Wednesday, November 24, 2010
WHAT DOES THE POPE REALLY SAY?
My headline above is a take off of Fr. Z's blog, "What Does the Prayer Really Say?"
In that blog, there is a excerpt of what Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J. writes for Reuter's:
The Pope responded: “She [the Church] 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”.
In the first place a solution which is not “moral” cannot be “justified”. That is a contradiction and would mean that something in itself morally evil could be “justified” to achieve a good end. Note: the concept of the “lesser evil” is inapplicable here. One may tolerate a lesser evil; one cannot do something which is a lesser evil.
But the crucial distinction here is between the “intention” of the male prostitute, viz. avoiding infecting his client, and the act itself, viz. using a condom. Since this distinction has been missed in almost every report I’ve read, it calls for some elaboration.
This distinction, in moral philosophy, is between the object of an act and the intent of an act. If a man steals in order to fornicate, the intent is to fornicate but the object is the act of theft. There is no necessary connection between stealing and fornicating.
In the case of the Pope’s remark, the intent is preventing infection and the object is use of a condom.
Here’s an example of this distinction that parallels what the Pope said.
Muggers are using steel pipes to attack people and the injuries are severe. Some muggers use padded pipes to reduce the injuries, while still disabling the victim enough for the mugging.
The Pope says that the intention of reducing injury (in the act of mugging) could be a first step toward greater moral responsibility. This would not justify the following headlines: “Pope Approves Padded Pipes for Mugging” “Pope Says Use of Padded Pipes Justified in Some Circumstances”, Pope Permits Use of Padded Pipes in Some Cases”.
Of course, one may morally use padded pipes in some circumstances, e.g., as insulated pipes so that hot water flowing through them doesn’t cool as fast. And one may use condoms morally in some cases, e.g. as water balloons. But that also would not justify the headline “Pope Approves Condom Use”, though in this case it could be true. But it would be intentionally misleading.
In sum, the Pope did not “justify” condom use in any circumstances. And Church teaching remains the same as it has always been—both before and after the Pope’s statements.
Read the entire article here from Reuters.
My Comments: I like what Fr.Fessio says and his analogy. Just imagine if I got up on Sunday and preached about moral conversion and used the following analogy. "There were two home invasions. One man broke into a home, murdered the occupants and stole their belongings. Another man broke into a home, bound and gagged its occupants and then took only that which he really needed. Which of the two was more morally developed, that is, more human in their approach to home invasions? Certainly, we can say the second man was more developed morally."
Let's pretend that the Macon Telegraph has interest in local religious affairs and gets wind that I preached that homily. Let's even say that someone taped what I said and mailed it to their reporter. The headline might well be the following:
"FATHER MCDONALD PREACHES THAT IT IS MORALLY ACCEPTABLE TO BREAK INTO HOMES AND STEAL IF NO ONE IS MURDERED BUT ONLY BOUND AND GAGGED."
Is that what I really said?
With what Fr. Fessio wrote and with my example, read now this morning's New York Times take on what Pope Benedict really said by pressing New York Times!