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 nwhen 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.
LifeNews.com Note: Colin Mason is the Director of Media Production at Population Research Institute. Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute.