No apology needed

What do you want from this column? One of the advantages of Second Sight Blog is that I get enough feedback to make a judgment. And one topic which is popular is apologetics. This is perhaps because the media is so full of anti-Catholic propaganda that readers need information to explain matters to their friends. And others would just like the facts for their own peace of mind. A good example of this is provided by the Pope’s statement, when he visited  Cameroon, that condoms are not the answer to HIV. Although he said this last March, the clamour gets louder as the Pope’s visit approaches.

That does not surprise me. If condoms are effective in preventing HIV/Aids, it must follow that an increased use of condoms will leads to a reduction in infection. Only someone as doctrinaire as the Pope or as brain-washed as a Catholic could believe otherwise. So let’s have a quiz.

1) Are condoms really effective in checking the transmission of the Aids virus in sexual congress?

2) Does the Church forbid the use of barrier contraceptives in all circumstances?

3) Is the Pope correct in saying that condoms are not the solution to the Aids epidemic in Africa?

Just pause and think about your answers before reading on.

The answer to Question 1 is yes. Several studies considered by the World Health Organisation of “always” condom users showed a transmission rate of one for every 100 person years, compared with seven for non-condom users. That is a very high level of protection.

This may raise an eyebrow. Did not Cardinal Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, say that condoms were a very unreliable protection against transmission?

Indeed he did. He simply declined to accept the established scientific evidence. That was a matter for his conscience. In addition, it is important to remember that condoms must be used correctly and invariably. They must also be of good quality and in good condition.

The answer to the second question is no. The Church’s teaching on artificial contraception is based on the total giving of oneself, and one’s faculties, in the physical expression of marriage. She makes no statement about the use of contraceptives outside marriage; and that would equally apply to homosexual acts.

This puts us into the position of having to make up our own minds. It seems clear to me that to fornicate while choosing to risk an unwanted pregnancy or the transmission of serious disease multiplies the sin as an offence against love. I am aware that some people hold that because two sins would be involved, the offence is doubled. Fortunately God is not an accountant : his criterion is not mathematics but love.

The answer to the third question is yes. The Pope’s statement was entirely in accord with the latest scientific evidence. It would have saved an enormous amount of newsprint, and – sadly – scandal, had he made this clear at the time.

The confusion arises because in Sub-Saharan Africa HIV/Aids is a pandemic. It is not confined to discrete groups where a well-motivated and dedicated campaign of condom use might have good results. It is too widespread for that.

There are some endemic difficulties in several African countries which interfere with the effectiveness of condoms. One of these is that there is a macho anti-condom culture, but more importantly there is a habit of multiple sexual partners. Edward C Green (a social anthropologist from the Harvard School of Public Health with no objection to condoms in principle) says: “These ongoing multiple concurrent sex partnerships resemble a giant, invisible web of relationships through which HIV/Aids spreads. A study in Malawi showed that even though the average number of sexual partners was only slightly over two, fully two-thirds of this population was interconnected through such networks of overlapping, ongoing relationships.” In Cameroon, where the Pope made his statement, the incidence of HIV is four times as high for women with three or more partners, compared to those with one partner. Green also notes that the enormous efforts at condom distribution over long periods of time have had no limiting effect on the spread of infection.

In fact, the only campaigns which have shown any success are those focused on the chaste sexual habits which happen to have been championed by the Catholic Church. This does not mean that condoms have no value; they have been useful in reducing infection stemming from the sex industry. But it should be noted here that the Church has had no reason to make a ruling on this – see Question 2. For the sake of completeness here I should mention that male circumcision also has a significant effect on the reduction of transmission.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) does, however, have a duty to make a ruling on the lawfulness of infected married couples using condoms, since doubts on the issue have been raised at the most senior clerical levels. It’s awkward, of course. Either it doesn’t know (and uncertain laws don’t bind); or it is not prepared to admit that the principle of deriving unconditional imperatives from the structure of human acts is faulty; or it is terrified of stating publicly that its rules are more important than human lives.

The failure to give an answer after so many years (see Vatican Notebook, February 12) raises once again the question of the use or misuse of authority. Since human life and the stability of marriage are the issues at stake here the failure to respond is a serious cause of scandal.

