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Why did the secular press get the pope so wrong about condoms?

They were not helped by the claims of some Catholics that Catholic teaching on sexuality was collapsing

By on Monday, 6 December 2010

A priest skims a copy of Light of the World, a book-length interview of Pope Benedict XVI conducted by the journalist Peter Seewald

A priest skims a copy of Light of the World, a book-length interview of Pope Benedict XVI conducted by the journalist Peter Seewald

Francis Philips got it dead right in her last blog; the pope’s gripping, highly readable and indispensable book The Light of the World (and if you haven’t read it yet you really should) is about a great deal more than just sex.

The extraordinary distortion by the secular Press of his passing remarks about condoms is now generally seen for what it was: a sign of the fact that papers have to have splash headlines; that’s the way they’re designed: hence the Sunday Telegraph’s declaration of a “historic U-turn by [the] Catholic church”. So the secular response is understandable: journalists need stories; it’s not so much that they don’t care about the truth, but that they really aren’t necessarily equipped, in a story about the Church, to recognise it when it’s staring them in the face.

But parallel to this kind of understandable secular distortion, there was a jumping on this particular bandwagon by some Catholics who really didn’t have that kind of excuse. Perhaps the most informative example of the “historic U-turn by Catholic Church” syndrome among Catholic journalists was the Today programme’s “Thought for the Day” on the morning after the Sunday Telegraph splash headline, uttered from on high by Clifford Longley, the BBC’s token “authoritative” Catholic and the elder statesman of the Tabletistas.

What a difference a week or two makes. Longley may already be hoping that his remarks will have been forgotten: but they haven’t, not by me, nor should they be. “The interview [the pope] gave to a German journalist”, he glibly pronounced, “has transformed the terms of the internal Roman Catholic debate about the use of condoms in the fight against Aids HIV”. (Already, very evidently, just wrong). “But”, he went on, astonishingly, “I think he has actually changed much more than that. From today the entire polar icecap of Catholic sexual morality has started to melt”.

We have now reached a level of implausibility which is more than simply jaw-dropping. We need some kind of provisional explanation before going any further, of why Longley should say such a thing, even in the slightly hysterical atmosphere then prevailing. I can only suppose that this total dissolution of Catholic sexual morality is so much what he wants to happen that it clouded his judgement; it wouldn’t be the first time that wishful thinking has caused a radical distortion of Catholic teaching: “the Spirit of Vatican II” is riddled with it.

“Henceforth”, he went on, “the emphasis changes from natural law, which is where the ban on contraception comes from, to what the pope calls ‘the humanising of sexuality’.” But how is that a change of emphasis away from the natural law? The natural law is a body of unchanging moral principles known not from revelation (though parallel to it) but by reason, principles regarded as a basis for all human conduct: for the pope to speak in this way of “the humanisation of sexuality” is simply the understanding of the natural law in particular human circumstances: there is no movement away from natural law—say, to revelation or ecclesial authority; we are still within its ambit. Longley’s “analysis”, in short, is utterly meaningless.

Longley’s explanation of his melting polar icecap is an excellent example of the kind of—to a layman—impressively intellectual sounding but actually totally bogus pronouncement that does nothing to elucidate an argument but which if you’re not attentive allows it to be accepted by default in the mental fog which has descended by the time it has been uttered.
There is a real refusal here to acknowledge the difference between juridical and pastoral discourse. The pope is a teacher of doctrine and the moral law; he is also a pastor: a pastor above all, and perhaps overwhelmingly most importantly, when he speaks directly to his people, as he is clearly doing in this interview—that’s why it’s with a journalist, not a theologian.

