Pope Changes Catholic Faith Completely!

ROME — In a startling change to the Catholic Faith, Pope Benedict XVI announced today that tossing people down elevator shafts could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility “in the intention of reducing the risk of having your own son electrocuted to death before your very eyes.”

The Imperial Mainstream Media Center has taken this as a signal that the Church intends to canonize Darth Vader for his saintly courage in tossing Emperor Palpatine down an elevator shaft as the latter was torturing Darth Vader’s son to death with huge bolts of electric Force energy. In addition, the Imperial Mainstream Media Center has also declared that the pope therefore means to say that destruction of whole planets, as well as the subjugation of billions of inhabitants all over the galaxy, the betrayal of his closest friends, the slaughter of the Jedi and their younglings, and his conversion to the Dark Side “don’t matter.”

But most importantly, according to an Imperial Mainstream Media spokesman, “The point is, throwing people down elevator shafts is now formally accepted by the Church as moral behavior and Catholics need to think about how to incorporate this new development of doctrine into their lives. If you feel that throwing people down elevator shafts is the safe and right thing for you, then,” says the Imperial Mainstream Media Center, “we believe the pope means to say, ‘Do it with my blessing.'”


But seriously, folks: Two things are beyond my comprehension in this latest kerfuffle from the incurably thick mainstream media and the reliably easy-to-blindside people at the Vatican who seem to make it their business to let the MSM turn Benedict’s sensible remarks into a “gaffe” or, sillier still, tinder for global conflagrations of “controversy.”

First, what’s the big deal with what Benedict said? His point, for anybody with two brain cells to rub together to see, is that somebody who has lived a sinful life can take a modest and imperfect step toward forgetting himself and try to do something for somebody else. That doesn’t automatically make him a hero or a saint, nor does it baptize the details of his attempt at self-sacrificial decency as a Good Thing. So when Darth Vader — after betraying the Jedi, killing a bunch of children, acting for years as the lieutenant of the Most Evil Man in the Galaxy, destroying Alderaan, torturing Han Solo, and trying with might and main to kill Luke Skywalker — finally feels a tiny pang of conscience after watching his own son be tortured in the most sadistic manner possible and tosses Emperor Palpatine down an elevator shaft, we can say that there has been “a first step in assuming moral responsibility” — a first eensy weensy, itsy bitsy step. We can’t say, “Pope approves throwing people down elevator shafts.”

That’s why, for instance, the Church affirms the penitence of the Good Thief but has never committed itself to the proposition that crucifixion is a just punishment for theft (or, indeed, for any crime) merely because he said, “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds” (Lk 23:41). It leaves that desperately sick syllogism to others, typically (as I have wearily experienced) in comboxes arguing for torture and/or the death penalty.

Speaking of the Good Thief, one thing that is important to realize is that the purpose of mercy is to confront the visage of offense, not to say, “You did no wrong and I affirm you in your okayness.” The Good Thief got to heaven because of the abundance of Christ’s mercy, not because he was a splendid chap who had not only never sinned, but lived a life of exemplary virtue. Similarly, when it comes to Darth Vader’s action, one legitimate response to his deed is, “Big whoop.” So the Murderer of Planets finally got a freakin’ clue and did what any normal father would have done years ago for his own flesh and blood. That’s heroism? That’s sanctity? Sure, in extremis, we can hope for grace for people like him (as guys like the Good Thief demonstrate). But as guys like St. Paul demonstrate, when you don’t die minutes after your one work of virtue, there tend to be a lot of other things you need to change in your life.

So, to continue our analogy, should it not be painfully obvious that what the pope intends is a merciful concession to help the radically darkened intellect struggle toward the light? Is it not plain that he is saying God is willing to take the slightest movement of the will toward grace as an opportunity for mercy, as Jesus did with the criminal? Could it possibly be clearer that he is not saying, “I confer my apostolic benediction on banditry and on tossing people down elevator shafts as the perfect will of God”?


And here is the second thing I find astounding: It is not just the utterly theologically ignorant MSM that seems unable to grasp this simple point. When the story broke, I saw panic in many a combox from ordinary Catholics and gloating in many a combox from More-Catholic-than-the-Pope reactionary dissenters writing things like:

After calling the prophylactics, commonly called “condoms,” immoral in a controversial statement in Africa in March 2009, this Modernist Newpope has apparently done a flip-flop on himself, countenancing the use of the devices in such cases as those of male prostitutes. On the same basis, Benedict-Ratzinger would presumably consider morally-justifiable the use of condoms by his cardinals, bishops, and presbyters when they rape Newchurch children. (Emphasis added)

Now, to be sure, the reactionary dissenters tend to radically lack the virtue of charity and so are bent on reading anything Benedict says or does in the worst possible light. Mercy being so foreign to themselves, they cannot recognize it in Benedict’s words, either. That is the doom of those who make themselves stupider than they really are: they succeed. Their failures lie not in the intellect, but in the will: They want to hate Benedict, so they take any excuse to do it and end by ascribing to him all sorts of false ideas that he never remotely said. To them, the only fit word is, “Repent.”

But with serious faithful Catholics, I think a different word has to be spoken: namely, “Be not afraid!” There was absolutely no reason to panic over this silly kerfuffle. At the end of day, what the pope was saying was not, “Condoms OK! The Church is reversing itself!” but that God is merciful and will take even the slightest crack in our armor against His grace as an opportunity to work mercy in our lives. When human beings make even a clumsy and stupid effort toward virtue, then, in the words of Uncle Screwtape, “If only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.” As somebody who prefers my Church to be merciful, I’m grateful for a pope who understands mercy and shall give thanks for him — among many other blessings and mercies we have received — this Thanksgiving.

Mark P. Shea


Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He was a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and is a former columnist for Crisis Magazine.

  • smf

    The force is strong in this one…

    This is a great way to explain this. (At least to Star Wars fans. I wonder what the Venn diagrams of well versed Star Wars fans and well versed Catholics have in the way of overlap?) Not to mention it is just plain fun. This light hearted response goes a long way toward putting my feelings about this mess to rights.

    Now I can’t resist being slightly troublesome:

    I really must take exception to calling it an elevator shaft. The open shaft contained a smaller enclosed shaft that was the elevator shaft. The reason for the large open shaft seems to have been to fill the Imperial Bureau of Design and Construction’s Mandatory Standard for “Bottomless (virtual or actual) Pits, Chasms, etc. of Death and/or Doom” which can be calculated on the basis of enclosed area for terrestrial structures or enclosed volume for objects in space. The second Death Star being reliably calculated* as approximating 900km diameter, would obviously have had a substantial quota to fill to meet Imperial codes.

    *(See the work of Dr. Curtis Saxton, PhD, Astrophysics, for examples of this and other proofs that far more esoteric things have indeed been given serious consideration than the number of angels able to fit on heads of pins.)

  • Al

    Great analogy. Your title had me worried there. I was a bit upset by the media headlines but then actually read what the pope said. After that, it was obvious what he was getting at – as you said, a step in the right direction from a very sinful life, however imperfect that step is.
    What wasn’t said, but any Catholic should know, is ‘wouldn’t it be great if the person gave up their sinful life altogether and did nothing wrong, but did what was right’ – that would be much better still! Even ‘good’ people need baby steps most of the time.