But you may be able to explain better than I why the CDF has neglected this question. I look forward to hearing your views on

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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50 Responses to No apology needed

  1. claret says:

    The Pope has , not for the first time, become a scapegoat and a ‘ready excuse’ to lay the blame for the Aids epidemic at someone’s door other than our own.
    Millions of condoms have been distributed in Africa. Someone calculated that if the money spent on condoms had been spent on drugs to combat the disease then we may well have seen the last of the disease in Africa by now. probably something of an exaggeration but the message is clear enough. There is a massive industry making millions from promoting condoms among a population that doesn’t seem to want to use them. Could be a male domination thing or it could be that in Africa sexual inercourse is synonimous with producing children where for us in the West it is largely about personal pleasure.
    Whatever, it is far more complex a problem than taking instructions from a pope.
    However getting back to the Pope’s remarks on condoms it amazes me that there has not been a more robust defence of them.
    For a start Africa is not a Catholic country. Around 10% I think as a ‘whole.’
    So why should anyone in the remaining 90% take the slightest bit of notice of what the Pope says? There is an army of propogandists telling the population to use condoms so a better question is why are they not reducing aids among that 90% (Could it be because they are not effective?)
    Of the 10% who are Catholic how many of them, who are otherwise leading immoral lives, are going to be obedient to the one thing of not using a condom wholly because the Pope says not to do so.
    The whole thing is a smokescreen to pass the blame onto someone else for the failure to show that condoms are the answer to Aids.
    I would also challenge Quentin’s statement that the Church makes no mention of the homosexual act outside of marriage.
    How is it possible to have a homosexual act within marriage?
    The Cathechism states that the homosexual act can ‘never be approved.’

  2. Horace says:

    The first part of Quentin’s post is straightforward and relatively uncontroversial although somewhat rhetorical at times.

    The final part, however, asks why the CDF has not made “a ruling on the lawfulness of infected married couples using condoms” (I think that the word “serodiscordant” should perhaps have replaced or qualified “infected”).

    I have not the faintest idea what the phrase “the principle of deriving unconditional imperatives from the structure of human acts” may mean but I suspect that the CDF simply doesn’t know what to say. The dilemma is presumably theological – does it perhaps depend on unconditional acceptance of the “principle of double effect” ? – or is there some question about the statement of St Thomas Aquinas “Now moral acts take their species according to what is intended . . II-II, 64,7” ?

    To me (a theological ignoramus) the answer is simple – for example consider the following argument:-
    1) The action of using a condom during intercourse is, per se, morally indifferent.
    2) There are two possible results of this action
    a) To prevent the transmission of a disease.
    b) To prevent the sperm from reaching an egg.
    3) If we say that (a) is the intention and (b) a foreseen but unintended side effect – then
    4) the action is justified by the intention.
    But I am sure that this will generate a fair amount of learned controversy.

  3. Claret, just a quick clarification, Either you have misunderstood or I have expresses myself badly. My intended meaning was that the Church has had nothing to say about the use of condoms in a homosexual act precisely because she teaches that a homosexual act is intrinsically outlawed. Similarly for fornication.
    Horace, I avoided serodiscordant (in a public column) because many people do not know what it means; it is of course the correct word. I shall be interested to see what people have to say about your suggested theology. It is certainly a line which is followed by some very respectable theologians.

  4. Juliana says:

    I’m going to lower the tone here but make no apologies.

    Auberon Waugh once said (and I’m pretty sure it was him) that if you were indulging in sexual intercourse but not yet married, then you might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb and take precautions.

    But back to the main debate. It is ludicrous for the Pope to be made the scapegoat for the spread of AIDS in Africa for, as Claret says, only about 10% are Catholic so the large majority would not listen to the Pope anyway. The CDF needs to spell this out and also to check statistics for the spread of AIDS amongst Catholic Africans. I know very little about this except that Uganda managed to bring down their numbers dramatically by the ABC program. The A = Abstinence; B = Be faithful (two things promoted by the Catholic Church) while C = Condoms, was obviously not a Catholic promotion and from reading up on this I gather condom use was encouraged more for those with multiple parteners or those being unfaithful.

    I have also read that where antiretroviral drugs can be prescribed against HIV a certain complacency has grown up as this disease is no longer a death sentence to some.

    However I can see the Tatchells and Toynbees will be getting their war paint on for the Pope’s visit no matter what the Catholic Church says.

  5. st.joseph says:

    I can’t see a problem with using condoms between lawfully married couples with Aids, as long as they are used within the infertile time.

  6. st.joseph says:

    I don’t see a problem with healthy married couples using condoms during the infertile time either ,only it seems like a lack of common sense . After teaching Fertility Awareness since 1984 and a member of the National Association of Natural Family Planning Teachers,I know how accurate it is, when taught proficiently of course with a trained teacher.
    I am pleased to say that many more are being trained at the moment information on

  7. James H. says:

    Well written, Quentin.

    Ah, it’s good to see the message getting through here at least! Official South African Govt. census statistics (I went to look them up) show that Catholics make up 7% of the population, after Zion Christians and assorted Pentecostals. That’s under 10%, but still larger than I expected. It’s a reasonably safe bet that a similar proportion applies to the rest of Anglophone southern Africa.

    So – we have the spectacle of the world’s highest AIDS rate in a region where there are no religious reasons not to use condoms; and in a region where ‘Safe Sex’ is bellowed from roadside billboards.