What was Longley’s real agenda here? That is the question we need to ask. Why did he try to transmute pastoral remarks about particular human circumstances into quasi-juridical pronouncements universally applicable? Could it be that, thus transformed, such remarks could then be lobbed into the complex web of objective moral teachings which the Church over the centuries has defended, in the hope of causing maximum damage? Who knows? But it looks suspiciously like it to me

  • paulpriest

    …isn't it obvious?
    They want condoms to be permitted as prophylaxis in hiv serodiscordant marriages [could there be a more monstrous obscenity?]; then used as a form of 'N'FP+ to 'sensibly' spread out children while still having the 'benign' intent towards procreation; in the vainglorious hope that the time will come when a Silvestrini/Martini type becomes Pope who will overturn humanae vitae…
    Once [sic!] humanae vitae is overturned there is no moral block towards a 'unifying' 'respecting the creator through the one-ness of their love and their own creation in homosexual acts…
    ..and as the unitive and procreative aspects are separated then comes the whole notion of scientific 'progress' towards 'fertility enablement' – and we enter into the genocidal activities of embryonic selection, eugenics, IVF etc where many are euthanised so the 'chosen one' might live…

    These fools don't get it! They have no idea what waits for them at the bottom of that slippery slope.
    I get bombarded with Ivereigh-esque claims from people that 'the Church has not decided on condoms for prophylaxis yet – it's an open issue'
    Irrespective of the fact that the Rhonheimer proposition deals with a theoretical 100% prophylactic – not a piece of rubber that is only 80% effective in reducing hiv transmission in married couples [Cochrane report [2007]] ; any sexual activity between a couple where one has a life-threatening infectious disease automatically contravenes the 5th commandment.

    They're making bullying attempts to railroad condoms for serodiscordant married couples – and may God forgive them!
    Our Cardinal has said and done many terrible things – but when he advocated condom-use and thus promoted a health and life-risking activity we must pray he's merely an ignorant ill-informed fool.

  • PhilipH

    Yes I think they willingly misread/msunderstood what the pope said. The pope hasn't changed Catholic doctrine, he was just being eminently practical and sensible as a good pastor should when interpreting doctrine.

  • RJ

    Agree with your analysis of that Thought for the Day.

    My own thought is that he hasn't said what people want to think, for the following reason:

    I believe the relevant question to ask after the controversial statement ('there may be a basis, in individual cases, where this is a first step…') is: 'in what respect is this a first step'? The Pope answers that question immediately: the first step consists in the (good) intention 'in der Absicht' (which of course does not render the act moral: 'it is not a real or moral solution', as the Pope says).

    The interpretation of Janet Smith, Cardinal Burke and Fr Fessio is in the same direction.

    The only good thing about the situation is the intention. The solution chosen is not. A good intention is not sufficient to make an act good. This leaves the natural law thinking intact.

    Others do not agree with this interpretation of the Pope's words and I can understand that.

  • paul

    Hitchens and Dawkins may appear to personify the secular world in the eyes of many Catholics, but this is simply not the case. As could be seen during the papal visit the majority of public opinion and press coverage was supportive and respectful.

    As much as the abuse scandal has hurt the Church, people Catholics and otherwise do feel a affection towards it, and many want it to move with the times in order to remain respectable and credible. Although the Telegraph wants to sell papers and BBC's Clifford Longley wants to make good broadcasting, I believe it is a longing of many Catholic or otherwise for the Church to change its idiotic views over the morality of contraception, these journalists likely realized the Church hadn't made a U-turn, but certainly wanted to push it in that direction, in order to IMPROVE the Church.

  • paulpriest

    I don't think I'm going to make many friends by saying this but it wasn't the secular media which were the problem – Catholic commentators had a…shall we be polite and call it a 'wobble'?

    [and I'm not referring to people I do not consider as Catholic commentators on moral issues like Ivereigh and Valero - as they automatically negate themselves by their records]

    Although the major Catholic individual blogs were as impeccably orthodox as one might expect
    [admittedly two clerical bloggers decided to debate whether the 'first step' 'motive' had any morally ordering value at all {Kant is SO deserving a kick-in!} ; and thus obfuscate the issue by saying they disagreed with His Holiness's pastoral perspective - thus allowing others to misinterpret their ethical position and somehow falsely conclude that the Pope had 'relaxed' the Church's position on condom use]

    But the Catholic commentary from perfidious Albion was depressingly…well…dare I say ignorant?

    I may be completely wrong in this, but it seems that the majority of 'professional' commentators and journalists appeared to be under the misunderstanding that the Church saw condom use as compounding/aggravating the sinfulness of life-threatening extra-marital activities – and no matter what risky sinful activity in which one was engaging – a condom automatically made it morally worse !

    How could they believe this ?
    I have no idea.
    What evidence do I have to support this claim?