  • Mark Shea

    …are actually named for Darth’s second wife, Ella.

  • Chuck

    Since homosexual acts are mortal sins, it would be better if the person did not add murder (giving AIDS to others) to his list of sins. Hopefully he will repent prior to death, otherwise he still goes to Hell.

  • Seraphic Spouse

    Brilliant! First real, sincere, non-bitter laugh I’ve had on the subject in days!

  • Ryan Haber

    Almost everyone that I have read on the subject has missed three really pertinent and obvious points:

    (1) Contraception (artificial prevention of conception in the sex act) is always gravely sinful – not prophylaxis (measures taken to prevent the spread of disease).

    (2) Sex between homosexuals never results in conception.

    (3) The use of condoms between homosexuals is not contraceptive.

    Really, they might as well use them as water balloons, for how sinful condom use is between men.

    Between men and women, condoms have a contraceptive effect and purpose. It’s impossible to use them for any other purpose without dragging that purpose into the whole thing. The principle of double effect does not apply here precisely because there are measures that could be taken to achieve the same good (prevention of spread of disease) without dragging in a sinful effect (contraception) that are not being used to avoid the bad effect – to wit, abstinence.

    Note, further, that the Holy Father never said that the use of condoms in homosexual activity reduces the sinfulness of those homosexual acts in any event. It doesn’t. Those’re still just as sinful. Still, the use of the prophylactics in such a relationship does show improved conscience vis-a-vis concern for the well-being of oneself and another.

    That’s how I read the Holy Father on this one. I’ve read a lot of nonsense by some very well respected theologians saying things like, “Well, this wasn’t a magisterial statement by the chief authority of the Church’s magisterium. He said it on an airplane, after all.” Good grief. It’s really not that complicated.

  • Nick Palmer

    Over the weekend my wife and I were treated to Boston’s finest TV and newspaper reportage on Pope Benedict XVI’s relatively innocuous remark. I commented that it was really no big deal, as Mark and others here have noted. Not contraception? Then not subject to the ban per Ryan H’s syllogism. I happened to mention to my wife that the Pope probably doesn’t object to using condoms as water-balloons, either.

    What is interesting, however, is the hue and cry — from Catholic haters, skeptics, and Catholics. It is clear that the Pope’s simple point has highlighted an almost total lack of understanding of the Theology of the Body (or, a willful choice to mischaracterize it). This, I believe, creates an opportunity for wise pastors to fill the vacuum. Let’s hope and pray that many of our priests seize this chance to educate their parishioners to the beauty and meaningfulness promised by the Church’s REAL message.

  • H Karlson

    That’s what the Vatican is saying today, at least, what the AP reports the Vatican is saying today: http://tinyurl.com/36ugvuf

  • JoAnna

    I’ve just about cracked a rib from laughing. Thanks, Mark! (Ella Vader… *snort*)

  • Donna

    it points to something in “The Return of the Jedi” movie that has always bothered me. In the final scene, Anakin Skywalker appears beside Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, as if they are all equals now. While I understand that, generally speaking, Hollywood is not big on theological nuances (smilies/grin.gif) , I’ve always felt this as an artistic failure as well. Couldn’t there have been some way of indicating that, yes, Vader is ‘saved’, but he is not suddenly the same as those who hadn’t committed atrocities for years ? (Geeky rant, I know…)

  • John

    If condom use by male prostitutes is a small step in the right direction, could we also say that homosexual marriage is similarly a small step in the direction away from a more libertine and narcissistic life driven by sexual distraction?

  • David Ambuul

    Most people (especially those without the grace of baptism) go as far as the law allows. Legalizing sin that goes against human nature itself would be a codification that entrenches sin more deeply in our souls. The pope is not arguing for this. He doesn’t even bring up law in the context of condom use, but only says some people deep in sin could begin to climb out of that sin through imperfect means such as the use of a condom. Then they would not be sinning doubly: by both sex outside marriage and sex that could kill somebody through the spread of AIDS all in one act. Removing the spread of AIDS is a step in the right direction even though the individual using the condom is still sinning through his/her illegitimate sexual act.
    Thanks for clarifying the pope’s comments Mark. Being busy with work and family coming into town i did not have time to read his comments in context and was left confused by the MSM’s take on his words.

  • Carl

    Ryan said “Between men and women, condoms have a contraceptive effect and purpose. It’s impossible to use them for any other purpose without dragging that purpose into the whole thing.”

    I read on a blog this scenario:

    The husband of a married couple has aids say through a blood transfusion.
    After the conjugal act with a prophylactic the contents are then inserted in the birth canal.

    Is this admissible?

  • Carl

    …this is the question.

    It can also enable the sin just as easy as being a step in the right derection.

  • Bender

    Contraceptive use is NOT the only thing that might make condom usage morally wrong. Unfortunately, too many people have taken such an overly-narrow view of the subject (including those who hung their hat on whether or not the Pope was speaking about male prostitutes).

    And that it might REDUCE the risk of spreading disease does not automatically make every usage a moral good.

    If condoms are used to facilitate some other moral wrong, if usage encourages, aids and abets doing some other sinful act — whether it be fornication or sodomy or sexual objectification of a spouse — then the condom usage is, in itself, also a moral wrong. Condom usage, even where it might also coincidentally reduce spread of disease, tends to promote a sexuality of use, a mechanistic sexuality, rather than a sexuality of love, a “humanization of sexuality,” to use the Pope’s words.

  • Isaiah

    I suppose the care for oneself that the abandonment of a life of promiscuity to commit oneself solely to one sexual partner entails could also be considered a first step in assuming moral responsibility for one’s health and those of one’s sexual partner/s. From there to infer that the formal recognition of that commitment as equal to the lifelong commitment between man and woman is a step in the right direction is unwarranted, just as construing the Pope’s words as a fundamental change in the Church’s teaching on human sexuality is unwarranted.

  • Martial Artist

    The exposure to the virus is from exposure to the bodily fluids of the infected party. Ergo, what purpose would be served by using a condom if the contents are going to end up inserted into the birth canal. That very last act would make wholly ineffectual the use of the condom in the first place.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  • Mena

    While I fully understand that an immoral prostitute is showing a modicum of morality by opting to NOT risk the life of another person by use of a condom, I utterly fail to see the application of this or why it was said at all.

    It seems like a trivial statement that offers no real application. Is the Church now going to start passing out condoms to prostitutes as a ministry?

    The ONE area where I see possible clarity is in the rare case where one partner in a married couple has HIV or other serious STD. In that rare situation, the couple could possibly justify marital relations with a condom to keep from killing each other.

    But other than that, I fail to see the benefit or application of this whole line of discussion. It seems like perhaps the Pope was just reasoning out loud and a reporter picked up on it and turned it into a worldwide confusion designed to misrepresent Catholic teaching.

  • Ryan Haber

    Carl, what a weird scenario. Hypothetical scenarios are to philosophy as hard cases are to law. Others have sufficiently flayed this horse, so I’ll not join in the beating.

    The use of contraceptives, it should suffice to say, is forever and for any reason always and everywhere wrong.

