So now we have the official word
from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Condoms are a
lesser evil, when used by prostitutes infected with HIV. Ultra
theologians who have claimed the the use of condoms in such
circumstances only add crime to crime…are wrong. Pope Benedict meant
what he said.
Naturally, some of the usual suspects on the right (Matt Bowman, Thomas Peters)
are claiming that they had it right all along, that all those who said
that Benedict had laid down something new were wrong. That’s just
blowing smoke. Austen Invereigh points out what’s really happened:
So now Catholic agencies reaching out to Aids sufferers in all parts of
Africa are free to continue to do what they have been doing–without
fear of campaigns, boycotts (especially from US pro-life groups) or
prohibitions by bishops.
Ultra bullying has been stopped in its tracks, and waiting in the wings
is magisterial teaching on conjugal use of condoms to prevent disease
where husband or wife is HIV-positive.
I do, however, wish Invereigh hadn’t cast this conflict as Jesus
(Benedict and the CDF) prevailing over the Pharisees (the Ultras).
Christians have long tended to pose such an issue as love v. law in
these terms. But the Pharisees were the real-life progenitors of
rabbinic Judaism, and in case after case, it was the humane work of
rabbinic law to soften some of the absolutist legal decrees of
By relying on the good old traditions of Catholic moral theology,
Benedict and the CDF are really in continuity with the kind of analysis
that the Pharisees pioneered. Whatever troubles Jesus may have had with
the Pharisees of his day, in this respect the were on the side of the