    Their arguments for saying how wonderful it all was now that the Pope has 'done the decent , human, charitable thing' [only one major Catholic celebrity blogger angrily retorted that it was too little too late]
    They then proceeded to give examples, analogies, allusions, paradigms where only the false premiss that the Church saw condom-use as making a grave sin worse could explain how they could arrive at the delusion that Church teaching was cruel and complicit in the deaths of millions via hiv/AIDS.

    I sincerely believe that for years they had held some belligerent silent grudge against the Church and its teaching simply because they didn't know Catholic teaching!!!

    Now to make everything a thousand times worse – the Pope had to rely upon the 'embellishing' Lom-revisionist-bardi to turn the mist of misinterpretation into the opaquest pea-souper smog!

    …and then we had our regular bunch of Jansenist donatist quasi-sedevacantists who jumped on the chance to declare they were more Catholic than the pope and Benedict was a heretic and this was one of the signs of the impending apocalypse…they leapt at the chance to say the pope advocated condoms – no matter how untrue it was!

    ..and what of our crowd of beloved Bishops?
    Surely they would clarify Catholic teaching and come to His Holiness's defence?

    Irrespective of their Apostolic mandate they so regularly abrogate; surely this is Archbishop Smith's 'conference remit' to speak on such issues?
    Well our illustrious primate-presumptive +Vin decided to issue a 'gagging order' via Alexander Desforges of the CCN:

    Sent: Sunday, 21 November, 2010 10:25:55

    Subject: FW: Background notes for guidance on the issue of what Pope Benedict said re. condoms

    These are background notes for guidance on the issue of what Pope Benedict said re condoms.

    Media reports are stating that this is a major change in Catholic teaching (I don’t think that is the case but the tone is significant and is clearly a pointer to the way thinking on the issue is going). That would be for the Holy See to say so we should not get involved in those conversations. I think the reporting has been fair, but the lead on this should come from the Holy See rather than statements from us. The guidance below can be used to help reporters factually and put the comments in some context.

    Best wishes


    Shouldn't we be asking what the hell is going on ?
    …but then again most of us have read the Dominic Scarborough article in Catholic World Report – and know exactly what's happening !

  • David Armitage

    *journalists need stories; it’s not so much that they don’t care about the truth, but that they really aren’t necessarily equipped, in a story about the Church, to recognise it when it’s staring them in the face.” Quite so, A handy wheeze for B16 to make statements for newshounds to misunderstand, so that it is not the Pope but they who need to be corrected subsequently by the clever man who runs his press office. I love the implicit difference Doctor Oddie draws between doctrinal truth and pastoral truth. And why does Clifford Longley come in for such a sound kicking? Can't co-religionists disagree courteously?

  • W Oddie

    I didn't say there was such a thing as a difference between doctrinal truth and pastoral truth.Truth is truth. My word was “discourse”. Language operates differently when doctrinal truth is being defined and when its implications in particular circumstances are being discussed.

  • louella

    Paul…..contrception encourages the sin of fornication and selfishness within marriage. And when all is said and done…..contraception contributes to the death of nations… demographic death. That little pill will wipe out whole nations and peoples within a very short space of time. See if it doesn't.

    The Church was totally right in its condemnation of contraception.

  • Anthony

    Paul, you are undoubtedly right to say that the Dawkins – C. Hitchens axis does not personify the secular world per se. However, your concern that the Church may need to “move with the times” unwittingly plays by its rules: the sort of transient “credibility” that depends upon what is deemed to be “respectable” in the eyes of the world (indeed, amongst some, or even many, members of the faithful) would only serve to undermine her very existence.

    To imagine it would “improve” the Church if only She did not persist in presenting what might seem, to some, to be “idiotic views” about human nature, runs the risk (or could be symptomatic) of seeing morality only through the lens of our own (brief) lifetimes. Moreover, such thinking surely fails to see that She is a sign of contradiction on the face of human history, pointing as She does always beyond the mores of the city and the world. Not only would it fail to placate 'aggressive secularists' and their ilk one iota if we all began to sing from one of their hymn sheets but, more importantly, it would represent a betrayal of countless souls who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. God bless.

  • RJ

    Paul: may I recommend this article by Professor Steven A.Long


    It may address your argument about the gravity of condomistic intercourse; I also agree totally with its criticism of Fr Lombardi.