    The ONE area where I see possible clarity is in the rare case where one partner in a married couple has HIV or other serious STD. In that rare situation, the couple could possibly justify marital relations with a condom to keep from killing each other.

    No. Never. Ever. The sexual act is meant by God to be an act of self-donation, self-giving – not mutual self-pleasuring. When one loves another person, one does not needlessly run the risk of infecting him or her with a deadly disease. The source of the initial infection is irrelevant. There is no prophylactic, nor does it seem one is likely to be developed, that eliminates the risk of a host of STDs. A woman would be entirely correct to be incensed at the suggestion of such a thing – it is clearly a pandering and self-interested maneuver.

    Moreover, condoms between men and women cannot be used prophylactically without being used contraceptively. They are for that reason gravely immoral.

  • Donna

    this whole thing reminds me of the way certain Catholic books of moral theology scandalized 19th century England. As Blessed Newman wrote , they were books meant for the confessor, but people (mis)read them as if they were for the pulpit. I think the Holy Father is giving an example of how God’s grace can find the tiniest chink in an armor-plating of sin, and people are somehow taking this to mean that the sin doesn’t matter.

  • Mena

    I understand, Ryan, that the contraceptive part would still be immoral. But the married couple where one partner has a serious STD is risking higher chance of harm and even death. So, how do the Pope’s words apply here?

    If you ask me, other than this ONE possible situation, the Pope’s words have no possible useful application. We’re stuck with a pointless comment that no one knows the application for.

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    Mark, all this serious debating aside, I feel that you ought to be informed that someday you are going to hurt someone–after all, I fell out of my chair laughing at the comment about Ella Vader (*chuckle snort* I’m still cracking up).

  • Bender

    All that Pope Benedict did in his “concession” was to say that even wrongdoers (those engaged in sexual sin) can do something good (at least be concerned with the physical health of the other).

    Now, that good does not make the bad good, nor is that the end of moral development. Rather, it says that the sinner is not 100 percent bad, there is at least an ember of good there. And it is that good that should be encouraged, it is not a justification for the bad that went along with it.

    He does not speak of a “lesser evil.” But even if he did use those terms, that would not suggest that a “lesser evil” is somehow a moral good. It isn’t. A “lesser evil” is still an evil.

    The condom use is not the “good first step,” rather, the concern for another’s health is the good first step. Well, what is the second step? To stop using the condoms and stop engaging in sexual sin.

  • Mena

    I challenge anyone to show me the practical benefit of this news from the Vatican.

    Was the whole thing a communications mistake?

    I see ZERO practical application for this. I do see plenty of real confusion though, and I don’t think chaos works in our favor out there on a sensitive issue that requires clarity and confidence.

  • Z


    You don’t see how a small step of one of the world’s largest and most organized institutions to stop the spread of a lethal and incurable disease has practical benefits for countless people? Or even a handful of people? Saving and preserving the sanctity of life is a large part of what Catholics stand for, this “small” change in policy and practices allowed of Catholics will help save lives. Catholic aid agencies will be able to provide condoms to select groups of people who now qualify for their use under the Pope’s statement. Outside abstinence, condom use is the only practical way of helping to stem the spread of a devastating, life-destroying disease.

  • Mark Shea

    The teaching that God is merciful and will accept the smallest attempt at virtue in his goodness may not *be* a practical thing. But thanks be to God we are Catholics and not utilitarians. If it comes to it, God has no practical use for any of us. We’re much more trouble than we’re worth.

  • Mark Shea

    If I can endanger just *one* person with my writing, I’ll know it ain’t been in vain fer nuthin’.

  • Vermont Crank

    Maybe Mr. Shea should write the Pope’s speeches for he made what the Pope said much clearer than the Pope did.

    I see absolutely no good that can come of what the Pope has said about the use of Condoms.

    What next? Will the Pope say that if one is going to drink and drive one would show more moral responsibility if he drank light beer before driving?

    How about advising Richard Seymour that next time Richard ought to open-hand-punch Big Ben Roethlisberger in the chest instead of the jaw?

    Of COURSE the Media will run with “The Pope thinks condoms are cool,” but WHY feed the enemy? Who could not have predicted that outcome?

    We are told; Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves.

    How has what The Pope said about condoms strengthened the Faith of his sheep or advanced The Common Good?

    In far too many of its actions, the modern Papacy (Post Pius XII) has been, just speaking personally, worse than a drag; it is an anchor affixed to my Spirit.

    Condoms for Homosexual prostitutes? Really?

    The Lambeth Conference of 1930 produced a new resolution, “Where there is a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, complete abstinence is the primary and obvious method,” but if there was morally sound reasoning for avoiding abstinence, “the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of Christian principles.”

  • Vermont Crank

    Catholic aid agencies will be able to provide condoms to select groups of people who now qualify for their use under the Pope’s statement. Outside abstinence, condom use is the only practical way of helping to stem the spread of a devastating, life-destroying disease.

    That “select group” will remains as small as those few cited by The 1930 Lambeth Conference.

    It would be fun to wager just how long it will be before the first clericals-wearing Priest will be photographed handing out condoms and whether or not he will beat Sister, wearing her Habit, being photographed doing the same thing.

    I’d wager a Jesuit will be photographed doing that before the New Year.

  • Matthew from Texas

    Many persons discussing condoms make the wrong assumption that condoms make a profound difference in preventing the spread of STD’s. The main factor for the transmission of STD’s(thinking mechanistic and not theologic or virtuous)is skin to skin contact. Condoms only cover such a small area of skin and thus it’s actual benefit is minimal. Regarding HIV, there may be more of a benefit but even studies show that the African nations with the highest rate of HIV also have the highest rate of condom distribution per capita. So for every one step forward in preventing HIV, it causes 2 steps backward because of increased risky behavior.

  • Mena

    “Will the Pope say that if one is going to drink and drive one would show more moral responsibility if he drank light beer before driving? ”

    Precisely, Vermont. This statement from the Vatican, if it doesn’t have some clearly designed application in mind, is total chaos.

    To Mr. Shea, this event was to show that “The teaching that God is merciful and will accept the smallest attempt at virtue.” But to Mr. “Z,” the announcement was so that “Catholic aid agencies will be able to provide condoms to select groups of people who now qualify for their use under the Pope’s statement.”

    I myself have proposed that the practical intent was for married couples where one spouse has a non-curable STD.

    Who knows? I’m not even sure the Pope knows, for it appears he was merely thinking aloud and reporters have seized upon this one paragraph to serve their own purposes

    But one thing I know for sure is that a great many people worldwide now WRONGLY think the Pope has given the green light to contraception.

  • Mark Shea

    …that the Pope still has not gotten the memo that he needs to clear what he says with the Conservative Catholic Combox Star Chamber before he speaks. When will he become truly Catholic and obedient to the Real Magisterium of Some People with Keyboards? Obviously if anybody anywhere on Planet Earth could conceivably misunderstand him, then it is his obligation to never speak.

  • DJ

    it would be morally better if one used a silencer so as not to add to noise pollution and therefore avoid disturbing other people that may be nearby.

  • DJ

    I see the connection. And I’m against torture as much as the next guy. But, can Mark write an article without bringing it up?

    And Mark I say this in A friendly teasing kinda way.

