Monday, November 22, 2010

Trojan removal (Updated)

Media reports about the Catholic Church are like the Trojan that infects your computer: At first they seem entirely innocent and straightforward, and by the time you find that they are the opposite, it is too late and serious damage has already been done. The controversy over the pope’s recently publicized statement about condoms is only the latest example: What most people will remember are the initial reports, according to which the pope said that “condoms can be justified in some cases.” That is not what he said, but we will no doubt be hearing for months and years to come not only that he did say it, but also (after this already garbled report gets distorted further and further) that the Catholic Church has in some way softened her teaching on contraception.

I don’t have much to add to what others have already said, but since the misconceptions have already started to appear here at my own blog (in one of the combox discussions down below), it seems I ought to do my small part to expose this urban legend while it is still young. The controversy concerns an answer the pope gave to an interviewer who asked him about his widely discussed comments on AIDS and condoms during his 2009 trip to Africa. You can read his full response here. The crucial passage is the following (with the pope’s words in italics):

[T]he 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 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.

[Interviewer's question:] 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.

End of quote. Here, it seems to me, are the points to emphasize:

1. Contraception is not even at issue here (contrary to what one commenter in the combox of another post down below seems to think). Contraception has to do with preventing conception from occurring. What the pope is talking about is the example of a (presumably homosexual) male prostitute who wears a condom so as to avoid infecting his “customer” (also presumably male) with HIV. Conception, and thus contraception, are not even possible in such a case.

2. What the pope is saying is that if a male prostitute happens at least to care enough about his “customer” not to want to infect him with AIDS, perhaps that minimal degree of concern could lead him someday to a more human view of sexuality. That is a psychological observation, not a recommendation or a claim about the ultimate moral character of the actions in question.

3. The pope also criticizes the “fixation” many have on condoms as a means of AIDS prevention, and says that such condom use “is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection” and indeed that it is “not... a real or moral solution” to the problem (my emphasis). In other words, to the extent that the pope speaks directly to the moral side of the issue at all, his remarks point away from the recommendation of condom use.

4. All of this was in any event said in the informal context of an interview, rather than in an official ecclesiastical document such as a papal encyclical, or even in a theological book or article. That means it does not have, and is not meant to have, any binding force at all as official Catholic teaching, and is not even intended as a fully thought out expression of personal theological opinion. It is merely an informal psychological observation with which Catholics are free to agree or disagree.

In short, there is nothing about either the context or the content of the pope’s remarks that in any way modifies Catholic teaching. Anyone who thinks he can now justify condom use by saying “The pope says it’s OK” is deceiving himself.

Further commentary from Janet Smith, Jimmy Akin, Ed Peters, and Fr. Zuhlsdorf.

UPDATE: Some more commentary from Fr. Joseph Fessio, Mark Latkovic, Stephen A. Long, and Anthony McCarthy.

115 comments:

Anonymous said...

After I read the quotation and saw that Benedict's example was a male prostitute (presumably a homosexual, as you note), I knew that this was no big deal. I'm a protestant but I read Humanae Vitae (great encyclical, by the way) and know that condoms in and of themselves aren't an issue, but rather the willful prevention of conception. And there ain't no conception between two sodomites, condom or no condom.

You might as well have had someone ask the pope whether it is okay to inflate condoms for balloons at a party. If he then responded, "Um, I guess so?" you would end up with the same worthless headlines, albeit with a twist: "Pope: Condoms O.K. at Parties"

--Jonathan

Anonymous said...

I must admit, I was not at all prepared to see a purple pack of condoms on your blog, Dr. Feser.

Edward Feser said...

You expected a green pack, right?

Michele Arpaia said...

Dear Edward,
when we read that news one thing sprang to our mind: was it necessary? The concern is about the opportunity to express such a thought. It generates more heat than light.

Why to leave himself open to criticism on this particular point?
He knows that his words are manipulated by those who have a great deal of effect on most people, simple people.

Eric said...

Here's George Weigel on the issue.

Untenured said...

This is a case where progressive "Catholics" are apt to do more PR damage than secularists. Secularists could care less what the Church teaches and they tend to dismiss it as a reactionary institution whose inner workings are of little concern. Progressive "Catholics", however, wrongly believe that they prod the Church to get with the sexually libertine program. The progressives seriously think they can "change" the Church, and so they like to go around trumpeting these remarks as evidence that the Magistereum is swinging their way. Hence they, more than anyone else, will go around confusing people about the Church's teachings and promoting falsehoods of this sort.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious Jonathan! I very much appreciate your post. God love you.

-Bobby Bambino

Hi Michele,

Did you check out Dr. Feser's like to Fr. Z's take on this issue? I think he posts an interesting answer to the question you raised. Basically he speculates that indeed the Holy Father knew all the talk it would cause, and that that was precisely the idea. This may be a method of the "new evangelization." People are talking and people are learning. http://wdtprs.com/blog/2010/11/thinking-about-not-thinking-about-the-pope-the-press-and-condoms/ God love you.

-Bobby Bambino

Maolsheachlann said...

"Secularists could care less what the Church teaches and they tend to dismiss it as a reactionary institution whose inner workings are of little concern."

I'm actually not sure this is true. There are tons of secularists out there who are nigh-on obsessed by the Catholic Church, not only in its effect on the secular world, but its doctrine and discipline. You have to wonder why.

George R. said...

First of all, the pro-sodomite party has enthusiastically praised Benedict’s statement. What do you think, they don’t recognize when something helps their cause? Moreover, by spewing this rubbish, (and that’s what it is), he has effectively cut the legs out from anyone trying to oppose condom distribution programs, which are predicated on the specious claim that they are fostering responsibility.

You say the Benedict was only referring to sex by male prostitutes. So what? Do you think that his opinion would not also apply to heterosexual sex not involving prostitutes? If the use of condoms is “a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility” because they limit the risk of STDs, how on earth can one condemn a high school that tells its students, “Don’t have sex. But if you do, use these.”? If condoms are better than nothing, if they are first step, then providing condoms is more justifiable than denying them. Benedict claims that condoms are “not a moral solution.” So what? He calls them a MEANS to a moral solution, which is just as bad, and more subtly insidious.

There’s one thing you have to know about the Devil and his party. They don’t need an explicit invitation. Just leave the door ajar; they’ll take care of the rest.

monk68 said...

George R.

"Do you think that his opinion would not also apply to heterosexual sex not involving prostitutes?"

I do not know if you are right or wrong about the practical consequences of B16's remarks. However, you are wrong if you think there is not a principled logical difference between recognizing condom use among homosexuals as a "step towards a moralization" and condom use within married or non-married heterosexual intercourse.

In the former case, there is zero issue of contraception. Any contraception (if you choose to call it that) already occurs by virtue of the fact that the male genitals are being utilized in the absence of a female. Hence, no possibility of life exists in the first place - just as with male masturbation. So the entire context is one of gravely sinful activity. Thus, whatever moral assessment may be made of the particular free acts which occur under functional umbrella of homosexual activity, these can in no way serve to remedy the moral disorder of the activity taken as a whole. For this reason, the Church would still (quite logically) refuse to support distribution of condoms among HIV infected homosexuals, because doing so, would facilitate the perpetuation of mortal sin. Nevertheless, given that a man has already chose to engage in gravely sinful homosexual behavior, it remains the case that condom use in such circumstance can ONLY have a prophylactic purpose (to prevent disease spread). In no way does use of a condom here ADD anything by way of contraception. Hence, to whatever degree such condom use in THIS CONTEXT, may be a step towards a moralization, it in no way opens any logical connection to the arguments which underlay Humanae Vitae. In other words, recognizing some approximation to goodness in homosexual prophylactic condom use (to prevent HIV spread) in no way subverts the logic by which Catholics fight against condom promotion and distribution in schools. Catholics have a logical reason to resist condom distribution among practicing homosexuals (despite whatever disease preventing prophylactic advantage a condom may offer) because they cannot support activities which facilitate the perpetuation of gravely immoral behavior which puts human souls at risk. Catholics resist condom distribution among non-married heterosexual couples for the same reason, BUT ALSO for the additional reason that within the context of heterosexual intercourse, the condom (besides perpetuating gravely immoral fornication or adultery) also entails the intrinsic evil of artificial contraception. Catholics resist (or should) the use of condoms within marriage only because of the intrinsic evil of artificial contraception.

Though one might debate the wisdom of a pope discussing such a fine point of moral theology at the popular level; recognition of a quasi-moral role of the condom's within specific homosexual (already grave) circumstances (which is why the pope carefully says there may be a basis, among certain individuals as when a male prostitute . . .) is entirely consistent with Catholic moral theology.

continued . . .

monk68 said...

In the case of non-married heterosexual intercourse, the use of a condom, necessarily functions in a contraceptive capacity, even if an additional proximate intention of condom use as prophylactic disease prevention exists simultaneously (as when one partner is know to be HIV positive). In such a case there are two proximate intentions attached to the condom use; one contraceptive, the other prophylactic. The presence of the "good" prophylactic intention can never redeem or transform the intrinsic evil of the condom's contraceptive function. Hence, as the pope says, it can never be a moral means. Nevertheless, that other (prophylactic) intention within the mind of the couple, reveals a subjective intention which is moving in the right direction - even if that intention cannot change the moral species of heterosexual condom use due to its intrinsic contraceptive function. Hence, the popes words which clearly point to an assessment of the intention as distinct from the moral species of the contraceptive act when he says:

“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.”

Pax et Bonum,

Ray

George R. said...

Monk68,
I appreciate the effort you took in your response. Unfortunately, I cannot agree with most of your argument .

You say that Catholics will continue to oppose condoms on the grounds that their use involves gravely sinful acts, such as fornication, sodomy, etc. True, they will. However, when asked to assume hypothetically that the gravely sinful act will take place, they will be hard pressed to deny that the condom is at least better than nothing.

Furthermore, with respect to your argument that B16’s statement will not help the cause of those who promote condom use among heterosexuals because it will involve a form of contraception condemned by the Church, while at first blush it appears strong, actually is not very. First of all, it puts Catholic teaching in (needless) conflict with what B16 calls “a first step toward responsibility,” providing ammo to the enemies of the Church, who have always accused the Church of being irresponsible in her teachings on contraception. Secondly, just as in the case hypothetical homosexual sex, given that heterosexual contraceptive sex will take place, one will be hard pressed to deny that condom use is at least better than nothing.

bossmanham said...

As a protestant who pretty much agrees with the Catholic conclusion about contraception, I was at first a little disturbed by the headlines. But after reading the context, it's obvious the media is making someone say what they didn't say...again.

And to Jonathan who posted first here, I laughed out loud at your post.

Victor Quiros Vargas said...

Hi, by reading an excerpt of the original interview in Italian on this blog it is clear that the Pope referred to a female prostitute: "ad esempio quando una prostituta* utilizza un profilattico", which means, "for example when a female prostitute uses a condom".

I don't speak Italian, but Spanish and both languages resemble each other in some respects so I can understand many things of such interview. By the way, the Spanish version of that excerpt is: "por ejemplo, cuando una prostituta utiliza un profiláctico".

BenYachov said...

George R,

You my friend are as clueless as any secularist or fundie New Atheist. You should know better.

A bank Robber who doesn't put bullets in his gun before he robs a bank because he doesn't want to be responsible for murdering anybody is taking “a first step toward responsibility,” in recognizing others could be killed if he is forced to shoot someone during his crime.
But nobody with an IQ above 3 can rationally conclude such a person is in fact being either responsible or moral in that he is still robbing a bank.

Also logically if he(or some gay HIV boytoy) is merely taking a first step toward responsibility that clearly implies he(they) has not in fact obtained said responsibility.

It's not hard genius & you are not helping by your unjust condemnation & criticism of the Holy Father.

BenYachov said...

>There’s one thing you have to know about the Devil and his party. They don’t need an explicit invitation. Just leave the door ajar; they’ll take care of the rest.

Bullshit! The Devil being the Devil just has to lie & claim the door was left open regardless if it has or has not been. So grow up! Grow a pair & get out there and defend the Holy Father & disseminate the truth as to what he really said.

It's not hard.

Brandon said...

Hi, Victor,

One of the things that has been confusing is that the translations that have been excerpted are all different on this point: German, English, and (if I recall correctly) French translations are all giving it in masculine form, Italian and Spanish are all giving it in feminine form. Everything we are getting so far is from advance copies given journalists who, technically, weren't supposed to print anything before the official publication date -- one of the strange things is that the paper that broke the agreement first, leading to everyone else breaking it, was L'Osservatore Romano itself. So we don't actually have any of the official translations -- it's possible that there are errors in any of the excerpts that we have, and that any of these are diverging from the actual passage as it is in the book itself. But as far as we can tell so far, there is no consistency in the official translations on this point. We don't know for sure, but since the Pope is German and was being interviewed by a German reporter, the German version is probably the original. (The same is the case with 'justified', which showed up in a lot of headlines: the Italian version very clearly says that condom use can be justified (giustificati); the German version equally clearly doesn't have anything corresponding to this term.)

The great irony of it all is that if you read it in context (in any of the languages), he only mentions it at all as part of a complaint that the media is obsessed with condoms and therefore repeatedly overlooks the importance of other sexual matters. I.e., he's not talking about condom use itself, but about what we should be doing about HIV and AIDS, and saying that people should stop fixating on condoms as if they were somehow the most important part of how we deal with the problem of HIV.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I am wrong!

A contraceptive act is NOT simply preventing conception. If this were true, NFP and periodic continence would be immoral, which is contrary to Papal pronouncements.

A contraceptive act is one which disrupts/interrupts the faculty of fertility.

In this case, contraceptives are intrinsically evil in all cases, in the case of homosexual sex.
The argument that, its already wrong anyway, so it doesn't matter if you use contraceptives as well does not hold. The multiplication of mortal sin increases vice in a person regardless of whether or not the person is in the state of grace or not. (Not to mention it would become a sin of malice as well.)

I think it is clear that the statements are both imprudent and non-binding. I disagree with the statement and I have the right (and duty IMHO) to disagree since this is clearly only the opinion of Joseph Ratzinger and not the exorcise of the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

The media have the right to come to the conclusion that they did based on the Pope's comment. It is either intrinsically evil and wrong in every case, or it isn't.

I don't buy the argument he is making concerning the first step towards morality. Engaging in mortal sin, even with good intentions, darkens the intellect, hardens the will, inflames concupiscence, and makes good actions more difficult. In other words, sin makes us to be worse, not better.

I apologize if this sounds more polemical than it needed to be.

George R. said...

Ben Yacov,
Your insults don’t bother me; for I’m not easily offended.

