Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

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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