is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:
Right off the bat, let’s get this out of the way: Pope Benedict XVI modified the Church’s stand on condoms. NO, HE DIDN’T. This is quite clear when one reads the actual remarks of the Pope in his interview with Peter Seewald. He even asserts that the "fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality." I suggest people read the commentaries of Janet Smith or George Weigel (available in the Internet) for a complete explanation of the Pope’s remarks.
However, let me just zero in on this: the Pope’s given example was in relation to "male prostitutes," who one can reasonably say mainly ply in homosexual activities. The use of the condom in relation to that immoral act is obviously not for contraceptive purposes. And it’s precisely that contraceptive function that the Church is against.
So, it means that the Pope justifies condom use to stop AIDS. No. As the Pope clearly said "we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms."
But it’s ridiculous to believe that popes don’t make mistakes or commit sins. Of course it’s ridiculous. Popes are humans too. They do make mistakes. It’s only when the Pope speaks under his authority of "infallibility" (given under very specific conditions and only with regard to matters of morals or faith) that no mistakes are said to be made (e.g., the prohibition on contraceptives). And, yes, pope’s do sin. Note that popes actually go to confession regularly. They must be asking forgiveness for sins; otherwise, they’re just making a mockery of the sacrament of confession. That’s why we should all be humble, avoiding self-righteousness, because, except for Mother Mary and Jesus, we are all merely sinners trying (hopefully) our best.
Excommunication reveals the Church’s intolerance. Wrong. Excommunication is a technical canon law matter (coming in various forms and exercised rarely) but essentially means Church recognition that somebody, by his own acts, separated himself from the community of the faithful. In short, the Church didn’t kick anybody out, it merely recognized that one voluntary placed himself out. It’s like the LTO not granting a driver’s license because you’re blind. The LTO’s refusal didn’t make you blind, it merely recognized that fact. So, it’s therefore logical for an excommunicant not to receive the sacraments because he obviously turned his back on the Church. It’s like breaking up with your spouse but still demanding sex. It cheapens the whole thing. For lack of space, let me just say, however, that the concept and process of excommunication is designed to wean the excommunicant back and the Church will welcome him with open arms. But the sincere decision to come back (like the decision to part with the Church) lies with the individual.
The Church is intolerant for filing criminal charges. No. The Church, like everybody else, has every right to avail of the rights that the law provides. Furthermore, while the Church is indeed merciful, it also advocates for justice. Which means accountability for any wrongdoing. Mercy without justice is not a loving mercy as it encourages repeated wrongs. That’s why God, who is infinitely merciful, also requires accountability ("He will come again to judge the living and the dead"). So, for example, if somebody disrupts a Mass in a church, in a manner contrary to our criminal laws, it is but just that accountability for it be made (particularly if the transgressor is not even sorry for the acts he did). We must remember that in a Mass, God is present. Any act of disrespect made during a Mass is not only a disrespect to the priest or to us but also to God. Ask the Muslims how they would feel if somebody does an act of disrespect in a mosque. Or even a family member if somebody does something boorish in a family celebration. Forgiveness? Definitely. But justice too.
Contraceptives protect female health. No. They harm it. Various research institutions (including the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a research arm of the World Health Organization) and medical journals already attributed (particularly to oral contraceptives) dangers such as cancer (specifically breast cancer), stroke, and heart disease.
Better condoms than AIDS or abortions later. No. Research upon research has already shown that resort to contraceptives (condoms in particular) has actually resulted in the increase of AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, or abortions. The reason is simple: rather than make people behave better, condoms give a false sense of security, encouraging the illusion of "safe sex." But condoms fail at least 5% of the time. Say you have 100,000 condom users, 5,000 of them are highly vulnerable to AIDS or unwanted pregnancies. And imagine what 5,000 AIDS carriers can do. Let us also emphasize this point: the perils of cancer, stroke, heart disease, AIDS, and unwanted pregnancies are there regardless of whether you’re a Catholic or not.
Have fun defending the faith. Although, as St. Peter says, do it with "respect and gentleness."