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Guest Editorial: Tom Roeser
November 24, 2010

Benedict’s Carelessly Structured Condom Remark
Does Not Sanction Homosexual Acts

by Thomas F. Roeser
fitzgerald griffin foundation

Inept Vatican Press Office, and Duplicitously Rebellious  L’Osservatore Romano  Encourage Liberals That Pope Contradicted an Article of Faith — Which He Didn’t

CHICAGO, IL — Joy among militant secularists and enemies of authentic Catholicism knew no bounds on Monday as a loosely structured remark by Benedict XVI, brimming with particularized theological meaning, was released by a rebellious, out-of-control L’Osservatore Romano and then bobbled by the laughingly inept Vatican press office. This started an heretical conflagration that rages worldwide, with liberals seeing it as evolving into a repudiation of Church opposition to artificial contraception that stems from the 1st century A.D.  

More radical hostile observers pretend to see a slight “understanding” of homosexual relations if prophylactic means are used to avoid the spread of sexually transmitted disease.

All “interpretations” of the remark as leading toward relaxation of Church teaching are false — sometimes willfully so.

Not “From the Chair”  
Nor should Benedict’s offhanded remark in an interview with a journalist be seen as an expression of ex-cathedra (“from the chair”) or infallibility.

An infallible pronouncement pertains to faith and  morals under which there are two conditions: (1) That he has the intention of declaring something unchangeably true and (2) that he speaks as shepherd and teacher of all the faithful with the full weight of his apostolic authority and not merely as a private theologian, with the doctrinal definition coming from the supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit.

Example: The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, the promulgation that the Blessed Virgin was sinless from her first moment of existence made in formal pronouncement by Pius IX in 1854.
A distinction must be made between infallibility  and impeccability. Infallibility involves immunity from error when delivered ex cathedra. Impeccability means perfection. Peter, the first Pope, was infallible in exercise of his office but not impeccable as we saw with his three denials of Christ.  Aside from Jesus Christ, only His mother was impeccable.  

Light of the World

What Benedict Said
The statement appears within a wide ranging interview with German journalist, Peter Seewald, published in a new book, Light of the World: The Pope, The Church, and The SIgns of the TImes, by Benedict XVI and Seewald, just released in eight languages by Ignatius Press.  Seewald’s earlier book-length interview with the pontiff resulted in the transformation of the journalist from agnostic to Catholic — so Seewald’s purpose in the interview was not hostile but salutary.

Seewald asked this question: Does the Church oppose the use of condoms?
 Theologian Benedict’s answer while not in impeccable phrasing considering today’s cesspool moral climate, is nevertheless in line with the traditions of the Church:  “The Church, of course, does not regard them as a real or moral solution, but in individual cases, the intention to reduce the risk of infection may represent the first step to leading a more human and authentic sexuality.”
 Granted that could be considered as quite a stretch.
He added: [Using a condom] is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.  That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.”

No problem there.
Finally here is the sentence produced the controversy:  “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom where this can be the first step in the direction of moralization, a first assumption of responsibility…”

He never says use of condoms is good.  He say that use of them to avoid aggravation of an intrinsically disordered act by imparting infectious disease could be the beginning of responsibility. Think of an alcoholic who while he’s slugging down a tumbler of whiskey says to himself:  “That’s it.  I’m off this stuff forever.”

Okay for a theological conversation but for general popular reading as Seewald was preparing, incompetent --when the ways of this secular, hedonistic world are concerned.

Once Again, L’Osservatore Romano’s No Friend
I guess you have to take into account the thousand year plus custom of Roman nonchalance but L’Osservatore Romano is not ipso-facto the official Vatican newspaper but then again it is.  It usually gets first dibs on important releases of information but it free-lances scandalously for which it should be severed from the appearance and actual circumstance of being the Church’s Rome house-organ. It’s a scandal the way it’s run. It lists the top ten best rock-and-roll albums including some with scandalous double entendre song titles but the hopelessly muscle-bound Vatican bureaucracy never thinks to censure it. 

Just last month it issued a startling pronouncement not checked or verified with anybody in the Church. It said that The Simpsons often vulgar TV cartoon shows are — get this — ”among the few TV programs for children in which Christian faith, religion and questions about God are recurrent themes”!  That started a bandwagon effect of  jokes.  Is the Pope Catholic? was the story line on Fox News.  Homer Simpson a Catholic? Must be following Stephen Colbert’s lead! was the headline in The Washington Post.  But the London Daily Telegraph got it best:  “He is an idle pea-brained glutton with a permanent craving for doughnuts and Duff beef but Homer Simpson has been declared a true Catholic by the Vatican’s official newspaper.” Technically there’s a question whether it’s the official newspaper but Vatican ineptitude has caused the confusion.

Why doesn’t somebody do something about it?  Probably some monsignori’s brother-in-law runs it is the probable explanation.  That’s Ital-ian you know!
What L’Osservatore did in this case should get its editor sacked.  Along with a few other papers it got the Benedict book under embargo, meaning that it was to be held until concurrent release.  It turned rogue and published the Benedict statement.  Not by mistake. There’s little doubt that L’Osservatore is hostile to many theological concepts in the Church.  Some years ago it flatly contradicted the popes on the issue of physicians doing all they can to keep ill patients alive!

Do you wonder how long the Church will take to reform — improving the quality of newly-appointed bishops, cracking down on some seminaries which are veritable hot-houses for growing lavender priests — when the Vatican can’t even get around to canning the editor of L’Osservatore for disloyalty and/or ineptitude who works right down the street? 

Then there’s the sleepwalking Vatican press office.  The blaze about Benedict started over the weekend but it didn’t get around to returning press calls for many hours. Who’s in charge? Probably some archbishop’s nephew. 

No wonder the Church is divine. It has to be since it survived dunderheads like L’Osservatore, the Vatican press office, and legions of do-nothing cardinals and archbishops here and abroad for untold generations.

Copyright © 2010 by Thomas Roeser. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Thomas F. Roeser is radio talk show host, writer, lecturer, teacher, and former Vice President of The Quaker Oats Company of Chicago. He was both a John F. Kennedy Fellow (Harvard University), and a Woodrow Wilson International Fellow. Tom Roeser is the author of the book, Father Mac: The Life and Times of Ignatius D. McDermott, Co-Founder of Chicago's Famed Haymarket Center (2002). Long-active in Chicago politics, Mr. Roeser is Chairman of Catholic Citizens of Illinois, a grassroots organization of Catholics.

Pope Benedict’s Light of the World (Ignatius Press 2010) book website

© 2010 Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation