Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Pope & Condoms: Did "A Male Prostitute" Pass His Lips?

Hold the bit of the front page that hasn't got a picture of Prince William and Kate on!
His Holiness the Pope has said something slightly less stupid and offensive than he usually does.
Using condoms might be okay in certain circumstances after all.
Blimey! He'll be telling us the Earth revolves around the Sun next.
Hang on though - what did Pope Benedict actually say?

Peter Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?
Pope Benedict: She [!] of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

BBC News quotes the relevant section at length - and here's the actual rambling quote from the Pope that everyone's misquoting;
"There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.
"That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality."
Fagburn has only seen The Independent On Sunday (and heard BBC Radio 4) point out the semantic stew in the above quote;
"Last night there was some confusion about the precise meaning of the Pope's words, not least concerning the example he used. In the English, German and French versions the phrase "a male prostitute" is used, but in the Italian translation, the words "una prostituta", meaning a female prostitute, is given."
It does seem odd that he'd specify a male prostitute.
Perhaps he's realised that two men using a condom during bumsex doesn't lessen the chances of them making a baby?
Let us pray for clarification from Pope Benedict on this whole "male or female prostitute" business later today.
I for one am positively gripped.


  1. A think piece on this on the BBC news website is tagged as 'Analysis: Crack opens over ban'...

  2. Andrew Brown on Cif on The Guardian thinks the choice of a male prostitute was deliberate...

    Pope Benedict's condom U-turn

    Pope Benedict XVI has cautiously but decisively removed the single most stupid and wicked policy of the Catholic church

    Pope Benedicts XVI's change of heart on condoms marks a significant break with the damage done by one of his predecessors' most romantic, wicked and wrong-headed policies. The idea of an absolute ban on condoms makes no sense even within the framework of Catholic teaching. Since the purpose of the ban on artificial birth control is to make conception possible, it makes no sense at all in situations in which conception is utterly impossible. That is why Benedict chose a male prostitute as his example of someone who might use a condom to fight disease.

    The really interesting question is whether his remarks are supposed to apply even in cases where conception would be possible: may a female prostitute demand that her customers use condoms (assuming for the moment that either party takes much notice of the pope's opinions)? May a wife whose husband is infected? May a husband who has married an HIV positive woman?

    It is with questions such as these that the balance lies between regarding the Catholic ban on artificial contraception as merely the romantic wrong-headedness of celibate men, or something actively misogynistic and anti-human. The matter would be simpler, of course, if the Catholic church banned all birth control. But it doesn't. It is only opposed to the effective forms.

    But once it has admitted that it is sometimes all right to have sex for reasons other than procreation – and this is conceded, indeed claimed, by everyone who defends "Natural family planning", then the case for condoms as harm reduction becomes unanswerable. Indeed, until today, the question was the easiest way to make any English catholic bishop squirm. They know that their own flock uses artificial birth control. They did not enjoy pretending to believe that poor Africans should risk dying horribly rather than enjoying the liberties of rich Westerners. I say "pretending to believe" – there must be Catholic priests who believed in that aspect of their church's teaching but I have never knowingly met one.

    Much will depend on how this decision is interpreted. The first signs are that it will be liberally interpreted where it matters and makes a difference.

    According to Reuters,

    "The original German text and the French and English versions of the book refer to a male prostitute but an excerpt in Italian in the Vatican newspaper uses female prostitute."

    If this is a reliable sign that the concession will be interpreted more generously and celebrated on an official level, there is also some tiny chance that the good and pro-human bits of Catholic sexual teaching will sound less absurd and hypocritical. Most of the reasons for the 1968 ban on artificial contraception are discreditable: a desire to preserve the bella figura of the bureaucracy which had originally banned it; a wish not to admit a mistake; the romantic, idealised and wholly unrealistic vision of Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, when he was a member of the commission; a pervasive belief that Father knows best and Reverend Fathers best of all, even without any admissible experience.

    There is, however, one point to the credit of the Christian view. One of the underlying impulses was to maintain that sex is not just an exchange of bodily fluids. It is something that people do, body and soul. The difference between good and bad sex is not a question of sensation. Nor is it wise or sensible to approach sex as a quest for more and more interesting sensations. Just possibly it will be easier for Catholics to talk in those terms in public when they are no longer yoked to a particularly cruel and stupid form of dogma."

  3. Pink News' headline now reads; 'Pope argues male prostitutes could use condoms as first step in their ‘moralisation’'

    You can still read their original - and spectacularly inappropriate - headline in the link...

    Why not just call them "whores"?