Saturday, November 27, 2010

What did the Pontiff really say?

It’s been a week now since L’Osservatore Romano released the extract from Pope Benedict XVI’s new book Light of the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald,[1] in which the Vicar of Christ said … well, something about condoms that caught everyone by surprise. (That is, everyone except for the emotionally stunted among the social liberals, the ones who stopped listening to the Church decades ago and now content themselves with whining variations of “Daddy doesn’t understand me”.)

What did the Pope really say? Even now the actual content of his remarks is a matter of debate, let alone its implications for sexual morality; this is despite the fact that the comments were printed, not simply overheard in passing. Whether the Pope’s comments have been overblown to the point of inviting dismissive clichés or truly a fundamental paradigm shift is a judgment call that needs some fifty or one hundred years’ distance to make dispassionately, without the injection of today’s sociopolitical obsessions.

I admit, like other conservative Catholic bloggers (see the link to Mark Shea’s blog in my last entry), I seized B16’s example of a male prostitute so I could pound the square peg down into the round hole of the pro-life movement’s aversion to contraceptives. We should all have been thinking more clearly. For if Benedict’s words meant what we thought they did, then the idea would obtain regardless of whether we spoke of homosexual prostitution or heterosexual fornication. The context was AIDS, not reproduction; to import contraception into the discussion was to do the Pope an injustice.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A blast from the past; or, recycling the (com)post

As many of you know, jaws dropped around the blogosphere when the MSM reported that Pope Benedict XVI had in some fashion come out for—yes folks, you read that right, for—condoms in the fight against AIDS. Turns out the MSM got it wrong again, this time with some help from L’Osservatore Romano, which for some reason is thought to be the official mouthpiece of the Vatican. If you want to read a good drilling into the subject, go to Jimmy Akin’s blog on the National Catholic Reporter website; I can’t do better. However, I felt the occasion called for some additional commentary. So I dug back up this gem from March ’09.

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Sometimes, it seems like the only issues religious debates hang on now have to do with sex and reproduction. It’s like listening to Johnny One-Note playing the kazoo: it gets old very fast. Like much else, the same ground gets covered over and over, like a flock of crime-scene investigators looking for a toenail in a farm field.

Take the issue of contraceptives, for example. At least since 1968, the year Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, various people (both Catholic and non-Catholic) have been grumping about the Church’s decision to maintain its traditional opposition to artificial birth control, either damning it as an example of the Church’s refusal to join the twentieth (now twenty-first) century or bemoaning it as well-intentioned but ineffectual.

The meaning of tradition

We’re just one week from moving into Advent, the season of the liturgical calendar during which we prepare for the celebration of our Lord’s birth by reflection, repentance and renewal of our baptismal vows. That is, if we can spare ourselves the time from the madness surrounding The Holidays, which seem to start earlier every year (the phenomenon I’ve seen referred to, with grotesque aptness, as “Christmas creep”). Indeed, the profane traditions of “Thanksmas” have so multiplied under the beneficent gaze of Mammon that to actually observe Advent you almost have to dispose of all the Santa-Claus-Jack-Frost-and-snowmen crap, retaining—if you must—only a tree and a crèche.

Why do we do this to ourselves every year? The instant response is, “Well, we do it every year because … it’s … traditional,” with maybe a futile shrug and hand gesture that says, “What are you gonna do?” The season itself is so full of chairos, so pregnant with meaning, that we reiterate the accidents as if they were inextricably part of the essence. And perhaps that’s not far from the truth: perhaps it’s a physical manifestation of the spiritual richness of this time, albeit corrupted to a certain extent by Hollywood and Madison Avenue secular concerns.

So if you were looking for a “Bah, humbug!” from me, you’re going to be disappointed. But stay on a bit, because I’m about to go off on another tangent.