The National Catholic Review

Further evidence that Benedict XVI's comments on condoms were deliberate, clear, premeditated and designed to correct misrepresentations of church teaching appears today in an Our Sunday Visitor interview with Fr Martin Rhonheimer, the moral philosopher close to the Pope's inner circle whose 2004 article I wrote about earlier here.

That article refuted the attempt by some conservatives to extend the Church's teaching on contraception to situations where it evidently did not apply -- the use of condoms as prophylactics to prevent infection -- and argued in terms very similar to those used by Pope Benedict XVI in Light of the World. He confirms to OSV that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), then headed by Cardinal Ratzinger, had "no problem" with that Tablet article. This is doubly significant when one considers -- as another CDF theologian, Fr Maurizio Faggioni, has pointed out -- the Congregation was at the time studying the issue. (For a history of this, see my recent Tablet piece here.) 

Rhonheimer, in short, gets us close to the Pope's own thinking.

As he tells OSV:

To use a condom for prophylactic reasons is not contraception; if it intrinsically deprives marital acts of their procreative meaning, this is not because it embodies a contraceptive choice. If a condom is used by people engaging in intrinsically immoral behavior, such as prostitutes, it might even be, as the pope has now asserted, a first assumption of responsibility and a step towards humanization of sexuality. To see things in this differentiated way, I think, is an important clarification, which is useful in defending the Church’s badly understood doctrine about marital sexuality and contraception against the charge that it leads to the death of those involved in immoral kinds of sexual behavior.

Rhonheimer is clear that the Pope's remarks are a highly significant development:

Pope Benedict, after what I assume careful consideration, has made a public statement that has changed the discourse on these issues, both inside and outside the Church. For the first time it has been said by the pope himself, though not in a formal teaching act of the Church’s Magisterium, that the Church does not unconditionally “prohibit” prophylactic use of condoms. On the contrary, the Holy Father has said that in certain cases (in the sex business, for example), their use can be a sign of or first step toward responsibility (at the same time making it clear that this is neither a solution for overcoming the AIDS epidemic nor a moral solution; the only moral solution is abandoning a morally disordered life-style, and living sexuality in a really humanized way). This topic raises many emotions on both sides, which is why I hope Benedict’s step might change the way we discuss these matters, in a less tense and more open way.

But he also rejects -- as, I suspect, does the Pope -- the idea that condoms are "justified" or a "lesser evil": in other words, there is no attempt here to introduce a new moral norm.

What is “justified” is not the use of the condom as such — not, at least, in the sense of a “moral justification” from which follows a permissive norm such as “it is morally permitted and good to use condoms in such and such a case.” What is justified, rather, is the judgment that this can be considered to be a “first step” and “a first assumption of responsibility.” Benedict certainly did not want to establish a moral norm justifying exceptions.

Rhonheimer is also anxious to avoid the conclusion that what the Pope has said could naturally be applied to a sero-discordant married couple, where the infected husband wishes to avoid infecting his wife. "[T]he pope did not address the question of prophylactic use of condoms in marriage," he says. "And I don’t believe that his remarks offer a concrete answer to that question". He goes on to give his reasons why condom use in such a context would not be the morally advisable or prudential course, while suggesting, at the end of the interview, that more is coming from Rome on this: "things will become clearer in the near future by some further statements of Church authorities or official clarifications".

The clear impression Rhonheimer gives is of the Pope wanting to introduce fresh thinking into an area rendered schlerotic by pro-life diehards. The Opus Dei moral philosopher uses the image of "breaking the ice":

It is obvious that the Holy Father wanted to bring this into the open. He certainly foresaw the uproar, misunderstandings, confusion and even scandal which it could cause. And I believe he considered it to be necessary, despite all these reactions, to talk about this, in the same spirit of openness and transparency with which, from his time as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, he dealt with clerical sex abuse cases... What Benedict XVI’s remarks on condoms have brought to light is a general confusion already existing on all sides. Personally I am very grateful to the Holy Father that he had the courage to break the ice.

