See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Monday, November 22, 2010

Janet Smith chimes in, among others...

The Pope and searching for evidence of moral discernment.
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Like I said before - I'm thinking the Pope would do well to avoid interviews.  This condom deal has gone viral now - as of this writing Fr. Z has 164 comments at his post on the subject.  I wouldn't be surprised if Chris West includes this in his curriculum - if he doesn't already.  Anyway - Dr. Janet Smith had this to say:
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"Anyone having sex that threatens to transmit HIV needs to grow in moral discernment. This is why Benedict focused on a “first step” in moral growth. The Church is always going to be focused on moving people away from immoral acts towards love of Jesus, virtue, and holiness. We can say that the Holy Father clearly did not want to make a point about condoms, but wants to talk about growth in a moral sense, which should be a growth towards Jesus.
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So is the Holy Father saying it is morally good for male prostitutes to use condoms? The Holy Father is not articulating a teaching of the Church about whether or not the use of a condom reduces the amount of evil in a homosexual sexual act that threatens to transmit HIV. The Church has no formal teaching about how to reduce the evil of intrinsically immoral action. We must note that what is intrinsically wrong in a homosexual sexual act in which a condom is used is not the moral wrong of contraception but the homosexual act itself. In the case of homosexual sexual activity, a condom does not act as a contraceptive; it is not possible for homosexuals to contracept since their sexual activity has no procreative power that can be thwarted. But the Holy Father is not making a point about whether the use of a condom is contraceptive or even whether it reduces the evil of a homosexual sexual act; again, he is speaking about the psychological state of some who might use condoms. The intention behind the use of the condom (the desire not to harm another) may indicate some growth in a sense of moral responsibility."  - Source

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That may be true - but I sincerely doubt very many people are listening except for a few ethicists and papists and Catholic gay advocates. 
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I almost expect the next chapter in TOB will be titled, Love and Responsibility for Homosexual Persons Who Cannot Procreate Anyway... or something like that.  (Wasn't traditional homosexuality a form of contraception in the first place?)
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So here's the deal.  This is what the world heard:  "Pope says condom use okay for male homosexual prostitutes who want to avoid spreading disease."  The world understands that to mean, "Condom usage by homosexuals to avoid transmission of HIV is a good moral choice and is therefore okay."
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I know, I know.  The Pope didn't really say that.  But that's what most people will take away from this story.  Although I doubt sexually active, non-religious folk really care about these rules anyway.  Then again.
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As I mentioned, gay activists appear hopeful:
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Yes, I know Benedict is talking of a prostitute; but once you introduce a spectrum of moral choices for the homosexual, you have to discuss a morality for homosexuals. Previously, it was simply: whatever you do is so vile none of can be moral. Now, it appears to be: even in a sexual encounter between a prostitute and his john there is a spectrum of moral conduct.
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And so Pandora's box opens. If it represents a "moralization" when a male prostitute wears a condom, would it be another step in his moralization to give up prostitution for a non-mercenary sexual and emotional relationship? In such a relationship, would it be more moral for such a man to disclose his HIV status or not? If he does, would it not be more moral for him to wear a condom in sex than not?

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We all know the answer to these questions. They're obvious. The new thing here is that the Church has stumbled backward into acknowledging that gay men exist, that within our lives as gay men, there are constant gradations of moral choices; and so Catholic teaching must apply to us in the gray areas of moral and sexual choices and nuances. Until now, no such guidance was really provided except general prohibition: y'all be celibate, and if you're miserable and alone, so was Jesus on the cross. Now, by conceding one small gradation of moral life, that between a rubbered prostitute and a bareback prostitute, the Pope has moved from his arid abstractions to real morality that might be able to guide real people. - Andrew Sullivan 
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I told you so.
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Acknowledgements and thanks:  The Andrew Sullivan quote via Wild Reed.

11 comments:

  1. Should the Pope, then, only speak to us as if we were children, unable to understand anything but a binary black/white reasoning?
    Part of being an adult is learning to understand more complex reasoning. Benedict XVI was a theologian before he was a pope; and pretty much theologians have always discussed things in shades of meaning.

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  2. michael r.6:35 AM

    Bingo, Melody. Folks need to read the book (and read the previous two books in the series), and not rely on spin doctors who think everything is black and white. He is a theologian and is interested in dialogue on situation ethics, etc.

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  3. I find it interesting that those who insist that issues in life are not 'black and white', but when the Holy Father presents a nuanced position on any subject, those same folks tend to interpret the position in black and white terms.

    I read on another site that the Holy Father's comments were sexist because his example talked of male prostitutes. To her, the comment showed his misogyny. Some people are just never happy, y'know?

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  4. While it will be read as such, the Pope is not giving permission for male homosexuality.

    What he is saying is that infecting another with AIDS/HIV while engaging in male homosexual sex, another grievous evil, can and should be avoided.

    Humanae Vitae's prohibition on contraception applied to the conjugal act between a married man and woman.

    See Jimmy Akin's fine comments on this.
    http://is.gd/hAv0E

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  5. The Holy Father's answers on homosexuality haven't been quoted anywhere yet. They're very direct.

    Sorry Andrew....

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  6. I think Father Z, here, makes a good point that the Pope's direct and free speech is necessary for evangelizing today (my paraphrase).

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  7. michael r.10:46 AM

    Comments over at Fr. Z's are indeed interesting, but a dozen or so people are responsible for nearly all of the comments. Some of those people sound like they're ready to give up their faith if the Church adopts a more nuanced stance on sexual ethics. Fr. Fox hits the nail on the head over there.

    Sorry, Larry, but things aren't always nice and tidy, black and white.

    John Allen also has a good & fair review of the book.

    I find this comment much more interesting than the condom flap:

    “If a pope realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically or spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office,” Benedict says, “then he has a right, and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.”

    I wonder what he is thinking about, and can't wait to read the book to get the context.

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  8. We need to pray for the Holy Father.

    Lord have mercy on this sinful world.

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  9. Moral theologians stepping in to clarify these issues is a very good thing - that is what they are here for. One must remember that no matter what is being discussed is still mortal sin, shades of grey or not.

    The pope can give as many interviews as he wants - I'm just being cheeky about that since the press takes everything out of context anyway.

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  10. Sorry, Larry, but things aren't always nice and tidy, black and white.

    I think you've misinterpreted my comment. I never said everything is black and white.

    Except for one thing - when we die, it's either heaven or hell.

    Terry - sorry I didn't link to your article. I'll send you a couple bottles of booze to make up for it - you and Cath can celebrate Black Friday together! LOL!

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