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May 02, 2006

Comments

Laura

You make good points, Jimmy, but in the end, I think we should call people to choose the GOOD, not the lesser of two evils.

Tim J.

One of the reasons I love Jimmy's blog is that I occasionally get to see new words like "condomistic" coined in print.

I could just see the Pope allowing for condom use in this narrow context (the lesser of two evils - you may stop at the Sixth Circle of Hell) and having the press go mad with headlines like "Vatican Admits Error In Opposing Condoms!!".

AmericanPapist

"condomized sex" and "condomistic sex" are both commonplace phrases now...

M.Z. Forrest

I question whether the impedence of a desired good is necessarily sinful. I think the ideal of abstinence in such a case is good.

Comparatively, the act of sex after sterilization - whether sterilization was necessary or not adds a few moral dimensions, but is not needed for the comparison - is generally considered okay, but couples are cautioned against lust. Some go so far as to caution couples not to abstain lest they harm the unitive aspect of the sexual act. Sterilization would seem to me to be a greater impediment than a condom.

Maybe Jimmy or someone else could address the patoral advice given to a couple where one is sterilized versus a couple where one has a communicable and fatal disease.

I see a slipperly slope forming. Next it'll be okay to contracept in order to avoid herpes, etc. . .

Jared

Couple of quick points here:

Remember when the media told everyone that the "Vatican," even the "Pope" himself, had come to a favorable opinion of Harry Potter? Turns out it was ONE GUY with no authority to speak for the Pope or Vatican. Point is, we need to tread lightly here to keep from confusing those who'll never read the actually words of the Magisterium, but only the quotes and paraphrases and misquotes in the mainstream media.

Two: as has been pointed out, a lesser evil is still evil. To approve condom use would be akin to saying, "Well, Father, I killed her soul but not her body." (That's IF the condom doesn't fail. HIV is about one micron in size while latex has naturally occurring holes 100 microns in size.)

Related to this last bit is this:
http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/family/documents/rc_pc_family_doc_20031201_family-values-safe-sex-trujillo_en.html#HIVincrease

I don't see any need for the Vatican to clarify at all beyond what it has already stated in this document as a whole and this section in particular.

Pseudomodo

Paul VI: 15. "On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever. (19)"

No.19 refers to Pius XII with a possible reference to 'perforated condoms' I seem to recall.

However in paragraph 14 he seems to rule out lesser/greater evil arguments:

“Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. (16)
Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good," it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong. “
Perhaps the key issue is whether it is this condomistic sex is ‘deliberately contraceptive’?

Tim J.

""condomized sex" and "condomistic sex" are both commonplace phrases now..."

I guess I just don't get out that much.

BillyHW

Nothing says I love you like a 99% chance I won't give you AIDS.

BC

I think that Pope Pius XI’s statement as to contraception is interesting:

“But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.…”

Pius XI, Encyclical Casti Connubii,

Jeremy

Great post, Jimmy--I've been waiting for this one, and you never disappoint. A couple of thoughts about it:

1) To illustrate the possible double-effect argument, you could use the following example. Suppose I were sitting in a field on a pile of hay. I look up and see a woman who has fallen from an airplane headed straight for my pile of hay, which will no doubt save her from a high-impact sudden death. At the same time, however, I see an incoming missile (aimed at me because I am a CIA operative on a delicate mission--or something). I whip out my NASA-designed shield-o-matic and generate a force-field around myself: on the one hand, the unfortunate woman bounces off and is damaged or killed; on the other hand, the missile does not kill me (or foil my supremely important government mission).

OK, it's far-fetched--but it's fun!

2) I wonder if your anti-condom argument hinges precisely on the "unitive aspect" of the marital act. That is to say, I agree whole-heartedly that using a condom vaporizes the unitive aspect and for precisely the reasons you put forward, but I wonder if the principle involved is wider than that.

For example, one might well set about to prove that the three angles of an equilateral triangle add up to 180 degrees, but you'd be a little off-target because in fact the angles of ANY triangle add up to 180 degrees. I wonder if arguing from the unitive aspect of the marital act in this case isn't something like that.

As you described, couples using a condom simply aren't performing the act. They're doing something else, and the fact that it looks almost just like the real thing is incidental. Phrases like "the integrity of the act" come to mind.

I'm groping a bit here, but maybe this will bring out what I'm trying to get on the table. It seems possible to sin by violating the unitive aspect of the act without violating the physical integrity of the act. It seems that one could have the physical integrity of the act without the unitive aspect, but not the unitive aspect without the physical integrity.

Does this make sense? What do you think?

BillyHW

Cardinal Barragàn and Martini have put a tremendous number of souls in jeopardy with their Satan-inspired words and ought to be punished severely for their crimes.

And whoever appointed them was a catastrophic fool.

BillyHW

Has anyone thought of the children who might be born with AIDS when the condom fails?

Nothing says fatherhood (or motherhood) like a 50% chance I won't give my child AIDS.

Rick

But it is still mortal sin, and mortal sin separates us from God.

John

That's ridiculous. First of all, HIV is not a death sentence anymore. Medicine now allows for near-remission and comparable lifespans for those infected with HIV and AIDS. Secondly, the one and only option should the latter not be the case, is abstinence. Is it easy? Of course not. Is it the only morally correct avenue? Always has and always will be.

M.Z. Forrest

And yet BillyHW, it is perfectly ordered to have condomless sex with an HIV infected spouse. In fact you are engaged in a holy enterprise if you are then blessed with a child who will be an orphan by their 12th birthday.

Charles R. Williams

Suppose there were a medicine that eliminated the risk of HIV transmission but rendered the person sterile. There would be no problem with intercourse under those circumstances.

Suppose a 100% sterile couple chose to use condoms to eliminate the risk of HIV transmission. Here the use of a condom would not be contraceptive but it still would be wrong for precisely the reasons Jimmy gives. A natural act of intercourse must result in ejaculation in the vagina and not in a latex sheath. The exchange of body fluids is intrinsic to intercourse.

BillyHW

M.Z. Forrest never fails to impress with his ability to turn lead into gold.

A true act of love can never allow that the object and fruit of one's love contract a deadly disease. And a marital act without love is what I would call perfectly disordered.

Pseudomodo

Consider this:

1. Condoms have a demonstrated pregnancy rate. (WHO)

2. A woman can only bcome pregnant close to her ovulation day. (Billings Ovulation method)

3. Condom failure on days outside her fertility time will not result in a pregnancy. (Billings)

4. It will however result in an infection rate 4-5 times that of the pregnancy rate. In other words encouraging condom use will result in more infection not less.

eweu

M.Z., no. If one spouse has HIV then the call to living chastely is very clear. The choice isn't "use condoms" or "don't use condoms." The choice is "sin" or "don't sin." I know what I would choose.

Peggy

I have a few questions and thoughts:
--Why is it so desirous that a couple in which one spouse has AIDs be permitted to engage in the marital act, that Catholic morality must be bent? That gift seems to have been abbrogated by one spouse becoming infected w/AIDs/HIV, whether by his own sin or a medical accident/error. It is a cross for the couple to bear, a hard one, but one they must bear.
--This sexual intimacy as JK notes is not unitive since separated by plastic/latex. I don't see how we can overlook that it can never be reproductive. So, what's the point of permitting such sexual acts?
--Why is the case of a woman who would certainly die (or be in grave health) if she tried to carry a child to birth? Why can't we allow this couple to enjoy the marital act using condoms? [yeah, I know condoms don't guarantee no pregnancy, as discussed above.] If we're talking about preventing the death of one spouse in the case of AIDs/HIV, why can't we consider this case as well? Why doesn't the couple with the woman who cannot carry a child get a break?

Thanks.

Janice

This entire discussion is stupid. John Allen has never, to my knowledge, gotten his facts straight on any issue, especially one with theological implications. Moreover, if any of you went to Catholic New Agency in the last couple of weeks, to say nothing of American Papist, you would have seen numerous posts to the contrary, in the words of Vatican officials from the dicasteries of Human Health and the CDF, who adamantly denied that any change in the attitude toward condoms was in the offing. I'm afraid that citing John Allen is far from convincing.

Tim J.

"In fact you are engaged in a holy enterprise if you are then blessed with a child who will be an orphan by their 12th birthday.".

The child is not the problem in this scenario, AIDS is.

Having a child with your spouse is perfectly ordered. It is NOT perfectly ordered to intentionally contract a deadly disease, or to allow it to be passed on to your child.