It is not surprising that "ultras" have acted angrily; some members of the Pontifical Academy for Life have been astonishingly offensive about the Pope, accusing him of acting "self-indulgently" while "neglecting church governance" (Luke Gormally) or telling him that he "should stop talking about aberrant sex and talk more about Jesus" (Christine Vollmer). The absurdity of these accusations reveals the acute discomfort of the accusers: their loyalty to the Magisterium is being tested; they are discovering what it is like to be cafeteria Catholics. Hiding behind the idea that the Pope is being "misrepresented" by senior Vatican officials -- as John Smeaton tries to claim -- just doesn't wash.

Pope Benedict XVI is doing what the Successor of St Peter must always do -- liberate the Gospel from attempts to absolutize historically contingent thinking. He was clear. It was planned. The objective was to dispel some myths -- even at the expense of some misunderstandings and conservative kickbacks.

There is a hint in Rhonheimer's interview of a larger objective Benedict XVI has in view: the recasting of the Church's doctrine on contraception, possibly the most misunderstood and ignored of its modern teachings.

He has changed the public discourse on these issues and has prepared the ground for a more vigorous and appropriate understanding and defense of the Church’s teaching about contraception, as part of a doctrine of marital love and the true meaning of human sexuality. as it is contained in the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

In Light of the World Pope Benedict notes:

The basic lines of Humanae vitae are still correct. Finding ways to enable people to live the teaching, on the other hand, is a further question ... We should also try to express the teaching pastorally, theologically, and intellectually in the context of today's studies of sexuality and antheopology so as to create the conditions for understanding so that people can realize that this is a great task on which work is being done and on which even more and better work needs to be done.

We have not heard the last from this Pope on this subject. And there are suggestions here that more is coming soon.

[UPDATE] For a further insight into conservative discomfort the EWTN interview  which George Weigel gave recently to Raymond Arroyo is hard to beat. Arroyo describes the Pope's remarks as "theological musings ... which have caused confusion" as if Benedict XVI were an irresponsible academic flying kites (Weigel adds his own dose of contempt, claiming it was imprudent of the Pope to attempt to have this discussion in this way.) When Arroyo reads to him an AP quote from Fr Jim Martin of this parish that the Pope's remarks had "completely changed the discussion" of this issue, Weigel describes the remarks as "grotesque spin", saying it is "reprehensible that Fr Martin would spin this for his ideological purposes". Yet Fr Jim is saying no more than Fr Rhonheimer here.

Arroyo goes on to quote Luigi Accatoli at the Vatican press conference on 23 November that launched Light of the World in which the Vatican journalist said that Benedict XVI was seeking a way "in which missionaries and other ecclesial workers can help to defeat the AIDS pandemic, without approving -- but also without excluding, in particular cases -- the use of a condom." Weigel tells Arroyo -- as he also does in response to Fr Jim's quote -- that this showed ignorance of empirical evidence demonstrating that condom campaigns in Africa make Aids worse; Accatoli, says Weigel, "has not done research on this issue". In fact, it is  Weigel whose research is defective: the same source he cites -- Edward Green of Harvard University -- makes clear that, while in African populations at large condoms have been ineffective, among high-risk groups (such as prostitutes, the context mentioned by the Pope) condoms have a marked effect in reducing transmission of the virus. When it comes to spinning and ignorance, George -- whom I like and admire -- might just be calling pots black.

 

Comments

Anonymous | 12/9/2010 - 1:52am
Interesting posts by Mr. Barberi; if you don't mind me asking, are you a Jesuit?  Perhaps a student or teacher of theology?  You use some rather technical philosophic terms when discussing this issue.

You are correct that many people do not comply with the Church's teachings of contraception; however, this is not really a good judgement on the value or truth of this teaching.