As to the substance of your post, i. e. that B16 essentially told the truth in that condom use may in fact be “a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility,” I’ll admit that in a way you are correct, but in a more important way you are not correct. For it’s true that it’s better to not want to infect someone else than to not care whether someone else is infected; and in light of that condom use may rationally be seen as a step in the right direction. However, for an (alleged) pope of the Holy Catholic Church to come out and say so is scandalous. Why? Well, first of all, from the Catholic perspective, it’s like saying that climbing on a ladder is the first step toward getting to the Moon. It may bring you marginally closer to the Moon, but it is not at all a means of getting there. A TRUE first step, from the Catholic perspective, would be, for example, to stop sinning, or to sin less, or to at least TRY to stop sinning, or to pray to the Virgin Mary, or to consider the Four Last Things. These true steps are not merely steps in the right direction but means to achieve the end toward which that step is directed. Moreover, pointing out that condom use may be a step in the right direction will have, I believe, the deleterious effect of confirming the wicked world even more in its monstrous errors, and given it the impression that Church is coming around more and more to the thinking of the world – and impression for which, btw, a prima facie case can be made.

But in the last analysis, it’s easy for me to see and say these things, because I do not consider B16 to be the pope of anything. He’s a dyed-in-wool Modernist. He’s not even remotely Catholic. And someone who is not Catholic cannot be pope.

Steveareno said...

The Associated Press is reporting a clarification from the Vatican in which the Pope says his remarks apply equally to a heterosexual couple in which the male could use a condom to prevent spreading disease to his wife.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hJU2dz_FwsPjYGXFjYDkbEH5VHfA?docId=d01ae88980c54a2da67605575ea0e7f6

Brandon said...

The multiplication of mortal sin increases vice in a person regardless of whether or not the person is in the state of grace or not.

This is not strictly true; unlike virtues, which never conflict with each other, vices can conflict with each other (indeed, every moral vice has at least one moral vice that is inconsistent with it), and sins that form one vice can conflict with the opposing vice; so it would depend on which vices were in question. It's true that one can never gain any virtue by sinning, but one can weaken a vice by sinning, if the sin and the vice are opposed in some way. This is not because you are becoming more virtuous but because you are shifting to other vices, but since the vice is being weakened, this can in rare cases make it easier to starting acting in ways that will begin to be virtuous. So, for instance, someone who is too much of a pushover might commit the sin of being too angry, or inappropriately angry, and this sin, while not the best way to begin breaking up the vices that make the original weak character, could well begin to do so, if the person is making a serious effort to improve. This is a simple fact of human psychology, and has to be taken into account by the Church, which (unlike most of its critics) doesn't simply set itself the task of judging whether things are right or wrong but also sets itself the practical pastoral problem of how people can best be helped to become better.

In the condom example, what the Pope emphasized was the assumption of responsibility. It's entirely consistent to claim that the way the responsibility was assumed was inadequate and yet praise this new attempt to be responsible as a step in the right direction. If someone is engaged in mortal sin and finally sincerely start taking some responsibility for their action, even if they don't completely take responsibility for what they are doing, or even if they fail to stop the sin, or even if they do it in the wrong way, they are in fact beginning to 'moralize' their actions. No matter how much further they need to go, no matter how confused their attempt, and no matter if they fall short in the attempt itself, they have added a new and good intention -- the attempt to take responsibility for their actions -- which has at least some potential to begin to roll back the advance of vice, if it continues to develop.

It's true that vice darkens the intellect, hardens the will, inflames concupiscence, and makes good actions more difficult; we can all thank God that that's not the end of the story, because if it were, there would never be any direction possible but down into Hell; i.e., if there were no way to begin to enlighten the intellect, free the will, calm desire, and get used to good action, we would have no hope, since our only possible moral direction would always be in the direction of greater depravity. But vice itself already infects everything we do when we have it; except by special grace, nobody goes from vicious to virtuous in one step. Rather, we first become less vicious and then become virtuous, and then become more virtuous.

BenYachov said...

@George R the Protestant Modernist wannabe

>But in the last analysis, it’s easy for me to see and say these things, because I do not consider B16 to be the pope of anything. He’s a dyed-in-wool Modernist. He’s not even remotely Catholic. And someone who is not Catholic cannot be pope.

With this admission you have shown you are not a Catholic but a Protestant heretic. No more & no less. The moral difference between you and a formal Protestant is at least the formal Protestant has integrity.

Thus you are not fit to expound on what constitutes moral theology or the doctrines of the Holy Church of which you are not a member of. Why should I listen to your private musings on what you think Catholic Moral teaching ought to be? I might as well listen to Luther and be done with it.

As too your lame response, pointing out that an HIV positive male Prostitute who uses a condom is merely taking a first step toward responsibility is not the same as saying we should advise said persons to use condoms and continue to have gay sex instead of telling them to refrain from sodomy all together.

Like I said someone with an IQ of 3 can figure that out. But by definition Sedis are not that smart.

Victor Quiros Vargas said...

Thanks for you input, Brandon. I agree in that anyone with basic reading comprehension skills can tell the Pope didn't say or even meant to say what he is attributed by the media to have claimed.

In my own country, Costa Rica, the media covered the news with a remarkable interest and polled the public for their opinion on the Pope's "OK'ing" the use of the condom "in certain cases".

BenYachov said...

>given it the impression that Church is coming around more and more to the thinking of the world –

When obstinate heretics(like clowns who deny the Papacy) read Our Lord saying "If thy right eye offend thee pluck it out" they might get the impression Our Lord advocates self-mutilation (which is forbidden by moral & natural Law).

Yours is a stupid argument and it cannot be rescued from that. Pius ears & rational minds can only reject it.

George R. said...

Ben,
You have to relax, brother. You can't let us stupid, no-integrity Protestant Modernist wannabe heretics get your goat.

BenYachov said...

@George R the Protestant

>You have to relax, brother. You can't let us stupid, no-integrity Protestant Modernist wannabe heretics get your goat.

Come up with a argument based on reason & the Moral Teaching of the One True Church instead of your obvious Sede nonsense & I will consider your request Prot-Boy.

jt said...

*The Associated Press is reporting a clarification from the Vatican in which the Pope says his remarks apply equally to a heterosexual couple in which the male could use a condom to prevent spreading disease to his wife.*

Wondering how many poor wives got serious diseases from husbands fooling around and getting an STD, not wanting to admit it to his unquestioningly faithful Catholic wife, had sex as usual w/o a condom.

Tell those glamorously-robed, well-fed little Italian virgins to get over their addiction to chastity and get the hell out of the bedrooms of others.

BenYachov said...

For example according to my copy of Moral Theology by Fr. Heribert Jone from TAN BOOKS AND PUBLISHERS. If a man has anal sex with his wife but does not complete it to ejaculation(i.e. imperfect sodomy) then he is not guilty of the sin of onanism.

This is a Traditional book on moral theology. According to the novel Protestant theory of George R then Fr. Jone must be condemned for not saying "Sodomy is always wrong in marriage"(which it is but that is not what Fr Sone was saying. He was talking about something specific and making a specific formulation from moral theology. He was not condoning anal sex in marriage).

This is where your Protestant nonsense leads. Even a pre-Vatican two Priest is not safe.

BenYachov said...

>Tell those glamorously-robed, well-fed little Italian virgins to get over their addiction to chastity and get the hell out of the bedrooms of others.

What's the moral or practical difference between Just Emotion's emotional view & George R the Protestant wannabe's emotional objections?