  • Mark

    The headline of the HufPo right now is “CONDOMS FOR ALL .. Vatican now views condoms as lesser of two evils to stop the spread of HIV” Right above the largest photo of Pope Benedict XVI they have ever posted.

    However, Mr. Shea chooses to rip on conservatives — too predictable.


  • Mark Shea

    Conservatives can’t do anything about the liars at HuffPo and are not responsible when they choose to lie. They can, however, do something about their own behavior. Nobody at HuffPo is reading this thread. Conservatives are. I address my remarks to my audience, not to people who are not here and are not, in any case, interested in the truth. You (allegedly) are. Though I must say your bizarre claim that opposition to torture is somehow related to seeking popularity with homosexuals goes a long with toward undermining that presumption. Others here, however, still seem to me to care about truth.

  • Mena

    “If one is going to be an assassin…it would be morally better if one used a silencer so as not to add to noise pollution and therefore avoid disturbing other people that may be nearby.”

    Exactly, DJ

    This whole thing seems like a big mess. You can see that the Pope was merely speaking off the cuff, and the interviewer ambushed him and the entire Church by making a mid-sentence parenthesis seem like a big shift in the Pope’s thinking. It was an intentional misrepresentation.

    Media played “gotcha” again on the Vatican. I don’t think the media plot could have been averted or intercepted. And for sure, the Vatican lost control of the message and were caught off guard.

    This stuff is so orchestrated and well funded, just like the constant waves of “abuse crisis” stories. Big organizations with big money plot this stuff.

  • str

    Actually, it wasn’t Darth Vader who blew up Alderaan but Moff Tarkin, to whom at the time Vader still acted as a sort of advisor/henchman/lackey. In the structure of the Galactic Empire, Vader did not generally act as the Emperor’s lieutenant – the relationship between the two was of a more informal nature.

    Ah, and since when did “forgetting himself” constitute morality?

  • str


    actually the interviewer who supposedly ambushed the Pope has been a friend of his for quite a while and has done several such interviews with him before.

    And the Pope approved of the whole book before it was published.

    Hence, the Pope didn’t speak off the cuff – rather he is now misquoted and misinterpreted by the mainstream media.

    The silencer comparison lacks the idea that the harm of being disturbed by the noise is out of proportion to the action of assasinating and that the objective of a silencer is not “not to disturb others” but “to go undetected”. Hence its objective is an evil one. Avoiding infection OTOH is not an evil objective.

  • Andy

    If one is going to be an assassin…
    it would be morally better if one used a silencer so as not to add to noise pollution and therefore avoid disturbing other people that may be nearby.

    It’s not the right kind of example, here. A better example would be: “If one is going to be an assassin, it would be morally better if one uses a pistol instead of a bomb so as not to kill dozens of people instead of just the one.”

    It’s a matter of degree. No, it doesn’t make assassination moral anymore than it makes fornication moral. The Pope is pointing out that, at the very (very very very) least, there is consideration of other people’s lives involved, and that that consideration is a first baby step to moral thinking.

  • Vermont Crank

    …that the Pope still has not gotten the memo that he needs to clear what he says with the Conservative Catholic Combox Star Chamber before he speaks. When will he become truly Catholic and obedient to the Real Magisterium of Some People with Keyboards? Obviously if anybody anywhere on Planet Earth could conceivably misunderstand him, then it is his obligation to never speak.

    Dear Mr. Shea. You are not the Pope, or his mouthpiece, or a Bishop, or a Priest, you are merely a layman with a personal opinion like all of the other individuals who are commenting in a comment box and so I don’t see any reason for you to self-righteously pop-off about the write-backer’s putative arrogance.

    I think the Pope ought to have stuck with his original statement – (Aids) “is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”.

    But he obviously wanted to speak in more detail about the issue of condoms and their use and I am among those who thinks he erred by entering into this casuistric quandary over condom use when it was so easily predictable that confusion over the Catholic Church’s pellucid Moral Doctrine would become muddied and it is not arrogant to voice that opinion publicly and it does not, in any way, shape, or form, undermine The Magisterium or indicate that I think I am the real Magisterium.

    I was Born a Catholic and I do not cotton to converts unjustly criticisng me for what that convert thinks is “star chamber” behavior.

  • Mena

    Mark, Vermont, and others. I would appreciate some input here as to what is the *practical implication* and purpose of the statement. Was this announcement:

    a) Just the Pope thinking out loud in an interview and the Pro-Death crowd exploiting it to their advantage via intentional misrepresentation (note that I believe the Pope’s statement about male prostitutes was clearly a mid-sentence parenthesis, a hypothetical musing, and nothing more)

    b) A clearly intended update to condom policy that allows Catholics to hand out condoms to prostitutes (Z’s view)

    c) A clearly intended message to tell people that “God is merciful and will accept the smallest attempt at virtue” (Mr. Shea’s view)

    d) Something else (please specify)

    I’d really like to hear some thoughts on this as I find the whole media reporting to be deeply eroding an already languishing policy. As we all know, most Catholics do not obey Church teaching on contraception, and we faithful Catholics feel we’re losing the war. This announcement involves a scenario SO NUANCED and bizarre that one can’t hardly even explain it or find a practical application of it.

    But perception is reality, everyone, and here’s the REAL CONSEQUENCE of this week’s circus: We now have millions of people worldwide, including many Catholics, who think that condoms are now basically acceptable in some cases. This perception, though false, will destroy any remaining attempts of the Church to set family procreation policy anywhere, and the UN population control people are ready to set child-limit laws that affect us all.

    I’m a full believer in the Church’s teaching on contraception, Yet, I worry we’ve lost this fight, perhaps for generations. And the political-legal consequences are dangerously immoral and will affect us all. We can expect forced contraception and forced abortion policy worldwide from the UN, and I don’t think anyone will be able to stop it now. The Catholic Church was/is the last group standing in the way.

  • Meredith

    “The main factor for the transmission of STD’s(thinking mechanistic and not theologic or virtuous)is skin to skin contact.”

    No it’s not, Matthew!!!! You can’t get AIDS by shaking hands with someone! HIV is transmitted during exchanges of bodily fluids. Please get your facts straight.

  • Mena
  • str


    but Metthew did not speak of AIDS or HIV but of STDs in general, some of which can be transmitted via skin contact (but not hand shake, rather more intimate skin contact).

  • K

    You said, “Catholic aid agencies will be able to provide condoms to select groups of people who now qualify for their use under the Pope’s statement”.

    I must strongly disagree with this. The Pope in no way said condoms are ok. And he certainly did not give a thumbs up for Catholic aid agencies to start distributing them. In fact, he said that ‘condoms are not a real or moral solution’.

  • AC

    It has already been pointed out, but condoms are useless in STD prevention. First, most STDs(let us not limit to HIV) reside in the general external area, not just in fluids. So while transmitted during sex, they are available in a larger area than a condom covers.

    Second, failure rate of condoms is about 15% (though failure and misuse) …..for pregnancy, which in simplistic math applied to NFP you find that about 1/3rd of the time you can’t get pregnant, so that 15% is closer to 45% failure rate… against something like sperm which are large in comparison to something like HIV. As an example of the scale – sperm=building/house. HIV=person in house. … So condoms don’t prevent HIV, and they aren’t designed to.

