At America blog, there is an important and disturbing report on how the Vatican officials suppressed a report by its own theologians on the possible use of condoms as a preventative measure in the fight against HUV/AIDS. Written by Austen Ivereigh, formerly a press officer for the diocese of Westminster, it carries useful information on both the history of the report itself, and some insider gossip on the reasons given by certain cardinals for what happened.
The basic facts are that back in 2006, a Vatican commission undertook a study into the morality of condom use as a measure to prevent Aids.
“The study was undertaken in 2006 by the Pontifical Council for Health Care, and submitted to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) by the Council’s then head, the Mexican cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán. The cardinal said on that occasion that his 200-page dossier contained a spectrum of views on the question of whether it was legitimate to use condoms to protect someone from catching Aids”.
Yet, in February this year, a spokesman for the commission claimed that the study “had never got off the ground”. In his own telling of the story, Ivereigh fuses his own experience and inside information to fill in the gaps between a study which presented a 200-page report, and one which “never got off the ground.” The study was clearly completed and a report was submitted – then shelved. As he tells it, the CDF couldn’t face the prospect of any apparent change to long-standing teaching against the use of condoms, under any circumstances. Last year, in a private conversation in Rome, he was told by a senior CDF official
“Everyone knows that theologically there is a strong case for clarifying that teaching,” he told me, “but there’s just no way of doing it publicly without it being misunderstood.” Do you mean, I said, that the Vatican feared the headlines that would result? “Exactly,” he said. “It would be confusing for the faithful.”
In London, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor of Westminster put it even more bluntly quoting the reasons given by Pope Benedict himself:
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor informed me after one visit to Rome that Cardinal Ratzinger had told him that “we cannot have cardinals disagreeing about this”. Soon after came the news that the report had been commissioned from a group of eminent moral theologians. Now, it seems, what I was told in Rome has been confirmed: the report will never see the light of day.
What is essentially a communications problem has been allowed to trump theological truth.
In its document “Homosexualiltatis Problema,” the CDF reminds us of the Scriptural injunction to “speak the truth in love”. Its own history though, shows that it applies an important rider in its internal practice: “Just don’t rock the boat.”
In his book “Seduced by Grace”, the Australian theologian Michael B Kelly has a thoughtful reflection on the “hidden lives of gay priests”, in which he makes an important observation on the Vatican’s inability to deal with reason and new evidence on all matters sexual.
Here we touch on the fear that underlies much of the hierarchy’s handling of sexual issues.The whole structure of doctrine and rules is like a house of cards.The more shaky it starts to look, the more fiercely the place of each card must be defended. Permit married couples to use contraception, or allow lesbian teachers in schools, or admit that there sexually active gay priests who are good pastors, and the whole edifice of sexual teaching – which many theologians say has no sound basis anyway – could collapse. The Vatican and its most loyal bishops fear that with it could go claims of sacred authority, infallibility and “Absolute Truth”.
- Pope on condoms: Not the lesser evil, really… (commonwealmagazine.org)
- So, Let’s Talk About – Condoms and AIDS Prevention (opentabernacle.wordpress.com)
- Benedict On Condoms Part II (enlightenedcatholicism-colkoch.blogspot.com)
- Pope Benedict And Condoms Part III–The Vatican Clarification Goes Where No Pope Has Gone Before (enlightenedcatholicism-colkoch.blogspot.com)