Very little IMHO.

jt said...

Emotion?

The infallible Church demands its members not use contraception.

Shit like I mentioned results.

The infallible 'theoretical natural law' is found to be unjustifiable, and is gradually overturned without any apologies - ever.

Justice and integrity makes demands that are independent of emotion, and which do not apply to the mighty magisterial.

BenYachov said...

Gee Just Emotional, your emotional pleas really convince my intellect to abandon my rational reasons to accept the Natural Law & the Authority of the Church.


NOT!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Dr Feser,

Since when is morality determined by consequences?

just thinking said...

BY

We'll both see what that Authority holds as infallible w/r birth control in, say, 10 years.

B16 is not a Thomist, and I think progressive Catholics are going to be serving a lot of crow in the next decade.

Those who came to the Church only because of Thomas will be facing new dilemmas.

I predict the Church will reverse its reversal of Thomas of the last 150 years, and redefine the first trimester fetus as non-human, as well. Then, in a Hegelian pendulum swing, the personalism of B16 and JP II will later cause another reversal, and a fetus will be called a Person-in-Potential.

Before that, pet dogs will be defined as Persons!

The theology is in development - a fact for progressives, a bafflement for the conservatives.

Anonymous said...

From the news.yahoo.com article:

"The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters Tuesday that he asked the pope whether he intended his comments to apply only to men. Benedict replied that it really didn't matter, the important thing was that the person took into consideration the life of another.

'I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine,' Lombardi said. 'He told me no. The problem is this: ... It's the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship.'"

If this is true, if the example given by the pope doesn't have to be a male homosexual prostitute, then Ed's point #1 no longer holds. Oh well. At least the other points are good.

jt said...

The spirit of Vatican II has been a slow *mother*, but it is surfacing.

Crude said...

I predict the Church will reverse its reversal of Thomas of the last 150 years, and redefine the first trimester fetus as non-human, as well. Then, in a Hegelian pendulum swing, the personalism of B16 and JP II will later cause another reversal, and a fetus will be called a Person-in-Potential.

Hey look, it's the same exact prediction people were saying would take place in 10 years, decades ago. :D

Before that, pet dogs will be defined as Persons!

...With some complete lunacy added.

I'll play this game too:

"In 20 years, progressive Catholics - those who haven't left the church altogether - will be as bitter and disillusioned then as Hans Kung is now. The primary change of most christian's views towards dogs will be tolerance for the cultural views of some that they are both unclean, and/or are suitable for eating. Abortion will be viewed as a wretched thing, even in the first trimester, and even by most secularists - to say nothing of Catholics.

There will remain some nutters who will predict that the entire world will be going vegan anytime now and liberal christian views will rule the day in just 10 more years."

Anonymous said...

Like the commenter from a few comments ago, I too noticed that the Vatican clarified that the Pope intended his remark to apply to women as well as men. The same piece explained that the Vatican is using the language of "the lesser evil" to explain what the Pope meant in his remark. This supports Dr. Feser's point about the Pope not intending to condone anything: if evil is never justified, and if condom use is an evil, even an evil not as great as another evil (and what evil isn't?), then condom use is never justified.

There is an issue here, however, which that textbook moral reasoning does not satisfactorily address, accurate though it may be. The Church is a dispenser of guidelines for how to act. She is struggling, I believe, with what guidelines she should give to those who are going to do something evil anyway. The primary consideration here is whether appealing to evildoers to carry out their evil in a certain way might be an act of charity towards those the evildoers' actions will affect, rather than a failure of charity toward the evildoers (insofar as this kind of appeal will inevitably be seen as a justification of their evildoing and so do them a disservice). This is a legitimate topic of discussion, and not one easily resolved. Moving forward, the Church must continue to weigh how it should express itself in circumstances such as these.

Jinzang said...

I've got no qualifications to comment on what is or is not accepted Catholic doctrine. Though I don't see why the doctrine of double effect doesn't apply to the use of condoms to prevent fatal disease. But illustrating a point of sexual ethics with the example of a male prostitute is just horrible, horrible PR for the Church.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, "the Vatican," the building, the whole building, has clarified the Pope's remarks. The Pope didn't just mean male prostitutes. He meant EVERYBODY!

"CONDOMS FOR EVERYBODY!"

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/23/vatican-condoms-for-hiv-p_n_787629.html

What the heck is going????!?!? What a cluster****.

BenYachov said...

@Anon November 23, 2010 5:22 PM

>She is struggling, I believe, with what guidelines she should give to those who are going to do something evil anyway.

I would in fact say the Church & the Pope are not giving any guidelines at all here per say.

Rather they are merely making simple moral observations. Like a harden criminal who didn't use to care about the life or limb of others suddenly chooses to not put bullets in his gun when he robs banks. We can observe he is likely moving towards responsibility. But that should not be seen as a guideline that if you are going to rob a bank you shouldn't use bullets.
The only guideline the Church can give is too not sin.

But I maintain no rational person can take the Pope's remarks to mean that it is moral to either fornicate, use artificial birth control or commit sodomy.

Making a moral observation is not the same as issuing guidelines.

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

BTW hypothetically if one is going to sin logic dictates one should at least make the effort to be successful at it.

As the old Middle Eastern saying goes "If you are going to go to Hell for adultery at least make sure you are not having it off with an ugly woman".

If you are going to fornicate wear a condom. If you are going to rob a bank wear a bullet proof vest. Common sense should dictate these are reasonable things to do if you are going to commit these evils.

But why pray tell do we need the Church or the Pope to tell us to do these things? Can some of the chuckleheads who believe in contraception explain that one to me?

Anonymous said...

What do you make, then, of this apparent clarification that Pope's words extended to everyone, not just male prostitutes?

...

I mean, wow, are we really talking this? The fallout from this is going to suck. How many Mass-going Catholics have been fed this garbage?

Vincent Torley said...

Sorry. For "denting" please read "denying."

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

"…isn’t all this like saying that safe and clean abortion procedures are better than using a coat hanger - because after all the former may show signs of respect and concern for human life (i.e., at least for that of the mother’s)? I just don’t get how one can derive that this is a de facto approval of condoms when in fact the Church has never been in the business of advising people on how to sin safely." LINK (infra)

jt said...

Crude said

"In 20 years, progressive Catholics - those who haven't left the church altogether - will be as bitter and disillusioned then as Hans Kung is now. The primary change of most christian's views towards dogs will be tolerance for the cultural views of some that they are both unclean, and/or are suitable for eating. Abortion will be viewed as a wretched thing, even in the first trimester, and even by most secularists - to say nothing of Catholics."

I'll wager you are way on the wrong side of these issues, w/r to religion and cultural advance.

But it is refreshing to feel such a warm and caring concern of one Catholic for his fellow believers. Do you ask people in the pews whether they are progressive-minded before choosing to exten a sign of peace?

james said...

"If you are going to rob a bank wear a bullet proof vest. Common sense should dictate these are reasonable things to do if you are going to commit these evils."

Are you not missing Benedict's point a bit, there? A more appropriate analogy would be robbing a bank with a gun that's loaded with blanks -- you're doing something evil, yes, but (by minimizing the possibility of harm to others) you're starting down the road to moral behavior. He wasn't saying "Use common sense"; he was saying "From a confused set of actions, a sense of morality emerges which may hopefully take root".

Anyway, I'm not sure what you're asking when you wonder why anyone needs the pope to say this sort of thing. Has anyone claimed otherwise?