The fact of the matter is that there have been serious sociological and environmental problems that have developed with the widespread use of contraception - spreading of disease, dsyfunctional views of sexuality, weaking of marriage etc. - not to mention the effects of estrogen and hormones placed into water supplies via "the pill."

The fact of the matter is that the popes and Church teachings have been prescient on the negative outcome of this materialistic view of sexuality (and indeed humanity).  So, while you say that those who adhere to this teaching are guilty of "blind obedience," I those faithful are acting in a very logical fashion when compared to those who slavishly adhere to and promote modern ideology on contraception. 
Michael Barberi | 12/8/2010 - 3:26pm
Those Catholics that disagree with some papal encyclicals are not disloyal to their faith. There is a big difference between the deposit of faith (those essential norms that were revealed through scripture) and some papal encyclicals that deal with sexuality.  It would be a misunderstanding to assume that disagreement within the Church is absolutely forbidden. People can remain faithful and disagree based an their informed conscience. While most Catholics have not read Humanae Vitae does not make their judgments wrong, just not understandable because they are not expressed in the language of the Church that is based on philosophical and theologial principles.

Not all Jesuits agree with Humanae Vitae.  The same is true of many bishops and priests. As for the laity, 96% of fertile, sexually active women in Western Countries use a form of birth control condemned by the Vatican as intrinsically evil. They are not all going to Hell or will they be excommunicated for their conscientious disagreements. Blind obedience to every Chuch teaching is not wrong either.
Anonymous | 12/8/2010 - 12:10am
Jim McCrea,

This is a Jesuit publication and I believe that they have voluntarily agreed to submit to papal authority.  Otherwise, why would this couple of sentences by the pope be such a big deal???

I am not a Jesuit but I as a voluntary member of Christ's Church have agreed to submit to the popes proper teaching authority over me.
Michael Barberi | 12/7/2010 - 11:22pm
I believe the issue is not intention because intention does not specify an external action; object and end do. Intention is part of the moral order of external acts as are the will, reason, cause, diliberation and circumstance. 

The other point is that this is not about what the Church said in magisterium documents either. The issue is the moral cogency of its philosophical and theological underpinnings.  Most Catholics and theologians and many bishops and priests do not agree with Humanae Vitae.  It is also a disputed fact that going against the natural ends of the marital act is evil in absence of all other factors. This is not the forum for a heavy discussion of Thomistic ethics or a debate on contraception.  However, it seems (to me) that the pope will soon permit married couples, one of whom has AIDS, to use condoms. This opens the debate on contraception, not because of the morality of condom use per se in this situation, rather it raises the issue of two ends of an external action and therefore how one end will determine its moral species. This gets us into issues such as the remote end as the greater common good of the spouse and children (preventing the spread of AIDS to the other spouse) versus the proximate end of the external act of preventing procreation.
Steven Long | 12/7/2010 - 9:21pm
It is obvious that a contraceptive used by a homosexual is not used with contraceptive intent and nobody who has had any significant part in these discussions ever held otherwise.  So, thanks for the piping hot serving of red-herring, but it is wholly immaterial to the nature of the question.  The question is whether an act wholly predicated upon willed acts of sodomy or fornication can be good in its moral species, and the answer remains: no.  It isn't that wearing a condom is bad-wear it all you wish.  It is that using it in an act of sodomy partakes of that species of act; and using it in fornication partakes both of fornication and of contraception.  On both these points, no magisterial teaching has been given that alters the teaching of the Church by one iota.  Please be so kind as to site magisterial documents, and not interviews given by the Pope speaking as a private doctor, and which in addition you simply totally misinterpret (the pope says that condom use is not moral in that interview, simpliciter).  But then, where condom use is involved evidence, reasoning, distinctions, all collapse before the desire to "break ice".  Why not, instead of "breaking ice" instead "make sense"?