    What’s wrong with this picture, Polly? Chris?

    Oh, but wait – there’s more. The only place in sub-Saharan Africa where HIV infection rates ever decreased, just happened to be where the /locals/ campaigned to change people’s behaviour!

    It’s not the Catholic Church sacrificing people for principles here, folks.

    Given that the church can’t condone prostitution or extramarital sex, what could they possibly have to say about those situations? Why should anyone using prostitutes or cheating on his wife even give a damn what the Church says?

    There are no quick and easy answers, but expecting the church to turn it all around by saying, ‘OK, condoms are OK in certain circumstances,’ is unrealistic. The obvious followup from the world would be, ‘So what about other circumstances? What about people with other diseases? What about people with learning difficulties? What about people who can’t afford babies?’ and we’re back where we came in.

    This is all assuming, of course, that condoms are a) used properly and b) work as advertised. Even a 1% risk of exposure to a lethal STI should be avoided – is it worth it? For one chance in 100?

    The biggest tragedy to me is that there are so few countries trying to duplicate the ABC success elsewhere.

  8. claret says:

    ‘The biggest tragedy for me is that there are so few countries trying to duplicate the ABC success’ says James.

    The reasons are not too hard to find when there is a multi million dollar industry pushing in the opposite direction and promoting condom use as the only ‘preventative’ for Aids and all the other STI’s that are rampant. Abstention before marriage and faithfulness during it does not ‘sell’ anything that comes with a price tag. So consumerism wins the day.
    The Church needs to be a lot more robust and confident in its message. Sex is for marriage, between man and wife in a loving relationship, to the exclusion of all others, until death do them part.
    If our world would make this healthy choice then all the evils of Aids, STI’s, family break-up, divorce, abortion et al would eventually be no more. That is the message. The fact that it won’t be heeded or even listened to does not make that message any less powerful or relevant. Mankind is living in a diseased swamp of its own making.

  9. Just a couple of factual points.
    1. The Church does not condemn contraception as such, provided there are commensurate reasons. This is why “natural” methods are permitted. Her objection to condoms is based, not on intention, but on the structure of the act – from which she infers that any artificial barrier which prevents the act being open to the transmission of life is intrinsically evil. Thus, were my wife and I serodiscordant, we would still not be permitted to use condoms, although our age would make a conception a miracle of biblical proportions.

    2. The failure rate of condoms (properly used) in the matter of HIV is not 1 in a 100, but 1 in a 100 person years. Assuming 50 occasions a year the failure rate per act would be 1 in 5000.

  10. st.joseph says:

    I am no expert on this Quentin, but I ask the question.

    Would the Church deny a couple to marry if one had Aids?

  11. st.joseph says:

    I have learned a lot on the subject of condoms and Aids, in Africa from your comments.
    One thing strikes me and that is’ I dont believe that most catholics will be concerned with the use of condoms as a barrier method and what the Holy Father says on the subject one way or another’, when so many are taking the pill which is an ‘abortifacient ‘and non-catholic are aware of this.
    A little hypocritical to say the least. I am not judgemental, just honest.

  12. claret says:

    Perhaps I misunderstand St. Joseph’s comments about the pill but my understanding of it is that the ‘birth pill’ is not an abortifacient but that the specific ‘morning after’ pill is such an abortifacient. ‘RU86’ pill I think is its chemical name.

  13. A couple of answers on st,joseph’s queries.

    1, marriage for people with Aids. I am not a canon lawyer but I understand that marriage is centred around the exchange of exclusive sexual rights, But, by mutual consent, the couple may refrain from exercising these (as in the case of St. Joseph’s namesake). Such a marriage is valid and sacramental but not consummated. So I don’t think there would be any legal grounds for refusing such a marriage. There might be prudential grounds for advising against it.
    2. Is the standard oral contraceptive an abortifacient?
    Feed this question into Google, and you’ll see that the matter is complex. Maybe there is a contributor who has additional information to share. But the point is clearly an important one.

  14. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Quentin for your reply.I wasn’t aroun last night to reply.
    Claret you did not misunderstand me! Many google web sites do not give details as to the Pill being an abortifacient, as you can imagine for obvious reasons. I suggest you look into If you request a free copy of
    ‘Contraception Why Not’ by Professor Janet Smith, and go into Contraception and Abortion that will give you some information .Also request a free copy of her DVD You will have heard of her .On her visit to Scotland she spoke in the Cathedral Hall. It had a great deal of publicity, but unfortunately not in England.
    The R.U.486 you speak of, and I dont want to go into much detail here,but say that it is the same as the contraceptive pill only very high doses. The female (unlike the male is a very complex hormonal system.) and the pill can be affected by lots of happenings, colds -temperature, anti-biotics etc.-From a breakthrough Ovulation ( and no woman knows when that is)where the lining of the womb is made agressive from the pill, the the newly fertilzed Ovum is carried away with menstruation.In other words acting as an early abortion.If you read the instruction in the packet of the pill it will give some details. I had better stop now or I shall go on and on-a phrase of Professor Janet Smith is that she belongs to the’ On and On Club’.But I expect we are all like this when we feel passionate about something ,especially when it is the truth.
    Thank you Claret for your interest.