Anonymous said...

BenYachov,

You are right that the Church as not issued any guidelines on how to act in the light of Benedict's remark from his interview. But I believe the Church at large is struggling -- in the sense of having differences of opinion at very high levels and not yet having a resolution to those differences -- to decide what guidelines, if any, should be issued in certain cases in which someone is going to commit an evil whose effects on its victims would be lessened if the evil were carried out in one way rather than another. The HIV/condom situation is one such circumstance. It is difficult to see how the Church could ever say, "If you're going to have sex, please use a condom for the sake of your partner." But I believe the pain the Church feels at the plight of victims' in this particular situation is what is leading her to struggle to formulate some response. Perhaps this response will not take the form of a guideline for anyone's behavior different from the guidelines the Church already issues (i.e., don't have pre-marital sex, and don't use condoms). I honestly don't know what the eventual outcome of all this will be.

BenYachov said...

@james

I was mocking the implied liberal stupidity that some chuckleheads have here that says the Church is somehow responsible for AIDS or unwanted pregnancy etc.... because she forbids artificial birth control.

I was flipping the argument & asking absurdly do we really need the Pope to instruct us how to do evil? Can't we do that on our own?

It's satire.

Crude said...

I'll wager you are way on the wrong side of these issues, w/r to religion and cultural advance.

Again, this wager has shown up many times even in the recent past. Don't bet your house. The last political party who tried that lost it fairly recently - so much for the "advance".

But it is refreshing to feel such a warm and caring concern of one Catholic for his fellow believers.

You're not a fellow believer, if I recall correctly. And you're hilariously out of step with even liberal believers, even the nuttier animal rights types. Naturally though, you're one of those "can dish it out but not take it types". Enjoy the pro-life, delicious dog future!

Do you ask people in the pews whether they are progressive-minded before choosing to exten a sign of peace?

Never, but then they never show up to emote, emote, emote, as well as mock and make crazy-ass "prophecies" just to sate their psychological worries. If someone acted the way you have in this thread, "in the pews", they'd get just what I gave you.

You can cut the "I'm a sad widdle liberal dog with a thorn in my paw" routine. As I said, I've little issue with making a dinner out of a canine. Yum. ;)

Anonymous said...

You eat dogs, Crude?

Crude said...

BenYachov,

I like the point recently in this discussion is the question of "What should the church say in conditions where someone is going to commit a grave act of evil anyway?" Others have given the example of, if a mafia hitman is going to kill someone, that he prefers to do it with a quick kill rather than a slow, painful torture is at least some glimmer of hope for them. Yet it wouldn't be right to say such a view amounts to "snapping the neck of some guy who may rat you out to the feds is sometimes the moral thing to do".

I think the church does need to talk about even esoteria like that, because frankly people nowadays do a lot of evil (even those of us who try to lead good lives), and merely saying 'Sinner!' is not fully productive. At least, in the case of the mafia hit man, you have some tiny bit of decency to appeal to, and to have as perhaps the start of a grander conversation.

We do need to approach people who do things like this, and we don't need to condone to approach.

Crude said...

Anon,

They aren't exactly on the menu in my area. ;)

just theologizing said...

Crude

In all likelihood, w/ 1/3 of women in US having had an abortion, a world w/o pro-choice seems a dream.

Do you really think that the morning after pill will not be advanced to a point where it could be used in lieu of all other forms of contraception? Pro-lifers would jump at it and thus put pressure on the silly 'it's a full-fledged human when sperm meets egg' dogma.

The latter dogma recently made infallible truth by the Church is far more amusing than the notion of our highly relational pets having theological Personhood extended to include then.

You are a cannibal for eating dogs, and merely a man with exotic taste buds should you forage for meals wherever they put aborted fetus and miscarriages.

Gross, but theologically correct, my man.

George R. said...

"You are a cannibal for eating dogs, and merely a man with exotic taste buds should you forage for meals wherever they put aborted fetus and miscarriages."

One thing's for sure. JT would be a cannibal if he ate jackass.

Crude said...

In all likelihood, w/ 1/3 of women in US having had an abortion, a world w/o pro-choice seems a dream.

And yet the move towards the pro-life ideal will continue. Perfectly so? No - people sin. But the move shall yet go on. Much to your apparent chagrin, but sadly, you'll just have to deal with it.

Do you really think that the morning after pill will not be advanced to a point where it could be used in lieu of all other forms of contraception?

What was that, my southern friend? Slavery will never be outlawed, you say? The ability to catch and control slaves only becomes easier? It will be impossible to stop, and thus will never decrease, neither by law nor societal pressure nor changing minds? And blacks will certainly never be allowed to vote or hold office?

Quite a prophecy, that. Let us see how it plays out. :D

highly relational pets

You are a riot buddy. :) Highly relational. As in, "JT thinks - well, probably doesn't even really think, but at least SAYS they're persons, and he can't imagine the world won't see things his way, even though most liberals think he's adorably crazy!"

If the world existed according to JT's wishes, there would be far more hungry people in the world right now. And more dogs. Unfortunately, 'tis not the case.

Again, deal with it. Then again, you seem very, very incapable of dealing with reality, so this advice is in vain.

You are a cannibal for eating dogs,

In your crazy, crazy world, people who eat dogs are cannibals. But alas, in actual reality it is a, how you say.. dog eat dog world? Depending on the culture of course. :D

But thank you for only the most recent demonstration that you are powered almost purely by illogic, emotion and hypocrisy. If your dogs were capable of reason and language, they would beg for a better representative than yourself.

just telling you said...

George

"You are a cannibal for eating dogs, and merely a man with exotic taste buds should you forage for meals wherever they put aborted fetus and miscarriages."

One thing's for sure. JT would be a cannibal if he ate jackass.


O.K., I got a laugh, George.

George and Crude

Now be big boys and explain what is wrong in my theology. In other words, whose dogma are you judging my thoughts by? And what vintage (medieval, biblical, 1850, 2010)?

The human=fertilized embryo and dog=theological Person are BOTH metaphysical assertions.

When you prove your preference for which is true, I'll prove mine.

I do not anticipate either of you capable of meeting the challenge, but humor us.

Big up, big mouths.

Michele Arpaia said...

Bobby Bambino -
I understand that point and thanks for the link.
However, I think that the evangelizaiton does not need any technique. Cardinal Ratzinger - in a long interview released for an italian magazine - held that the true evangelizations would start from an authentic living experience with Him. The rest is His Opera...we're instrumental.
More on this: Church needs holiness not management (see "The Ratzinger Report").I do believe the Pope still holds that position.
Feser is right - he didn't express his thought ex cathedra therefore it is not binding.

just truthin' said...

Crickets chirping George R. and Crude...chirp, chirp, chirp...

Losers, both.

Brian said...

I don't think you guys have quite grasped yet that the Pope's remarks were not limited to just male prostitutes.

Honestly, there are way too many threads to this story for me to follow. I am out of the loop.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

JT:

The personhood of the early embryo is a theological opinion, not a dogma, and one no less a Catholic than G. E. M. Anscombe denied. Please get your terms straight before entering into a debate.

jt said...

Leo

"The personhood of the early embryo is a theological opinion, not a dogma, and one no less a Catholic than G. E. M. Anscombe denied. Please get your terms straight before entering into a debate."

Your calm and reasoned opinion here is appreciated. I am not sure of the light between this Church opinion and its dogma, however.

I believe the whole thrust of my argument on this matter is a recognization of the 'opinion' aspect of this particular dogma.

