Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pope Benedict Comments on Condoms

As early as Saturday afternoon CBS News was reporting that the Pope, in a Vatican letter, had approved the use of condoms. Surprise.

American Papist usually has the best coverage of such matters and points out that the Pope's comment about condoms is, first of all, part of a book-length interview to be considered within a larger context, and, second, that the Italian news media leaked portions of the interview.

It seems that the Pope didn't approve the use of condoms either in general or as a way to combat AIDS and he didn't make his remarks as part of official Church teaching. Instead he was responding to the interviewer's comments about AIDS in Africa. The Pope was re-stating that the Catholic Church helps those who suffer from AIDS "up close and concretely." He pointed out that the Church " does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering." Naturally, CBS News didn't report any of that. Nor did they report the Pope's remarks on how the use of condoms feeds into the root problems of sex divorced from love and the "banalization of sexuality."

Here is the relevant passage and what the Pope actually said in the interview:

On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican’s policy on AIDs once again became the target of media criticism.Twenty-five percent of all AIDs victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me whythe Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on AIDs. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does
more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many AIDs victims, especially children with AIDs.

I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization
of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

There may be a basis in the case ofsome individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of
responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

Still, as one clever reader points out, one wishes the Pope had just responded to that last question with a simple 'no.' But Pope Benedict isn't a simple person and these aren't simple times, so we're once again left to slug this out with the mainstream media and other Catholic bashers.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The International Baccalaureate--Infiltrating?

I certainly had no intention of rushing to the defense of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program when I read this article on the website of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam), but it was a poor editorial choice for a worthy organization and the IB, though flawed and left-wing, deserves a better shot.

C-Fam is active at the United Nations with its mission of promoting a "proper understanding of international law, protecting national sovereignty and the dignity of the human person." I am familiar with their work just as I am familiar with the IB curriculum. Consequently when C-Fam linked the IB and the UN to the "biggest educational scam perpetrated on American schools today" I couldn't help but take notice.

The problem as C-Fam reports it seems to be that the IB is trying to work its way into American public schools in order to disseminate its UN, internationalist, socialist, left-wing ideas while masquerading as legit education. Leading the charge is a Long Island parent, Lisa McLoughlin, who has her own website, Truth About International Baccalaureate.

One has to wonder just how much the IB's admittedly secular, multi-cultural curriculum differs from what passes for education in many of today's American public schools. (I'm thinking of the young man in California who was told to remove the American flag from his bicycle. I doubt if either the UN or the IB was behind that.) Even if it were the case that the IB and the UN are in collusion to wreak (further) havoc on American public education, both C-Fam and Ms. McLoughlin have been sidetracked from the underlying problem by attacking the IB rather than the American public education bureaucracy.

Among the innumberable ills of our public education system is that it is essentially a government monopoly that dictates to America's parents what their children will be taught and penalizes those of us who choose to opt out of the system by denying us the opportunity to use our tax dollars toward the education of our choice. For those public schools out there that are choosing to adopt the IB curriculum, the decision lies at the feet of America's educators, themselves in many cases so steeped in the culture of relativism, secularism, and multi-culturalism that they no longer know enough or care enough to provide curriculums that teach American history, American exceptionalism, Judeo-Christian ideals and the nuts and bolts of the three Rs. Even if the IB and the UN were beating down the door, these educators have the choice to just say no.

Given that there are so many truly nefarious things that the United Nations promotes and that C-Fam reports on so well, this detour to the IB curriculum is a distraction. Parents like Lisa McLoughlin would do more good by devoting their efforts to exposing the public schools for the failures that they are and crusading for school vouchers, tax incentives for home schoolers and an end to teachers' unions.

(By the way, the IB curriculum is a bona fide school curriculum whose students fare quite well academically. When my own kids took math, chemistry and physics in college, their freshman year college material was largely review. The preparation they had from their IB math and science courses was not the exception. Their IB history and English courses emphasized reading, writing and research. By 10th grade most IB students are accustomed to writing 1200-word essays on a regular basis. In foreign language exams from French to Chinese, IB students are able to score competitively on internationally normed tests. Subjects like anthropology, philosophy, economics and psychology are all taught at a challenging level.)

Catholicity in Higher Education

Oy vey ist mir. It's another Catholic-bashing article from Inside Higher Ed!

The article begins with a false premise that sets up an opposition between Catholic teaching and academic freedom by asking "whether allegiance to church orthodoxy trumps the free spirit of inquiry celebrated in academe."

One has to wonder first of all at the bold claim that there exists a "free spirit of inquiry" on today's campuses. But, more to the point, Catholic orthodoxy by its nature never "trumps free inquiry." It promotes it.

Here are three things Pope Benedict XVI said in his 2008 address to Catholic educators at Catholic University of America:

"I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you."

"God's desire to make himself known, and the innate desire of all human beings to know the truth, provide the context for human inquiry into the meaning of life."

And the Pope also said:

"[Catholic educators]have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church's Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution's life, both inside and outside the classroom."

What this article should have been about is first, the fact that many Catholic colleges and universities are not ensuring that their students receive Catholic-inspired instruction, and, lamentably, many so-called Catholic colleges actually prevent Catholic teaching from shaping their institutions.

Secondly, there is in fact a conflict over academic freedom that warrants discussion though it isn't the conflict that the author sets up. The conflict is between on the one hand, the secular, relativism of academia which denies that truth exists,and, on the other hand, the Catholic Church's teaching which avers that truth does exist, that we are each called to search for it using our intellect as inspired by our faith in God and guided by Catholic teaching. The secularism and relativism of today's culture is the road block, placed intentionally, that "trumps the free spirit of inquiry" and denies us the freedom to search for the truth.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Two Reasons To Elect A Republican Next Time

One can only ask what in the WORLD Secretary of State Clinton had in mind when she donned this outfit during her visit to Australia. Maybe the former First Lady was feeling like a pumpkin and wanted to dress like one? For insightful commentary on Hillary's look, go here.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, the president makes a point as our current First Lady of fashion strikes a masculine pose and furrows her brow, probably in an effort to keep her headscarf aloft and out of her eyes so that she won't trip over her "soopah-size" green pants suit as it puddles around her ankles. Then again, it looks like maybe the problem is that this threesome is standing around shoeless! For more on Michelle's fashion savvy, go here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Speaking of, Where Are The Men. . . . . . .

We can read more about men and manliness in two new books, Manthropology and Is There Anything Good About Men? humorously reviewed in this Wall Street Journal article.

Here we can see two men, the Bushes, pere et fils, at the World Series Game in Texas.