  15. tim says:

    Excellent discussion.

    I have to say I have as much difficulty in believing that the Church does not condemn condom use outside marriage as Polly Toynbee does in believing that the Pope is not responsible for millions of people dying in Africa. But maybe we will both get there…

  16. Tim, the Church neither condemns nor refrains from condemning. Her prohibition is based on the nature of sexuality within marriage, not outside it. Thus in the unlikely event of you being about to fornicate, and in the even more unlikely event that you are pox ridden, you would have to decide which out of protected or unprotected sex is the most loving. Or, if you prefer, which is the least unloving.

  17. Ion Zone says:

    “However getting back to the Pope’s remarks on condoms it amazes me that there has not been a more robust defence of them.”

    I am not surprised, but I am annoyed that nobody seems willing to speak up publicly. The pope needs to make things very clear. Unfortunately, the downside of there (hopefully) not being a spin-doctor in the Vatican is that the Pope is easy to misunderstand, particularly when you add in the people who intentionally mislead, mishear, and misappropriate what he says. And lets not forget how few people know that it is only within marriage that condoms are disproved of, and it is disapproval, not disgust. It would shock many people to discover that the Vatican isn’t out to get them.

    I have been rebutting these claims where they arise, and while I did go and look at what the Pope actually said (unlike his accusers) and discovered what he meant, it was sadly not enough. I would have loved to have shown them this blog entry and your responses, however, too late. The one woman whom put the news to me offline refused to believe the Pope any less than a fool – I am not good at speaking and did not remember to mention the science behind his words. Maybe I will now.

    “I have to say I have as much difficulty in believing that the Church does not condemn condom use outside marriage”

    From experience, I can honestly say that it is no great leap to trust that Quentin to know the details of the Catholic faith! Particularly, to know them better than some outraged secular reporter – at the best of times they tend to ‘forget’ important little details for the sake of creating ‘news’.

  18. Ion Zone says:

    Matthew 10:16 (King James edition)

    “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”


    In response to the title I see before me, about time. I have said for years that we must abandon the word ‘apologetics’, for what has our God, or our faith, to apologise for? Particularly in the concern of those who act in total contradiction to their teachings. There are those who shame the cloth, it is sure, and for their actions we must be deeply sorry, for it was our guides upon this Earth who enabled their abuses. We are lucky, so far, that the current Pope has not been personally burnt by direct association. Some words for us to think on:

    “No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.” Psalm 101:7

    For the benefit of all, the Pseudo-science blog, here to swing the club of common sense in an uncompromising manner.

  19. Horace says:

    I still cannot understand the meaning of the phrase “the structure of the act” or “the structure of human acts” – from which [the Church] infers (or derives) . . “. It is this word ‘structure’ which seems to be being used in a manner different from the usual meaning.
    My worry, unsurprisingly, is that the conclusion -> “is intrinsically evil” would, of course, render the first line of my suggested argument invalid.

  20. eclaire says:

    I have only just found the time to read Quentin’s piece above and have not read the various replies yet. However, I should like to make the following points:
    First of all, if the Church makes no statement about the use of contraceptives outside marriage, clearly, it is because she states categorically that sexual intercourse should only take place between married couples. It follows, therefore, that she has no business referring to the use (or non-use) of contraceptives in circumstances other than marital ones. Her teaching suffices (save for determined fault-finders) and her dignified silence reinforces the pronouncements she does make. Christ, too, was silent at times.
    The Church teaches (as we all know) that sexual intercourse outside marriage is a grave sin because it is an offence against God’s law; it is an offence against Love and it is an offence against Beauty. (At this point, I would just like to add that Quentin, once again quick to criticize the Church (mercilessly), points out that ‘uncertain laws don’t bind’, but it seems to me from what he writes, that the certain ones don’t bind for him either – do they?). We do not ‘make up our own minds’ on this issue (though we are free to reject Church teaching if we so choose. If this is our choice we abandon our Catholic identity – we also inflict harm on the body of the Church as a whole into the bargain). To keep one foot in the Church (just to be on the safe side) and the other one out of it, is the height of hypocrisy, in my view.
    The Pope, I am sure, has a great deal of respect for Science, as do all Catholics worth their salt, but Science alone cannot prove him right or wrong. Science is a tool (given to us by God – and so too are the Arts); it works in unison with Faith, it does not have the final say and especially not the often corrupt practices that pass for science these days.
    Another point I’d like to make is this: we do not remain chaste in order not to catch a disease (whatever the disease might be); Catholics, loyal to the teachings of the Holy See, remain chaste for the most beautiful and positive reasons.
    Finally, I would like to say that I thank Jesus Christ, with my whole heart, for humbly accepting that his Father’s laws/rules/will were more important than His own life; it was through His doing so that He obtained our salvation.

