spanish shell game

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 20, 2005

The Spanish Bishops' Conference has issued a clarification of their spokesman's statement on condom use and everything is now perfectly ... vague.

The clarification does not claim Fr. Martínez Camino was misquoted, but says his remarks to journalists should be understood in the light of the Catholic teaching that condom use entails an immoral act. We are told that responsible and moral sexual activity is the only advisable (aconsejable) way to avoid disease, but the statement stops short of saying it is the only permissible way.

I hope I'm reading this all wrong, that there's a misunderstanding somewhere in the story that, once cleared up, will leave Catholic teaching intact and untarnished. But it seems to me that the Spanish bishops are saying: "We insist that condom use is always and everywhere immoral -- however, immorality can be a responsible 'option of last resort' as part of a governmental campaign against AIDS."

The UK Telegraph has a piece on the controversy in which the concession is ludicrously framed as high drama (Spanish bishops defy Vatican over anti-Aids condoms) but which goes on to suggest that there's a more pedestrian explanation at bottom -- appeasement in the face of threatened loss of subsidies:

The Spanish Church has been at loggerheads with the Socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the prime minister, since it came to power last March and introduced a host of social reforms opposed by the bishops.

The row resulted in a stand-off after the government said it would cut the current financial arrangement by which the Church receives substantial state support.

The new Church stance on the use of condoms appears to be designed to appease the government as it is a radical departure from the Church's last pronouncement on the subject.

IF this reading is correct -- and I have no grounds beyond the Telegraph's conjecture to believe it is -- the debacle degenerates into ordinary farce, a variant of the "faithless lover" comedy. By saying loudly (to the faithful) that "we stand where we've ever stood" and quietly (to the socialist government) "we can do business," the bishops find themselves exposed to the ridicule of both -- once the love notes fall into the wrong hands.

Moral: no man can serve two mistresses, either.

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 23, 2005 12:28 AM ET USA

    You MIGHT be able to argue that, like the acceptance of using the Pill for medical reasons other than preventing pregnancy, the use of a condom within marriage with the intent of preventing disease (and not the intent of preventing pregnancy) could fall under double effect...if the condom were actually substantially effective at preventing the transmission of the disease, and not some form of HIV roulette, AND if there weren't a much more effective and totally licit way to prevent infection.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2005 4:08 PM ET USA

    hUMPTY dUMPTY thinks that a husband with HIV -- if he got it without any sexual act being involve, e.g., by blood infection -- could use a condom and still have authetic marital intercourse with his wife. Recently at least one excellent and authentically Catholic moralist has tried to make that case. I find it very questionable, but a welcome effort which deserves a fair hearing. The Church's magisterial authority at this time has neither accepted it nor rejected it. -- OLD GUY

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2005 3:56 PM ET USA

    Altar Boy rightly notes that Humanae Vitae teaches that it is wrong to violate "the conjugal act" by the use of contraception. The problem is that what non-married persons are not involved in "the conjugal act." As John Paul II has pointed out, the physical aspect of "the conjugal act" is only one of the necessary components of "the conjugal act." The other component is the basic committment of real married devotion and love. Without that component basically present, no "conjugal act"!-EJB

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2005 3:45 PM ET USA

    All sexual acts outside marriage are phony counterfeits for authentic marital intercourse. It is wrong to allow a child to be conceived this way. If a counselor sincerely tries but fails to dissuade a person from such acts, he does not necessarily promote a greater evil by advising condom use. However, if his intention were to undermine moral norms, or if such counseling contributes to massive sexual abuse, that would be wrong. These are the true problems in promoting condom use for teens. PNG

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2005 3:08 PM ET USA

    The true meaning of the Church's rejection of contraception showed itself more clearly than ever in the early 1960s when Cathoilc doctors in the Belgian Congo administered very strong, non-abortifacient, anti-conception drugs to nuns and nurses there in danger of rape. Vatican authorities calmly accepting this defensive action. It helped us see that the Church condemns contraception as a violation of the one and only authentic marital act -- not as a defense against some sad caricature of it.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 21, 2005 4:15 PM ET USA

    In a faithful marriage, either spouse can be infected with AIDS via a blood transfusion, or exposure to contaminated bodily fluids via scratches, etc. Hence the use of a condom, in these circumstances, is "to protect against disease," and does not contaminate recent Church teachings. AMDG

  • Posted by: - Jan. 21, 2005 10:23 AM ET USA

    The Catholic Church in Spain is under heavy attack by the new Socialist govt.--no one expected it to be otherwise, & this is just the beginning. However, just as here in the U.S. with the re-election of GWBush, it will be the faithful of Spain who will determine at the ballot box whether their country will retain its traditional Christian character & traditions. Unfortunately, that won't be happening for another half-decade, so the Church must gird for battle, rather than opt for waffling.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Jan. 21, 2005 9:42 AM ET USA

    The act under consideration is not a conjugal act, that is within marriage. In a faithful marriage there is no need to worry about AIDS. The act we are talking about is either fornacation or sodomy by vicious persons who do not have the will power to abstain from sex. It seems that Martinez Camino was tripped up talking about such circumstances where moral theologians have various points of view and some conservative, orthodox moralist using the priniple of the mal menor accept condom use.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 20, 2005 1:26 PM ET USA

    "To justify conjugal acts made intentionally infecund, one cannot invoke as valid reasons the lesser evil... " (Humanae Vitae, #14) What could be clearer for the Spaniards? Regardless of intention, condom use is forbidden. Should the couple be married, they commit sin in using a condom. Should they be fornicators, or participants in a perverse sex act, they commit sin, and condom use compounds the evil. Either way, condom use—to prevent conception or the transmission of an STD—is a sin.