  • GFFM

    There are a couple of reasons why the secular press get things wrong. The most important reason is the media's ignorance about Church teaching and thus their lack of a moral vocabulary. Most, even editors and allegedly knowledgeable journalists know nada about why the Church teaches what it does on sexuality. The media knows virtually nothing about religion of any kind or creed. Their ignorance is clear in the case of the Pope's remarks about condoms, but it is especially evident with regard to the nature and meaning of marriage. Secondly, almost always so called journalists in search of sensationalism find the rogue Catholic prelate, cleric or nun to reinforce their misunderstanding of a papal or episcopal statement when such hit the news outlets. In America there are virtually no mainstream journalist reporting on religion who knows much about religion. What is worth noting is how the liberal press immediately try to spin Benedict's comments as some kind of new liberal reinterpretation of Church teaching when they have been criticizing him endlessly as a right wing fanatic.

  • paulpriest

    Sorry RJ but I not only disagree with Stephen Long's assessment – I'm enraged at his abuse of fundamental moral theology with dodgy references to addition of species of acts etc and throwing words like intrinsically and gravely evil for homosexual acts – when they are no such thing! The participants may be committing something gravely sinful but it's the objective moral disorder that we need to ensure we classify correctly.

    They are intrinsically morally disordered! [There's a vast difference; even though they normatively lead to grave sin; one has a recourse to being a victim of it to prevent a greater evil in the flipside of double-effect called moral dilemma - if homosexual acts were intrinsically evil one would be morally compelled to allow oneself to be killed rather than become a victim of homosexual rape. Unlike a scenario where one MUST allow oneself to be killed rather than commit an abortion or judicial murder or euthanise or other objective evil acts.

    One simply can't go round throwing one's own classifications on objective actions. For instance 'natural' contraceptivity is morally disordered [wilful omission of a couple's ability to procreate] – but marital sexual abstinence and NFP are permissible within the double effect for just cause to right action [what's frequently misnomered as a 'greater good' when there is nothing good about it i.e. ideal, perfect, a categorical imperative - it is merely right action in a creation scarred by original sin ]

    …but artificial contraception is intrinsically morally disordered [check humanae vitae - it says disordo, NOT malo] – if it were intrinsically gravely evil couples would not be allowed to use a condom in the case of assisted fertilization where a woman's birth canal was overly acidic and spermicidal – doctors can remove the sperm after lovemaking and place them past the cervix – this has been permitted since the time of Pius XII !
    If it were an intrinsic grave evil it would also forbid the CDF from saying that marriages involving vasectomies were not invalidated – and it has!

    Don't be mistaken – this has nothing to do with the personal subjective culpability and the gravity of one's own sin – this is to do with the objective classification of actions – and the normative resultant gravity of sin.
    Professor Long is indeed correct in that no action can mitigate or ameliorate an objectively evil act – the action can only be compounded or aggravated into further evil – not the other way round [ a balloon cannot be a little bit burst] ; they are absolutely forbidden and normatively gravely sinful and nothing can prevent its being evil [only and only irreconcilable 'invincible' ignorance can affect personal culpability - not the objective gravity; and remember no good intention or 'mixed' motive can vindicate or mitigate anyone aware of an evil action's depravity and proscriptivity under natural law - we are not utilitarians in any way, shape or form]

    But regrettably Professor Long mis-classifies the action itself within the hierarchy of moral [dis]order – if he was referring to judicial murder. apostasy, euthanasia or abortion and all other objective acts classified as objectively evil – his main argument would be sound.
    I hate to dismiss one so usually informed; but professor Long's second appeal to the female prostitute paradigm is absurd – in that any action by the prostitute already contravenes the natural law precedent within humanae vitae in that lovemaking must imperatively be unifying within marriage – all other considerations are axiomatically defaulted – recourse to artificial contraception is specious in alluding to the act's already being in a state of intrinsic moral disorder – the only way the use of artificial contraception's use or non-use needs to be afforded any regard is if it compounds the already present gravity –
    i.e. does a prostitute using a condom for prophylaxis for either herself or her clients prevent further aggravation of the sin ?
    do all those engaging in already gravely sinful acts of extra-marital sex who do not use prophylactics aggravate the sin by being open towards infecting others and themselves thus potentially contravening the fifth commandment?

