Basically, there are four kinds of people who have their reasons for using condoms. First, there are physically healthy married couples, who use them to avoid a pregnancy. Second, there are married couples, one of whom has AIDS or another sexually transmitted disease, who use them in the hope that the healthy spouse will not get infected. Third, there are the unmarried couples who use them to avoid a pregnancy or STDs. Fourth, there are homosexuals who use them as a protection from AIDS or various other STDs that are the result of sodomy.
The furor that is being unleashed against the pope for his comment regarding the use of condoms, and the whole “safe sex” illusion that goes with it, is coming almost totally from those who would defend all four of these immoral behaviors. But the Holy Father is also getting criticism from many bishops within the Church, such as the three Portuguese bishops who came out jointly yesterday to oppose the pope’s teaching. One of these (appointed by Benedict), Bishop Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente of Porto, said that the use of condoms by persons with AIDS is “not only recommendable” but also “can be ethically obligatory.”
What is missing on the Catholic side, even the papal supportive Catholic side, in this media brouhaha is the affirmation that any use of condoms is offensive to God and contrary to the natural law, even when they are used in the second situation listed above. The sexual act between married couples must always be open to life. If it is frustrated by any willful interference with the natural process, then , so too, is the primary purpose of marriage being frustrated. This is a sin. And sin, and sin alone, is offensive to God.
What is not being said is that sin is a worse evil than a physical evil. “Death rather than sin” was the motto of Saint Dominic Savio. Sometimes God sends physical evil as a chastisement for men’s habitual commission of moral evil. But these chastisements – be they the biological maladies resultant upon violations the natural law, natural catastrophes, famines, war, or direct divine punishments (the Flood) – are permitted or sent by God in order to motivate man to do penance, so his soul can be healed.
In a world obsessed with sexual deviance, our Holy Father was calling upon Africa to rise above the real enemy, the propagators of promiscuity who are out to exploit them, especially western health organizations.
Lucetta Scaraffia, writing on the subject for the Vatican paper, L’Osservatore Romano, pointed out that, ironically, even “World Health Organization studies show that the most effective anti-AIDS campaigns in Africa have been based on efforts to promote abstinence and fidelity in sexual relations.”
She asserted confidently that this fact has been quietly accepted in the scientific community, but that the “legend” continues about condoms saving Africa from AIDS. You can read Catholic News Services’ account of her very informative article here. Other articles providing testimony from African doctors and health care workers can be read here and here.
I think, also, that the pope, in the few words that he said on a plane in answer to a question, was even more concerned with the everlasting consequences of a prophylactic culture. What comes to mind immediately, and is implicit in the Church’s condemnation of all sins against the sixth commandment, is a very maternal message given to three children in 1917, a message that needs to be echoed from the Church’s pulpits more strongly than ever: “More souls go to hell,” warned Our Lady at Fatima, “for sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”