LT on Martini: nice guy, but a duffer

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 06, 2006

Sandro Magister's blog quotes last Tuesday's interview on Colombian television with Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who affectionately but unambiguously declared his fellow Cardinal, Carlo Maria Martini, mistaken in his recent comments about condoms and abortions, and generally out of his depth on issues of bioethics. An excerpt:

Lopez Trujillo says he's a friend of Martini and that he holds him in high regard. But on issues of bioethics he considers him an incompetent: "It's not his field. He's always concerned himself with the Bible. In the bioethical field he gave voice to personal opinions not found in the Magisterium."

On the question of the condom ban, Lopez Trujillo affirmed that no exceptions are countenanced, not even the one adduced by Martini: that of a married couple where the husband has AIDS.

As for abortion -- and Martini's declaration that an abortion procured by a mother whose life was "seriously threatened" by the fetus was "legitimate self-defense and a lesser evil" -- Cardinal Lopez Trujillo replied: "That notion can only be explained by an error in the transcript. I mean to ask Martini, through the proper channels, if that statement of his is genuine."

Hm. Martini used to teach text criticism. I wonder if he'd consider resort to the "transcription error" excuse to be a lesser evil, or perhaps a case of legitimate self-defense. You have to love LT's exit line, in which he must be pictured meaningfully slapping a length of pipe into his palm:

"The next time [Martini] comes to Rome I shall certainly demand an explanation of the transcript and I shall certainly get the happy news that some of his statements were misunderstood."

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  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2006 11:20 AM ET USA

    jbrown629, having no axe to grind since I defend & obey teaching on contraception, a forum allows for exploring challenging questions that could not even be conceived, long ago. We might cite Onan’s case for the importance of “completion of the act”. But WHY cannot the later-emphasized unitive aspect TAKE PRECEDENCE over mechanical “natural structure” when UNUSUAL FORCES like DEADLY AIDS is present? I don’t see DISRESPECT for structure in the AIDS context. Consider only idealized no-leak condoms

  • Posted by: jbrown629 - May. 07, 2006 10:02 PM ET USA

    The Catholic moral tradition, beginning in ancient times, consistently affirms that each and every marital act must be 'integral', that is, it must be per se "apt for generation". This corresponds to the truth that there is a natural structure to our nature created by God which is to be respected. Even for an infertile couple, or post fertility married persons, there is an obligation to respect the structure of the act. It is designed to have a procreative aspect, which is not condomistic

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 5:33 PM ET USA

    Thank you, Centurion, for responding. Your comment “Medically pin point a time when no conception can take place. A moralist might look favorably on condom use then” - raises a question. It is whether the unitive aspect of the sex act would admit of this unusual combination: ‘ideal’ condom use in the “test case” being considered. Assuming the couple is honorable & not SEEKING an incomplete act, then God may allow the unitive benefit? Could pre-AIDS theology have made too-unqualified assumptions?

  • Posted by: - May. 07, 2006 2:00 PM ET USA

    One can't prescind from the moral standing of the sex act. Using a condom for any other supposed benefit rather than procreation does not mitigate the occasion of its seriousness. Blocking sperm is not a by-product of the act; it is a direct act. One might claim blocking aids is the purpose of the act, but that can't be done without preventing the natural completing of the act. Medically pin point a time when no conception can take place. A moralist might look favorably on condom use then.

  • Posted by: - May. 06, 2006 11:45 PM ET USA

    I don’t see BenedictXVI responding to a hypothetical - like a leak-proof condom - for possible legitimate (?) use for the “test case” of interest: “a married couple where the husband has AIDS”. However, I also don’t clearly see why such a married couple could not, in principle, use a ‘perfect’ condom. The guidance I’m seeking is a showing (by someone) that the unitive aspect of marriage CANNOT allow such use. The couple is not using the barrier to dodge conception. So, what is the MORAL barrier?

  • Posted by: Gil125 - May. 06, 2006 5:51 PM ET USA

    Is Cardinal Lopez being completely candid? He certainly knows Cardinal Martini better than I do, but I have followed him a little bit and don't find the things he is quoted as saying at all uncharacteristic.