The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

On condoms: “Evolution, not revolution”

That’s one reaction to the weekend’s headline-grabbing news. From the Christian Science Monitor:

Vatican officials are insisting that Pope Benedict’s new remarks on condoms are not a change in church teaching on contraception. But initial reaction in Europe and among Roman Catholics here is that the first papal acknowledgment of condom use is an important “evolution of theology” and a “liberation” from a church position that many of the Catholic faithful struggle to defend.

Secular Europe is a region that Pope Benedict views as critical to rebuilding Roman Catholicism. The pope’s notice of acceptable condom use in some cases, such as by male prostitutes, may be a technically narrow shift; the pope also stated that “fixating on condoms is a trivialization of sexuality.”


But given the Vatican’s more conservative direction under Benedict, this is being read as a shift from negative to positive language on matters related to sexual behavior – at a time when the public image of the church in Europe is badly damaged over priestly child abuse scandals in Ireland, Germany, and Belgium.

Catholic bishops in Europe noted Monday that the previous pontiff, John Paul II, had never spoken of condoms, and praised Benedict for his courage in doing so.

“It is an evolution, not a revolution,” argues Xavier Lacroix, a theologian at Catholic University in Lyon, France. “I observe a change of vocabulary … using words that belong to a positive realm, not only the typical ‘lesser evil.’ ”


Michel Sidib√©, director of the United Nations’s AIDS program, described it as a “significant and positive step forward.”

Yet some grassroots Catholic reform groups say papal comment allowing a man to use a condom in certain odd cases does not address any core change.

“If the pope says you can now wear pink shoes instead of red shoes, the public will be ecstatic,” says Sigrid Grabmeier, spokeswoman for “We are Church,” which was formed in Germany and Austria in protest of severe priestly child abuse cases and which advocates equality for women in the church. “But this step, or idea of a step, is not a change in attitude or in the mind of the church.”

Read on.

Comments read comments(10)
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Deacon John C. Pettorino

posted November 22, 2010 at 3:26 pm

This article leaves me in the dark as much as any of the other media announcement. We need some assistance since people are asking us to explain the pope’s statement. The who what where which and when are all very unclear.

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posted November 22, 2010 at 3:35 pm

The article raises some interesting points, but it is really not very helpful because it reduces comments made by the pope on a variety of matters to soundbites that don’t really give the essence of what he has said.
I think that we will all just have to read the book for ourselves.
Amy Welborn, who has read it has a good take on the overarching theme of the book.

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posted November 22, 2010 at 6:20 pm

What he said is, if you are a male prostitute with AIDS and you use a condom it’s better than not using one.
In other words, he didn’t say anything that applies to a lot of us, but still it’s something.

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posted November 22, 2010 at 6:33 pm

He used the word “condom” in a positive form, not a negative one (don’t use it because it prevents pregnancy) albeit in using male prostitutes as an acceptable use.

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Robert C

posted November 22, 2010 at 7:10 pm

I think he was quite clear.

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posted November 22, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Name: Mark

posted November 23, 2010 at 2:21 am

Although strongly agreeing with Fr John also ; I find his ‘disagreement’ with His Holiness somewhat amphibolic and specious.

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posted November 23, 2010 at 2:32 am


posted November 23, 2010 at 9:11 am

Grumpy Old Person

posted November 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Robert C,
You may well “think he was quite clear”. Strange then, that this one blog item alone (along with comments) reference 5 explanatory links that do not agree with one another. And, this blog post is Deacon Greg’s fourth (possibly fifth – I’ve lost count) trying to explain what the Pope meant. There’s also at least 5 other bloggers just here on Beleifnet alone, again along with the attendant comments – and they ALL seem to if not disagree then certainly to be at odds with each other. Then, of course, there’s the rest of the WORLD WIDE media that do not seem to agree with one another on the interpretation.
“Clear”??? Seems to be anything BUT.
Typical, sadly. Maybe the Pope could joinn Toastmasters for some tips on clearer communication.

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