    [remember - any appeals to contraception are a non-sequitur - an irrelevance - the act itself is already defaulted by being non-unitive and extra-marital - it is already a sin - it is a question of how much the sin is compounded by further actions - on a par with speciously asking is heterosexual adultery less a sin than homosexual adultery]

    the answer to both questions must be yes – it has nothing to do with saying the actions aren't already gravely sinful – it's to do with how much further actions can make the sin worse!

    I have no reticence in agreeing with Prof Long's assessment of Lombardi – he must go!
    But sadly Professor Long goes too far in his attempts to justify the condemnation of actions which are already condemned and do not require his miscategorisation or 'embellishments'.

  • FrHeythrop

    “They were not helped by the claims of some Catholics that Catholic teaching on sexuality was collapsing” The reality is that most Catholics in Europe and the US simply do not find the arguments used by the Church against contraception to be in any way compelling.

  • Josephsoleary

    This is quite ridiculous — the Pope made a murky and ambiguous statement, and then clarified it through his spokesman Lombardi. The condoms remark was highlighted not by secular media but by the Pope's own newspaper. The Tablet and other reputable Catholic publications take it as accepting what Catholic theologians have been saying for years, that the use of condoms as prophylactics is licit. In attacking Lombardi you come close to attacking the Pope. The Media are pretty blameless here. And your “truth is truth” mantra ignores the fact that the church hysteria about condoms among African and Filipino bishops has already caused many preventable deaths. I call that heartless.

  • Josephsoleary

    So let the sinners die of Aids, otherwise we betray their souls? You sound like a grand inquisitor burning heretics to save their souls.

  • Josephsoleary

    First, the prophylactic use of condoms has NOTHING to do with contraception. Second, it is fanaticism to see the pill wiping out nations and peoples. Third, as world population soars to incredible heights at incredible speed, the use of the pill for population control is by no means a morally contemnible idea.

  • Josephsoleary

    Yes, everybody is a fool except the diehard fanatic. For the Catholic Herald to take up a juvenile taunt about Tabletistas suggests envy of the more professional journal.

  • Josephsoleary

    Very patronising to journalists. You don't notice that the interpretation of the Pope's murky remarks that Oddie objects to comes not from liberal journalists but from Oss. Romano, Fr Lombardi, Fr James Keenan and the Tablet.

  • paul

    the pill has been around since the 60's and world population has doubled since then, so I don't think we will be 'running out' of humans very soon.

  • Anthony

    Are you being serious, Josephsoleary? The Tablet is hardly a hothouse for traditional Catholic teaching, much of its output having much more in common with the agenda of Guardianista 'liberal fascism'. (For more on that particular paradox, may I suggest you peruse Jonah Goldberg's cogent and insightful book of the same name.) Anthony

  • Anthony

    Calm down, calmdown! Joseph, your indignation is in danger of giving the impression of being unable to see the wood for the trees, such that you've hastily picked up a stick to beat me with and run off in the wrong direction…


  • Anthony

    Calm down, calmdown! Joseph, your indignation is in danger of giving the impression of being unable to see the wood for the trees, such that you've hastily picked up a stick to beat me with and run off in the wrong direction…


  • David Armitage

    A good point Josephsoleary. Aslight quibble. What's wrong with attacking the Pope? He's quite capable of looking after himself, a privilege rarely accorded to those the Vatican gets its teeth into. A personality cult has grown up around Popes, and all those basking in his reflected glory. If the Pope didn't mean what he said, then he missed a fine opportunity to remain silent. Out of the whole interview, the bit about the condom is the only one that has been misunderstood. Supposing it has all been a Machiavellian ruse to flush out contraceptive dissidents and fellow travellers.

  • David Armitage

    If Paul VI had'nt ignored the advice of of the experts he had himself convened and led the Church down a cul-de-sac, it wouldn't now be necessary to do a U turn.

  • paulpriest

    Oh Joseph the buses don't go where you live do they ?
    Thank you for the good laugh!
    You were right in one thing though – the Tablet staff are most defnitiely not journalists!

  • paulpriest

    Professional ? The Tablet??!! That's the second good laugh you've given me today.
    At least you didn't have the effrontery to claim the Tablet was Catholic.