 
JIM MCCREA | 12/7/2010 - 7:20pm
Submit to papal teachings?  Only if they can stand the test of logic, sensibility and reality.  There have been many many papal teachings that didn't do any of that. 
The proof is in the pudding, not the instructions on the box.
Michael Barberi | 12/7/2010 - 6:27pm
Father Rhonheimer provides good news. It sounds like Benedict VI will issue more guidelines on the use of condoms especially with respect to married couples who have one spouse infected with AIDS.

Interestingly, Fr. Rhonheimer's moral theology of ethics is grounded in his virtue-oriented action theory expressed in his two most recent books: Ethics of Procreation and The Perspective of the Acting Person.  In brief, contraception is not necessarily evil based on the frustration of the natural ends of the marital act but because it is a choice that makes superfluous conjugal abstinence. Thus, contraception goes against the virtue of temperance/chastity. While his theory is well formulated, it has yet to receive a large reception in the U.S. The right philosophical counter-argument can call into question his theory and its practical application to birth control.

I believe if condoms are allowed in marriage because of the greater common good of the spouse without AIDS (which I agree with), the whole issue of birth control in marriage will be debated again based on new philosophical arguments  That would be a good thing.
Anonymous | 12/10/2010 - 12:36am
"History has taught us that our understanding of the truth is progressive."

This is a subjective statement if there ever was one, Michael.  If truth is progressive then why is the current spiritual and psychological condition of modern western nations is such turmoil?  We now have great scientific and materialist advances of knowledge, but still are less and less able to be content.

It is a fallacy to say that progress and truth are connected.

And, while there may be no comprehensive study on the effect of a contraceptive mentaltiy, there is plenty of evidence on the problems caused by a purely materialistic view of sexuality where connective and procreative aspects of sex are separated for profit or pleasure (esp. when considering the effect on young populations and the commercialization of sex and rapid spread of STDs such as HPV)

And there is also this aspect of progress:

http://motherjones.com/politics/2006/07/souls-ice-americas-embryo-glut-and-wasted-promise-stem-cell-research

Considering the total effect of contraception of modern thinking and cultural behavior, I will say that those who promote it as a good are wrong, and the popes are right (including exceptions that they provide to certain cases)




Michael Barberi | 12/9/2010 - 9:40pm
Brett:

I did not say that everyone who adheres to Humanae Vitae is guilty of blind obedience. I was responding to the previous comment that implied that as a Catholic one should obey all Church teachings. If you have a conscience that does not agree with a teaching, you should never go against your conscience.

Many factors have impacted the world since the 1960's. However, to assert that contraception is the cause of the rate of increase in unwed mothers, spousal abuse, and promiscuity is stretching the point without proof. No existential study has shown that contraception has lead to these problemsof the modern world. Could spousal abuse be caused by deep emotional problems of the abuser? Could the many unwed mothers be reduced if they used contraceptive methods?  

History has taught us that our understanding of the truth is progressive. The term modern theology is based on the era. In the 19th century, people called comtemporary moral theology modern theology.  Thanks to history and a growing scholarship, we as Church benefit.  This does not mean that every modern theory is the truth, but Church doctrines that have been proclaimed by popes and taught by bishops for centuries as truth, have been reformed. 

In a very logical fashion, some Church doctrines that have never been recieved will likey experience reform again.   The judge of any teaching is your informed conscience as well as prayer, sacraments, being open to the Holy Spirit and your parish priest or spiritual advisor. There is a bigh difference between the desposit of faith and some papal encylicals on sexuality. You can disagree and remain a faithful Catholic. I judge not those who believe or disagree for good reasons.
Michael Barberi | 12/12/2010 - 4:48pm
Disagreement within the Church can be positive if we want to fully understanding what is truth?  This has been a long standing tradition that I hope will never end.