Now, look closely at B16 and JP2 on what is meant by a phenomenological and theological Person to see that one's relationship with a loved/loving pet canine (anthropocentricism removed)is an instantiation of I-Thou, whereas, that of female to unwanted fetus is not.

Quite reasonable once all the hysteria of dogmatic imagery is suspended, and it is just this approach that must accompanies theological advance.

jackass theologian said...

BTW

The jackass still awaits attempts at thought from the silent duo of losers!

jt said...

For those open minds who might consider what has become an ultimate concern for me, here is a good article:

[url]http://www.denverpost.com/lifestyles/ci_12382762[/url]

Just add B16's personalism and voila - 4 legged friends in heaven for Crude and George R!

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

JT:

As always, I invoke the Scholastic distinguo!

I think you are taking the two fellows to task––I expected more decorum from you than the neh-neh-neh-neh-neh-neh-ing I've seen lately––for what you think is an equivocal sense of personhood from them, while they are apparently taking you to task for a univocal usage of the term "person".

In English: you think their claim is that calling a human a person and a dog a person is an equivocal (i.e. illicit) use of the term, while they think your claim is that person can and should be applied univocally to humans and dogs. If that is their claim, I think I disagree. If that is your claim, I know I disagree.

I have no time or acumen at this juncture to lay out a proper analogical framework for licit and illicit ascriptions of personhood, but suffice to say that St Thomas, if no other Scholastic (just for argument's sake), regularly notes degrees of moral and emotional power in non-human animals. I have been very remiss in not posting the exceprts on this topic which I mentioned weeks ago, but, as they (I?) say, life gets in the way, and excuses help it find a seat.

Here's a Rube Goldberg of a maxim to gnaw upon:

Humans share in divine personhood at an infinite remove, which is bridged by a single link––the hypostatic union in Christ––while animals share in human personhood at all points but one––intellection––, a power which distinguishes humans by a slender but infinite quality, and which is the singular mode by which humans are joined to Christ (by eschatological contemplation of the logoi in the Logos).

Animals do and shall partake in redemption, but only under the microcosmical stewardship of human nature, while human nature itself shall be redeemed in a unique way in the macrocosmic headship of Christ. We are saved in the Logos and animals are 'saved' in us.

Best, till next chime,

Leo Carton Mollica said...

JT:

The various degrees of authoritative Catholic views can be found enumerated and explained here. Hope that is of help.

A Pope can be in error, even when issuing an encyclical or other official document. We ought, of course, to accord such dicta great weight, but that is not the same as saying that a genuine Catholic dogma could be defined by virtue of a papal document.

jt said...

Thanks, Codge

Where did that quote come from, I think I like it a lot.

Codge, regarding my tone, Crude and I are, I am afraid, forever entangled rivals of old, hence never listening to one another, just punching. George R is a gadfly whose physical density prevents light bulbs the opportunity to dispatch him as happens with his moth kin. But he's mentally harmless.

Leo

Thanks, I have, of late. been guided into how dogma can become infallible. I was under the impression that contraception and abortion statements were now included as such.

But I think we seem to agree that the trimester thing is metaphysical speculation and so opinion.

In the article I linked, they quote Aquinas that a dog has a different soul than a man, to which a Georgetown theologian responds 'nobody knows what kind of soul a dog has!'

Love it.

Edward Feser said...

The jackass still awaits attempts at thought from the silent duo of losers!

Please cut it out. This kind of stuff has been pleasantly absent from the comboxes here since a certain longtime commenter finally took his leave, and I'd like that to continue.

Vincent Torley said...

jt

You write:

"Now, look closely at B16 and JP2 on what is meant by a phenomenological and theological Person to see that one's relationship with a loved/loving pet canine (anthropocentricism removed) is an instantiation of I-Thou, whereas, that of female to unwanted fetus is not."

Your argument about the unwanted fetus proves too much. There are rare cases of women who did not know that they were pregnant until they were about to give birth. Would you then maintain that since an I-Thou relationship was absent throughout the pregnancy, the nine-month-old fetus that was about to be born was not a person?

And what about women who change their minds about whether they want the baby, during the course of a pregnancy? When the I-Thou relationship ceases, does the fetus go back to being a non-person? Or for that matter, when a woman who wanted to abort suddenly changes her mind after listening to her unborn child's beating heart, does the fetus only then become a person?

But the real reaon why the establishment of an I-Thou relationship (e.g. by the mother) cannot make something that was not a person (e.g. a fetus, according to you) into a person is that deciding to establish an I-Thou relationship with an entity only makes sense if the entity to whom one is relating is already a person. Otherwise the relationship would indeed be anthropocentrism (to use your word). You are putting the metaphysical cart before the horse.

I used to subscribe to a similar error to yours about the fetus, in the early to mid-1990s. I changed my mind when I realized that this idea was philosophically incoherent. I would urge you to do the same.

Finally, a genuine I-Thou relationship with Fido shows that he is a morally significant other, but not a rational person who is capable of being saved or damned.

jt said...

O K Ed

I bit my tongue while putting up with repeated posts from your teammate, Crude, and even after your gadfly, George R, called me a jackass. Only then did I get testy and demand a logical rebuttal and not just fly-by opining.

So you blame me for the hostility? Not fair at all. I may not share the ultra-orthodox mindset of you guys, but my viewpoints are valid contrasts that deserve respect. If it is really the tone of your combox that bothers you, how about addressing the behaviors that preceded and prompted it.

You will notice the Codge and VJT see merit-able debate here.

W

jt said...

Good to hear from you, VJ

Second point first: as Marc Bekoff and other cognitive researchers (as well as most any dog lover) knows, dogs are morally significant (as you seem to allow) and capable of loving. Same goes for a two year old human. Despite 2000 years of the Chutch infusing the Greek’s worship of reason, however, there are still folks like me who have a hunch that this is a problem, not a credit. It seems Jesus spoke more about love and had very little good to say about rationality and the heart it can lead to. Aquinas made the big mandate for rationality as the sole prereq for salvation. But, like talking about a fetus, there are many exceptions that Aquinas has to make up metaphysical claims to cover – remember Limbo?

And as the theologian from Georgetown said in my url link in an earlier post that nobody knows what the soul of a dog is like. That is real.

That said, I agree with you about the many issues raised with a mother’s relationship with her unborn baby. I have no experience with what this relationship is like. (I AM certain that Aquinas was even less certain, being pretty uncaring of women except for their ability to reproduce, and not sure when The Philosopher would advise him to declare the vegetable souled fetus had progressed to the animal soul before God moved in for the grand conferral of rational soul everlasting.) Matter of fact, nobody knows now. This is why I think having the government getting involved is unwise. If churches or NPO’s could prevent abortion, that seems a better approach. In any case I claim no expertise in this.

On I-Thou relationality, I mentioned on a W4 thread that I could see personhood resulting when all the relationality between two creatures was of a one-way nature – mother to fetus, guardian to comatose patient, owner to pet, etc., but I was not comfortable with this idea.

It is somewhat clearer to me now that we cannot ‘confer’ personhood, it applies according to the natural capacity of the creature to socially relate, and persons flourish according to the dynamics of a relationship. Of the three examples I cited, an established ‘dog loving owner to their healthy happy dog relationship’ is the most natural instance of a flourishing I-Thou (not that the others are not I-Thou).



