Action Alert!

a failure of hope

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 29, 2010

The Diocese of Albany, New York, is not giving out condoms. After reading today's top CWN headline story, I don't know why not. 

The argument for distributing clean syringes is essentially the same as the argument for distributing condoms: It's no use arguing against pre-marital sex or illegal drug use; people are going to do these things anyway. We might as well help them stay alive.

By giving out needles (or condoms), we give people a superficial sense of security while they engage in acts that are demeaning, destructive, and gravely sinful. We're sending the message that we doubt they can help themselves-- and thereby discouraging them from trying. We're telling them that we don't think they're capable of overcoming their impulses or their addictions. We're saying that the die is cast; they are-- for now, at least-- beyond the point at which they can turn their lives around. It's bad enough when this message comes from the government. But when it comes from the Church-- the institution that exists solely to offer people the prospect of redemption-- it's especially deadly.

Everyone knows that the Catholic Church disapproves of fornication and drug abuse. By giving people the means to engage in these activities with a bit less physical risk, we're telling them, essentially: "We've given up on you. We know you can't make the right choice. We're just trying to keep your body sound, because spiritually you're a lost cause." 

If this is charity, I want no part of it. To me it seems more like the sin against the Holy Spirit: the decision that there are some situations in which no virtuous act is possible, or some souls that are beyond salvation. 


Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: geardoid - Jan. 29, 2010 5:58 PM ET USA

    The Church distributing condoms is even worse than giving out clean needles, since sexuality is always a matter of moral choices (while drug addictions may not be). The fault is in the ethic of ends justifying means. It's not even as if the 'justification' of prophylaxis from STDs is well established over and above the tendency of 'safe sex' messages to promote STD spread. But even if it were, disordered means which are intrinsically contraceptive are unjustified.