    In fact as already mentioned, HIV in Africa is worse where condom distribution is highest… (a feeling of safety with a nearly 50% failure rate on letting the larger item through?) It is like driving a icy road fast thinking you are safe in your 4 wheel drive. Country in Africa with an declining HIV infection rate? Uganda. Method used? Cultural change. The leaders of Uganda got a Nun (yes a Muslim country went to a Catholic Nun) to help design a program that would encourage waiting til married and staying faithful. HIV infection rates have fallen as a result of adopting this cultural view. (see hli.org for more on this and see also Thailand v Philippines and HIV).

    As for what the Pope said, yes he is technically correct that a ‘though of the other’ is a start towards charity and a start towards a more moral life. Yes it was delivered as a personal observation. But it was a bad analogy as even if his reporter friend wouldn’t do him in, plenty of others are willing to do him (and the Church) in. And yes somewhere some bad priest or nun or Catholic aid worker will be distributing and smiling on camera while doing just that.

    PS. I’m going to have to find the right person to make that Ella joke with….

  • Mark Shea

    I continue to be mystified. The man offered no program or policy. He changed not one iota of Church teaching. He simply observed what any merciful pastor would: that even a person in grave sin can make a clumsy attempt at virtue and consideration for another. Thank God the amateur Inquisitors of cyberspace have no responsibility for the care of souls.

  • Allan

    I was Born a Catholic and I do not cotton to converts unjustly criticisng me for what that convert thinks is “star chamber” behavior.

    No, you were not “born Catholic”, nobody is born Catholic. You were baptized AFTER you were born, so at some point you were not Catholic, just like any convert. The fact that you became Catholic at a younger age than Mark did doesn’t give you some special privilege. It’s utterly irrelevant to anything. Nancy Pelosi probably considers herself “Born Catholic.

    It seems very hypocritical of you to complain about being criticized (justifiably) by Mark, when your own posts were criticisms of the Pope’s statement. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Otherwise, your statements are open game for rebuttal and criticism, just like anyone else’s.

  • Stephanie

    For those of you celebrating the Pope’s desire to halt the spread of HIV and those who are upset with him because there was no point or practical application for his remarks, you are, I believe, missing the point. The Pope is not pondering condom usage per se, but rather the thought behind it. He is not pondering the degree of sinfulness of the action per se, but rather the charitable thought of others that opens the door to the mercy and action of God. How God will judge the man, only He can know. The Pope is, I believe, merely pointing out that this action of using a condom is indicative that the man has inside him at least a sliver of love of neighbor, and has thus opened the door to Christ.

  • Allan

    AC, where are you getting your “facts” from? There is certainly a failure rate with condoms, but to claim it is anywhere near 50% is to destroy your credibility (and that of others trying to make the point that condoms won’t solve the problem). That is an utterly ridiculous claim. Secondly, while you’re technically correct that some STD’s can be spread with mere skin contact, the topic was specifically HIV, and skin contact isn’t enough for HIV. There are a wide range of STD’s, some relatively minor, while others are life-threatening. You can’t just lump them all in together.

    And if there’a a bad priest or nun distributing condoms… well that’s probably already happening, so the Pope’s statement isn’t going to change much. In fact, the numerous rebuttals may make people more knowledgeable of he Church’s teachings on this matter, not less. People need to relax and trust the Pope’s judgement, rather than acting like armchair popes. The real villain here is the newspaper that leaked the story before the book was released.

  • Mena

    “The man offered no program or policy. … He simply observed what any merciful pastor would: that even a person in grave sin can make a clumsy attempt at virtue and consideration for another.”

    Mark, that is *not* how it’s being interpreted by Catholic service agencies, Catholics, or even the people closest to the story in the Vatican. RATHER, this comment is being cast as a development of doctrine concerning condom use, complete with practical applications for fighting HIV at the policy-making level in third world countries. That’s where the rubber meets the road here (pun intended).

    So, while you may see all this as a nice homily on God’s mercy towards prostitutes’ moral decision making, the rest of the planet thinks this has applications for regular condom use in one form or another. And at a practical level, perception is reality, and millions of people now perceive that the Pope has relaxed standards for condom use—and the pro-death crowd has gained enormous power to deceive from the event.

    I think the contraception battle is all but lost, and the UN is going to have less and less opposition to imposing immoral contraceptive laws worldwide–everything ranging from forced contraception use, to child-control policies, to force abortion and sterilization. And if anti-contraception Catholics don’t stand up and fight this, who will? Who will, Mark?

  • Mark Shea

    I could care less how it’s being interpreted by fools and liars. What matters is what he actually *said*. If you want to get mad at the fools and liars for twisting his words, then be my guest. But when you blame the Pope for the way liars twist his words, you simply join the people who are twisting his words. It’s a ridiculous thing to do. You might as well say that Jesus was irresponsible for saying “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” since those words were used against him at his trial to claim that he was a terrorist who meant to destroy the Temple.

  • Mena

    I appreciate your response, Mark. But I’m not sure you (or anyone) can say that this new statement will not have real practical applications such as Catholic condoms for African HIV citizens. In fact, every report everywhere is thinking of the Pope’s comments in the context of fighting STDs.

    Your assertion that the application is strictly theological (Isn’t it nice that God honors a prostitute’s attempt to protect himself or others from disease with condom use) is simply not the real takeaway in the real world. Plus, it is not apparent that the context of the Pope’s statement was God’s great mercy. The context was condoms and acceptable condom use.

  • Mark

    “Nobody at HuffPo is reading this thread. Conservatives are. I address my remarks to my audience, not to people who are not here and are not, in any case, interested in the truth” – Mark Shea

    Maybe Zha Zha with a laptop herself does not visit Inside Catholic, but readers and administrators reference the HufPo as a legitimate news source — you know, the people who believe that the Fox News headquarters is in Hades and Glenn Beck wears hats to cover his horns.

    “Though I must say your bizarre claim that opposition to torture is somehow related to seeking popularity with homosexuals goes a long with toward undermining that presumption. Others here, however, still seem to me to care about truth.” Mark Shea

    Since you are so concerned with the truth, why don’t we start with what I actually said instead of your spin:

    “Regarding the “issue” of waterboarding, the scab you continually pick Mr. Shea is your own. But hey, at least you have the pro-homosexual crowd in your corner.”

    Mark , November 16, 2010

    The “pro-homosexual” crowd does not mean “homosexuals” as you incorrectly noted. 90+% of the pro-homosexual movement in the U.S. is comprised of heterosexuals. The reason I mentioned it is because you and an IC commenter who is famous for his defense and promotion of homosexuality exchanged flattering comments:

    “Mark (Shea), I appreciate your piece and am glad to see it.”

    R___ B______ , November 16, 2010


    Thanks for your kind words.”

    Mark Shea , November 16, 2010

    I hope that clears things up a little and I sincerely thank you for promoting me to the categorie of one who is “allegedly” pursuing the truth — it has been a long climb from about a year and a half ago when you referred to me as a cartoonish lunatic and a neo-pagan because I said that I believed waterboarding fell short of actual torture.