  • louella

    The birthrate in all developed nations is well below replacement level….thanks to the Pill and its biological social and spiritual effects! And though the birthrate is now on the rise in some developed nations……that is merely due to large scale immigration of a more family orientated religious people ie mainly Muslim!

    As I said….that little pill will be the death of so many nations and cultures…..without a shot being fired.

  • louella

    That is wishfull thinking! Contraception is wiping out certain nations and people as we speak! And the ageing demographic that ensues is economically non viable! Contraception slowly stangulates every aspect of a healthy thriving nation…..and renders it weak and liable for takeover!

    The world population is forecast to dip within this century……and how on earth is an ageing global population to be considered viable! The Church was right……and only the religious and family orientated will survive the contraception epidemic!

  • paulpriest

    Oh so finally your true agenda crawled out of the woodwork.

    Let's make a few things clear shall we?
    a] The Pope's statement was neither murky nor ambiguous: It was a charitable pastoral hypothetical that the due concern towards another amidst such grave sin; [and indirectly not aggravating and compounding the sin] could potentially be a beginning to a moral awakening – the Thomistic ideal that no moral order within an intention is lost – irrespective of the depravity. The means of that moralising potential are irrelevant – they remain part of the grievous sin – what is of import is the intention potentially ameliorating the subjective sin within the motive.

    b] Lombardi DID NOT CLARIFY – rather he shamefully and scandalously alluded to others for whom condom use as prophylaxis is a tenable proposition to be discerned – something in which His Holiness will have no part. The only postulate even worthy of consideration is a theoretical 100% prophylactic which is indirectly contraceptive – something which bears NO CONGRUENCY with a condom which has an 80% effective in preventing seroconversion among serdodiscordant couples [Cochrane 2007]. Any recourse to using a condom in an hiv serodiscordant marriage is automatically forbidden as it contravenes the fifth commandment by placing one's partner at an inexcusable risk of infection – without even recourse to the proscription under humanae vitae.

    c] Your reference to the Tablet as a reputable Catholic publication reveals you as a scoundrel of the first order – a journal which has advocated abortion, euthanasia, contraception, homosexual acts ; has had constant recourse to the desacralising of sacramental grace and the dismissal of sin, has wallowed in revisionism, heresy and apostasy ; has provided and promoted dissent in furtherance of the hermeneutic of rupture and has been a defiant enemy of any Papal agenda for decades! Shame on you sir!

    d] Condoms are not prophylactic ! They merely diminish a risk of infection during an already forbidden and gravely sinful activity – they reduce a risk in an action in which it is sinful to take any risk ! To suggest that any moral theologian could declare they were licit ; is to suggest that an authentic Catholic could validly determine that risking another's health or life unnecessarily is permissible – THAT IS LUDICROUS!!! Such a position is so obscene as to be deemed diabolical in nature – it is contrary to all for which Catholicism stands – it is a monstrous crime against the Lord, the Giver of Life.

    e] Attacking Lombardi for his own personal embellishments which are in no way sourced from His Holiness is to attack him for the pig-ignorant, shameful, trouble-making renegade he is. Lombardi should be dismissed immediately for wreaking such deplorable havoc.

    f] And now we revert to your martyr fallacy – that the Catholic position on condoms has led to preventable deaths – that is a shameful scandalous lie sir ! May God forgive you !
    Please tell me where in Church teaching does it ever say that one must aggravate a sin by not diminishing a risk to one's life?
    The Church teaches that anyone who is hiv+ must NEVER engage in sexual activity again.
    The Church teaches that providing and promoting condoms rather than absolute abstinence is directly giving license to a continuance in sexual activity which should not be committed – not merely as an offence against the sixth and ninth commandments – but also against the fifth. It is , as the Holy Father said – aggravating the problem.
    If anyone chooses to go against the command of the Church to abstain – they MUST not aggravate their already grave sin – they must axiomatically reduce any risk to self or another – and that includes condom-use which will at least diminish the risk.
    Your allegation of 'heartless' is a mendacity that scandalises you for attempting to bring shame on the Church – you are basically accusing the Church of conspiracy in the homicide of others.

    You have now been informed regarding the facts and the authentic Catholic teaching on the issue ; and have an opportunity to withdraw from your calumnies and retract your statements – woe betide should any non-Catholic or uninformed Catholic be led astray by your pernicious deceptions.

  • W Oddie

    If Fr Heythrop doesn't want people to realise where he is coming from with his grossly disloyal, anti-Magisterial, “Spirit of vatican II”, sub-Jesuit (sub because today's Jesuits–mostly but with honourable exceptions–are just not worthy of their own tradition) he really ought to change his pen-name.

  • W Oddie

    I don't patronise journalists, I was one myself for far too long for that, I know the problems. And “Liberal journalists” INCLUDES the Tablet, for heaven's sake, as does, “secular journalists”. As for Osservatore Romano, this paper is no longer the voice of the Vatican but a rather amusing loose cannon; and Fr Lombardi is just not up to his job and should urgently be replaced, preferably by a loyal professional lay journalist (Peter Seewald?) and NOT a priest.

  • paulpriest

    An entrapment paradigm eh?
    As Dostoyevsky said there is nothing so pure and beautiful that cannot be debased and demeaned by the human mind…
    His Holiness reaches out to sinners and you see it as a ruse ? What afflictions led you down such a path as to arrive at such pitifully warped imaginings?

    But to answer your question regarding attacking a Pope? one may only attack a Pope to defend His Office as Keeper of the Keys – one may only do it to help him in his role as Servant of Servants, as successor to Peter ; and one may only counter him when one has the full traditional magisterial teaching authority of the Church as one's defence.
    I may attack His Holiness John Paul II's metaphysical meanderings in his 'Theology of the Body' when he struggles over the nature of ensoulment – because it is simply a false reverse induction which is not Catholic teaching – we are not ensouled bodies – we are rather embodied souls ; thus negating any unnecessary considerations of ensoulment and falling into ludicrous biological traps set out by Warnock, Pinker or Dawkins.
    I may attack Pius XII when he temporarily justified Capital Punishment on the grounds that those who had lost their humanity could be treated accordingly ; because I have the full teaching of the Church from the councils of Arles, Quiercy, Nancy,Valencia and Trent that it is impossible for any sin to annihilate human dignity – and thus also falls the arguments of Innocent III against the Cathars and Leo X against the Lutherans.
    Throughout the Millennia many saints and scholars have challenged the Pope to be more Papal.
    St Paul attacked St Peter in defence of St Peter's role…we are only compelled to do so in such a way; in the same way I might challenge our Bishops to live up to and defend their Apostolic mandate and their consecrated duties and responsibilities.

    But I do not think that was what you were asking – I think you are not so much asking as what's wrong with attacking the Pope ? I think you are asking what's wrong with attacking the Papacy and all for which it stands?
    Answer : Everything – for you are wilfully defying the promises of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit!

  • paulpriest

    You're a liar and a scoundrel sir – appealing to a martyr/underdog fallacy.

  • paulpriest

    Oh make your collaboration with the culture of death complete – why don't you ?!!!

    Population control not morally contemptible?
    More like diabolical – a direct defiance against a God who gave you the grace of life you wish to deprive from others ?

    Shame on you sir!

  • paulpriest

    There will be no U-turn as you suggest.
    The Catholic teaching inherent within humanae vitae is not merely an aspect of Universal Divine Revelation through a reasoned appeal to Natural law ; it is very much an aspect of the Gospel of Life and Love Revealed to us in the Person of Christ via His very Incarnation; let alone His teachings of man and woman becoming spiritually one flesh.
    Paul VI could not have advocated artifical contraception – for it would be in defiance to the Law of God.

  • paulpriest

    How can you look yourself in the mirror – or your neighbour in the eye – when you declare that some do not deserve to exist?

  • paul

    I don't believe people should be forced to have families if they don't want to, what exactly is the benefit of unwanted children? Countries with larger families enjoy a much worse standard of living, and I don't see how it makes the child cherished and loved as it should be if it is not wanted. Although it is the case that more developed countries are on the cusp of not keeping a total replacement rate it is still very close, with 60 million Britons up 20 million since the end of WW2.
    As it stands even in terms of food production, we are not, nor could be self-sustaining, and world population is another matter, do we really want a planet in which not enough food can be grow to feed the world?

