 2010

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI; Apostolic Palace; 00120 Vatican City; Europe.  Or you can email him at

Your Holiness: The world needs your firm guidance on matters of human sexuality.  Sexual morality is one of the most important social justice issues of our day.  Please give us an encyclical or something to reaffirm the teaching of Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae.  Ash Wednesday might be an appropriate time to publish such guidance.  Sincerely…

The Pope’s Remarks about Condoms

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I take it for granted that you have heard about the Pope’s remarks about condoms in an interview that was part of a book.  In the event that you have not yet seen an informed Catholic response to all the fuss being made about those remarks, be assured that what Pope Benedict XVI said about those things has absolutely nothing to do with Catholic teaching about birth control.

The focus of Catholic teaching in Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae is against contraceptive behaviors because they morally disfigure the marriage act.  Catholic teaching condemns the use of condoms as a method of contraception, that is, a behavior designed to prevent conception and thus designed to contradict the built-in for-better-and-for-worse meaning of the marriage act.

The Pope’s example of a homosexual prostitute using condoms illustrates a key difference between homosexual sodomy and the heterosexual marriage act.  First of all, homosexual sodomy is not and never can be a marriage act.  Secondly, the purpose and the effect of condoms used in the copulation of homosexual sodomists is not contraception because conception is impossible between two sodomists.  In fact, it is only in the case of homosexual sodomy that condoms act exclusively as non-contraceptive agents of disease limitation.

The Pope has not given a back-door rationalization for heterosexual couples to use condoms as agents of disease limitation.  In all heterosexual cases, the use of condoms to reduce the spread of a disease is a contraceptive act because it seeks to prevent the transmission of semen.  It should also be noted that while any use of condoms may slow down the spread of a sexually transmitted disease, it does not truly prevent its transmission and spread.  Only abstinence has that blessed effect.

The papal remarks have been interpreted by some as permission for heterosexuals to use condoms if they have the good intention of disease prevention or slowing its spread.  Not so.  A good intention does not make a bad act good.  (On the other hand, a bad intention can make an otherwise good act bad.)

Unfortunately, the Pope missed an opportunity to teach the evil of sodomy.  It might have been instructive if he had replied in this vein:  “You are asking about sodomy, an act that is the grave matter of mortal sin by which the agents put themselves on the road to hell.  You are asking if the use of a condom in homosexual sodomy adds a second mortal sin.  Well, as you know, Catholic teaching condemns the use of contraceptive behaviors, but sodomy can be described as already an essentially non-conceptive or contraceptive behavior, so a condom does not make it even more contraceptive.  Therefore, if the use of a condom by sodomists adds a second mortal sin to the already sinful act, it would be for other reasons such as scandal or greater frequency.  Etc.”

The only real lesson from this episode is that Pope Benedict may need to be more prudent when he is speaking with journalists about issues that are so open to misinterpretation.  He is a great writer, and I wish he would write an encyclical commemorating Casti Connubii which will be 80 years young and still tremendously relevant on December 31, 2010.

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality
Ignatius 2005

A Prayer: Preparing for Mass

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

To Prepare for Mass
It is the very nature of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that it offers praise and adoration to God, reparation for our sins, thanksgiving for the salvation wrought by Jesus Christ, and petition for the needs of the Church.  You may find it helpful to make these purposes of the Mass more clearly your own and thus become a more active participant.  You may want to pray the following prayer or something like it as you drive or walk your family to Mass, and then each family member can add his or her own special thanks and petitions.

Heavenly Father, I offer You this Mass today in praise and adoration of the Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I offer this Mass in reparation for my own sins, for those of each member of my family and extended families, and for all the sins committed against the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

I offer this Mass in thanksgiving for the whole work of creation and redemption, for the work of the prophets, for the “yes” of Jesus, for the “yes” of Mary and Joseph, for all that Jesus did and said and taught us by word and by example, for all of his miracles, for giving us his own Body and Blood as our spiritual food and drink, for his suffering and death, for his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven, for sending the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, for the gift of his Church and all the Sacraments, for his priest who will celebrate this Mass, and for all the priests who will celebrate Mass this day, especially those who will celebrate Mass in obedience and with reverence.

I offer this Mass in thanksgiving for every personal blessing You have given to me and my family, especially for the gift of faith that draws me to worship, for my ancestors who first  accepted the gift of faith and for all those who have helped to bring me the gifts of life and faith over the centuries, for the gift of good health that enables me to come to Mass, for the gift of my family, and for the freedom to worship at Mass without fear of persecution.

I offer this Mass in solemn petition for authentic reform and renewal in the Church, for all the missionary work of the Church, for a rebirth of chastity, for a stop to contraception, for a stop to abortion and euthanasia, and for a culture of life.

I offer this Mass for faith and perseverance for all those who are being actively persecuted for the Faith today; I offer this Mass for a stop to persecution of the Church; and I offer this Mass for a healing of divisions within the Church and for unity of Faith among all Christians.

I offer this Mass in petition for the conversion of Islam, for the conversion of the Jews, and for the conversion of China and all other lands still under the heavy hand of atheistic communism.  I offer this Mass for the conversion of North America, for the reconversion of Latin American and Europe, and for the conversion of all countries that allow abortion and encourage personal immorality.

I offer this Mass also in solemn petition for all my personal needs and those of my family and friends and enemies—for an increase in faith, hope, love, for a deep and true spirit of religion and purity, for the gifts of wisdom and prudence and contrition for our sins, for the continuation of good health, for adequate employment, for a true spirit of Christian generosity, and for these other needs: _____________________________________________________________.  Amen.

This prayer is available in the Catholic prayer book.

John F. Kippley