  21. st.joseph says:

    The One Holy Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ on earth,with Jesus Christ the Head.The Holy Father being His representative on earth. The teachings are meant for all, as all humans are His children.As Catholics we are duty bound to listen and do our best to convert others, I dont know if those who are outside the Church are bound to believe what She teaches. But as Catholics we do have the power of the Sacrament of Confession for the forgiveness of our sins- as we are all weak and Jesus left us this Sacrament so that we can find happiness with Him forever in Heaven .Jesus said ‘I have many sheep who are not of this fold who listen to my voice’-His Prayer was ‘that they all will be one- One Fold and One Shepherd. We are not a Catholic Club and I am sure no one thinks that-only those who are outside it.

  22. claret says:

    The Catholic Church informs us that ‘all truth’ can be found in her teachings and she exclusively makes this claim. Other faiths and those with honestly held beliefs have some of the truth in them but not all.
    As far as I am aware the only thing that ‘exempts’ other faiths is Canon Law which is binding on baptised catholics only.

  23. Ion Zone says:

    “Quentin, once again quick to criticize the Church (mercilessly)”

    It is our duty as Catholics to ask difficult questions of our faith and our leaders. And that is from a priest who is (sadly) about to go off to help run a cathedral in America for a year.

  24. Horace, you are asking about a technical subject. And I do explain this more fully in am earlier piece. (Putting ‘calculator’ without quotes in the Search box will take you there.) Put simply the argument is that we can derive how the maker wanted some object or process to be used by examining it. That is, working from structure. But if the maker is God,then following what God has written into his created structure may be obligatory.

    eclaire, unless I have misunderstood you , there is no law made by the Church which forbids contraception outside marriage. She witnesses of course to the certain teaching that full sexual expression is confined to marriage. And we are never excused the law which obliges us to follow our responsibly formed consciences.

  25. st.joseph says:

    Quentin, do you know if the Church will recognise the Marriages of the Anglican Vicars coming into the Catholic Church, or will they have to have a special blessing.
    The Church may benefit from them if their wives became teachers of Natural Family Planning.How do they stand on the issue of contraceptives?I know they will have to be obedient to the teachings of the Church, as Catholics do! I have never heard any mention of the subject-maybe it is a no go area!
    I have no objection to Anglican Vicars becoming Catholic Priests, as long as they are honest!.

  26. Stjoseph, If the marriage was a valid Christian one, it is sacramental and needs nothing further.
    A vicar’s wife not only need not be a Catholic, she must not become one unless her conscience so directs her.
    Since it is generally accepted that conscientious objection to the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception does not exclude one from remaining a Catholic, I assume that it does not preclude one becoming a Catholic.
    But I think this might be a bar to subsequent ordination; I do not see how it would be consistent with the Profession of Faith required of every priest.
    I speak subject to correction; perhaps someone can offer a firmer answer.

  27. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Quentin for your reply.
    There is talk in the media since the child abuse in Germany and the Netherlands will the Church have to re-think its teachings on celibacy. It was noted that 70 per cent of abuses happened in families! I am not sure that the abuses are caused by celibacy. I also dont think that a married priesthood will solve the problem. Marriage should not be used to cool the passions.Would the Church have to make marriage a condition for the priesthood!
    Last week in the Catholic Times an article Credo-by Father Francis Marsden spoke how Gandhi understood how sex-ed should be taught in schools- it was a very enlightening article.
    If condoms are wrong for married couples-they will be wrong for priests! If the contraceptive pill is an abortifacent – it is seriously wrong for catholics -especially married priests. who act in ‘Personna Christi’ when offering up the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. and who represent the Spotless Lamb of God!
    So I feel that this must be a objection to those priests and their wives (whether catholic or not) of child-bearing age who are of one flesh with one another for the Sacrament of Holy Orders . They are are proclaiming the Gospel- the Word of God.
    Hopefully the church is getting it right now with all the scandal it has and may still be going through, it does not want something else to rear its ugly head. We dont want to have any more ‘apologies’ in the priesthood to contend with!
    I do not object to a married Priesthood-only that the church gets it right.They havent got it right for married laity yet!

  28. claret says:

    But we already have married clergy in the Catholic Church including married priests. In the Eastern Rite Catholic Church a priest can be married providing he was married prior to ordination. Any priest with ambitions to become a Bishop cannot be married.