I see that no I-Thou relationship was there throughout the pregnancy as the mother unknowingly carried the nine-month-old fetus that was about to be born. The baby is a creature capable of personal relationality and needs someone to love it into a flourishing personhood.

The same holds for every dog at a shelter.

VJ, I have to say I agree with this

But the real reaon why the establishment of an I-Thou relationship (e.g. by the mother) cannot make something that was not a person (e.g. a fetus, according to you) into a person is that deciding to establish an I-Thou relationship with an entity only makes sense if the entity to whom one is relating is already a person.

So where does this leave me? It seems like any creature desiring an I-Thou relationship is a person, including dogs, infants, and people. But as I have said above, I am ‘mu’ on abortion. It is not my Ultimate Concern. It always comes up when debating conservative religious minds because it seems to me that their passion for someone else’s fetus is identical with mine for the recognition of dogs as persons.

jt said...

it seems to me that their passion for someone else’s fetus is identical with mine for the recognition of dogs as persons

And I should have added that there is no more metaphysical certainties about the soul of a fetus, an adult, or a dog. It is a matter of faith.

Vincent Torley said...

jt

I agree that dogs are morally significant and capable of loving. I would vigorously disagree, however, with Professor Marc Bekoff's contention that they are capable of thinking, and of distinguishing right from wrong. Dogs can do clever things; but they can't explain why they do them. As for morality: dogs, cats, baboons, elephants, bears, lions and even chimps practice infanticide - and it's not just under isolated, extreme or freakish conditions, either. Among female chimpanzees, infanticide appears to represent part of the normal behavioral repertoire.

Vincent Torley said...

jt

I personally think animals have an after-life of sorts; but going to Heaven definitely requires rationality. And if dogs can go to Heaven for being good (as the article you linked to suggests) then why can't they go to Hell for being bad?

Here are two links you might like to peruse:

http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/thomas2.html#section5 (On animal suffering, love and rationality)

http://www.angelfire.com/linux/vjtorley/prolife.html (my pro-life argument for recognizing embryos as people).

BenYachov said...

>So you blame me for the hostility? Not fair at all.

Says the gal who wrote "Tell those glamorously-robed, well-fed little Italian virgins to get over their addiction to chastity and get the hell out of the bedrooms of others."

Hypocrite much?

BenYachov said...

>Only then did I get testy and demand a logical rebuttal and not just fly-by opining.

Since when do you believe in logic? All your beliefs & arguments are based on pure emotion. You emote & assert but you do not argue.

BTW this was a thread on B16's alleged "authorization of condoms" what do animals having an alleged afterlie have to do with the price of tea in China?

Seriously.

jt said...

VJ

I reread the first link (I have commented on some theodicy points you raised before).

As you mention, I am one of those moderns who feel Aquinas' theorizing on animals is arrogant. The man obviously had no pet dog. I agree with your questions Christians should consider. I like C S Lewis' thinking that even more than for us, justice demands that the horrible suffering animals undergo contributing to creation deserves a reward after death.

I am not that up on beautific vision and rationality being fused at the hip, but if a dog experiences God thru me and not directly, my dogs are OK w/ that. As for bad dogs go to hell, I suppose that is a possibility, though mine choose to be Universalists if that is the case!

The second link on reproduction was a bit technical, and I did not catch where Aquinas' views on the stages of the fetus's soul were discussed.

On the value V of an embryo not changing all the way to adulthood as nothing was added to its DNA programs, my bias to see reality with a bit more process and relationality lead me to scratch my head on that one.

No doubt about it, though, you produce some very commendable ideas in your work, VJ. Kudos.

jt said...

Ben

BTW this was a thread on B16's alleged "authorization of condoms" what do animals having an alleged afterlie have to do with…

You should know, I was answering your attempts to divert all my concerns by instead focusing on calling me over emotional – a common and tired ploy at this site to circumvent addressing the reasoned points I make, unorthodox as many might appear to conservatives.

The theology is in development - a fact for progressives, a bafflement for the conservatives.

The quote here linked statements on rubbers with similar opinions on dog souls, both being fluid over time.

Leo Mollica said...

JT:

Just to make sure you do not misunderstand: I did not say, and never intended to imply, that the prohibition of abortion was a fallible opinion. I said that only of the doctrine of ensoulment-at-conception. One can be a perfectly faithful anti-abortion advocate without giving assent to that doctrine. Indeed, that is my position.

jt said...

Leo

Prior to the late 1800's, was it considered a mortal sin of murder to abort after the trimester (or first kick), but only a sin to abort before this time of fetus gestation?

And if so, what has changed?

Vincent Torley said...

jt

For Augustine and Aquinas on abortion being a mortal sin, please see here:

http://culture-of-life.org/content/view/499/92/

http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/quickquestions/keyword/St.%20Thomas%20Aquinas (scroll to the bottom)

http://freakingawesomeblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/beating-dead-horse-of-abortion-part-3.html

(If those links didn't come out OK, Google "Aquinas abortion mortal sin" without quotes, and select the fourth, fifth and sixth entries.)

Finally, if the Church always viewed contraception as a mortal sin, how much more so abortion.

Leo Mollica said...

JT:

I am not an expert on Catholic moral theology in the 19th century and am thus incompetent to answer your question. I believe, however, that St. Thomas somewhere (it might be in the Contra Gentiles) defends the thesis that early abortion is mortally sinful.

Vincent Torley said...

jt

Excerpt from the last link in my previous post:

In Book IV, distinction 31, art. 3 ... of his Commentary [on The Sentences of Peter Abelard], in the "exposition of the text," St. Thomas discusses abortion; like Augustine, it is in the context of human sexuality. Prior to the mention of abortion, Thomas notes that it is licit for a couple to marry in order to control lust and prevent serious sin. Thomas then says the following:

LATIN: "Qui vero venena sterilitatis procurant, non conjuges, sed fornicarii sunt. Hoc peccatum quamvis sit grave, et inter maleficia computandum, et contra naturam, quia etiam bestiae fetus expectant; tamen est minus quam homicidium; quia adhuc poterat alio modo impediri conceptus. Nec est judicandus talis irregularis, nisi jam formato puerperio abortum procuret."

ENGLISH: "Whoever then procure a drug of sterility, are not spouses, but fornicators. This sin however is grave, and should be reckoned among evil deeds, and against nature, because even beasts await their young; however it is less than homicide; because so far there was another method to impede conception. Nor should it be judged to be as irregular [or "lesser"], [except] when the infant is already well-formed when the abortion is procured."

Taking a "drug of sterility" is a phrase which usually covers both contraception and abortions.

End of excerpt. My comment: Aquinas could have taken a much stronger line, but even so, he still affirmed that abortion was a grave sin, from the very beginning of pregnancy.

Second comment: why, after 700 years, hasn't someone translated this Commentary into English? Come to think of it, why isn't it available online in Swahili? It should be.

Leo Mollica said...

VT:

Thank you! That is exactly the passage I was thinking about.

To be fair, modern English has not been around al those 700 years.

jt said...

VJ and Leo

Gentlemen, in addition to reading the following brief history of the church’s changeable stance on the gravity of abortion, I urge you to also research the reason why the Fathers and Popes were so consumed with the sexuality between men and women (who were usually considered inferior to men). VJ, this will reveal why contraception and/or induced sterility were considered worse sins than abortion.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_hist_c.htm

BTW, my language skills are not lawyer sharp. Could either of you paraphrase the English trans. Of the Latin which VJ kindly posted?

Anonymous said...