To be clear:

1. We do live in an age of the enlightenment religion with its emphasis on the liberty of indifference, authority of conscience and subjective rights. Its focus on self explains its appeal and the tolerance of religions liberty within the Church. I do not subscribe to it. However, its causes are far more reaching than contraception. It is easy to pull the lever all the way to an extreme when actions are believed to be evil under all cirumstances. What is needed is a Church that can adequately deal with the intellectual attachs over doctrine. To date, the Church has not been able to change behavior simply by issuing proclaimations, demands for obedience and letters of condemnation. The argumentation and principles that support some teachings are not convincing. The problem is that the Vatican has closed the debate on contraception and other issues of sexual ethics. That is not a solution to profound disagreements within our Church.

2. No one is trying to find a loophole in doctrine. There is only our understanding of truth through respectful debate based on moral theology and philosophy giving adequate weight to tradition and revelation. As our knowledge matures and grows, it can expand some non-infallible doctrines without contradicting them.  A doctrine that is not received does not make it wrong but it does not call forth any power to change behavior.

3. It is one thing to blame everything on the enlightenment religion mentality. It is another thing to say everyone who disagrees with a Church teaching is the victim of this mentality. It is also quite a different story when the majority of the laity disagrees with a Church teaching and quite another when a significant percent of bishops, priests and theologians also disagree with the Magisterium on specific issues. We have profound disagreement within our own Church on contraception in particuliar and sexual ethics in general. It is divisive and the rhetoric is far too critical. If doctrine is ever reformed it will be based on an expansion of a doctrine and not a contadiction of doctrine. A Church cannot stand on a doctrine that is not receive. At some point in the future, we will reach solidarity. The answer is not to close the debate but to be open to the Holy Spirit that guides us all.
Steven Long | 12/12/2010 - 1:42am
In re:  ''This is not the forum for a heavy discussion of Thomistic ethics or a debate on contraception.  However, it seems (to me) that the pope will soon permit married couples, one of whom has AIDS, to use condoms.''  Surely it is a forum for whatever one needs in order to understand the questions involved? And certainly, also, the claim that Fr. Rhonheimer's understanding of this issue is correct is part of the media-bestowed aura which we are all invited to treat as authoritative?  And, finally, if the correct ''heavy'' understanding should be incompatible with the proposition about what ''the pope will soon permit'' then perhaps that would be a reason for the pope not to permit it?  Also:  why shouldn't the magisterial teaching be considered and placed in dialogue with the view that the prophylactic use of condoms is necessarily non-contraceptive?  The reason the magisterium has not hitherto acknowledged this claim about condoms is, so it seems to me, that the case for it is insufficient in reason.   
Christopher Thompson | 12/11/2010 - 11:18pm
While Fr. Rhonheimer's reflections make some important contributions to the conversation, his overall approach seems flawed. 

He is right to point out that neither the principle of double effect nor the principle of ''lesser evil'' serve to justify the act of sodomy - with or without condoms; whether between homosexuals or heterosexuals. 

But he is mistaken in thinking that because Humanae vitae was not crafted with an eye toward restating, still again, the above teaching that this now opens a window of opportunity for the prophylactic use of condoms in such instances. In fact, condoms were not the proximate issue at all. The matter of condom use was already settled with Casti Connubii nearly four decades earlier - for married couples, that is. For fornicators and homosexuals, I believe St. Paul addressed the matter. 

There's a reason, in other words, that there has been no explicit teaching condemning the prophylactic use of condoms in homosexual sex and it isn't because the case somehow eluded Catholic moral tradition prior to the arrival of AIDS. Rather, the absence of any specific teaching condemning the use of condoms as a means of disease prevention in the instances of sodomy is due to the widespread consensus concerning the depravity of sodomy that characterizes Christian moral tradition.

While there may be a significant pastoral warrant to further parse the various levels of grave evil involved when one considers condom use in depraved acts, there can be no doctrinal matter at stake. The Holy Father's comments affirmed precisely this: ''first steps'' and yet ''no moral solution.''

Humane vitae cannot bear the kind of weight Fr. Rhonheimer seems to place upon it, but its limits do not point to any kind of lacuna or loophole, rather to the careful development of the church's moral tradition.
 