    In this country we have many former Anglican clergy who are now married Catholic priests and of course, we have a married diaconate.

    So the whole thing is a contradictory nonsense and probably has a lot more to do with finance than anything else.

  29. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Claret, Iknow we have married priests!
    I am speaking about the Moral issue.

  30. Desmond says:


    “She makes no statement about the use of contraceptives outside marriage;” “to fornicate while choosing to risk an unwanted pregnancy … multiplies the sin …”
    This is what I believe and have taught, but this is the first time I have seen anyone state this opinion. It is a pity the official Church never makes this distinction. If it were to do so it might avoid much misunderstanding and confusion. Desmond

  31. Horace says:

    Quentin, with respect to the lawfulness of infected married couples using condoms, you were kind enough to say that my attempted justification of this practice is “certainly a line which is followed by some very respectable theologians” but nevertheless “deduction of intrinsic moral status from a primarily physical point of view still reflects the official position”.

    As I see it then the ‘official position’ is as follows; “The biology shows clearly that our sexual equipment is structurally ordered toward the conception of new members of the species, and that the parts are fitted for congress between male and female.” (How should we think about sex? – 2. [The mind, or at least my mind, boggles!])
    From this we deduce that if a condom is applied and retained during intercourse then this will inevitably prevent sperms from reaching the egg, frustrating the function as determined by nature, and therefore the ‘structure of the act’ is unnatural and gravely immoral.

    Note that not only is this irrespective of the fact that a condom may also form a barrier to the transmission of infection but the declaration of the grave immorality of the act is irrelevant to whether the parties are, or are not, married and it is therefore not correct to say that the Church “makes no statement about the use of contraceptives outside marriage”. (Unless, of course, you argue that a ‘position’ is not equivalent to a ‘statement’.)

  32. Ion Zone says:

    “it was noted that 70 per cent of abuses happened in families!”

    Do you mean all abuses or priestly abuses? (It was my understanding that this meant the prior.)

  33. Ion Zone says:

    Oh yes, it’s amazing how little storm there is over abuses by teachers currently, despite them being almost constant.

  34. Horace, the clarity of your description of the application of structure to moral decision seems to me to achieve an enviable clarity. Which makes it all the sadder that I have to disagree with the ultimate inference which you draw. (But I can live with it!)
    Take case 1. The argument from structure applies to the artificial insemination of cows. Of course this is not condemned because cows are not human, even though humans perform the action.
    Case 2. This is homosexual congress, The use of a condom here is not a moral question because a homosexual act is not sexual intercourse. So the structural argument does not apply.
    Case 3. Fornication. While this is an act of intercourse it is not an act of conjugal unconditional love, and the official argument (see Humanae Vitae) is precisely that artificial contraception interferes with the structure of the act and so it is at odds with the total self-giving which belongs to marriage. (See JP II on the theology of the body) So it doesn’t apply here either.
    I have quite enough to do with dealing with rules which the Church has made, to lead me to refrain from inventing rules which the Church hasn’t made. In fact I think this is a welcome opportunity for us to make a moral decision on our own. And particularly welcome because most of us have been schooled in to saying, Aye, aye, father. We need some practice.

  35. eclaire says:

    Ion Zone, it is also our duty as Catholics to have faith and to place our trust in God, and that means His Church, too (despite some of her leaders’ failings). I do not advocate turning a blind eye to the evil deeds that take place within the Church, far from it, nor would I ever say that it is wrong to ask legitimate questions in order to clarify and increase one’s knowledge, but there is much to be gained from, dare I say it, childlike trust – even as an adult. There are certainly two sides to this argument and, in my opinion, one should not assume that questioning everything and anything (and often haughtily, may I add) makes us better Catholics. Indeed, it seems to me, that this can be a dangerous path to take as it may lead to a profound intellectual arrogance and a subsequent abandoning of one’s faith altogether. There are many Catholics (usually males -one in my own family) who have lost their faith because they think themselves intellectually superior to that dumb Church, whose teachings hoodwink unsuspecting believers (usually, but not exclusively, women)- let these people get into the habit of speaking derisively of the Church and see where it all leads).
    Does the Church have to make a law forbidding contraceptive use outside marriage?
    No. If you’re a Catholic you shouldn’t be having sex outside marriage in the first place and if you’re not a Catholic, the Church still says you shouldn’t be having sex outside marriage, so where does contraception come into it? Have I missed something?

  36. st.joseph says:

    ‘Well said eclaire’. Spoken as a True Catholic!

  37. Ion Zone says:

    Indeed, but is it not God’s way to test the best of us to the harshest standards? If we do not speak out what you have is apathy, and apathy is nobody’s friend – you could say it is the cause of our current predicament.

