Wednesday, 24 November 2010

'Pandora' Pope Can Restore Our Hope

Rorate Caeli, instead of combing exhaustively (as many of us have) through the Holy Father's words on condoms in his interview for Light of the World, and leaping to his defence/calling for his head, has posted a rather beautiful illustration of Pandora opening the box.

Obviously that's what some Catholics think. With 61 comments and counting, there are some absolutely scathing 'anonymous' comments about the Holy Father's remarks, so it just goes to show that traditional Catholics can do nasty cowardice too.

Anyone would have thought that His Holiness had just gone on a visit to the Holy Land and blown up the Church of the Nativity. The key accusation, levelled at the Successor of St Peter, that springs out from the page, is 'imprudent', a word used by one or two commentators.

The dust will settle. I don't think many brothels around the World tonight are throwing Pope parties and ordering in stack loads of assorted condoms now that they've finally been given 'permission' from the Holy Father. Neither do I believe that Catholic married couples who've been using NFP for the past decade and going to ditch it and embrace the enchanting world of nocturnal rubberised clinches.

His comments do not change Church teaching and what is more I do not believe for a second that Church teaching in this area will change, by a single jot. Since the Church cannot err in matters of Faith and Morals, the idea that what the Church has taught on the transmission of human life and contraception will, after 40 years of definitively not erring, suddenly err in Her Infallible Teaching, is ridiculous. The Church cannot err in these matters for even a single day since the Holy Spirit guides the Church 'into all truth'. We shall see whether the Holy Father has been 'imprudent', or not. I, for one, do not believe that Pope Benedict XVI has 'sold out' the Faith in order to appeal to the World.

His book, however, might be another story and sell out quicker than mince pies this Christmas! As Fr Tim Finigan has mentioned, the good thing is that the global media's reporting of the comments broke the richter-scale measuring machine for news stories of seismic proportions. The Holy Father might sell a lot of books worldwide and be able, through his words, on this and many other subjects, in his thoroughly compassionate, intelligent and humane way, connect with men and women in a way in which he hitherto could not and, indeed, Pope John Paul II could not.

Pope Benedict XVI is still the 'humble worker in the vineyard' that he expressed his desire to be at the very beginning of his Pontificate. For those Catholics gravely concerned or even deeply angry at Benedict XVI's words, remember that Hope didn't fly away when Pandora opened the box. Condoms are something of a 'stumbling block' for a World obsessed with both sex and condoms. The Holy Father is dealing with a whole generation largely dependent, utterly perhaps, on contraceptives, both barrier-based and medicinally taken. Talking about it is bold and courageous.

People expect the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, on being asked a question about condoms, to say something terribly fierce, negative and condemnatory. It didn't happen and this is perhaps why....

The Holy Father surprised many of his critics in the UK by his personal warmth, obvious holiness, intellectual and moral bravery and genuine humility. His visit was marked as much by what he did not say, as what he did. Did the Holy Father, during his time in the United Kingdom, mention even once, condoms, homosexuality or abortion? No. Pope Benedict XVI stressed time and time again that we are men and women, and indeed children, in search of Truth, that we were made to seek the face of God, that we long for Him and that He, too, longs for us. Even to schoolchildren, Benedict XVI did not say, "Don't be naughty," he said something along the lines of, "Christ wants you to become Saints." The Holy Father is not just fully aware of the moral evils of contraception, in no way sees condoms as the 'real or moral solution' to the problem of HIV and Aids, His Holiness knows well that only God can satisfy the hearts of 21st century man and woman.

Ultimately, at this time, when the sins of the Church have flown right out of the box in the wake of the abuse scandals, the Church's vision of humanity, nurtured and emboldened by Her vision of God is not shown to men and women by a Pontiff decrying condoms from the Vatican, insulated and safe from the miseries of the World; its poverty, destitution, disease and the sins of those outside its walls.

The Church's vision of humanity, emboldened and nourished by Her vision of God, is shown, consistently, by a humble and holy Vicar of Jesus Christ who tells us that 'only Jesus Christ can make you happy.' This is what he seems to say everywhere he goes. To the male or female prostitute, or indeed absolutely anyone, the Holy Father explains that only knowing, loving and serving God can make you happy in this life and the one to come. Only Jesus Christ can make you happy. Only Jesus Christ offers you Life and a 'peace that the World cannot give'. Only Jesus Christ offers you Divine Love and Truth. Only Jesus Christ offers us a way out of our misery and our sins and our valueless vision of sex and wilful ignorance of the dignity of the human person. The only 'real and moral solution' to HIV, Aids, is Jesus Christ.

The only solution to every moral question of the day is Jesus Christ. This is not what he says just to the prostitute (regardless of his/her gender or sexuality) but to all of us! The Church contains every kind of sinner.  To every kind of sinner, Pope Benedict XVI says, "God wants you to know Him and love Him and serve Him in His Church". Only Jesus Christ offers you Hope and He, yes, He is still 'in the box'!


Colin said...

Hi Laurence - i think you're completely right to observe that 'not many brothels will be throwing pope parties' (interpreting this to mean free will either does or does not incline to vice, people do not wait for sanction) - the problem I have with an awful lot of the coverage on what might be called the cathblogosphere (!) is the contradictory nature of the comments. People seem to simultaneously hold that (i) it doesn't matter what the Pope says as people were using condoms anyway and will do as they please, and (ii) the Pope's comments, though ambiguous, represent a grave threat to the 'innocent/imperilled/naive' etc Catholic family. I mean, if we are all agreed as rational adults that, even for practising Catholics, the comments of the HF still don't add up to a whole hill of beans (not that I mean we ignore him, but that 'we', that is all humans, are born sinners and will always lapse), then why are people so worried about what he said? Either what he says does influence conduct, in which case there are good practical reasons to assume he must act for the common good, or they do not, in which case we can all pipe down

The Bones said...

Many, many, Catholic families are already contracepting, Bro and have been for quite some time.

Colin said...

Yes, but that would add further to my point. Of course - if Catholics are already using contraception (something like 98% according to most surveys) then why are people in such a funk over the Pope's remarks? Yes, we know that decades of absolute prohibition haven't shaped bevahiour one iota. Ok, then why are people so upset that a Papal sea change might corrupt the innocent? Who are these innocent if we already accept no one is influenced by doctrine anyway! Just saying - it can't be both ways

Tom Piatak said...

An excellent commentary.

catholic pragmatist said...

Archbishop Nicholl's spokesperson has today confirmed that the press's reporting of the pope's comments have been a 'fair reflection'. Sounds like he also feels the comments that dondom use may be morally to prevent disease transmission in certain circumstances is applicable to both male and female sexual activity within or outside marriage. It is the only logical stance that can be taken.

The Bones said...

That would not 'reflect' too well on the Archbishop, but then, lets face it, with Connexions running the 'health and welfare' of children in Catholic schools so efficiently under his watch, it would hardly be surprising.

Jonathan Marshall said...

Excellent post, Laurence - and what a great picture.


Anonymous said...

good article in this week's Tablet discussing how the pope's condom comments vindicate the ABC approach taken by CAFOD and caritas.

Its sounding mora and more like the pope knew very well what he was doing, and his intention was to silent the growing criticsm among the catholic-right against most of the catholic charity sector's more pastoral approach on these issues.

go and have a good read, it'll give you something else to rant about!

epsilon said...

An excellent post, Lawrence.

Absolutely spot on!

Rational Catholic said...

non-sensical rant, as always.

The Only Safe Space in the World

Virus normalcy, the so-called 'new normal', is for Christians almost certainly more abhorrent than it is for people of other reli...