Anonymous | 12/11/2010 - 11:12pm
PS - I am a member of "Generation-X" - so I have seen this utilitaritian mentality and destructive behavior up close and personal. 

Everything is done in the name of individualism, choice, and safety, but the reality is much, much darker both physically and mentally for these kids in the end.
Anonymous | 12/11/2010 - 10:40pm
Here are some stats on STD rates:

http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/ECE4/html/falling_and_rising_std_rates.html

As for "facts on the ground," opinions are not facts.  We live in a culture that promotes instant gratification and the satisfaction of desire as the number one goal of existence and this is the reason for disagreement with the Church on this issue.  Promotion of such forms of individualism occur in advertising, media, movies, and in academia - so it is no wonder that people seek the easy path of modern contraceptive tech rather than put in the self restraint and respect necessary for NFP and holistic views of sexuality.

The Church is right to go against this stream of thought (and opinion polls) and point out the consequences of our lifestyles and the technology that facilitates such behavior. 

While there is debate about use within marriage, the effects on youth culture cannot be overstated regarding the utilitarian view of sex (using of other persons only for pleasure) that is fostered and enabled by contraceptive mentality in society.

Perhaps it is the opinion of dissenters that are myopic and need changing rather than the views of the Church (which considers man in a holistic fashion rather than with the trends and polls of the day)?

Michael Barberi | 12/11/2010 - 6:22pm
The issues I raised are not abstract by a long shot. They are practical and based on concrete existence. 

It is true that bio and medical technology has impacted modern culture and society.
However, the degee to which contraception facilitates a materistic view that science and not moral responsiblity can solve social ills is debatable. To many of us like to place people with contrary views into nice square boxes called progressives, traditionalists, liberals, conservatives etc. These are labels that never get to the real issues.

You are correct that reality on the ground is what we should be looking at. However, too many of use don't follow such advice. Consider: 96% of fertile, sexually active women in Wester Countries use a form of bith control condemned by the Vatican as intrinsically evil; 44% of priests think using artificial methods of birth control is seldom a mortal sin; most theologians do not support Humanae Vitae, 65% of nuns think Catholics can disagree with some Church teachings and still remain faithful; and only 35% of priests support the Church's teaching on contaception. I tried to frame the issue in terms of the philosophical and moral principles that the Church uses to debate doctrine without losing sight to reality and concrete existence.  Perhaps we need a new ecclesiology, a new liturgy, more openiness, less archaic structure and less exaggerated fear of long held traditions. Ths will not happen in this papacy, but prudent reform will happen as history has shown us.

This issue does not boil down to those with opinions based on invincible ignorance and those with opinions based on the absolute moral truth.
Anonymous | 12/11/2010 - 2:40pm
The issue here is not an abstract one that you are putting forth - this is not about the ability to disent from non-binding teachings of the Church (where I tend to agree that this can be done in a faithful, even if wrongheaded manner).

The issue is the concrete impact of contraceptive technology on culture and, in this particular issue, the Church is right!  The teaching does not maintain that contraception is the cause of many of these social ills (it is a result, as you said, of fallen human nature); however, it does maintain that such technology helps to facilitate a materialistic view of social ills (i.e. that they can be solved by science rather than with moral teachings) and it helps to reinforce the public view of human sexuality from a holistic one, to a broken and atomized one that became dominant with the sexual revolution.

I am not focused on the hierarchy on this issue - I am focused on the reality on the ground (and it just so happens that the Church got this issue correct from the start to the chagrin of those who are anti-authority on principle as many progressive Catholics tend to be these days.)
Michael Barberi | 12/10/2010 - 2:51pm
Kindly note that I mean "our understanding of the truth is progressive", not that truth is progressive.
Michael Barberi | 12/10/2010 - 2:43pm
The fact that truth is progressive is not a subjective judgment but one of historical experience. This does not mean that all truth is progressive. Our deposit of faith is fixed and the unchanging truth. 

