Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Independent: French Letters To The Editor

Fagburn thought there was much sense being talked (written?) on the Pope and condoms hoo-hah in The Independent's letters page today - especially the last one.

Pope Benedict's statement about condoms has been taken out of context ("Catholics weigh significance of Pope's words on condom use", 22 November).
What people need to realise is what he essentially said is that as a male prostitute is already planning on engaging in amoral sexual activity, the sin is not in the use of the condom, but in the act itself. Fornication is still fornication and adultery is still adultery.
He also said that using a condom when you know you are infected with Aids can be an important first step in realising that sex holds the power of life and death and that you have to be responsible for the lives and health and human dignity of others.
This does not indicate that the Catholic Church now supports condoms or any form of contraception. The Pope was not even speaking on behalf of the Church, or making decisions about the official position of the Church; he was being interviewed by a newspaper.
Though raised as a Catholic, I can agree that the Church's attitude to preventing the increase of Aids and HIV is a "muddled and unrealistic approach". But if the Pope says he can understand the justification behind use of condoms in some circumstances then he too is allowed to hold personal opinions and even struggle with his own relationship to Catholic teaching.

Emilie Lamplough
Trowbridge, Wiltshire

The Pope's statement on legitimate use of condoms is no surprise to anybody familiar with the source which sets out the Church's teaching on contraception, Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae, to which nothing has since been added.
Paragraphs 14 and 15 are relevant. What the Church disapproves of (however controversially) is the contraceptive intention. It accepts therapeutic means to cure organic diseases even when they may have a contraceptive effect. The use of condoms within marriage to prevent transmission of HIV is against neither the letter nor the spirit of the encyclical.
The problem has been that local clerics are fearful of any statement on their part that is less than wholesale condemnation of contraception. They fear retribution from the Vatican. They also fear the media's headline. Let us hope that anybody pronouncing on this subject in future will take the trouble to study what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

Rev Bernard O'Connor OSA
St Augustine's, London W6

How would the Pope's teaching on condoms deal with this situation: a married couple have got through a difficult period in their marriage during which the husband has become infected with Aids and the wife can no longer have children for reasons of age or illness?
Is it permitted for them to use condoms to protect the wife's health while resuming marital relations? Underlying this is the problem, is sex without the possibility of conception a good thing? My view is in the affirmative, where neither party is making use of the other.
Is the Vatican moving cautiously in that direction? If so, how many centuries will it take to reach a satisfying Christian response to the needs of modern life?

Rev Ainslie Walton
Glasgow

As a humanist, I find it pathetic that a good section of the world should hang on the words of a man with no special claim to wisdom. To greet with joy a small crack in papal ignorance and superstition seems a small step forward, when scientists and health workers are struggling to reduce a mountain of misery.
When will these old and celibate clerics wake up to the reality that sex is not a sin but a joyful human pleasure? It is not simply a chore to increase the world's population.

Pete Parkins
Lancaster

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