Monday, November 29, 2010

Moral leadership from the pope?

Big, big news, right? All of a sudden, Ratzinger has said in a new book that there might be some morality in condom use.

In "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Sign of the Times," Benedict condones the use of condoms in some instances.

The pope said that to prevent infection with HIV, for instance in the case of a male prostitute, a condom can be the first step in assuming moral responsibility.

So good news, right? At last, the Catholic Church has decided to begin to participate in moral debate in the world. At least, that was the buzz when the book first came out, with different observers parsing his words, trying to figure out if he was only talking about male prostitutes, or whether the same reasoning applies to female prostitutes, or male prostitutes in relationships with women, or whether it applies to husbands and wives who want to avoid infecting each other.

I guess the answer is, not so fast. For instance, here's what the spokesman for the Vatican said in trying to explain the moral calculus involved in this new position:

But let me give you a pretty simple example. Let's suppose we've got a bunch of muggers who like to use steel pipes when they mug people. But some muggers say, gosh, you know, we don't need to hurt them that badly to rob them. Let's put foam pads on our pipes. Then we'll just stun them for a while, rob them and go away. So if the pope then said, well, yes, I think that using padded pipes is actually a little step in a moral direction there, that doesn't mean he's justifying using padded pipes to mug people. He's just saying, well, they did something terrible, but while they were doing that, they had a little flicker of conscience there that led them in the right direction. That may grow further, so they stop mugging people completely.

I could hardly believe it when I heard this. In the view of this guy, who has made a vow to abstain from sex for his entire life, having the kind of sex that he and other sworn celibates don't approve of is equivalent to beating people with steel pipes and robbing them.

Does this sound like someone who is qualified to engage in any kind of debate about morality?

And if you're still undecided, just a reminder about the moral values of the Vicar of Christ, the anointed representative of God on Earth:

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

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