    Anyway, I wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving.

  • Matthew from Texas

    Meredith, I would respectfully say get YOUR facts straight. The most frequently and abundantly transmitted STD’s, as documented by the CDC, are those that require the contact of skin from one infected person to another. Please note that skin also includes mucosa of the mouth, vagina, penis, and anus. As noted on the CDC website, the most frequently transmitted sexual infections are HPV, herpes, syphilis, and chancroid which are transmitted through skin contact. From the CDC website:

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    Mark (not Mr. Shea, the other one), mena, and a number of other people here seem to be getting a little bit heated. How about stopping the name-calling and general insults, and showing some charity? Also, I second Allan in saying that someone raised Catholic is in no way superior to someone who found the faith a bit later.
    Mark (Mr. Shea this time, not the other one), I agree with your view on this. The Holy Father can’t help all the liberal fruit-loops misinterpreting him.

  • Mena

    Aengus, I’m not heated, but I am deeply worried about the practical consequences of this “softening” of the Catholic Church’s hard-line stance on contraception. Why? Because the implications for global policy making are huge. As we speak, powerful leaders and international government organizations are implementing population control laws, and the laws mandate use of contraception and even forced abortion. The *only* thing standing in the way of this horror is the Catholic Church and its hard-line teaching on contraception/abortion.

    Any softening on the Church’s stance, real or perceived, will cause our side to collapse in the fight against this evil. (We’re nearly defeated already, as most Catholics accept contraception as okay.) Governments aren’t interested in making exceptions for peoples’ consciences these days, and therefore many people will be forced by law to use contraception and limit the amount of children they produce. In fact, environmentalists now teach that having 3-6 kids is a selfish attack on the earth’s ecosystem and resource. And they say it needs to be regulated.

    So, this topic matters. It really matters. The ramifications are enormous.

  • Mark Shea

    “Any softening on the Church’s stance, real or perceived, will cause our side to collapse in the fight against this evil.”

    That’s absurd. If misperception by the world means that the Church is about to collapse, then the Church has been a heap of rubble since Good Friday.

    The *only* thing that matters here is whether the Church has reversed itself on doctrine. She has not and, indeed, cannot. That’s what “indefectibility” means. Have some trust in the Holy Spirit and calm down.

    What you are demanding is that the Holy Father stop articulating the faith in its fullness lest some illiterate who only thinks in sound bites misunderstand him. Whittling the faith down to suit TV watching mouthbreathers who can’t be bothered to think is every bit as much a betrayal as distorting it to suit the Pelvic Left. “Our side” is not helping the Faith if they start demanding the Church dumb everything down to fit their tribal ideology.

  • Audrey Carbine

    Thanks, Ryan Haber (above). My thoughts exactly. It’s just incredible the fuss being made over this. Don’t people LISTEN to what was actually said? Absolutely incredible.

  • DJ

    I’m also greatly concerned with the more immediate effects. My extended family already thought I am a crazy religious zealot. Now they think I have an escape from this “wacky” lifestyle. And with Thanksgiving tomorrow, I’ll have to face them all. Oh the burden that is mine.

  • Mena

    Mark, I didn’t say the Church would collapse. I said that the Catholic fight to stop worldwide population control laws would collapse, and the sexual revolution, which is rooted in contraception, would be entrenched in developing nations for a hundred years or more, as it is now in the U.S. and throughout the West. The Catholic solution of marriage would be wiped out, just as it has been wiped out in the U.S. and throughout the West.

    A widespread misperception is the same thing as a reality. What a misperception does is allow the UN to hoodwink entire nations into accepting contraception as normative sexuality with a perceived thumbs up from the Pope. The secular media is already *intentionally* misrepresenting the Pope’s words to advance political laws and agendas. These groups understand that if everyone keeps reporting and saying that condoms are okay in some circumstances, entire national policies will be set along those lines, and our side will no longer be able to put up a resistance. People everywhere will generally think the Pope is okay with contraception.

    This is not about theory, Mark, but about real laws and practices and social norms. When we maintain the hard line, we have a willing army of Catholics ready to fight. But if our “hard line” becomes murky and confused, our resistance movement is neutralized.

    All of your concerns appear to be with what is said on paper, and whether or not the church has contradicted itself on paper. I don’t care about what’s on paper. I care about what takes place in real practice among real people and real organizations and real laws.

    The forces for the Culture of Life will be weakened dramatically if the message coming from the top gets murky or bogged down in confusion.

  • Mark Shea

    Mark, I didn’t say the Church would collapse. I said that the Catholic fight to stop worldwide population control laws would collapse,

    I don’t the think the average faithful Catholic is such a gutless quitter that a little bad press from hostile media is going to make him throw in the sponge *that* easily. Have a bit more faith than that, Mena.

  • Mena

    I should have made one point clearer. Both the sexual revolution and UN population control are entirely rooted in contraception. If contraception, both as an ideology and a practice, continues to spread, marriage will erode worldwide, and so will the freedom of Catholics to have big families. This is not academic.

    Marriage is rooted in the notion that sexuality is a procreative, family-creating activity. Contraception destroys the idea that sexuality is a procreative, family-producing activity, and thus it destroys marriage as a normative way of life for whole societies.

  • Mark Shea

    Marriage is rooted in the notion that sexuality is a procreative, family-creating activity. Contraception destroys the idea that sexuality is a procreative, family-producing activity, and thus it destroys marriage as a normative way of life for whole societies.

    And the Pope has not unsaid a word of that. So relax.

  • Mark

    “Mark (not Mr. Shea, the other one), mena, and a number of other people here seem to be getting a little bit heated. How about stopping the name-calling and general insults, and showing some charity?” – Aengus

    Not sure if you misunderstood, but the names I listed were names I was called a while back. I’m confident Mr. Shea knows that I provided that info as a humorous recall and that my feelings were never hurt. I also intentionally wished Mr. Shea and his family a happy Thanksgiving out of charity.

    The “Zha Zha with a laptop” was a reference to Arianna Huffington — now if she has become sacrosanct, I surrender.

    BTW, you must be new to Mark Shea’s threads if you think this one is “heated” smilies/smiley.gif

    I wish you a great Thanksgiving as well.

  • josepe

    Simply great!It could be said in less words, but not funnier.

  • JMC

    Thank you, Mark Shea! When I read about this on the ‘Net yesterday, I posted a comment comparing this to the classic example where a gangster goes to confession and tells the priest that he’s planning to kill a man who has wronged him. The priest, knowing that he can’t talk this guy our of his revenge, talks him into settling for just beating the guy up instead. This does not condone the sin, but it does choose the lesser of two evils, minimizing both physical damage to the victim and spiritual damage to the gangster.

    Applying this to what the Pope actually said, having sex with someone when you know you have AIDS is tantamount to murder. If you use a condom, it’s still the sin of fornication, but at least you’re not adding murder to it.

    Mark, you said it so much better than I ever could!

  • Mena

    “And the Pope has not unsaid a word of that. So relax” – M. Shea

    Ah, but this is all unclear as of this week. The morality of contraception is now in a state of international confusion, and everyone is looking for clarification since the intent and application of the Pope’s statement is not evident.