  • paul

    Population control, as voluntary measure to decide for yourself how many children you would like to bring up and love. You talk about it like some kind of sick genocide, but all it produces is happier families with a higher standard of living and more free time. You seem to be saying that every opportunity you get to create a child is missed you have somehow denied life to somebody.

    Following this logic the only moral thing would be for couples to be constantly pro-creating in order to produce the most new life. 20, 30, 100 children or more, which is most acceptable to you. Are you suggesting that the Church suggests a minimum family size as a moral standard?

  • paul

    use your brain

  • RJ

    Catholics are not committed to holding that couples must have as many children as possible, but they should avoid using means of family planning which are intrinsically disordered. These are objectively harmful to them and their relationship.

  • EditorCT

    Elephant in the Room, W Oddie, would have been a more appropriate headline for this article.

    Look. Pope Benedict got it wrong. You cannot blame the secular media and ignorant Catholic media for jumping to the correct conclusion. Because that is what they did.

    Put simply: the Pope said it was sometimes permissible to do something evil. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

    This nonsense about a difference between doctrine and pastoral care is just that, nonsense.

    What “pastoral care” should a priest give any sinner? Should he EVER say “don't worry, do the lesser evil?” or “You must draw on God's grace to stop this sin?”

    I find it curious that, for all the babble – including that of the Clifford-Dissident-Longleys of this world that you people in the Catholic press are quoting, none of you have cited the ONLY truly Catholic analysis of the Pope's words – and the only exhortation to him in print, to correct his error.

    Oops – it's from those “schismatic” SSPX folk! Can't possibly be right, eh?
    Check it out…/

  • EditorCT

    Then, let them stop calling themselves Catholics. Simple as that.

    Anyone who does not find God's moral law “compelling” should settle down for the rest of their lives to prepare a clear explanation of their position to present at their private judgment. And folk like me, us simple souls who took Christ at His word when He bequesthed His own authority to His Church to teach on faith and morals, will be very interested to hear it at the General Judgment as well.

    So let these arrogant souls take themselves off to some desert island and get their not-so-giant brains to work to see if they can create a more compelling moral law than God's law. I'm not holding my breath.

  • EditorCT

    The media got it right. The Pope said what they reported. The Pope got it wrong. Read this very clear and totally Catholic response. The ONLY response that is accurate and true.…/

  • EditorCT

    Exactly. People who bought his book and read the Pope's own words can see clearly that he said what he said. It is acceptable, as a first step to morality, for the groups specified to use condoms. What's the problem with these people who are afraid to acknowledge that fact?

  • EditorCT

    And what about the Pope who sees fit to inform the world and the Church of a “development” (no way!) in Catholic sexual morality via a casual interview with a journalist?


  • EditorCT

    There should be no difference between doctrinal truth and pastoral truth. This is a liberal red herring now jumped on by the desperate “orthodox” who think, wrongly, that it is impossible for a pope to err in his teaching on faith or morals.

  • EditorCT

    Can you explain this to me, W Oddie?

    If I confess to murdering someone, what “pastoral discourse” should there be? Here's the script. Fill in the blanks…

    EditorCT – Bless me Father… it is a week since my last confession. Since then I lost my temper and murdered my next door neighbour.

    Priest –

  • EditorCT


    It is hilarious to describe The Tablet as a “reputable” Catholic publication – the truth is that in the mainstream Catholic media there are NO truly reputable publications. Even the Herald has published another ridiculous article by a priest on the condoms fiasco. Yet no report of this – the best analysis there is…/

    But don't you go getting all mixed up, chum. The Church's teaching on purity and chastity has SAVED countless lives. Condoms are not reliable so even if the Church did permit them (which She doesn't, this pope's private views are an aberration and will be condemned as such in due course) that would not save lives. I once spoke to a doctor at an inservice course on the subject and pointed this out to him. He smiled and said “yes, but if we tell the youngsters that, they won't use them.”

    So, stop being a sucker. Look at the facts. Who do you think has the best interests of humanity at heart – that unconscionable doctor and his colleagues worldwide, or Christ's Church?

  • paulpriest


  • paulpriest

    Scandalous that you should attempt to create scandal where there is none.
    I'm sorry Ma'am but it's your actions which are disgraceful.