Condom or not, knowingly having sex with someone who has AIDS is almost the definition of insanity. Once HIV enters the picture, I doubt it's much good to pretend that (thanks to latex!) we can now have a nice, normal married life anyway.

If I had AIDS, I can't imagine ALLOWING anyone to have sex with me. I see no other charitable option.

But sex is the Ultimate Value in the secular West, so I guess it would be better to throw myself off a cliff than to exercise a little restraint. I mean, life is meaningless if you can't have sex, isn't it?

Julie

Wouldn't it be loosely similar to one spouse having a different illness that physically prevented them from having sex? No one would expect the ill spouse to have to carry out the spousal act of sex. That would be a cross that they would have to carry together. If one spouse is ill and shouldn't have sex, then both spouses should use it as an oppurtunity to grow together in different ways.

J.R. Stoodley

It seems using a comdom by eliminating the unitive dimension of sex a married couple using a condom would always be immoral so all discussion of other aspects of the situation is pointless. The one issue that is interesting is the idea that using a comdom in an act of sodomy would perhaps be less grave than commiting such an act without a condom, especially if one "partner" knows he has HIV. Both acts would be mortal sins, but one still less grave than the other. It sounds like a slippery slope, but the idea itself seems to work, and to be something worth teaching.

Jared

I forgot to post this:

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=6558

As I started to say (and failed to complete that thought before foolishly moving to the next), certain media groups even have this preliminary story wrong. The policy ain't gonna change. It wasn't ever in danger of change.

Jeremy

Incidentally, mostly for my curiosity as a new Catholic...

Is mutual masturbation before marriage considered a lesser sin than fully-unitive, fully-procreative sex prior to marriage?

If so, does that mean that a couple having sex without a condom prior to marriage is committing a greater sin than a couple having sex with a condom prior to marriage?

Kevin Jones

"Is mutual masturbation before marriage considered a lesser sin than fully-unitive, fully-procreative sex prior to marriage?"

Arguably, the first is a kind of sodomy,(right sex, wrong "receptacle") while the second is simple fornication and less objectively grve.

"If so, does that mean that a couple having sex without a condom prior to marriage is committing a greater sin than a couple having sex with a condom prior to marriage?"

Though it runs counter to our sex-ed indoctrination, condomized sex can be considered sodomitical under certain kinds of casuistry, and therefore is more disordered. Here's a http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=18-10-036-f>summary of Aquinas:

St. Thomas thus points out that while even simple fornication is “against properly human nature, of which the act of generation is ordered to the appropriate education of children,” sodomy is “against the nature of every animal” because it is not aimed at generation at all.

Jared Groth

Jeremy
Since they are both mortal sins I suppose you can look at it through this analogy. in one instance you are hit by a brick which fell from the Empire State Building and die instantly. In the second instance the entire building falls on you destroying your body to the point that it cant be identified. I suppose that you could say one was worse than the other but in the end in both cases your still just as dead. If you have sex before marriage with or without a condom with full knowledge and consent then your soul is just as dead either way and confession is needed.

Note: I am using you in an generic sense not refering to anyone in particular. I invite any correction if I have miss stated.

J.R. Stoodley

sodomy is “against the nature of every animal” because it is not aimed at generation at all.

Its a bit off topic, but just a little advice for everyone. Don't use the argument that sodomy is unnatural on a simple biological level around those who want to argue that it is natural. They will likely point out that many animals (bonobos, fruit bats, and orcas are the examples I know of but I think there are others) engage in the same activity. And monkeys mastrobate, apparently. If they bring the subject up themselves, I would point out that just because one species does something it does not mean others should. When a lion cub dies its mother often eats it, recovering some of the energy she had put into generating it. This is fine for lions to do, but who would suggest human mothers do the same?

Pseudomodo

J.R.

That's the argument I always use. Just because Chimps are promiscuous does'nt mean we should be. After all it was discovered not too long ago (by Jane Goodall, the scientist who never bothered to ask the locals what they saw chimps doing) that chimps sometimes attack, kill and eat other chimps. Shades of Soylent GREEN!!

(BTW did Tom ever chow down on his wifes placenta or was he just pulling our legs and nibbling on them a bit?)

Laura

"In other words encouraging condom use will result in more infection not less."

This is exactly what has happened in Africa. God have mercy on us for it!

Anonymous

Mr. Akin,

With all due respect, your post sounds as though you are already bracing for the Holy Father to announce that condoms are going to be allowed and the above is merely an apologetical deflection of such.

The principle of double effect does NOT apply because one of the key components of that principle is the fact that the evil effect cannot be an INTRINSIC EVIL.

Deliberately preventing the husband's sperm from entering the woman's birth canal IS an intrinsic evil, rendering the rest of the test irrelevant.

The "intent" reasoning was the same thing that the married couple on Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae commission tried to advance to allow the "principle of totality."

Christ said the gates of Hell WILL NOT prevail against the Church.

Were any approval of contraceptive use for any purpose whatsoever to go through, the gates of Hell WOULD prevail. I think we should pray that the Holy Spirit leads the Holy Father to censure these dissident cardinals from misleading the faithful and transcribes a document restating an already obvious conclusion settled long ago (i.e., in 1968).

Tim J.

Anonymous-

In case you didn't read Jimmy's entire post, he concluded;

"So it seems to me that, regardless of whether double-effect (and self-defense) could make the loss of the procreative aspect of the act tolerable, the destruction of the unitive aspect is something that cannot be gotten around.

The act of using a condom to prevent the transmission of AIDS in a sexual act will still be immoral."

Did you miss that?

whosebob

Jimmy, I wrote the following in thread on forums.catholic.com. I would appreciate your input (and other readers' too), perhaps in another blog entry, on this scenario I'm proposing:

That being said, there is another situation which the upcoming document / statement from the Vatican might address. WARNING: The following moral-theological speculation is entirely my own, and my conclusions may not prove to be entirely compatible with Catholic teaching.

Suppose Joe and Jane are a married couple in a 3rd world country where women have limited rights and limited or no recourse against unjust actions performed by their husbands. Suppose Jane is a faithful Catholic (or Christian who shares the Catholic sexual sensibilities), and wishes to have nothing to do with artificial contraception; and perhaps she has already born three children by Joe. Now Suppose Joe is off working for twelve weeks at a time in the mines several hours driving distant from his home. While living away from home he contracts HIV, say from a prostitute or from "shooting up" with an infected needle. At some point he discovers he is infected or almost certainly infected, and he informs Jane, or she becomes very much aware of it; by the grace of God she has not yet herself become infected through sexual intercourse with her husband.

This next part may be hard for us to imagine (or maybe not for some of us), but let's assume now that Joe is *not* a just and selfless man, and that he insists, even demands to still have sexual relations (vaginal copulation) with Jane; and that even if she doesn't willingly comply, he will have them with her anyway ...

I have been thinking and thinking about this, and I believe it would be entirely compatible with Catholic moral principles in this case for Jane not only to consent to having sex with Joe while he's wearing a condom, but that it would be morally right for her to request for Joe to wear a condom, even to insist he wear one, even for her to procure those condoms. Why would it be okay? Self-defense, plain and simple. And if she dies in the next few years, as her husband almost surely will, who will take care of their young children? The sexual relations are truly or practically inevitable in this scenario (albeit agains the wife's preferences and moral inclinations), and so the principle of double effect can be invoked, and she can protect herself and the welfare of her children, even by actively procuring and insisting upon the use of a condom.

There is something I wanted to add:

Perhaps it will one day be possible to manufacture a condom that will allow for sperm to pass through unharmed while at the same time preventing the HIV virus from doing so or killing / neutralizing it in the process. Or perhaps some cream could be manufactured that could be applied inside the wife's organ which would produce the same effect -- survival of the sperm, defeat of the virus. At least we can pray for this, perhaps even fund such development.

Mary

Sterilization would seem to me to be a greater impediment than a condom.

Sterilization is a one-time act that can be repented of.

Whacking your kid around because you enjoy it is a lesser evil than killing him. But if you have killed your child, and repented of it, the question is what to do with yourself after the repentence. Perhaps your child was handicapped and you killed him because after the prenatal diagnosis, you thought you didn't want to spend the time it would take to take care of him. That you repented doesn't mean that you don't have the time on your hands that could have been spent caring for him. But the question for the whacking the kid around is: when are you going to stop? All other questions get deferred until then.

An on-going sin may be more of a problem than a graver one-time deal.

whosebob

There is something I should have made more clear in my previous comment:

In the thread in which I originally posted my thoughts (re-posted above), the scenario where the wife cannot choose to not have sexual relations with her HIV-infected husband was proposed in stark contrast to a married couple in which both spouses are conscientous Catholics / Christians who are dedicated to living out the true meaning of human sexuality in accord with God's design. As you'll see if you read my posts in that thread, I argued that in the latter case there can be no moral justification for the couple to use condoms, and for the same reaons Jimmy gave regarding the impediment to the spouses full union in the marital act.

J.R. Stoodley

whosebob,

It is my understanding that one may never do anything that is intrinsically evil. Evidently killing another person is not intrinsically evil. Murder is, but killing an enemy in war or in self-defence or a government killing a criminal can be ok if the other conditions for a moral action are in place.

Something like sodomy however, which is intrinsically evil, may never be done even to save one's own life or any other noble purpose.

If contraception is indeed an intrinsically evil action (and I don't know if the Magesterium has defined that or not) then it may not be done in any case, including in pure self-defense. We may not do evil so that good may come of it.

Jared Weber

I'm gonna just put the first part of this out there and let the chips fall where they may.

whosebob: Putting your post and JR's post together basically means that the wife would actually be justified in killing her husband. That would be an act of self-defense, especially considering that even the most optomistic studies state that condoms fail 10% of the time. Seeing as (once again) latex has naturally occurring holes 100 microns in size and the AIDS virus is about one micron, it is more than likely that even a condom won't protect her from repeated incidence of this form of rape.

Which leads to the other two points I'd like to make. Firstly, why would such a horrible man, who would selfishly take his wife's safety so lightly (in the first place by fooling around on her and in the second place by insisting that she succumb to his advances) ever agree to the inconvenience of a condom? Secondly, anyone who would advocate this form of "protection" in this type of situation, is, in fact, sanctioning rape.

The One, True Church can (and will) NEVER advocate such a thing.

Karen

I see the pro-condom argument wrong on two counts, even before beginning to explore the couple's intent and whether there's a principle of double effect.

The argument presumes that the couple MUST have sex, or at least sexual relations of SOME type, whether it's licit or not. To come out with a valid Church teaching, you need to address what is true, and here's what is true: Individuals do not need to have orgasms to survive. We're not talking about couples who only have two options--sex without a condom or mutual masturbation with a condom.

The pro-condom argument also must presume that if a couple can't have licit, natural sex as it's intended to be, then mutual masturbation with a piece of plastic is a licit option.

In this one little presumption being made, suddenly masturbation is no longer an objective evil.

Basically, allowing condoms is saying this: "Since we presume that you MUST have some type of sexual relations, then it's okay to mutually masturbate with a piece of plastic between you" (which is technically not even sex!).

The principle of double effect often seems to be abused by people who accept false premises.

How can we be questioning "condomized sex" when it's not even sex at all anyway, but masturbation?

It seems that only once you've admitted presuming these things--1.) that people MUST have some option condoned for them to continue to have orgasms, and 2.) that mutual masturbation is a licit option and masturbation is no longer an objective evil, can you even begin to proceed in exploring the couple's intent, the principle of double effect, and so forth.

But the way I see it, the "debate" halts even before exploring these points. I also never buy the 'lesser evil' argument and I'm sure nobody else on this blog does either. The Church I know might call one thing less evil than another, but She will also never congratulate anyone for performing lesser evils, or condone lesser evils.

Cheers

Nihil

"In other words encouraging condom use will result in more infection not less."

This is exactly, what has happened in Africa. God have mercy on us for it! (Laura)

Was the second comment serious?

Paul Hoffer

An article by Peter Popham of The Online Idependent about this issue appears on the Drudge Report.
http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article361564.ece


Jared and J.R., would you consider continuing this discussion in the thread I linked to at forums.catholic.com? I'd rather not take it much farther here in the comments section of Mr. Akin's blogsite -- it's just not very convenient.

I do hope, though, that Jimmy will weigh in on this marital-rape / AIDS / condom / self-defence scenario.

Peggy

Karen's point is mine exactly. Why must we ensure that one specific group of couples (AIDs/HIV-infected) are able to have sex, but not others who are similarly barred due to some health threat to the husband or wife? Why can't they be called to carry the cross as other couples with other health threats are called?

I think that those who are promoting this idea are falling for the political pressure of making AIDs/HIV the "favored" disease and believing it must be addressed unlike any other. There is no reason to carve out exceptions for AIDs/HIV, especially if the Church does not believe in exceptions in other cases of life/health threats resulting from marital sexual relations. [Forcible rape MAY be a different matter and I'll pass on that.]

whosebob

The previous comment inviting J.R. and Jared to forums.catholic.com was posted by me -- forgot to enter my personal details before clicking "post." :-)

J.R. you said:

"Something like sodomy however, which is intrinsically evil, may never be done even to save one's own life or any other noble purpose."

You should read the following document, published by the Holy See (Pontifical Council for the Family) in 1997:

VADEMECUM FOR CONFESSORS CONCERNING SOME ASPECTS OF THE MORALITY OF CONJUGAL LIFE

Here is a relevant quote:

"13. Special difficulties are presented by cases of cooperation in the sin of a spouse who voluntarily renders the unitive act infecund. In the first place, it is necessary to distinguish cooperation in the proper sense, from violence or unjust imposition on the part of one of the spouses, which the other spouse in fact cannot resist. This cooperation can be licit when the three following conditions are jointly met:

(1) when the action of the cooperating spouse is not already illicit in itself;
(2) when proportionally grave reasons exist for cooperating in the sin of the other spouse;
(3) when one is seeking to help the other spouse to desist from such conduct (patiently, with prayer, charity and dialogue; although not necessarily in that moment, nor on every single occasion).

14. Furthermore, it is necessary to carefully evaluate the question of cooperation in evil when recourse is made to means which can have an abortifacient effect."


I had these principles already in mind when thinking through the scenario I've proposed; there seems to be a new dimension added when in fact the cooperating spouse's life is in grave danger if a condom is *not* used, which has led me to think that in this case -- that is when the cooperting spouse does not have the choice not to have sexual relation, i.e. the wife will be forcibly raped by the husband if she does not meekly comply -- the cooperating spouse may be allowed even to procure and request / insist on their usage.

skyhawk

I think Karen makes a very valid point. The whole idea of the "lesser evil" situation arises when your options are limited. Basically you are trying to do damage control so you try to choose the "less evil" option. But as Karen has said there are many situations where we DO have a choice and therefore are not pushed into a suboptimal situation. In the case of condoms in HIV infected couple there is a moral choice: abstain! So I don't see how we can justify using condoms when there is a perfectly valid and moral solution!

If some freak accident happened to a man and he lost the usage of his sexual organs (impotence) and medicine could not solve the problem then he wouldn't be told by the Church that it's ok to use a plastic prosthesis or something similar so that he can have relations with his wife. Because that wouldn't be sex anyways. So why would it be different in this situation?
As beautiful, good and important sex in marriage is, it's not compulsory. A couple might have to do without if necessary whether you think that's fair or not. If anything we should be willing to pray and help those couples in any way we can.

AnotherCoward


It's almost as though the Church is engaging in some kind of instruction for those who already ignore its teaching. "Well, since they aren't listening to our instruction on properly ordered sex, lets not lead them to believe that we would expect them to do something more evil."

I'm not particularly certain what the moral good is in that except that, perhaps, the Church can have a clear conscience about how it has instructed all of mankind, not just the faithful.

But the Church needs to be very careful how it presents this teaching. If the teaching of condoms is issued as a teaching on "lesser evils" then it does not apply to us, the faithful. Short of being held at gun point and being ordered to have sex, condomized or otherwise, with an HIV person (who happens to be your spouse), otherwise the HIV person gets it ... I can't think of why this teaching would ever enter into the realm of morally licit possibilities for someone.

I fear, should this teaching be issued, we might have another thing along the lines of the Truce of 1968 that Tim Jones blogged about a few days ago - validation to ignore the Church on what is proper and expected among the faithful.

M.Z. Forrest

Despite one commentator trying to address it above I can't get past how people can say it is holy and redeeming that those who have neutered themselves have relations, but the tiniest minority of a minority cannot protect herself from a fatal and deadly disease. If it is gravely sinful to protect oneself against a deadly disease, then it better be gravely sinful to engage in sex after neutering oneself.