    Mark, if the Church’s hard line stance on contraception is relaxed or softened, either directly or within broad public perception, then pro-death groups like WHO and the U.N. will have zero resistance to destroying traditional family worldwide via the widespread enactment of contraception programs and child-control government policies. Faithful catholics in developing nations will think that condom use is acceptable because “we all have to do our part to fight HIV” (and other false pretenses for worldwide condom distribution).

    Without question, contraception is THE root cancer that eradicates marriage and responsible commitment-based human sexuality everywhere it becomes entrenched. If the Church’s opposition to contraception is weakened or muddied, we face hundreds of years of sexual revolution, population control, and cohabitation. Marriage will be all but extinct, either by attrition or by international law.

    I’m disappointed by your inability to see the ramifications of this. It’s NOT academic whatsoever.

  • JeffChilders

    We believe that God can use the horrific evil of the cross to save the world, but we force ourselves to pretend to be shocked and appalled at the suggestion that he can use a rubber as a first step toward awakening in a hardened sinner a semblance of consideration for the other as other, and, in our pretense, we display a face to the world of scandalous disunity.

    Mark, great work as always. It’s too bad they invented comboxes!

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    I really, really don’t think that one thing the pope said is going to cause a hundred years of death, plague, war, population control, peasants running screaming through their burning wheat fields, etc. I mean, sure, the Holy Father’s words bear a good deal of weight, but just who do you think he is?

  • Mark

    By John Thavis
    Catholic News Service

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In the middle of Pope Benedict XVI’s new book is a story about a hat, and it sheds light on the trials and tribulations of the modern papacy.

    The book’s interviewer, German journalist Peter Seewald, recalled a public appearance one winter day when the pope donned the “camauro,” a red velvet cap trimmed with ermine that was last worn by Pope John XXIII. Seewald suggested this was one of those subtle signals that marked a return to the old ways of the church.

    In reading the pope’s answer, one can almost hear him sighing.

    “I wore it only once. I was just cold, and I happen to have a sensitive head. And I said, since the camauro is there, let’s put it on. But I was really just trying to fight off the cold,” he said.

    The pope’s appearance in the cap caused a minor uproar in the media, which saw it as a kind of pre-Vatican II fashion statement. In the book, the pope said he hasn’t put it on since that day, “in order to forestall over-interpretation.”

    The misintrpretation of condoms has far greater potential impact in the real world than the over-interpretation of a hat.

  • Mena


    The coming “hundred years” of sexual revolution, cohabitation, and forced population control is all but finalized at the international level. These new futuristic norms are based on contraception ideology.

    Contraception is a top agenda item for international policy makers, and Catholics alone understand that contraception is the root cause of the breakdown of marriage and family as a normal social structure. Traditional Marriage stands or falls on the norm of *reproductive* human sexuality, and contraception has now eliminated *reproductive* sexuality, creating a new generation that sees zero need for marriage to exist at all! Casual sex and cohabitation have REPLACED marriage in the West, and this is all because of contraception.

    With that in mind, the only resistance movement is the Catholic Church’s faithful, who have clear orders that contraception is pure diabolical social cancer. We have powerful Catholics at top international levels trying to block the spread of contraception. If at any point our marching orders become unclear, the Catholic resistance movement falls, and there is no one else in the fight.

    Do you want your kids and grandkids to live in a Brave New World where cohabitation, casual sex, and population control are the social *norms* in every nation on earth? What the Pope says on contraception has grave consequences.

  • Samuel

    excellent article and very charming analogy. I read many of your articles and disagree with your take on the death penalty, waterboarding-as-torture, and your seemingly ‘moderate/centrist’ airs, but I give you credit for this artcle and want you to know that I really enjoyed it. Kudos and Blessed Thanksgiving!!

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    what the pope says on contraception has grave consequences.

    Well, yes, but the Holy Father didn’t actually say anything particularly controversial. He reiterated a commonly-held catholic teaching that a number of reporters misunderstood (probably intentionally).

  • Mena

    “Well, yes, but the Holy Father didn’t actually say anything particularly controversial.”

    But Aengus, that’s actually less clear today. And that’s a problem.

    The reason the whole international media pounced here (and intentionally misreported this) is because the international media is heavily invested in creating the futuristic contraception world I have repeatedly described here. They want and need the Church to soften this position, for the Church is putting up a good fight right now at the international level. We’re the only force that stands in the way. And our force entirely depends on maintaining the hard line that contraception is evil, wrong, ineffective, problematic, etc. etc.

    Marriage and family worldwide hangs in the balance.

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    Mena, I suppose the point I’m trying to make here is that, no matter how much the media misrepresents matters, I don’t think they can destroy the world. I, personally, have more faith in people than to think them mindless sheep that will go along with whatever they’re hearing in the news. After all, even under Hitler’s regime, there were still people thinking for themselves. And, however much the pope’s words mean to catholics, even if he actually said what the media claims he did, there would still be many faithful catholics who wouldn’t put his views above 2,000 years of church teachings.

  • Mena

    “I don’t think they can destroy the world.”

    What is destroying our world is widespread acceptance of contraception and contraceptive mentality. Anything that furthers the acceptance of contraception furthers the destruction of whole societies. Anything that blocks the acceptance of contraception blocks the destruction of whole societies.

    The Church’s stance matters here. It is the lynchpin that leads to one of the two outcomes above. If the Church is clear that contraception is intrinsically evil, we can aggressively work to block contraception and save society. If the Church gets fuzzy about the morality of contraception, we can no longer aggressively work to block contraception, and society will be radically lost for centuries.

    There are grave real consequences involved here. This is not an academic matter whatsoever. The link between sexual activity and procreative responsibilities/results must be restored in the minds of the public. As of right now, entire generations no longer grasp that sex is a reproductive activity requiring marriage bonds and family stability. That fact has been lost to millions of people in our time, and contraception is the cause of this mass deception and the resulting loss of marriage and family.

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    Firstly, you have reiterated several times that “this is not an academic matter.” The first time I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to the statement, but now I’m wondering: what exactly are you talking about? I think everyone understands that this is not a hypothetical debate.
    Secondly, there is another question which myself has been meaning to ask–what do you yourself propose be done? Can the Holy Father no longer speak? Are we so petrified of the media that we should have a committee devoted to editing the Vicar of Christ? It seems to myself that if you really want to prevent the sin of contraception in all its forms, a better approach would be to start a society with the mission of educating people about this thorny issue. Not only would this actually do something, but it would likely do a good deal more than gagging the Holy Father.

  • Mena

    Aengus, my perception is that Mr. Shea has approached this matter from a doctrinal/theological perspective (i.e., what the Pope’s words say about God’s mercy, and how the words apply to a struggling prostitute whose decision to use a condom represents a step in the right moral direction). That is, Shea is treating this as a kind of academic (or perhaps pastoral) matter. Mark showed almost no understanding of what’s really at stake here (he even seemed to mock many of those who DO recognize what’s at stake).

    What am I proposing? I am proposing that the Vatican announce repeatedly that there is NO softening of the Church’s stance on contraception. I am proposing that the Vatican recognize the dangers in a worldwide intentional mischaracterization of the Church’s teaching and respond with the strongest possible clarifications.

