Marriage, Procreation, and “The Broad Book of Nature”.

At the British Catholic publication “The Tablet”, there is an important column by Clifford Longley, reflecting on Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ recent BBC radio interview, and in particular on some of his remarks about homosexuality. The full article is behind a paywall, so I am unable to supply a link. I would urge you though, if you can to try to arrange sight of the original. Bill Lindsey at Bilgrimage has already written at length about some of the implications of this. I want to pick up on some other aspects.

This is the only part of Longley’s column that quotes the Archbishop directly:

“When it comes to understanding what human sexuality is for, there is a lot that we have to explore.. Because I think what is at one level in the broad perspective clear, is that there is an intrinsic link between procreation and human sexuality. Now how do we start from that principle, not lose it, and have an open, ongoing conversation with those who say, well, that’s not my experience? How do we bring together some principles that if you like are written into the broad book of nature, and individual experiences? That’s the area that we have to be sensitive and open to, and genuinely wanting to explore.”


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Pope Benedict, on Divorce, Contraception

Pope Benedict’s views on condoms and HIV/AIDS prevention as expressed in “Light of the World” have been widely quoted, misquoted, celebrated and condemned. However, they form only a few line in a wider discussion on sexuality. This broader context is also relevant for its suggestion of some welcome flexibility in his thinking, which is important for a proper perspective on hos views of homosexuality. In an earlier post, I have quoted verbatim the relevant specific questions that Peter Seewald put to him on homosexuality and on the priesthood, and his responses.In this posting, I do the same with his responses on divorce and contraception. The questions are lightly edited, to remove some of Seewald’s less relevant remarks, or those which are specific to Germany. Benedict’s responses I have quoted in full.  (My own reflection on these responses will follow shortly).

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So, Let’s Talk About – Condoms and AIDS Prevention

Is it really true that Pope Benedict’s approval of condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS is backed by very traditional teaching of Augustine and Aquinas? James Heffernan, writing at Huffington Post, seems to think so. First, he refers to Aquinas on the validity of self-defence, and  asks, does this imply that condoms are justifiable in AIDS prevention, as self-defence against infection?

In the 13th-century Summa Theologica, perhaps the greatest of all treatises on Roman Catholic doctrine, Saint Thomas Aquinas says that one may lawfully kill an assailant in self-defense. In such cases, says Aquinas, one’s action has a double effect: killing another and saving one’s own life. “Therefore, this act” he says, “since one’s intention is to save one’s own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in being as far as possible” (ST II-II, Qu. 64, Art 7).

If Aquinas says it is “NOT unlawful” to kill in self-defense, could he possibly say it IS unlawful to use a condom in self-defense, as a means of protecting oneself against fatal infection, or one’s partner from such infection?

St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), the eponym ...

St Thomas Aquinas (Fra Angelico)

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Philippine Idiocy, Continued

In the Philippines, where the Catholic bishops are engaged in a foolhardy, Quixotic fight against the government’s plans to reform the national reproductive health system by easing access to contraception for low-income families, their latest salvo is a highly offensive attempt to justify their stance by invoking the memory of the church’s historic role on the side of the poor and for justice,during the remarkable display of people power which unseated former President Marcos and his wife Imelda (and her famous shoes). The two issues are not comparable.

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DIY Catholicism: Swiss Church’s Condom Campaign

There have been many illustrations of ordinary Catholics open defiance of Vatican doctrine, especially on contraception, but this is one of the most remarkable I have seen: a Swiss Catholic church openly distributing condoms as part of an AIDS awareness program:

Photograph showing rolled up condom
Image via Wikipedia

 

From Swiss Info:

Catholic condom campaign sparks controversy

The Catholic church of Lucerne has launched a controversial Aids prevention campaign which includes the distribution of condoms.

At the same time, a Catholic mission is hosting a road show that educates young people about Aids in Africa.

From Monday until Wednesday, a multimedia exhibition staged in a truck outside the main railway station illustrated the harsh reality of life in Uganda and in South Africa, where HIV and Aids are a severe problem.

Small rooms represented African huts, a classroom, a market and a clinic. An accompanying audio guide tells the story of two young people affected by Aids.

Flavio Moresino, responsible for Missio’s youth-related activities in German-speaking Switzerland, said that the exhibition had enjoyed a good response.