J.R. Stoodley

M.Z. Forrest,

It is gravely sinful to neuter ones self, but after that you may indeed have sex. After the fact, the man (or woman) is simply infertile, and if nothing is done to close a marital act to life then nothing objectively evil is being done.

whosebob,
I was aware of the principle you pointed out about a spouse submitting to "condomized sex" but did not know where it came from so did not mention it. However, in that case the woman is not engaging in contraception herself, but rather fighting against it in some way. In your senario, she is really the one contracepting, and the husband the one going along with it, despite the anatomical details. So again, if contraception is intrinsically evil then it is never permitted.

Zippy

Sterilization is a one-time act that can be repented of.

Having sex while wishing you hadn't sterilized yourself isn't the same thing as engaging in a sex act that you have not intentionally rendered sterile, though. Wishful thinking isn't the same thing as intent.

Suppose someone intentionally put on a condom that could never be removed. (Assume for the sake of argument that other bodily functions still work, etc). Is it possible for such a person to engage in a licit marital act?

The answer is not an obvious "yes". Having sex while wishing you had not intentionally put on a condom is not objectively the same act as having sex without a condom, it seems to me. Wishful thinking is not the same thing as intent. What we intend is what we choose. We may wish we had not chosen something that makes our present state what it is, but wishing we hadn't done it doesn't mean that we are licensed to act as though we hadn't done it.

Zippy

And BTW I am familiar with Jimmy's discussion about this being an example of the genetic fallacy, because a sterile sex act -qua- sterile is not immoral. That misses the point though. A naturally/accidentally sterile act is a different act from an act that has been intentionally rendered sterile.

M.Z. Forrest

I am open to correction on this JR, but in the case of sterilization, the sex act is not considered holy, but not objectively sinful assuming absolution had been given on the matter. Similiarly, the act of getting AIDS while in marriage would be considered grave matter (illicit drug use or adultery). Having AIDS, the act of marital sex would be intrisincally evil (basically trying to murder your spouse). At this point you are on the same ground, the act can never be holy. The condom would seem to make the act morally neutral (as opposed to gravely evil, which the sex act would be without the condom.)

J.R. Stoodley

M.Z. Forrest,

I agree with your last post except for the last sentence. The condom would not make the act morally neutral. For one thing, the man would still be putting his wife at risk. For another, it is an act of contraception which is evil in itself.

whosebob

J.R. Stoodley wrote:

"whosebob, I was aware of the principle you pointed out about a spouse submitting to "condomized sex" but did not know where it came from so did not mention it. However, in that case the woman is not engaging in contraception herself, but rather fighting against it in some way. In your senario, she is really the one contracepting, and the husband the one going along with it, despite the anatomical details. So again, if contraception is intrinsically evil then it is never permitted."

What about the principle of double effect, may it not be invoked in this scenario? In other words, the wife is not engaging in an act of contraception, she is committing an act of self-defense, supposing that killing her attacker-husband is in this case not an option -- perhaps she would be stoned-to-death by her local community for doing so, and then her children would be orphans.

If I shoot, even aiming to hit a vital organ, a man attacking my children, I have not committed murder, I have committed an act of self-defense. There has been no mutation of an obj. evil act into a good one; no, the act of murder and the act of self-defense are entirely different acts, even though both might involve aiming and shooting a gun.

Likewise, if the woman has *no option* to *not* have sexual relations with her HIV-infected husband (e.g. she lives in a society that won't protect her from the unjust advances of her husband), then by procuring and requesting / insisting upon the use of those condoms, she is not committing an act of contraception, she is committing an act of self-defense.

This analysis does *not*, in my opinion, apply to conscientous husbands and wives who can make the free choice to abstain from sexual relations; or in situations where, say, the wife can have some other recourse to prevent her husband from forcing / coercing her to have sex with him, e.g. obtaining a restraining order or calling the police in the event of a sudden attack.

Zippy

Likewise, if the woman has *no option* to *not* have sexual relations with her HIV-infected husband (e.g. she lives in a society that won't protect her from the unjust advances of her husband), then by procuring and requesting / insisting upon the use of those condoms, she is not committing an act of contraception, she is committing an act of self-defense.

I agree with this, but not based on double-effect. The woman is not contracepting, because she is not choosing to engage in sex at all: she is being raped. To contracept is to choose to engage in sex that has been intentionally modified in such a way that it is rendered infertile. If she isn't choosing to engage in a particular sex act, then it isn't logically possible for her to be contracepting.

Mike

Late to the party, but there are a couple points I felt had not been addressed:

John-

I agree with your moral conclusion that use of condoms does not in any way comply with Catholic teaching and those in the hierarchy that suggest it may be licit are extraordinarily wrong (and will very likely learn this very soon when the Vatican re-asserts the teaching.)

However, to suggest that AIDS is no longer a death sentence ignores the reality of the situation in Africa. Africa truly has an AIDS crisis that is killing many millions of people, even if AIDS is less of a problem in the US.

Jeremy-

Regarding the hierarchy of sexual sins, I refer you to what Aquinas has to say in Summa Theologica. Basically, he rates the sins of fornication, adultery, and rape (in that order -assuming natural intercourse takes place) as less grave than the "unnatural sins" of "the sin of not observing the right manner of copulation" (wrong receptacle); followed by sodomy (correct species, wrong gender) and then beastiality (wrong species). In that order (least to gravest). http://www.newadvent.org/summa/315412.htm

Now, obviously, saying rape is less grave than masturbation isn't exactly PC these days, but admittedly there is a logic to it.

So to answer your question from a Thomist POV - condomistic sex ("the sin of not observing the right manner of copulation") before marriage is graver than simple fornication because it is considered a sin against nature.

Jared Weber

MZ and whosebob:

I'll simplify my previous points (in hopes of not breaking DaRulz) and I'll put my main points in bold:

1: The Church is not going to change her position on this. The matter is closed. What MAY happen is that the Magisterium might expound on its existing teaching, in the same way that, in The Theology of the Body, JP2 expounded on Humanae Vitae.

2: The position you are exploring (I don't know if you are advocating it or not) places more lives (not to mention souls, which are of prime importance) in jeopardy by creating an atmosphere wherein condom use is rationalized, rape de facto condoned, and the faithful confused. Condoms are, AT BEST, only nine tenths effective (much worse in most studies) and their use and, more to the point, the ADVOCACY of their usage, will result (indeed, it HAS resulted) in more orphans than we can fathom.

In short, condom advocacy has already worsened the problem. Let's not seek to make the Church--the pillar and bulwark of Truth--complicit in this lie.

M.Z. Forrest

Jared,

There is no change of teaching involved. Contraception is the use of devices to avoid pregnancy. Wearing a condom while having sex with your HIV infected spouse is protecting yourself from death. If you mean to tell me that a spouse is less likely to contract AIDS by having free intercourse than by using a condom, you are crazy.

I can at least respect Zippy's position - if I have it correct - that if a person has sterilized oneself that they cannot have relations. This is at least morally consistent.

Wearing an intact condom while having sex is contraceptive in matter, regardless of ones intention. One may not work evil (contracept) for a good end.

This is like saying "having trial pre-marital sex to insure compatibility is not the same as fornication. It is just an attempt to avoid divorce."

M.Z. Forrest

No. That is not a legitimate end. That would be like me claiming
a) Firing a gun is wrong.
b) Defending yourself is just an excuse you have.

J.R. Stoodley

M.Z. Forrest,

You are focusing entirely on the procrative dimension, ignoring the unitive dimension. The desruption of the unitive dimension of sex makes contraception wrong in all circumstances.

You are misunderstanding Jared's argument. It is not that using condoms makes a given sexual act more dangerous. It is that advocating their use makes people wrongly think they are safe if they use a condom, which theoretically leads to less abstinence and perhaps more infection and death.

Sterilization is a mortal sin. After someone has been sterilized and then repented and confessed their sins, they may have marrital relations without having the procedure reversed. As with those who are sterile or infertile for other reasons, the person is not deliberately placing any obstical to procreation within the sexual act.

MZ, it does not matter how good the end is, one may never work evil for a good end.

It would be wrong to kill an innocent man if it would save the entire nation. (CCC 1753, 1759)

Zippy

I can at least respect Zippy's position - if I have it correct - that if a person has sterilized oneself that they cannot have relations. This is at least morally consistent.

I should point out that there is a potential distinction here also though. A marital act that is accidentally or naturally sterile is one kind of act. A marital act that is sterile because of what someone has done to himself on purpose at some time in the past, wishes he had not done, and would undo if he could, is a different kind of act. And a marital act which one modifies in the moment it is performed in a way that renders it sterile is still a third kind of act.

It is possible that a marital act by someone who intentionally sterilized himself (and repented of it sincerely without reversing it) is licit; but not because he doesn't intend to perform an intentionally sterilized act when he chooses to have sex. He obviously does choose to perform a sex act that has been modified and made sterile by his own choice.

