The Pope and Condoms: Rutten’s Wrong

Ten days ago, on December 2, I sent the following letter to the Keene Sentinel. They’ve not seen fit to publish it yet, so I decided to put it here on our web site. The original L.A. Times column was headlined, “The condom conundrum,” but the Sentinel called it “What the Pope said about condoms.”

To the Sentinel:

Tim Rutten’s December 1 Op-Ed column, “What the Pope said about condoms” was terribly off base. It is absurd for him to claim that Pope Benedict’s comments about condoms “push church [sic] doctrine a good bit further than traditionalists want to acknowledge.” The Holy Father’s comments “pushed” Church doctrine exactly nowhere. The Church’s teaching remains now what it always has been. The Pope did not, and cannot, change infallible Catholic dogma on this or any other subject. Contraception is a grave offense against the Law of God and its deliberate use constitutes mortal sin. One mortal sin is sufficent to damn someone forever to hell.

Pope Benedict was discussing the morals of a prostitute. Now, along with the entire Church, the current Vicar of Christ certainly regards prostitution as morally reprehensible. Specifically, the acts associated with it constitute grave matter which, if unconfessed and unrepented of, will lead one to hell. Firmly grounded in this traditional doctrine of the Church, the Holy Father went on to speculate about the psychological dispositions of one deeply entrenched in a life of sin. For such a one, the Roman Pontiff speculated, the use of a condom “can be a first step in the direction of a moralization.” He did not call condom use “justified,” “permitted,” “sanctioned,” “allowed,” or even “tolerated.” He reiterated that its use is immoral. Similarly, murderers, robbers, rapists, and other violent criminals might have a certain first glimmer of moral reckoning even while they continue to commit serious violations of the moral and civil law. This faint dawning of a moral sense does not justify their criminal acts, but it could mark the beginning of a complete reform of life.

Mr. Rutten’s claim that the Church’s teaching on contraception constitutes a “moral disaster” is a perfect example of what Isaiah the Prophet condemned as “calling evil good and good evil.” The real moral disaster is the hedonistic attitude the world takes toward sex, as exemplified in Mr. Rutten’s championing of contraception. God gave us our sexual powers to be exercised exclusively within the context of matrimony, which is a sacrosanct bond between one man and one woman, so that loving parents might bring forth offspring with whom they will share their love. Those who violate this order of things voluntarily bring upon themselves all manner of maladies, spiritual, psychological, and medical.

On this issue as on so many, the Catholic Church alone upholds both God’s Law and the true happiness of the human person.