Friday, May 29, 2009

3-29-2009: 5th Lent (B)

Jeremiah 31:31-34/Psalm 51/Hebrews 5:7-9/John 12:20-33
If only there was a guarantee children would listen to everything their parents told them, like not run out into a busy street from between cars, or not touching the stove when the gas is lit. But kids will be kids and so explore new things in ways that are dangerous to their well-being. Parents may indeed take a lot of time and effort in calmly explaining why certain behaviors should be avoided, but when the inevitable experimentation or unthinking behavior approaches, those ordinarily calm parents will find themselves screaming to their young children like lunatics. Get back on this curb now, young lady! Don’t you dare touch that stove, buster! Some even resort to extreme measures, like using those extended harnesses so their toddlers won’t wander. It’s not a very attractive measure to take but, the understandable thinking goes, better safe than sorry.

At the risk of courting blasphemy I’d suggest the pope’s recent remarks in Africa, regarding condoms, fall into the same category. Obey the laws of God, the pope seems to be saying, and you’ll not have to worry about dying from AIDS. That’s good advice, in a grandfatherly sort of way. Perhaps, though, the pope does not appreciate that young people, like little children, do not always (in fact, seldom) think things through before they act. In the case of sex, this is a given - obvious even to the most removed observer. Some argue that encouraging the use of condoms only promotes promiscuous sex among the young and thus increases the spread of HIV/AIDS, instead of stemming infection as it purports to do. Studies seem to substantially refute this view but we should, in deference, give the pope the benefit of the doubt.

We cannot however help but question the shaky theological ground on which the condemnation of condoms as a barrier against disease stands. Employing the very Catholic moral argument that in the face of a moral dilemma recourse to the lesser of two evils is morally acceptable, does anyone really believe that when one weighs condom-use against death, there is any doubt?

It’s my understanding (though I’m not certain) that the use of the “birth control pill” is morally permissible when used to achieve hormonal balance or prevent disease rather than used with the intention to contracept. Why wouldn’t the same principle apply to condoms, especially for their legitimate use within marriage, when one partner is HIV positive and does not want to infect the other? Rome has yet to rule on the moral permissibility of using condoms in this specific situation. What’s keeping them?

While the pope was in Africa he also spoke forcefully against the negative influence of witchcraft and superstition, reminding his listeners that such belief, like all idolatry, is a delusion. One might wonder if the church’s intransigence regarding the use of condoms, as a preventive against deadly disease, is not delusionary as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment