Posted: Saturday, November 20, 2010 (4:08 pm), by John W Gillis
Benedict XVI, quoted on the possible justification of condom use in an upcoming book by German journalist Peter Seewald: "Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times," as excerpted in today’s L’Osservatore Romano:
“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.”
Boy, is this likely to grow legs! The AP has the story, and the Boston Globe is spinning it with the headline: “Pope: condoms can be justified in some cases”.
No doubt, this comment will be welcomed by many on the left as a kind of Trojan Horse (couldn’t resist!) introducing contraceptive mentality into the Church’s moral reasoning, beginning with an interpretation that asserts the comment “condones” condom use in some situations. But by the same logic, we could also say that the pope is condoning male prostitution, at least in some circumstances.
Of course, neither claim would be true. What Benedict said is not very remarkable at all. He is merely indicating that evil comes in degrees of complexity, and one may find the path toward the good entails several steps of reasonable yet still deeply flawed standing, before reaching something that could be identified as an objective moral good.
This may appear to be an acceptance of the concept of embracing a lesser evil, but it really proposes just the opposite: the embrace of a lesser good. There is an important distinction in the subjective sphere between choosing a recognized evil – no matter how “lesser” – and choosing to mitigate evil, even according to a consequentialist calculus. Nonetheless, the limits of subjective understanding do not provide a license for suppressing the reflective critique of objective reality, especially in the realm of moral truth. The contraceptive use of condoms is still objectively immoral, as is prostitution – male or otherwise.
Despite what folks are bound to encounter ad nauseum in the mainstream press over the coming days (not to mention from the dissident wing within Catholicism), Church teaching has not changed. One can always hold out hope that the coming kerfuffle will prove to be an occasion for many to come to see the Church’s moral doctrine to be not so much a set of prohibitions as a guide to genuine personal and communal fulfillment, both now and forever.
For a perspective on Benedict’s teaching on condoms in Africa commendably lacking in hysterical short-sightedness, see medical anthropologist Edward C. Green’s much-discussed WaPo article from March 2009.
Posted: Monday, March 29, 2010 (11:07 pm), by John W Gillis
As the leftists in Washington basked in the faux glory of their successful healthcare reform con job last week, it was hard not to be struck by their lack of gravity. You would have thought they had just won an arm wrestling competition, or perhaps a neighborhood gang fight. Despite all the high-fiving, and the preposterous assertions that the vote portended the doom of the Republican Party, it is awfully hard not to see this as a hollow victory for Obama: a political manipulation of the worst kind, for all the world to see; watching him strong-arming his own party over against the evident will of the majority of the governed. What a spectacle.
Listening to the bi-linguae explanans emanating from the victorious discussants, either before or after the vote, it would be hard to judge whether the measure was an historic watershed in the progression of human culture on these shores between two seas, or a simple means of securing just liberties for the disadvantaged that was being blown all out of proportion by the wild-eyed obstructionists in the Republican caucus, and their unkempt tea-bagger enablers. But they’re racists, all, by golly. Yes, we’re all racists now…
I went out to gas up my car on Friday night, as the arms were being twisted, and the “reconciliation” option was still on the table, and I subjected myself to government funded radio on the way – even though it was obvious by then that the fix was in. I heard Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift discussing reconciliation, saying that even though critics claimed it was politically devious and maybe even unconstitutional, it was actually a common device used by both parties to pass laws, and could even be considered “almost routine.” I nearly drove off the road, my head was spinning so violently. This gaggle of savants went on to talk about how reports out of Washington were accusing TEA Party protesters of yelling things at black congressmen, which surely demonstrated the elements of racism to be found in opposition to President Obama’s social agenda.
One of the few sane voices I heard on the left last week came from, of all places, the Washington Post, in an opinion column by Ruth Marcus in which she suggests that a little humility might be in order, given that nobody actually has any idea what just got passed, or what it will actually mean for the future of the country. “Gee, I hope this works” is how she characterizes her hangover perspective. My biggest beef all along with this boondoggle is that it was never thought through. Marcus seems to grasp that, now that the horse is out of the barn.