Half-Truths Lead Discussions Awry, Says Prelate

Urges End to Misuse of Pope’s Condom Statement in Contraception Bill Debate

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MANILA, Philippines, NOV. 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- There is under way in the Philippines an “opportunistic misuse” of the statement about condoms made by Benedict XVI in his new book.

This is the charge from retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan, Philippines, who called for a halt to the misinformation being circulated about the Pope’s statement precisely as the nation is embroiled in a debate about a bill on contraception.

“When we argue, let’s not take half-truths because we will lose that way,” the archbishop said.

He referred to the media flurry spinning through the world since Saturday, when L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, published several excerpts from the book-interview with Benedict XVI titled “Light of the World,” released today by Ignatius Press.  

At the end of the 10th chapter of the book, the writer, German journalist Peter Seewald, asked the Pontiff two questions on the fight against AIDS and the use of condoms. Seewald referenced the Holy Father’s comments on this topic while aboard the papal plane on the way to Cameroon and Angola in March 2009. 

To the charge that it’s “madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms,” Benedict XVI replied: “There may be a basis in the case of some 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.” 

Seewald then asked the Pontiff, “Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?”  The Holy Father replied, “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.”

Archbishop Cruz said he is not surprised that the Pope’s statement would be used as a “bullet” by those pushing to promote contraception in the Philippines.

“I understand the [reproductive health bill] proponents — that they would even throw a kitchen sink just to push what they want,” he said. “Our only appeal is for them to just stick with the truth … please!”

And in response to those who ask the hierarchy to change the teaching on contraception, the prelate affirmed that the Church cannot be silent because of its duty to uphold morality — whether it’s easily accepted or not.

Hoping they’ll listen

In the midst of the debate over a reproductive health (RH) bill that would promote the use of contraceptives, certain political leaders are claiming that the Holy Father’s statement can boost support for the measure. A statement from a spokesman of President Benigno Aquino III called on local Church leaders to show a “corresponding flexibility” to that allegedly shown by the Pope.

Supporters of the measure claimed that the Pontiff’s comment should prompt the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to finally concede on their anti-RH stance.

Meanwhile, local Church leaders tried to spread the truth of what the Pope actually said.

“They (supporters of the bill) respect the Pope but our concern is that they are acting upon a misconception,” said Father Joel Jason, director of the Commission on Family and Life of the Archdiocese of Manila. “We are hoping that they listen to corrections. […] We tend to take things out of context … before they make a conclusion they should first get the whole context of what the Holy Father really said.”

Father Jason clarified the Pope’s statement, explaining that the Holy Father simply suggested that a male prostitute’s use of a condom could be a possible sign of a growing sense that it is not right to engage in sexual activity with no regard for the consequences.

This does not change, the priest said, Benedict XVI’s affirmation that the only real solution to AIDS is the humanization of sexuality.

Furthermore, he continued, the Pope also stressed how sex should not be treated as a pleasure-inducing drug, to be taken at will, regardless of the consequences.

The Church is still firm in its position, Father Jason affirmed. AIDS must be fought effectively. “Let’s not take the minimal option but the maximum option. Let’s not take the condom as a solution,” he said, recommending instead fidelity and abstinence.

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