Monday, November 22, 2010

Mainstream Media Fail Moral Theology 101

In expressing surprise at "Pope Benedict['s]... saying [that] male prostitutes who use condoms may be beginning to act responsibly" — Pope says some condom use 'first step' of morality. They doubly fail by calling this "a stunning comment for a pontiff who has blamed condoms for making the AIDS crisis worse."

First, modernist moralizers in the mainstream media seem unable to see moral issues in terms other than black and white or good and evil, unlike the nuanced approach of Catholic moral theology. The Principle of Double Effect is clearly what Pope Ratzinger had in mind with this statement: "If the intention of condom use is to prevent transmission of HIV, rather than prevent contraception, moral theologians would say that was of a different moral order."

Second, it is not only Catholics who agree with this "pontiff who has blamed condoms for making the AIDS crisis worse," but someone of the stature of Dr. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, who said that "in truth, current empirical evidence supports him" — The Pope May Be Right. The good doctor, a self-described liberal, said that "what has worked in Africa" is, "in plain language, faithful mutual monogamy or at least reduction in numbers of partners, especially concurrent ones."

UPDATE: "In an interview, Benedict XVI reaffirmed the immorality of using condoms," writes Andrew Cusack, "but the press have spread a lie claiming he did the exact opposite" — Media Lies About the Pope.

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Blogger love the girls said...

Nuances? or Wedges?

"First, modernist moralizers in the mainstream media seem unable to see moral issues in terms other than black and white or good and evil, unlike the nuanced approach of Catholic moral theology."

And given that fact, any kind of nuance is foolish.

This is a blunder which will have nasty reverberations where any explanation will be lost.

Second, virtually no one understands double effect, nor do I see how it applies to this.

If the subject is homosexual acts, then the comments say almost nothing because the act is by nature sterile.

If the subject is intercourse between a man and a woman, then the issue has to do with nature of that act, just as it would be when a woman religious in a high rape are would use some form of contraception. But under that argument, then so would any unmarried girl be able to likewise use contraception, and from there, if a married couple has met their obligation of three children, why not them?

What a mess.

2:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was looking for how to parse the statement, which meant that first I had to learn what was actually said rather than what the sound-bitters say he said (never mind what they think it means).

I think the best analysis of the statement and possible censure for falsity is given by Steven Kellmeyer from his blog. The statement is only truly false if it went beyond the context of a sexual "act" where conception is impossible.

It sounds, especially in a media environment where belief in error is highly encouraged, that the statement is censurable for being "seductive to simple minds." That means it can be easily twisted and accepted by the inattentive and simple-minds in such way as to believe error. That certainly is true these days, and from what I heard on Fox Radio and read elsewhere they're already hard at it.

5:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steven Kellmeyer's blog on the subject is here:

The meaning of the censures "Scandalous," "Offensive to Pious Ears" and "Seductive to Simple MInds" is found in this note from Catholic Answers here. The paragraph is about 2/3 of the way down.

5:28 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Steven Kellmeyer's commentary is so good, I've finally gotten around top adding his blog to my sidebar.

9:17 AM  
Blogger M.Z. said...

I don't believe he is speaking to double effect. The nuance he is offering is that sin is not just a summation of checked items; that even in the presence of sin, there are choices that may be sinful in their own right that nevertheless show an openness to moral priorities. While it may sound absurd to claim the infected prostitute who uses a condom shows some moral concern, it seems more absurd to claim that it is better for the prostitute to infect the john.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Theological Censures are explained in the Catholic Encyclopedia below:

"Offensive to pious ears" is under the heading number 2, as those statements so badly stated as to offend Catholic sensibility.

11:47 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

love the girls and M.Z., I realize I was wrong to bring in double effect.

danightman, thanks for opening my eyes to theological censures.

12:51 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

I just stumbled upon Nicolás Gómez Dávila's aphorism #2,272, which seems perhaps appropriate:

"Without canon law the Church would not have had her admirable institutional presence in history.
But the vices of Catholic theology stem from its propensity to treat theological problems with the mentality of a canon lawyer."

1:14 PM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...


This reminds me of two things . . .

First, a pamphlet from my university which was 90% "Don't do drugs! They're a very, very bad idea!" and 10% "But if you decide to do drugs, anyway, here are some safety tips . . ." LOL!

Second, a story I once read, which might not even be a real story but one of those "dilemma ethics" scenarios.

A group of religious sisters start a mission in a very dangerous part of the world. They are realistic and understand that rape by the natives is a very real possibility, so they take birth control pills to prevent the possibility of conceiving a child. Since the contraception was not used to prevent a birth within a marriage, is it all right for them to use it for another purpose?

Never mind how long I puzzled over this, but when the answer finally came, it was as if I had cracked a koan. For it occurred to me that if we were really worried about missionaries not getting pregnant, we'd send men into those areas.

Similarly, if we were really worried about HIV infection among prostitutes, we wouldn't be recommending that they use condoms, but that they cease the profession altogether.

2:43 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Great cracking of that koan! Sometimes the answers are quite simple.

2:49 PM  
Blogger love the girls said...

Embrethiliel writes :
Second, a story I once read, which might not even be a real story but one of those "dilemma ethics" scenarios.

A group of religious sisters start a mission in a very dangerous part of the world . . "

It was in the Congo around 1969

The argument for the use was that the sperm were an aggressor, no different than a rape victim can have a D&C prior to implantation.

A very different argument than what is being used to justify condoms.

3:09 PM  
Blogger love the girls said...

Let me correct my previous comment. Not implantation but prior to when it would be expected that the sperm would fertilize the egg.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...


LTG: Thanks for the clarification. I hadn't known the when and where of the story.

I wasn't going for an exact analogy with the male prostitutes and condoms. But one reminded me of the other because I see in both people who are engaged in dangerous professions and using new technology to make an unwise choice more okay.

11:11 PM  

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