So I tend toward thinking that someone who has intentionally sterilized himself literally cannot perform (literally is incapable of performing) a morally good marital act; but it isn't necessarily the case, and the Church has not authoritatively told us one way or the other, as far as I know.

It seems quite clear to me that someone who nows he has HIV cannot perform (literally cannot, as in is physically incapable of performing) a morally licit marital act.

These are, of course, just my view of the matter, though I think my view is consistent with what the Church teaches.

Zippy

After someone has been sterilized and then repented and confessed their sins, they may have marrital relations without having the procedure reversed.

As far as I know this is a common assumption but is not the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium. I believe the Magisterium is silent on this particular case and that a number of reasonable people have extrapolated to this conclusion; but their extrapolations are far from definitive, and I have yet to see one that was not rationally flawed in one or more ways.

M.Z. Forrest

Zippy,

I greatly respect your opinion. You are precise and definitive, which I appreciate. You may not be able to get me past this, but I cannot see how condom use in this case can be considered a contraceptive act. I have no issue with the claim that sex would be an incomplete act and surely deficient. I have no issue with stating that abstinance is the ideal in such a situation. I just don't see how one can state objectively that a person is condemned to hell for protecting their own life.

Zippy

...but I cannot see how condom use in this case can be considered a contraceptive act.

I'll give it one more try, perhaps with an analogy thrown in for good measure.

I assume that by "this case" you mean the consensual case, and of course this all remains my view and my view only (though I do think I am right, hah!)

To contracept is to choose to perform an otherwise ordinary act of intercourse, but to intentionally modify it in such a way as to make it infertile. The infertility isn't an effect of the act, it is intrinsic to the object of the act - an essential part of which is the modification of ordinary intercourse that the person chooses. Note that this is not what the person wishes he could choose to do, but what he actually chooses to do. Wishful thinking and intent are not the same thing.

By analogy, say the bombadier knows that the Mosque is filled with innocent people and a terrorist. The terrorist is not next to the (known to be) innocent people in a different building, he is among them. The bombadier may wish he could bomb the terrorist and the terrorist alone, but he knows he cannot, so he chooses to bomb the terrorist and the innocents together. He cannot claim that he doesn't intend to bomb the innocents just because he wishes he could bomb the terrorist without bombing the innocents.

Double-effect only applies if (among other conditions) the evil occurrence is an effect of your act, not the object of your act: it can't be what you are directly choosing. Double-effect is not a general license to do whatever you choose as long as you sincerely wish that what you were doing only had good effects.

I posted on double-effect recently here.

And as usual, it is entirely possible that I am completely full of it. But I don't think so.

whosebob

Jared Weber wrote:
2: The position you are exploring (I don't know if you are advocating it or not) places more lives (not to mention souls, which are of prime importance) in jeopardy by creating an atmosphere wherein condom use is rationalized, rape de facto condoned, and the faithful confused. Condoms are, AT BEST, only nine tenths effective (much worse in most studies) and their use and, more to the point, the ADVOCACY of their usage, will result (indeed, it HAS resulted) in more orphans than we can fathom. In short, condom advocacy has already worsened the problem. Let's not seek to make the Church--the pillar and bulwark of Truth--complicit in this lie.

(1) Condom use is rationalized

Not necessarily, but it is obviously a serious concern that, as you say, the faithful [could be left] confused. But then what is an appropriate response? How should a young woman be counseled if she cannot avoid having sexual relations with her HIV-infected husband, and if she has no other recourse such as "skipping town," calling the police, obtaining a restraining order, or outright killing or maiming him when he makes *regular* *unjust* sexual advances. Although a condom won't protect her 100%, surely it is better than 0% protection? No?

Now, some here (or maybe it was at forums.catholic.com, or both) have suggested that it is not reasonable to expect that such an unjust man could be convinced to wear a condom. I disagree, for two reasons not independent of one another. (1) Never underestimate the potency of a woman's crying and tears and pleading, especially if she points to the children, for whom the man may well feel at least some genuine paternal affection and concern. Such a fuss might not work to convince him of the moral imperative to abstain completely, but I think it very well could lead to his wearing the condoms that his wife already has on hand, which she purchased previously for the sole purpose of defending herself. (2) If by wearing the condom the man is able to have physically peaceful, perhaps even not unpleasant, intercourse with his wife, versus having to force her to the bed/ground/wall, pry her legs apart, perhaps need to beat her to tire her out, and force himself upon her, he may very well choose that "peaceful" option every time.

I realize there are some other BIG secondary concerns if such a stance was officially promoted by the Church:

(1) How often is the woman obliged to verybally attempt to convince her husband that abstinence is the only moral route, and that he is doing a grave injustice to her and their children? Every time? And how often should she be required to bring her activities to the attention of her confessor? Must every instance be submitted for "review" in Confession prior to Holy Communion so that she does not grow slack in her obligation to choose this option ONLY if she has no other choice?

(2) Not independent from #1, it is important to not understemiate the love-resiliance of the tender heart of a woman, even for those family members who treat her wrongly, even for an abusive husband (and that's what it would be, abuse, even potentially lethal abuse). Even during the condomized-as-a-last-resort sex, she may -- after numerous recurrences -- begin to embrace her husband with tenderness and herself enjoy the sex. In other words, she may develop an unfortunately false confidence with regards to the condoms, and she may naturally begin to lose her intention to only engage in the activity (buying the condoms, requesting their use, etc.) only if it is absolutely necessary.

Those concerns being stated, I ask again, what is the morally correct pastoral respsonse in this situation? What if a conscientous poor Catholic woman in a country that is mostly lawless when it comes to abusive husbands approaches her pastor / confessor and asks if it is moral to see to it, as best she can, that her HIV-infected husband wears a condom while having sex with her, as she has no ability to prevent the sexual activity, short of something that will be instantly tragic for her and her children?

If the answer is "no," then what is a Catholic Faith-compatible answer? Is the priest obliged to shield her and other women in her situation (and their children) from their husbands? Does she have no other choice but to risk almost certain infection, and be consigend to a slow, painful death sentence? Does the priest, if the question was asked in the external forum, have a responsibility at that point to visit or call the husband to warn of the temporal injustice and eternal consequences of his actions?

If the answer is "yes" then, in the broader scheme of things, how does the Church act to assist these women? Again, are the priests or other personnel obligated as far as possible to directly warn the husbands of the terrible injustice they are commmitting? What if the woman has no money for condoms or there are no other relief agencies around that could give them to her -- can a Catholic parish/mission have them on-hand to distribute to women in that situation? Could the Church provide the woman with financial assitance to buy the condoms?

This is not an easy problem to address or solve ...
(please keep in mind that I am as committed the Truth and Catholic orthodoxy as much as the most orthodox-minded among the readers of this blog)

(2) Rape de facto is condoned and condoms are perceived to be advocated by Church

Is robbery condoned if a police officer encourages someone in a really bad neighborhood to consider keeping a hand-gun in the house (yes, I do realize that a hand-gun is not the same as a condom, but still) and using it to defend themselves if they have no other choice? Now, the citizen's efforts to protect his life and possessions should not stand alone; the police should begin working extra hard to prevent crime and apprehend criminals in that neighborhood. Likewise, it is unthinkable that the Church should make such an "allowance" (and it wouldn't truly be an "allowance" per se), and not at the same time have her priests, deacons, and other personnel work extra hard to teach the HIV-infected husbands that they do a great, damnable injustice to their non-infected wives if they make sexual advances upon them. Would those priests, etc. do so? Unfortunately, many might not, but I'm not sure it changes the moral evaluation of the woman's options.

Would the Church be advocating condom production and usage if it made such a clarification? Well, I'm sure the document would state that the Church NEVER EVER condones the use of aritificial contraception nor does it believe that this condomized sex is somehow positive or good for these poor wives or the husband and wife as a couple. The Church would emphatically state that it is only defending the act of self-defense. But, yes, it would probably be perceived that the Church had "changed its mind" on the evil nature of condoms.

Again, this is not an easy or simple issue ...

And again, I hope that some clever Catholic engineers and scientists might be able somehow to invent a condom that would permit sperm to pass through while blocking / neutralizing / absorbing / killing the HIV-virus (or other STD germs).

If Pope Benedict XVI does indeed issue a clarification along the lines I've proposed, the document had better be a masterpiece of moral and pastoral theology, carefully re-explaining and applying the Church's whole mind on this issue as expressed in the last century. Deus Caritas Est would seem like a "cupcake" in comparison to it. Hail Mary ...

Jared Weber

whosebob: You honestly expect a rapist to care whether his victim cries? If so, why wouldn't such a tactic work to get him to stop?

Pastorally, in such a hypothetical situation as you set up, if the woman cannot be induced/is not capable of escape and/or licit means of self-defense (i.e. the death and/or emasculation or her attacker), another means must be procured. Five minutes should be about enough time to deal with such an evil individual.

Your gun analogy ... is not at all analogous. Killing a perpetrator is licit. Condom use is not. We've been over the reasons why.

On the hypothetical condom that stops HIV but not sperm? You do realize that HIV is quite a bit smaller than spermatazoa, yes? And quite a bit more resilient.

Zippy

Jared: The pastoral issues are no doubt complex and difficult, as they always are. But the moral issue seems quite straightforward to me. If she is not in fact consenting to sex then whatever she does it can't be contraception, by definition. A lot of what you describe looks like consenting to sex though, albiet under a lot of pressure, in which case if she uses a condom it is contraception and intrinsically evil.

Easy, open and shut case from a moral point of view. Catholics are not to do evil, period, not even when they are under a great deal of pressure to do evil, and not in the most difficult of circumstances (real or hypothetical).

Zippy

Sorry Jared, I meant to address my post to whosbob.

whosebob

Zippy wrote:
A lot of what you describe looks like consenting to sex though, albiet under a lot of pressure, in which case if she uses a condom it is contraception and intrinsically evil. Easy, open and shut case from a moral point of view. Catholics are not to do evil, period, not even when they are under a great deal of pressure to do evil, and not in the most difficult of circumstances (real or hypothetical).

No, it's not so "open and shut," or at least after reading this, Vademecum For Confessors Concerning Some Aspects Of The Morality Of Conjugal Life, I don't see this seemingly related case as being so easily "open and shut." She is *not*, according to my analysis, contracepting when procuring / using the condom even when *consenting* to the sex because she is defending her own life. She has only two other options: (1) to do something, according to my scenario, that will result in swift, though unjust, capital punishment by her community (i.e. kill or maim her husband); (2) fully resist her husband, get beat up and forcibly raped, and then have a near 100% chance of contracting HIV. To procure and request use of the condom is not *full consent* on her part -- she is merely facing up to what is truly or practically inevitable and taking the steps to protect herself; this is a limited consent resulting from coercion which enables her to escape further brutality, i.e. a classic case of the principle of double effect.

Please analyze further, I appreciate your feedback.

whosebob

Jared Weber wrote:
whosebob: You honestly expect a rapist to care whether his victim cries? If so, why wouldn't such a tactic work to get him to stop?

I don't know how to state it any better than I did before. This is his wife after all, he is not some anonymous rapist. And we are not talking about some one-time out-of-the-blue event, we're talking about a horrible event which may take place again and again until the time he dies of AIDS or is too sick to force himself upon her. The wife's emotional appeal coupled with the fact that it makes it easier for him to "get off" without so much physical disturbance (i.e. having to physically "beat her up") may realistically, I think, win him over to condom use at her request.

Jared Weber wrote:
Pastorally, in such a hypothetical situation as you set up, if the woman cannot be induced/is not capable of escape and/or licit means of self-defense (i.e. the death and/or emasculation or her attacker), another means must be procured. Five minutes should be about enough time to deal with such an evil individual.

I'm sorry, I need you to be more clear. Seriously, if you have an "easy way out" solution to this scenario, please share it with us.

Jared Weber:
Your gun analogy ... is not at all analogous. Killing a perpetrator is licit. Condom use is not. We've been over the reasons why.

And I agree 100% that contraception is never licit. And this analysis is *NOT* meant to apply when the woman does have some other choice (e.g. calling the police) or when both spouses are conscientous persons who will conform their actions to the Truth. I'm not trying to find or create a loophole for morally legitimate condomized sex.

Jared Weber:
On the hypothetical condom that stops HIV but not sperm? You do realize that HIV is quite a bit smaller than spermatazoa, yes? And quite a bit more resilient.

Yes, duh, I realize that. Or else I would have expressed dismay that such condoms aren't rolling off the factory floor and into the Catholic missions. The engineering required would have to involve some sort of chemically active and selective multi-layered membrane, or something like that. It's a **hope**, not something I think is likely to happen. I also hope that a complete cure will be found for HIV. I also pray for the conversion and salvation of such "Joes" who would subject their wives to such abuse, and for the heavenly and earthly protection of such unfortunate women. Peace.

Mary

Double-effect only applies if (among other conditions) the evil occurrence is an effect of your act, not the object of your act

Err, no. The object of your actions is the act you intend.

Double-effect applies if there are two effects of your action, and the evil one is not more immediate than the good one, and you intend the good one (it being of sufficient important) but do not intend, merely know of, the evil one.

A doctor may wish that he had a painkiller that wouldn't shorten the life of a terminal patient in horrible pain, but he may chose to give the painkiller, with the object of lessening pain, even though he knows he is shortening the patient's life.

Again, the only problem with your terrorist example is that it is not clear about the military importance of the position. If the terrorist is waiting the moment to denotate four atomic bombs in various countries -- yes, you can bomb him and the innocent together. Just war theory requires that the innocent not be deliberately targetted, but the very requirement of "Proportionality" in just war (that the evils created by the war be less than the good sought) shows that they can not always be avoided.

Zippy

Mary: you aren't using the word "object" the way that Catholic Church uses the word "object" when referring to a human act. A human act consists of object, intent, and circumstances -- and specifically, the intent is distinct from the object. Colloquial meanings of "object" should not be confused with what the Church means when she refers to the object of an act.

...but the very requirement of "Proportionality" in just war...

You are conflating very different things here. In Catholic moral theology proportionality doesn't come into play until an act is determined not to be evil by nature of its object or, separately, its intended effects.

Jared Weber

Zippy: No worries.

whosebob: The human race has never cured a virus. Ever. We don't even truly know whether or not viruses are technically "alive."

You write about "swift, though unjust, capital punishment by her community...." This is precisely what I'm referring to, sans the "unjust" part. Capital punishment is not intrinsically evil (unlike contraception) and in this hypothetical case you present, it is more than justified. Five minutes.

Also, can I ask you to please restrain your use of the word "duh" when directed at me? It's rude.

Zippy

whosebob:
The intended audience of the Vademicum is (as the title says) confessors. Not all the faithful, not moral theologians, not penitents, not married couples, not spouses in difficult marriages, but confessors. The gist of it is that contraception is grave matter and engaging in it is a mortal sin when done with full knowledge and consent: however, when a penitent is ignorant of this fact it is not always prudent to rather brutally inform them of it, since that is as likely to result in apostasy as repentance if not handled delicately in some extreme circumstances. It is better pastorally for a penitent in the confessional to be innocent out of ignorance rather than guilty in full knowledge and consent, and the confessional is the place where one brings ones known sins, not where one learns that one has been committing grave evil unknowingly.

The Vademicum specifically does not provide a moral license to engage in contraception (and indeed is not addressed to penitents at all, but to confessors, most of whom in the Roman rite are celibate priests). Attempting to employ the Vademicum as moral theology justifying contraception in certain hard cases is a gross misuse of it, contrary to its (quite explicit) purpose. This has not prevented some moral theologians from misusing it in this way, however.

Katie

whosebob: You seem to have a very a low opinion of Africans.

I'm not trying to find or create a loophole for morally legitimate condomized sex.

And yet, it seems to me that you are. Isn't that exactly what you're doing? Your stand seems to be legitimizing rape. It seems to me that you're saying to the woman, "You better give it to him, otherwise he'll beat you up." And that's okay, 'cause, you MIGHT be able to get him to where a condom and maybe have a slightly smaller risk of dying from the horrible, awful disease that he contracted most likely from whoring around.

It's been well documented that the rise in condom and other contraceptive use coincides with the rise in STDs. Don't you think this'll only encourage the man to do what he wants. He's already proved he doesn't care enough about himself (otherwise he wouldn't have contracted the disease); why should he care about his wife? Condoms give him an excuse.

Zippy

And here is the bit where the Vademicum specifically makes the point I described:

The principle according to which it is preferable to let penitents remain in good faith in cases of error due to subjectively invincible ignorance, is certainly to be considered always valid, even in matters of conjugal chastity.

The Vademicum doesn't say that contraception in hard cases is OK (or that it isn't contraception). It says that it isn't always prudent for a confessor to crush a penitent's subjectively invincible ignorance.