Fourteen school classes signed up to visit the exhibition in Lucerne. Over the next three weeks, the truck will travel to other parts of Switzerland.

“We are really very happy about it – the HIV/Aids situation in Africa has had quite an impression on the schoolchildren. This exhibition makes the problem more concrete and interesting for them,” Moresino told swissinfo.ch. He added that somebody in the world is infected with HIV every 12 seconds.

 

Love thy neighbour

The Catholic church of Lucerne set up a stand to coincide with the Aids truck’s stay in the city. As part of its campaign, the church produced 3,000 custom-wrapped condoms to distribute.

Reactions have been mixed, with criticism from other branches of the Swiss Catholic Church.

The condom packaging features a stylised skyline of the city’s Catholic churches under a rainbow-coloured spray of condoms. The motto reads: “Forgetfulness is contagious. Protect your neighbour as you would yourself.” The church’s URL is printed on the back.

“We want to discuss this problem with youths and other people and show that we are from this millennium and that they can talk about this openly with us – there are no taboos,” said Florian Flohr, spokesman for the Catholic church of the city of Lucerne.

Flohr told swissinfo.ch that he was impressed by the young people he had spoken to.

“They respect their partners and are conscious of the fact that they have to think about Aids when they have sexual relationships,” Flohr said.

He emphasised the fact that he and his colleagues had not simply been passing out condoms to everyone who walked by. As of midday on Tuesday, he estimated that about 150-200 condoms had been given away – but only after a conversation about the importance of safe sex.

Although the Roman Catholic Church is officially against the use of condoms, pastoral workers supporting the Lucerne campaign say that it is unethical to ignore them when addressing the danger of HIV.

Youth workers will continue to broach the subject in and around the parishes of Lucerne.

 

It’s cool

Reactions to the Aids campaigns – in particular the one involving free condoms – have been mixed. The diocese of Chur has expressed its dismay in the Swiss media.

“It sends the wrong signal,” diocesan spokesman Christoph Casetti told Swiss television. He added, “From a medical point of view, I also think it’s wrong because we know that condoms don’t provide absolute protection.”

Diocese of Basel spokesman Guiseppe Gracia told swissinfo.ch the bishopric had not yet formed an opinion but was planning to issue a formal statement soon.

“It’s not a condom distribution campaign – it’s an information campaign,” Gracia pointed out. He added that most of the people who had reacted negatively had only informed themselves through the media.

The story has been picked up by the Associated Press and appeared in international newspapers including the Boston Globe and the London-based Telegraph.

Around the train station, swissinfo.ch found the responses to be quite positive.

“I think it’s cool,” said 17-year-old Tatjana Jud. “It’s surprising,” added her friend Valerie Beschwanden, 19. Seventeen-year-old Stefan Rogenmoser said he didn’t know much about the campaigns, but that he would feel comfortable talking to a church group about sex and Aids.

Alda Beck, an older woman waiting for her train, also spoke well of the project.

“I find it good – young people have sex and need to protect themselves. It’s high time that the church did something like this.”

 

 

John XXI: The Pope Who Promoted Birth Control, Abortion and Aphrodisiacs

I love the oddities that can be discovered in the lesser known corners of Church history. Peter of Spain has gone down in history as Pope John XXI, whose brief papacy (1276 – 77) ended when part of the ceiling of his library fell on his head. He is also the only pope placed by Dante in the third book, “Paradiso” of the Divine Comedy. (He placed in Inferno, or Purgatorio – which says something of his view of the papacy.)

 

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Meddling Bishops, Filipino Style.

While meddling bishops in Minnesota are dividing the Church over gay marriage, and those in Mexico are working themselves into a froth over gay adoption, their counterparts in the Philippines are doing their best to destroy the church over – contraception!

The Philippines is unique in Asia as a majority Catholic country – 80-83% are described as “Catholic”.  Every Easter, some of the devout famously commemorate the crucifixion by putting themselves through the same agony. A quarter of a century ago, in the famous “yellow revolution” that put an end to the corruption of President Marcos and his shoe-fixated wife Imelda, the wonderfully named Cardinal Sin played an important part, demonstrating the commitment of the Catholic faith to justice and the marginalized poor.

 

Philippines, crucifixion re-enactment

 

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