  38. Ion Zone says:

    Put it this way, if you write a book, or compose music, you must demand those closest to you be your harshest critics – if you do not, your chances of failure are raised massively.

  39. st.joseph says:

    It is one thing to put ones complaints on a blog, If you feel so strongly about a situation, do something about it!

  40. Ion Zone says:

    Agreed, I have plans in that regard, not all of which I think you will like, though.

  41. st.joseph says:

    I seem to remember making the comment before and that is-

    ‘You can please half the people all the time- all the people half the time-but you can’t please all the people all the time.
    Good Luck!

  42. Nick says:

    “[The Church] makes no statement about the use of contraceptives outside marriage”

    This section of Humanae Vitae seems to refer to artificial birth control both within and outside of marriage:

    “Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.” [17]

    I understand this passage to be making the sensible point (among others) that if young people – including those who are not married – come to consider artificial birth control as permissible, they will be more easily tempted to commit acts such as fornication. It’s difficult to make any sense of the second sentence in particular on the understanding that the rule against artificial contraception applies only to married couples.

  43. Nick, welcome to the blog.
    Para 17 of HV is not a ruling but a prudential warning. We see it being exercised in Catholic education programmes -which can scarcely avoid (for the older ones) a mention of condoms. But this can be handled discreetly.
    In fact the para continues by warning that contraceptive use can lead to a lack of respect for women. And it certainly has, although – for similar reasons – many women no longer have much respect for themselves.
    But no ruling is given or intended on the intrinsic evil of contraception outside marriage.
    One of the big tragedies resulting from HV (whether it be right or wrong) is that it has resulted in so many people dismissing the Church as a relevant authority in sexual matters.

  44. st.joseph says:

    When the Apostles saw the consequences of Jesus Crucified for speaking the Truth ,it seemed then like a tragedy. resulting with only a few at the foot of the Cross. He knew that there would be those who turn away. But then we had Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit ,that gave them the strength to go out into the whole world and proclaim the Good News.I happen to be one of those who believe that the Good News was preached in H.V. One has only to look around at the permissive society today for not listening to that ‘Good News.’

  45. Nick says:

    Quentin, thanks.

    Indeed para. 17 is not itself a ruling: it is as you say, a prudential warning of the consequences that would occur if the rule in para 14 is not heeded. One consequence, I think the Pope is saying, is that young people (including the unmarried) would come to see contraception as not adding to the malice of contemplated acts such as fornication, and this would give them extra incentive to engage in such acts, for by using contraception they can conceal such acts more effectively.

    If the Church does not intend the rule to apply to extra-marital intercourse, what is this extra temptation to evil acts for young unmarrieds the pope is referring to if the teaching, so understood, is flouted or ignored? I mean, what unmarried young person would say to themselves: “Oh, married couples everywhere are ignoring a rule of the Church which says that using artificial contraception makes their sex an evil act on that account, but which doesn’t ascribe extra evil qua contraception to any contraceptive sex I myself as an unmarried person might undertake! Boy, I’m really up for it now!” ??

  46. st.joseph says:

    I would like to make some further comments on the subject of HV.
    When Pope Paul V1 issued his Encylical Letter. I do appreciate the fact that numerous people had already decided what to do for the regulation of birth. That was the unfortunate situation at the time.Obviousley they had no instruction on the Method of N.F.P.Also since the National Pastoral Council in Liverpool, I think with the questionaire that went out- so many catholcs believed it was an opinion poll! Understandabley so. So I do have sympathty with the situation.But I also saw the Truth spoken in H.V.Society all around was in the midst of pornography. sex shops, etc I am not saying all catholics were influenced by his but it did no favours for the young.

    In 1989 a letter was sent out to all from the Pontificium Consilium Pro Familia by Cardinal Gagnon who no doubt was conscious of the falling rate of catholics and vocations but I won’t go into it all but some.This is part of what he said.
    The Pontifical Council for the Family has prepared a ‘ Note on the Natural Regulation and Methods of Observing Fertility.
    In Italian English,French and Spanish.To be circulated as widely as possible. For this purpose we ask you for your collaboration. Married persons who find themselves in a position of having to use periodic continence in order to postpone the conception of a child must acquire the conviction that the methods of observing fertility have an adequate scientific basis and they are not difficult to learn. ‘
    He then goes on to quote Humanae Vitae 16. 24;
    Then he says in order to promote greater appreciation and deeper understanding of the teaching of the Church on the natural regulation of fertility, with this Note, this Pontificial Council intends to:
    1. encourage medical faculties and bio-medical research institutes etc., professors, researchers and students, to pursue the scientific study of the methods of observing fertility, so as to be able to advise couples to practise the natural regulation of births while respecting the moral values of human sexuality.
    2. encourage marriage counsellors to acquire expertise in scientific advances in this field, so as to be able to advise couples to practice the natural regulation of births effectively by using the methods of observing fertility.
    3. urge married Christians who are trained and have experienced the validity of these diagnostic methods, to reflect on the good they can do for others by spreading the methods through word of mouth and witness.
    4. invite organizations and groups which work for the family and for life to offer, in their own appropriate fields, information and education about the methods of observing fertility in the coontext of their service to human values and human rights’

