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Akin on the Pope's Condom Comments

A must read from Jimmy Akin:

Pope Benedict’s new book, Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times, isn’t even officially out yet but is already at the center of an online media controversy.

The controversy erupted Saturday morning when L’Osservatore Romano unilaterally violated the embargo on the book by publishing Italian-language extracts of various papal statements, much to the chagrin of publishers around the world, who had been working on a carefully orchestrated launch for the book on Tuesday.

Among the extracts was one dealing with the use of condoms in trying to prevent the spread of AIDS, and the press immediately seized on this
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Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Akin: It goes without saying that the Pope can have private opinions that are wrong.

OK, how many Popes go about expressing those opinions publicly? Well, I can think of one, if you remember this beauty from 1999:

“The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.”

That was from Pope John Paul II. Those were public remarks made at a large Mass in St. Louis during his final visit to the United States.

Obviously, that opinion contradicts centuries of teaching concerning capital punishment based on both Scripture and Tradition. Given that he make these remarks in a large public gathering, are we to assume that the late Pope was engaging in arbitrary theological revisionism? What other option is there?

How are we to tell when a Pope is speaking "off the cuff" and when he is speaking deliberately? How are we to tell when he is speaking solely for himself and speaking as a deliberate act of teaching (which the example from JPII clearly was) -- especially if the Pope has "private opinions" that are wrong?

Saying that Benedict's comments were not in a Magisterial forum doesn't hide the fact that he made a stupid mistake. He used a hypothetical concerning prostitution (whether male or female is irrelevant) to justify a possible exception to Catholic teaching regarding birth control, and he made it to a journalist conducting an interview.

It also doesn't hide the fact that, as the Pope, he would (or should) know that his remarks on controversial issues would be quoted and cited by various parties to buttress their own positions.

More importantly, how morally dense have Catholic leaders become when they — even in a hypothetical situation — effectively ignore the greater sin of prostitution for the sake of a focus on condoms?

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