“Optimum legum interpres consuetudo.”
The sixth commandment in the Old Testament says “You shall not kill”. Even if in some ways the New Testament has superseded the Old Testament, the rule did not change: do not kill.
This applies to many cases, but relatively. In the case of a war, if, for instance, a journalist asks Pope Benedict XVI for a comment, the pontiff will certainly condemn it no matter who the aggressor or defender is. The pope will condemn all motives (final cause) for war, all participants in the senseless killing, most especially all agents involved: guns, bombs, fighter planes, bullet-proof vests, etc.
Speaking of bullet-proof vests, it is a brilliant invention made to protect the life of war participants against firearm-fired projectiles and shrapnels. These vests are made available in the war market. All items in the war market are condemned by the Vatican because they are all involved in carrying out war.
But war is already taking place. Not even the Swiss Guards will be able to stop the warring factions. Wouldn’t it be “madness” for the Vatican to forbid the use of bullet-proof vests?
Pope Benedict XVI would have certainly answered thus: “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a soldier uses a bullet-proof vest, where this can be a first step in the direction of saving a life, which is HIS life, a first assumption of responsibility, for it will prolong his true mission on earth, one of which is not to kill”.
The same line of reasoning can be argued regarding the pope’s remark on condom usage only made controversial by an irresponsible media and many a sex-starved individual who frivorously twisted the said remark to justify their unjustified interests.
In a recent interview that journalist Peter Seewald had with the German pontiff regarding condoms and the spread of AIDS in Africa, the Catholic leader said that the use of condoms could be seen as “a first step toward moralization,” even though condoms are “not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.”
A confused Seewald asked for more clarification: “Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?”
The pope’s answer: “It of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”
Although the pope in particular and the Vatican in general did not change the Catholic ban on contraceptions such as condoms, the pope’s remarks to Seewald was, sad to say, greeted as a “breakthrough” by liberal Catholics and pro-choice activists. But this “breakthrough” that they claim is nothing more but a type of unrepresentative generalization. And their claim that the Vatican has finally softened its stand on condom use is purely anecdotal evidence.
Drawing an analogy from the “war commentary” mentioned earlier, to say that the pope is 100% OK with the sale and usage of bullet proof vests to protect human life from bullets and shrapnel in times of war is tantamount to saying that he is OK with war itself. Of course not. That would have been contradictory to the Church’s stand against war and the taking of another life. Therefore, to claim that the pope has finally OKd condom usage is to say that he is now OK with pre and extramarital affairs, an absurd scenario.
And besides, the media has been very selective of the pope’s remarks. They have only allowed to publish what the boisterous pro-choice people had wanted to hear all along, thus killing the entire context altogether. But if pro-condom advocates are to read the full transcript of what the biased media had made controversial, they will get a different idea, far different from what they have claimed to be a victory:
Peter Seewald: On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican’s policy on Aids once again became the target of media criticism. Twenty-five percent of all Aids victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.
Pope Benedict: The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on Aids. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim.
Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many Aids victims, especially children with Aids.
I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering.
In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.
As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work.
This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.
There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.
That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.
Peter Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?
Pope Benedict: She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality. (from Seewald’s latest book Light of the World, The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times which was published last month)
Canon law and Church law, particularly those that deal with human life and sexuality, cannot be altered just like that, especially not in an interview. So when in doubt, always remember that custom is the best interpreter of the law. It has never been the custom of the Catholic Church to advocate the banality of sex. And in view of the foregoing excerpt, I believe enough has been said. So Congressman Edcel Lagmán better shut up for a while, the way he always does anyway whenever he is caught in a predicament in debates with Congressman Roilo Gólez regarding the RH bill.
Unfortunately, the damage has been done. Many people with childish logic have already believed that the Pope has approved condom use. So let us just be wary and extra cautious the next time around. Keep in mind that media is the most effective way to influence the greatest number of people in the shortest posible time and is the key to any advocacy campaign. Conspirators against life know this perfectly. Let us not fall prey next time.