Anyone who uses the Vademicum to argue that contraception is objectively licit under certain extreme circumstances, or that consensual condomized sex is not contraception in some circumstances, has badly misused the document. (In my understanding, of course.)

Jared Weber

Zippy: You write: "It is better pastorally for a penitent in the confessional to be innocent out of ignorance rather than guilty in full knowledge and consent, and the confessional is the place where one brings ones known sins, not where one learns that one has been committing grave evil unknowingly."

Can you back up that assertion, please? If it were true, Christian charity would put moral teachers out of a job, since to inform one of the gravely sinful nature of any particular action would violate your assertion. It is surely better to hear it from one's confessor (and thus, to know) rather than to fool oneself into believing one's actions are not gravely sinful. In other words, many times, people know, deep down, of a particular action's sinful nature but can fool themselves into believing that it is not sinful. Better to face up to reality and thereby have an opportunity to be washed clean. As the psalmist says, "Cleanse me from my unknown faults."

Zippy

Can you back up that assertion, please?

I am not asserting it myself, I am saying that that is what the Vademicum says. You can read it yourself, and I quoted the most relevant bit in my last post. It pretty much says outright that a confessor ought in some cases to leave a penitent in a state of good faith invincible ignorance rather than confronting them with the hard truth and risking the loss of that good faith.

That said, you've got to understand what the document is for: it is pastoral advice to confessors, not a doctrinal or theological document. It is commonly invoked by soft-on-contraception theologians as a theological document, even though that is explicitly not its purpose.

I would not be surprised if eventually it is explicitly "clarified" out of existence, since it seems to be the only official Church document anywhere that anyone has ever been able to use to waffle on contraception.

whosebob

Zippy wrote:
The Vademicum doesn't say that contraception in hard cases is OK (or that it isn't contraception). It says that it isn't always prudent for a confessor to crush a penitent's subjectively invincible ignorance. Anyone who uses the Vademicum to argue that contraception is objectively licit under certain extreme circumstances, or that consensual condomized sex is not contraception in some circumstances, has badly misused the document. (In my understanding, of course.)

No, I don't think the Vademicum teaches, nor I am arguing from it, that "contraception is objectively licit under certain extreme circumstances, or that consensual condomized sex is not contraception in some circumstances."

Consider the following quote from the Vademicum which I gave earlier in the comments for this blog entry.

Vademicum:
13. Special difficulties are presented by cases of cooperation in the sin of a spouse who voluntarily renders the unitive act infecund. In the first place, it is necessary to distinguish cooperation in the proper sense, from violence or unjust imposition on the part of one of the spouses, which the other spouse in fact cannot resist. This cooperation can be licit when the three following conditions are jointly met:

(1) when the action of the cooperating spouse is not already illicit in itself;
(2) when proportionally grave reasons exist for cooperating in the sin of the other spouse;
(3) when one is seeking to help the other spouse to desist from such conduct (patiently, with prayer, charity and dialogue; although not necessarily in that moment, nor on every single occasion).


Can (1) be met in my scenario? I think so, if it can be successfully argued that the wife's procuring condoms and requesting her husband to use them is motivated entirely by the intent to defend herself with *no intent* to contracept (though contraception is certainly a known secondary effect), and if sexual relations with her husband are unavoidable. This is obviously not an exact match to the situations the Vademicum was addressing, for in those cases the "cooperating spouse" is precisely the one who is not himself/herself choosing to procure, request or use contraception; but then the Vademicum does not seem to be written to address situations where one spouse has a fatal STD, and that same spouse is intent on forcing himself/herself on the other spouse.

What about (2)? The wife's grave reasons would be (A) to avoid physically violent rape; that is by remaining physically (if not mentally and emotionally) relaxed, or at least somewhat so, she avoids getting "beat up." (B) Since potential transmission of the virus is inevitable, given that sexual relations cannot be avoided (her husband will have his way in one manner or another), then the possibility of reducing the chances of her being fatally infected, perhaps greatly reducing those chances, is a grave reason that warrants condom use both for her own welfare and that of her children (her husband will be dead in a few years, and the children will be orphaned if she dies too).

What about (3)? This criteria can be fulfilled by the wife in the manner suggested.

M.Z. Forrest

I hope I haven't come across as soft on contraception. Your patience with me is appreciated Zippy.

I have read a few comments suggesting that a woman would be crazy or irrational for staying with her diseased spouse. The name escapes me, she may even be a Saint, but there was a woman in France who was cruelly treated by her husband. If I remember correctly from EWTN radio, she was beaten and humiliated, denied permission to attend mass, and other things. Anyway, she kept a diary that her husband read after her death. He converted and became a priest upon reading it. I'm thinking it was relatively (5 years) recently translated into English, and being given to students to read at some Catholic university.

Zippy

Can (1) be met in my scenario? I think so,...

I think not; manifestly not. It isn't that he insists on using a condom and she cooperates reluctantly, in your scenario. It is that she insists on the use of the condom: she insists on the act which is evil in itself.

If she has the option to choose whether or not there is a condom, and she has the option to choose whether or not there is sex, and she chooses sex with a condom, she has chosen an intinsically evil act. Open and shut, Vademicum or no Vademicum.

Again, I think your scenario is quite straightforward, and that her act would necessarily be evil no matter what the circumstances, as long as she is consenting (even under extreme pressure) to the sexual act.

Zippy

I have read a few comments suggesting that a woman would be crazy or irrational for staying with her diseased spouse.

That isn't something I would say. She would be crazy, irrational, and/or immoral to have sex with him though, if he has HIV.

whosebob

Jared Weber wrote:
You write about "swift, though unjust, capital punishment by her community...." This is precisely what I'm referring to, sans the "unjust" part. Capital punishment is not intrinsically evil (unlike contraception) and in this hypothetical case you present, it is more than justified. Five minutes.

Also, can I ask you to please restrain your use of the word "duh" when directed at me? It's rude.

Jared, I apologize for using the word "duh." I did so out of frustration, to do so was rude, and I won't do it again. I am sorry.

As to the "unjust capital punishment," I was referring to 3rd world countries, such as some in Africa, where women have few or no rights, and where an attack -- yes, even a justified one by our standards -- of a wife upon her husband would result in the community immediately executing or at least castigating that woman. And it goes without saying that in those same communities, it is unreasonable to expect that just punishment will be carried out on an HIV-infected husband who forces his wife to have sexual relations with him.

Even if she was morally justified in doing so, a woman with young children might never be able to bring herself to kill her attacker-husband for fear that she will instantly make orphans out of those children.

M.Z. Forrest

It certainly wasn't directed at you Zippy.

Other writers had indirectly denied that staying with a diseased spouse and seeking his conversion was a holy enterprise.

whosebob

Katie wrote:
whosebob: You seem to have a very a low opinion of Africans.

Not at all. Though the scenario I'm describing apparently creeps up quite often in, for example, African countries where many men are employed as migrant mine workers, and where the cultures afford women few if any rights.

whosebob had written:
I'm not trying to find or create a loophole for morally legitimate condomized sex.

and Katie replied:
And yet, it seems to me that you are. Isn't that exactly what you're doing? Your stand seems to be legitimizing rape. It seems to me that you're saying to the woman, "You better give it to him, otherwise he'll beat you up." And that's okay, 'cause, you MIGHT be able to get him to where a condom and maybe have a slightly smaller risk of dying from the horrible, awful disease that he contracted most likely from whoring around.

No, I am saying that in certain cases a woman may intend to defend herself, her very life, by using a device that happens to be ordinarily and principally used for contraceptive purposes. There is no intent on her part to contracept, nor is she (or should she be) under the illusion that such condomized sexual relations are in any way compatible with God's design for human sexuality and the moral law that governs it. AND the moral legitimacy of her acts depends ENTIRELY on her not having any other choice -- her husband will beat her up and force her to have sex without a condom if she cannot convince him to wear one, in which case a "bargaining chip" on her part is to not put up a physical struggle. It is NOT good or okay that she faces this REALLY AWFUL situation, what I'm suggesting is that it would be better for her to give limited consent to sex with her husband in such a way that her risk of HIV-contraction is reduced, i.e. he wears a condom at her prompting, rather than get physcially beaten and have a much higher chance of contracting the virus.

This attitude and behavior of the husband is DEPLORABLE, and the local laws *should* make it criminal. But what if they don't? Or what if such laws are known never to be enforced even if they are "on the books?"

