Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pope approves prostitution!, nope. His Holiness did not just approve of prostitution.

But here's the thing: one could just as easily twist his remarks into approval of prostitution as approval of condom use during prostitution.

For a sane, rational look at what the Pope really said, go here for starters--though there are lots of others; I just don't have time this busy Sunday to gather them all.

But here's an analogy that makes sense to me: suppose that a drug dealer started worrying about all the people who were going to get AIDS by sharing needles in order to use the heroin he was selling, and then suppose that he decided to reduce that risk by handing out free clean needles to his customers. Could that be the beginnings of morality in a person who deals in grave sin, misery and death, and who is steeped in grave sins that place a huge barrier between himself and any kind of good relationship with the Lord Jesus which might possibly lead him to repent of his sins and seek eternal salvation? Sure, and the pope might even say so. But if the pope said so, would that mean that the pope was suddenly in favor of supplying drug dealers with clean needles in the fight against AIDS? Um, definitely not.

A homosexual prostitute is in the same position; his very acts and way of life are like a spiritual prophylactic placing an insurmountable barrier between him and a salvific relationship with Jesus. If, for one second, he starts to care about the physical life and health of the person who is also gravely sinning (perhaps even more so by taking advantage of the prostitute's desperation and vulnerability) by paying him to perform acts of sodomy and other sexual perversions upon him, this might be a door through which a return to morality and virtue might seep in.

But it's not the same thing as saying "Go ahead and hand out free condoms to fight AIDS!" If the individual makes this choice under some circumstances, he may be just barely beginning to recognize the filth and degradation of his way of life--and that recognition, along with pity or concern for the Other, are the first steps to recovery. But if government programs hand him the damned things with the attitude that as long as you're a worthless piece of expletive deleted whose inner life is dead and whose outer life is only worthwhile as a receptacle for the paid perversion of others, you might as well give some good customer service by wearing latex--then any beneficial aspect is gone, and the potential path to virtue that begins with individual choice erased altogether.

The Holy Father would no more approve of prostitution than he would condoms. But His Holiness is following in Someone else's footsteps, by caring about the potential morality and eventual salvation of prostitutes.


Marty Q said...

Well said. The reporting of this story is extremely frustrating, although not surprising. It seems to me there is nothing new or shocking in what Pope Benedict said. It's just common sense that, if in the middle of sinful activity, a person makes a decision in favor of another person's safety, at least he's not piling up callous disregard on top of the original offense. I think that's really all he was saying, that in this case the person is making a tiny step in the direction of at least considering the consequences of his actions.

The sad part is that the headline "Pope Says Condoms OK in Some Cases" will be what 99% of the public will see and hear.

L. said...

Darn...wish I was a male prostitute, and not a heterosexual woman in a stable relationship. Then I'd be able to use a condom and it would count as a step in the right direction, whereas now I am mandated to be open to the dreadful possibility of creating more life -- yuck!

I do have to wonder why the Pope even answered the question that particular way.

Diamantina da Brescia said...


Maybe I am being excessively naive, but why is the possibility of creating more life dreadful, especially since you are a (married) heterosexual woman in a stable relationship?

Yes, I think that it might be good to stabilize the world population, especially if we want everybody in Asia, Africa and Latin America to enjoy an upper-middle-class Western European/North American lifestyle -- but to write that the possibility of procreation is "dreadful" and "yuck"? One might as well say that of sexual intercourse itself. (I, as a never-married, never-pregnant woman of 44 who has never had a relationship that lasted more than three dates, would be far more believable saying such things than you.)

L. said...

Diamantina -- I'm also 44. And I have a very visceral feeling that I ought to be avoiding the whole process of being pregnant and then having my stomach sliced open. Enough is enough. I speak only for myself here, and don't want to imply that the possibility of life is as full of dread for everyone.

Also, about the original post....if I'm not mistaken, the Pope didn't say, or imply in any way, that prostitution "could that be the beginnings of morality," and yet he applied those very words to condom use.

Can prostitution ever be "the beginnings of morality?" I wonder...

I suppose if being a prostitute were the only way to prevent me and my children from starving, then I would do it. It would be example of my intent ouweighing the immorality of selling my body (at least I think it would be so). The Pope didn't say this -- I wonder if he would have, if he had been asked about the subject of prostitution, in addition to condoms?

I really wonder why he said what he said. Surely, he knew how his words would be received, and there must be a reason he said them.

Hector said...

Re: I do have to wonder why the Pope even answered the question that particular way.

Presumably because sex with a gay male prostitute intrinsically has neither a unitive (because of the prostitution aspect) nor a procreative (because of the homosexual aspect) nature, and therefore the use of a condom in this restricted situation can't be said to frustrate either the procreative or the unitive aspect of sex. Since those are the reasons why birth control is wrong (if you agree with Paul VI, which I don't), then presumably it wouldn't be wrong for the prostitute, while it would be wrong for you or for me.

N.B. I'm Anglican, not Roman Catholic, and I don't object in principle to either homosexual intercourse or to contraception, (though I do object to prostitution). Though I do think there are some morally troubling things about condoms in general, certainly using a condom for purposes of disease prevention is better than risking infecting your partner. So it isn't that I agree with His Holiness Benedict, or with Erin, on the merits. Rather, I'm just pointing out even if you do accept the teaching of Paul VI that birth control is wrong, and why it's wrong, the case of the gay male prostitute would seem to be one situation where those arguments don't really apply, and where the use of a condom might not be an additional sin.

As far as I can tell, Benedict's statements are consistent with what he and his predecessors have been saying for quite some time: they're more of a clarification than a change of teaching. He's a very smart as well as a charitable man and I think he wanted to make that clarification both for the sake of truth and for the sake of charity.

melanie said...

Hector, what you said is absolutely correct. The point the pope is making is very particular, not general. He states that in these cases where moral evils are already present, the use of condoms takes on a completely different aspect than that for which they are originally intended. They act strictly in PARTICULAR cases to prevent the spread of disease and ONLY in those particular cases can there use hold a plausible reflection of good will on the intent of the user. And this is where the Pope's deep love for people comes into play because he allows that THAT intention alone can be a movement of the will towards Good. And hence open the door to hope of salvation for the person.

Deirdre Mundy said...


I'm confused-- Based on past statements, you don't care about the Church's teaching on getting married outside the Church, raising kids Catholic, having pagan shrines in the house, or divorce.

So why would you care about the church's teaching on contraception? If these other issues don't affect your decision making processes, why does Humanae Vitae?

L. said...

No, Deirdre, I am entirely consistent. I was being sarcastic in my first comment above. I do use contraception, and am not open to life.

But I remain very interested in the Church's teachings, even the ones I think are wrong.

Charlotte said...

I've been wondering for quite some time what Red has thought about the advent of L to most of the conversations here.

Better here than my place. I'm not as diplomatic or peaceful.

eulogos said...

Charlotte, L isn't rude or disruptive. She says what she thinks. And presumably she listens to what other people say. So why drive her off?
L-not the subject of this blog, but why do you think you have to have your abdomen cut open? If you don't have other reasons for not having more children, it is possible to have a vaginal delivery after a C section and even after several C sections. ( I read several blogs of which this is the subject.) But you probably have other reasons.
Anyway, I think Red Cardigan does the right thing to welcome you here.
Susan Peterson