    As I said before, the media have INTENTIONALLY seized upon this chance to make it appear that the Church has softened/changed its position on condoms/contraception. This is done on purpose to help advance the cause of global public policies and lawmaking. Powerful international groups are trying to legislate and/or promote contraception, population control, and abortion at the national level. We will lose that battle if we Catholics get mixed messages about contraception from the top.

    This is not the last we will hear of this issue. Powerful groups inside and outside of the Church are pushing for the Brave New World that can be established upon contraception and contraceptive ideology. We already have the total breakdown of marriage and responsible sexuality everywhere that contraception has been normalized.

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    Neat conspiracy theory.

  • Mena

    Conspiracy? As in “secretive”? Not hardly. It’s everywhere in the wide open for those who read international news and pay attention to the laws that are being passed regarding contraception, abortion, religious speech, etc.

    What do you think all these international groups at the U.N. are doing all day long? Who do you think comes up with the idea of mandating contraception policies in Africa or China or elsewhere? Why do you think the new U.S. healthcare bill is so deeply dedicated to taxpayer-funded contraception and abortion? Who do you think promotes an international set of laws about climate change? How did the entire West begin promoting homosexuality in school curricula and entertainment and begin persecuting those who speak against it? Why do you think U.S. taxpayers are paying for abortion in developing nations around the world?

    Aengus, leaders in governments, as well as large special interest groups, decide social policy for entire nations. It’s not secretive — it’s out in the open for anyone paying attention.

    As they say, there are no accidents in politics.

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    Ah, a well-written reply, filled with all the elements necessary for a good suspense novel.
    First of all, I’ll have you know that I do, in fact, pay attention to the news, both in my own country (Ireland) and others. You are indeed correct that the school curriculum has become rather too liberal for my tastes, and the health care bill across the pond looks a tad fishy, though, honestly, I don’t think catholics as a whole are being persecuted. Certainly, there are those who aren’t too fond of us, but take a look at what’s happening over in the Middle East. They’ve got it a lot worse than we do, lass.
    Then, as to what you say about world leaders–that’s so, they have power, but we get to vote on potential bills, and catholicism is the most widespread religion in the world; so, whatever the Holy Father is telling reporters, we can all band together to shape the law in the right direction.
    And that brings me to another point–Mena, I am truly in admiration of your powers of debate, and moreover, your ability to stick with your argument despite numerous detractors. Where do you live? America? Why don’t you harness some of that natural talent, and do something in the political field? Sincerely, I sense an ability to change the world.

  • Mena

    “The school curriculum has become rather too liberal for my tastes”

    Educational curricula don’t become too liberal or too conservative on accident. Educational curricula are planned by planners and political think tanks. Every day, well financed political groups with book-length agendas plan and execute social strategies that set the norms and behaviors of society. (The primary tools are laws, law enforcement, organizing, and public policy making.) Fortunately, the Catholic Church is a powerful force in this regard and a player on the international stage.

    Suspense novels don’t hold a candle to what goes on in the world of politics and public policy. As I said before, there are no accidents in politics.

  • AC


    Follow the math. Standard failure rate of condoms with pregnancy is 15% (this is live usage, condoms in ‘test’ are much higher, but in ‘test’ it is in a lab under test conditions, not in the field after improper temperature storage for months, used by someone who doesn’t put it on right). So failure is 15%. But a woman can only get pregnant 1/3rd of the time any given month (see basic NFP, it is a little off, 1/3rd is rounded, but close enough).
    So assuming that relations are spaced evenly, and condoms are used everytime (they are supposed to be), that means that under standard usage, condoms leak 15% of the time resulting in a pregnancy, but that is only 1 of 3 encounters per cycle… meaning that 2 encounters had leaks with no pregnancy because of cyclical female infertility. 3*15=45%…. again this is against pregnancy, which is dealing with sperm – ie something that is a small cell not something like HIV which is an even smaller RNA chain.

    That’s how I got to 45%. Given that growth rates of HIV in Africa and other locations that have stressed condoms over self control, it is clear that they aren’t very effective. Areas that have stressed self control over technology have found that typically works better.

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    “Suspense novels don’t hold a candle to what goes on in the world of politics and public policy.”

    Right you are, Mena. Sometimes reading up on the news is even more fun than sitting by the fire with a dime novel.
    As to the thing about the school curriculum, that may be starting to change somewhat–have you heard about what’s going on in Texas? How they’re trying to chuck poor old Darwin out the window? And, then, they’re thinking of getting rid of their so-called sex education (never approved of that stuff myself. We never needed it before. And I wonder why the pregnancy rate among teenagers has risen so much in recent years?) Unfortunately, a lot of this change is being driven by evangelist protestants, who take the Bible a little too literally, at times. (Really, those people won’t listen to reason–it doesn’t matter how much evidence there is against something, they refuse to believe that maybe the Scriptures aren’t a scientific text. They’re the ones that think, nay, know that the world was created but 4,000 years ago.)
    So, all in all, it’s unsure I am where this is going–and, much as I’d like to be a father someday, there are moments (like when I hear about the drivel the government insists on teaching children) that I’m rather glad that isn’t something I have to decide about just yet.

  • Matthew from Texas

    Adding to what AC stated above about failure rates is the concept of cumulative risk. In many scenarios for STD risk, what is inferred is the “chance” or probability of getting an STD on one sexual encounter. However, the more encounters or exposures one has, this probability then increases. Practically speaking, this is why more condoms will never mean less STD’s. Just like betting against the house in Vegas, the odds are ALWAYS stacked against you.

  • Mena

    Yup, Aengus, the evangelical protestants have all sorts of kooky ideas (mostly end of the world stuff). Even so, many of them make for solid allies when it comes to setting social policy.

    The Board of Education in Texas is trying to remove liberal social politics and revisionist history from the classroom. I’ve never heard a protestant argue that evolution shouldn’t be one theory among many taught to kids. Mostly, they want certain aspects of Darwinism classified as theory instead of proven empirical fact. Other than that, they’re willing to have it presented.

    Sex education should be a family matter. When I was in the government schools, sex-ed was mostly limited to learning the biological mechanics of the body and reproductive system. Today it’s all about sexual styles and preferences and methods and such. I don’t want my kids to be some guinea pig for Alfred Kinsey-style social engineers. What a confusing mess that is for teens. Youth sex educators basically tell young teens to get started practicing.

    All the best to you.

  • Brigid

    I have to chime in with my 2 cents worth because not NEARLY enough has been said about the brilliant use of humor in this insightful article!!!

    I must also say that each and every one of you have challenged, educated and entertained me beyond measure this evening. I love every single post, even those that I think are so alarmist as to be almost funny. Sorry, Mena, that means you. Mark and Aengus…you two have such a clear and uncluttered understanding of this entire situation. There will always be people wringing their hands over situations like this. If we had a Pope who only spoke while reading pre-planned answers and comments, those same hand-wringers would be wringing away over the way that was being interpreted and debated by the media.If we lose our minds every time the media misinterpretes and or misrepresents the Catholic Church…we are going to make our selves sick. We are in His capable hands. No catastrophe (and this is NOT one in any shape way or form) is beyond God. Relax Mena. This “situation” is a non-situation.

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