    In this way, the obstacle will be surmounted that comes from the absence, or serious shortcomings in, formation based on the Church’s teaching in a field that vitally concern the dignity of the human person and the spiritual growth of married people
    28th February,1989,
    Edouard Cardinal Gagnon, P.S.S

    Has anyone heard from our Bishops on this subject so that the laity would understand the Mission of the Church. N0.

    We have heard plenty in the past for the re-ordering of our Church’s changing of the Liturgy and so on, but not the most important ‘facts of life’in the true sense of the Word.

    I am not a’ pushy’ person, but all those who speak out for N.F.P. will know the difficulty to proclaim that message has been
    I have been shunned, shouted at actually thumped in the back,
    no poster allowed in doctors waiting rooms(catholic) even asked at one time to apologise for my Faith and so on since I979 I believe we have a little light shining through at last and a lot of Hope for the future.
    The Feast of St Joseph tomorrow-I know we have his support in family matters. He is the protector of the Church and head of the Holy Family.

    One last word for Ion Zone ‘Whatever you think I will not like’It won’t affect me too much, after what I have put up with in the past. Was it A.N Wilson that said. When I came in I was a Christian, I left an athiest! No Chance.

  47. Nick, I fear we could go on speculating about what the Pope had in mind for ever. I happen to disagree with your last interpretation – but i could be wrong.
    What matters here is the rulings he gave or didn’t give. And if you believe that it is better for a fornicator to risk pregnancy and disease by not using a condom, then I doubt if anyone could convince you otherwise.

  48. eclaire says:

    Do the ends justify the means?
    Do two ‘wrongs’ make a ‘right’?
    If the Pope were to state categorically that fornicators were from now on free to use condoms, might they then exclaim: ‘Ok lads, we’ve been given the go-ahead, lets go for it’?
    I doubt whether it is because the Church says that using condoms is morally wrong, that fornicators avoid using them. Just as I doubt whether fornicators are waiting with bated breath for the Pope to tell them they can freely proceed.
    Fornicators are hardly likely to listen to the Pope’s teachings on the use of condoms when they disobey his teachings in the first place by having sex outside marriage. Forgive me for saying so, but I really do not see that this questioning is of any practical relevance, though yes, we do live in a mixed up world. (I am certainly not being flippant about unwanted pregnancies. Each one is an extremely heart breaking fact of life, especially when abortion ensues, but I believe we have the contraceptive mentality to thank for that. It has been said that the latter aggravates the problem of unwanted pregnancies rather than reduces it; I agree.

  49. Nick says:

    Quentin, I agree that the rulings the Pope gave are crucial. But he, to my mind (based, in part, on my plausible reading of para. 17 – is there any other contrary plausible reading? It’s up to you to supply one, I’m sure you’ll agree), didn’t give a ruling in Para. 14 that contraceptive intent didn’t enhance the gravity of evil in extra-marital acts which were qualified with contraceptive motives, any more than he gave a ruling in the same para that there was an evil associated with contraceptively-motivated abortion or sterilization only in the context of marital relations.

    So if we stick to the rulings the Holy Father actually gave in para. 14, there is no warrant for making the positive assertion that the ruling in HV doesn’t apply to extra-marital sex. Moreover, according to the analysis of para. 17 I’ve suggested, there is warrant for saying the ruling does in fact extend to extra-marital sex.

    Believe me: I have no incentive to read HV in a harsher sense than it is intended to be read. I would love as many people as possible to come into the Church based on the fullness of Her teaching, whatever that may be and, with good evidence, I’m open to an alternative point of view. But I also know that there are both lighter and heavier burdens that God imposes on each and every one of us all other than the rule in HV, even on a more liberal interpretation of that document than I myself hold. An example (not from HV but from canon law) of an (arguably) heavier burden: the rule that impotent lovers cannot validly marry each other.

    The challenge of chastity, so understood, is real and for many of us ever present. But it’s not the only, let alone (necessarily) the greatest, challenge we face in conforming to Christ.

    And I just can’t make any sense of HV, or the constant teaching of the universal magisterium with which HV claims to link, or indeed what I perceive to be Her teaching on sexuality in toto, on the interpretation you’ve given it on this matter.

    With respect,


  50. st.joseph says:

    Nick if you haven’t read Familiaris Consortio. You can find it under web Vatican. Encyclical Letters.
    You may find it helpful!

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