I am referring to the two broad types of moral philosophies in the Church, namely Classism and Historcism. For Classists, the world is a finished product and truth has already been revealed, expressed, taught and known. In order to be a truth it must be universal and unchanging. This is the reason that the Vatican adheres to tradition, they have an exaggerated fear of going against past papal encyclicals. The popes in the 20th century tended toward classicism. There is nothing wrong with this viewpoint, but neither is this viewpoint an absolute moral certitude for every issue and circumstance.

For Historists, the truth is ''discovered'' in history by historical persons. Truth has its objectivity, but it is only graduallly being grasped by us in our judgment over time, through experience and with maturity. Consider the many doctrines of the Church that were proclaim by popes and taught by bishops as the "truth"for centuries but were eventually reformed such as: usury, slavery, capital punishment, the ends of marriage, and the right to silence. If the truth is not progressive, how do you explain doctrine reform?

Hence, experience differentiates the two perspectives of classicim and historism. There are also various degress of each.

As for the the abuses in the material world and the link to contraception, these are casual inferences. I am not saying that the world does not have murderers, prostitues, spouse abusers, and people who are selfish and dishonest. We live in a fallen-redeemed world and sin undermines human goodness. Contraception may be one of many causes for many things that are evil, but contraception is not the primary cause as many classicist assert. They point to the consequences of contraception as though it was a proven fact. However, Church Doctrine is never formulated by potential consequences. They are formuated by philosophy, theology, scripture and tradition. 

I am not promoting an enlightenment religion focused on self and subjectivism as a justification for a modern form of faith.  My point is simply that many doctrinces of the Church are controversial. It is not just the laity who disagree, but many bishops, theologians and priests.  Ask yourself, what Church doctrine that has not been received has not been reformed?  Who among truly believe that contraception will never be reformed, at least under certain circumstances such as when a married couple has satisfied their procreative responsibilites in marriage?

I judge not those that believe in all Church doctrines or those the disagre with some non-infallible doctrines for good reasons.
Bill Mazzella | 12/7/2010 - 8:26pm
What is notable is this subject seems to dominate at least 90% of Catholic conversation, from the hierarchy to Catholic publications. So Weigel disagree with Ratzinger and both both camps belittle the other. I understand there is room for authority in the church but even Paul and Thomas Aquinas taught that reason informed our faith. This subject originally had its moral force to rebuke those whose marital life was centered on selfishness rather than generosity. Then sour grapes celibates got into it and reverted back to Augustine who claimed that taking pleasure in marital love was a sin. Even Humanae Vitae corrected Augustine but the trappings remains from a hierarchy who has not a scintilla of what marital love and family is or should be.

Nevertheless, Vatican II did enrich the church in many good ways and the church is changing despite those who cannot get their noses out of the middle ages and its principal creator Augustine. The church is changing much for the better despite too many in the hierarchy who are confused in no small way. http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/outline-new-life

On another point but related in more ways than we realize the Catholic League gets involve with externals while shaming itself by ignoring the Lord's demand to return good for evil. Is "counter punch" the Christian ideal? http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/war-war-christmas

We need to grow in the world and take Ratzinger and Weigel with a grain of salt.
Anonymous | 12/7/2010 - 2:13pm
I look forward to hearing more from the Pope.  I plan to submit to his teaching.  When the pope sheds light on this do the America Editors also plan to submit to his teaching concerning condoms?
Kieran Dickinson | 12/29/2010 - 8:01am

An example may help illustrate consequences of the position that one side of the debate seems to be taking, as well as the absurdity and immorality of that position:
Two fathers rape their adolescent daughters. The first father uses a condom in the act, with the intention of preventing conception, while the other does not.
Janet Smith’s/Luke Gormally's position seems to require a judgment that the sin of the father who used the condom was greater than that of the other father or that the first father in fact committed two sins: rape/incest and condom-use. This is because the integrity or natural good of the act of sexual intercourse was thwarted by the father using the condom, while it was preserved by the father who raped his daughter without use of the condom.