Katie wrote:
It's been well documented that the rise in condom and other contraceptive use coincides with the rise in STDs. Don't you think this'll only encourage the man to do what he wants. He's already proved he doesn't care enough about himself (otherwise he wouldn't have contracted the disease); why should he care about his wife? Condoms give him an excuse.

Yes, you're right that the figures support that. And I believe that abstinence and fidelity based STD-prevention programs are the only moral and practical option.

I believe it is critical that the Catholic clergy, agency personnel, missionaries, and the wife herself as much as possible, witness to the HIV-infected husband that what he's doing or has done in this regard is WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

At the same time, I'm saying that the wife may have to take the actions described to save her life.

Honestly, this dialogue is kind of maddening, because I always, always want to be on the side of Catholic orthodoxy, and I just know ya'll are looking squint-eyed at my posts thinking I must be some heterodox looney. :O

Jared Weber

Zippy: Sorry 'bout that. Your post appeared while I was catching up and then writing my response.

whosebob: Apology accepted.

I had understood you to mean that the community might seek the death of the husband. If the hypothetical woman in question were my sister, or even (were I a priest) one of my parishioners ... and if the society is as lawless as we're led to believe ....

whosebob

whosebob had written:
Can (1) be met in my scenario? I think so,...

and Zippy replied:
I think not; manifestly not. It isn't that he insists on using a condom and she cooperates reluctantly, in your scenario. It is that she insists on the use of the condom: she insists on the act which is evil in itself.

Well, I guess this is where we are at loggerheads. My hypotheses: it is morally acceptable for the wife to request or insist that her HIV-infected husband use a condom, perhaps even procuring that condom for him, as longs there is *no* contraceptive intent on her part and if it is not otherwise possible to avoid or prevent having sexual intercourse with her husband, which will otherwise be without a condom. Why would such actions be justified? Because her actions, with those stipulations met fully, can be understood entirely as a matter of self-defense.

Zippy wrote:
If she has the option to choose whether or not there is a condom

Her choice is predicated on the inevitability that she will be subjected to sexual relations with her husband, either with or without the condom, and she means to try and defend herself from a fatal STD. That's not much of a choice.

Zippy wrote:
and she has the option to choose whether or not there is sex

She really does not have that choice in my proposed scenario. Her husband *will* use violence to force sexual relations with her if she does not consent, that is give a limited consent, to such relations. By limited consent I mean that she does not physically resist, not that she gives her full mental, emotional, and bodily compliance to her husband's desires. And remember that my scenario precludes her having recourse to law enforcement personnel or community outrage or to violence against her husband.

Zippy wrote:
and she chooses sex with a condom, she has chosen an intinsically evil act. Open and shut, Vademicum or no Vademicum.

No, she has chosen to defend herself, even granted that it's not a perfect defense, when she does not have a means to avoid or prevent the otherwise almost certainly deadly sexual intercourse. Therefore her act of self-defense, not contraception, can be defended according to the principle of the double effect.

Zippy

She really does not have that choice in my proposed scenario.

I've stated several times above that if she is literally a rape victim it is not possible for her to contracept. But you seem to be equivocating about her consent. It isn't rape if she has any choice at all.

Zippy

And furthermore, if it is rape then double-effect simply isn't relevant: it isn't as though contraception is a bad effect of her act. The sex isn't her act at all if she is being raped, and an act of contraception is first and foremost a voluntary sexual act.

Zippy

No, she has chosen to defend herself, ...

And this is (at least one place) where you are equivocating. I gave two conditions under which she would be contracepting and committing an evil act:

1) She chooses to have sex; and
2) She chooses to use a condom during that sex.

Now you say - somewhat equivocally - that she is not choosing to have sex. But that isn't an objection to my post, it is an equivocation in your scenario.

Sorry for the multiple posts, early morning rush and all that.

Zippy

Back from the morning run. I think, whosebob, that our most obvious point of disconnect is in this:

...contraception is certainly a known secondary effect...

Contraception is not and cannot be a "secondary effect". Thinking about contraception as the effect of certain acts is to misunderstand what contraception is as a moral act. Contraception is what the Church calls an intrinsic evil, which means that it is evil by nature of its object, and specifically not because of its effects. This is not easy to wrap your mind around, because "having a child/not having a child" in itself is an effect of the marital act: it is not inherent in the act itself, it is a contingent outcome of the act which may or may not take place. Yet contraception is inherent in the act itself, according to the Church, because it is an intrinsic evil. That is what "intrinsic evil" means.

So the act itself - consensual sex performed in a way that renders it infecund (whether one wishes to render it infecund or not) - is evil. Effects of the act are simply not relevant, and the principle of double-effect doesn't apply (rationally cannot apply), because double-effect can only apply if the evil we are analyzing is an effect of the act rather than inherent in its object.

So double-effect is irrelevant, and you need to make up your mind unequivocally whether the sex act in your scenario is consensual or not. If it isn't consensual it can't be contraception (on her part), because contraception is by definition a voluntary sex act performed in an unnaturally infecund way. If it is consensual (even under a lot of pressure) then the effects of the act, her wishful thinking about the act, etc are irrelevant. The act is evil by nature of its object, full stop.

BC

For those interested in this topic, the Archbishop of Glasgow has now made his feelings know (I provide the web address below). The modernist nature of today's bishops, I think is very disconcerting and many seem to operate merely from a prudential and practical basis instead of what the Church has consistently taught.

http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=664982006

Jared Weber

BC: I know what you meant, but the position fostered by the archbishop is neither prudent nor practical. We're dealing with people's eternal destinies, as well as their physical ones. May God have mercy on him.

Mary

In Catholic moral theology proportionality doesn't come into play until an act is determined not to be evil by nature of its object or, separately, its intended effects.

Then kindly explaining why killing an innocent person is not wrong by nature of its object. That happens in both the just war and the painkiller scenarios.

You are saying that "contraceptive effect" trumps that an action has more than one immediate effect -- the exact situation where double effect applies.

Zippy

Then kindly explaining why killing an innocent person is not wrong by nature of its object.

According to Acquinas it is wrong, for an individual, though not for the magistrate or in a just war. You have to understand the distinction between commutative and distributive justice in order to make sense of it (that is, justice as it apples to the acts of individuals versus justice as it applies to acts on behalf of a community by legitimate representatives of the community). You may defend yourself as an individual from an attacker, including causing harm to the attacker and even causing his death, but you cannot licitly choose to kill your attacker, according to Acquinas. If your attacker dies as a result of legitimate self-defense it must be an accidental (strictly speaking unintended) death. Killing the attacker cannot be the object (in the Catholic moral theology sense) of your act, or your act is not self-defense. In Just War the community can defend itself from an attacking community by killing soldiers (analogous to you harming your attacker in order to stop the attack), but it cannot will the utter destruction of the attacking community.

You are saying that "contraceptive effect" trumps that ...

No I am not. I am saying that an act of contraception is evil by nature of its object; that is, according to what the actor chooses to do (and not what she wishes she could do); and furthermore that contraception specifically is to choose to engage in an unnatural (in the Thomistic sense) sex act which has been modified in such a way that it is rendered infertile (which is entirely different from an unmodified act which happens to be infertile).

I recommend reading Proportionalism and the Natural Law Tradition by Kaczor to get a decent handle on the basics of Catholic moral theology. Then read (for example) the encyclical Veritas Splendour, which will make much more sense once you've gotten the basic vocabulary down by reading Kaczor. Then read Casti Connubi and all the other formal Church documents which talk about the moral theology of sex. It will make a great deal more sense as a coherent whole at that point.

Zippy

Sorry, I made a mistake here:
Then kindly explaining why killing an innocent person is not wrong by nature of its object.

Sorry< misread this. It is always wrong to kill an innocent person as the object of your act, period and full stop. My discussion is about killing not-innocent people, e.g. enemy soldiers, criminals, etc.

Zippy

"Contraceptive effect" is a misleading term when talking about contraception as a moral act, by the way. An act of contraception - an intrinsically evil act according to the Church - is evil by the nature of its object, not because of its intent (same as effect in double-effect language) or circumstances. The effects or conseqeunces of a contraceptive act are irrelevant to evaluating the morality of the act: it is evil no matter what conseqeunces or circumstances surround doing it or failing to do it. That is what intrinsically evil means.

Zippy

"...(same as intended effect in double-effect language)..."

is what I meant to say. "Intent" and "effect" are downsteam things that happen (or are desired to happen) as a consequence of choosing a certain act. The object is what you are actually choosing to do, not the downstream consequences of what you are actually choosing to do.

Gotta get some sleep, yeesh.

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