@ Brandon

Thank you for the thoughtful response. I apologize for the delay in responding, I am sure you are no longer checking these posts. I'll post it to your own blog after a few days.

The issue of vices conflicting with each other is an interesting issue, but I think unrelated. I am here referring to the vice which is caused by the act of contracepting in particular, not vice in general.

Your example of anger mitigating “being a pushover” I think is a false comparison, namely because getting angry is not a disordered action by object: intrinsically evil. Being a pushover has more to do with the sin of “human respect” or “respect of persons” than any defect in the passion of anger or the virtue of meekness which controls it. Allowing a passion (anger or otherwise) to subvert reason isn't going to help anyone grow in virtue. I must disagree with your “psychology.”

A better example would be abortion. Lets say I have AIDS or another serious STD that would be transferred to my unborn child and cause horrible suffering in the child's life. Would you say that it is a step towards morality to abort the child? I am taking the child's welfare into consideration and “taking responsibility” by preventing his suffering. I assume here that you agree that the action of abortion, since it is always wrong in every case, would not be a morally licit option regardless of intention.

The more a vice is gratified, the harder it is to control. Furthermore, the more vice with a disordered object is gratified, the more disordered the object becomes. This is most easily seen with the rapid perversity which is acquired by the gratification of the sin of lust. Therefore, contracepting does not, even with an intention of “doing well” dispose its agent to any good at all, but rather to further depravity. I am not saying that these people are necessarily going to hell, or whatever you were trying to imply by your last post. I am saying that if they aren't, it will have nothing to do with the contraceptive act. If they have some kind of first step, we must be describing actual grace (by definition this is always the first step! [unless we are pelagian or semi-pelagian]).

But this wasn't the point of my post, although a necessary premise. The real point is that an unnecessarily controversial example of an ambiguous situation was used for teaching. Why use the example of condoms? Why leak it to the press early? It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the media was going to run with this and that it would cause mass confusion about an issue which 98% of Catholics are already dissenting (at least in practice if not belief). The point is this, the Pope (even if he is right in his statement [which I am not convinced]) acted imprudently and in a non-binding fashion. This is a perfect opportunity to catechize concerning the heresy condemned by the first Vatican Council of ultramontanism: the heresy that everything the pope says is authoritative and binding.

BenYachov said...

>brief history of the church’s changeable stance on the gravity of abortion,

I reply: Or you could read this essay and marvel at the historical theological, & metaphysical ignorance of the so called "tolerance" crowd.

http://www2.franciscan.edu/plee/aquinas_on_human_ensoulment.htm

Ironically it is because of advances in science the church is forced according too her classic principles to hold the view human life begins at conception.

jt said...

Ben

I read your linked article.

As regards the link I posted above, contrary to its brief historic development of church theory on contraception, abortion, and point of ensoulment being, as you say, “historical theological, & metaphysical ignorance of the so called "tolerance" crowd”, it would seem that your article completely affirms what mine said.

Where your article stops short is that after it develops its stance that science led the recent change in church thought on when there is fullness of human-ness in a fetus, its authors completely go silent on Aquinas’ essentialist theory of rational ensoulment. They never state that God infuses a rational soul into the fertilized egg – they give it a special claim for our honor and also legal rights. I read nothing about God intervening to infuse a soul in the revised talk about the fetus.

And they make it sound as though there is no longer a vegetative, animal, or rational soul to consider in abortion anymore. Where did they go?

What has biological science told the church that makes a human embryo so special among all creatures?

Vincent Torley said...

jt

Thank you for your posts.

You referred me to http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_hist_c.htm, which states:

Circa 380 CE: The Apostolic Constitutions allowed abortion if it was done early enough in pregnancy. But it condemned abortion if the fetus was of human shape and contained a soul.

Here's what the Apostolic Constitutions actually says:

"Thou shalt not use magic. Thou shalt not use witchcraft; for he says, 'You shall not suffer a witch to live' [Ex. 22:18]. Thou shall not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten. . . . [I]f it be slain, [it] shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed" (Apostolic Constitutions 7:3 [A.D. 400]).

I'd take anything written on www.religioustolerance.org with a very large grain of salt.

Vincent Torley said...

jt

Here's a good Web site for the history of catholic teaching on abortion:

http://www.hli.org/index.php/abortion/396?task=view

By the way, I found the full text of the Apostolic Constitutions on abortion:

"Thou shalt not use magic. Thou shalt not use witchcraft; for He says, 'You shall not suffer a witch to live' [Ex. 22:18]. Thou shall not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten; for "everything that is shaped, and has received a soul from God, if it be slain, shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed."

While the text refers to "everything that is shaped," it nowhere elucidates this term; nor does it say that abortion was allowed if it was done early enough in pregnancy, as www.religioustolerance.org falsely alleges. Rather, it simply says: "Thou shall not slay thy child by causing abortion."

Here's St. Basil the Great:
"The hairsplitting difference between formed and unformed makes no difference to us. Whoever deliberately commits abortion is subject to the penalty for homicide. ... Let her that procures abortion undergo ten years' penance, whether the embryo were perfectly formed, or not."
— St. Basil the Great, priest (c. 329-379), First Canonical Letter, from the work Three Canonical Letters. Canons 2 and 8. Loeb Classical Library, Volume III, pages 20 to 23.

Vincent Torley said...

jt

You ask:

"What has biological science told the church that makes a human embryo so special among all creatures?"

No animal embryo is a vegetable first. An animal embryo is an animal from the beginning, because the instructions that direct its bodily formation are there in the embryo from the beginning, and they're in run mode (switched on and executing) from the very start. A human embryo is a human animal from the very beginning. However, philosophy tells us that some acts performed by the human animal (e.g. intellection) are non-bodily acts. Hence the form of the human animal cannot be generated by any physical process. Thus the parents of a child are not its creators but its pro-creators. Only God can create a form that is capable of non-bodily acts.

jt said...

VJ

I have seen many brief histories of abortion from Catholic and other Christian sites and find general agreement, with some emphasizing this over that. I notice your link from the Catholic site does not have a quote from Aquinas – how often does that happen!

What is universally clear is that the role of women was seen first and foremost that of reproduction, and, sex for any other purpose was seen ranging from grudging acknowledgement to outright condemnation. Note the imagery used below, and the attitude towards women.

St. John Chrysostom (circa 340 - 407 CE): "Why then do you abuse the gift of God and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the place of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter?" Homily 24 on Romans

That the church has often taught that contraception was greater sin than abortion is evident. That it taught there was no human soul up to the kicking fetus is also a fact as evidenced below.

In 1869, Pope Pius IX took the action that 'Catholic' pro-abortionists deliberately misrepresent in order to buttress their heretical views. The abortophiles allege that, in this year, the Pope condemned abortion for the very first time.
In reality, the Pope officially removed the distinction between the animated and unanimated fetus from the Code of Canon Law.[7] This action dealt not with theology, but with discipline, and merely made the punishment for abortion at any stage uniform. The Pope removed the distinction in order to support the Church's stance that life and ensoulment both begin at conception.


Pro-choice legitimately looks at the church’s history to claim there has only recently been a univocal dogma from the Catholics. It has always been considered a sin, but with a wide range of gravity.

Wouldn’t you say Limbo and non-baptism of stillborns attested to the belief of delayed ensoulment?

On the three types of soul, did not Aquinas follow The Philosopher in believing humans gradually take on all three while developing (see Ben's article)?

You cannot deny that the church has gotten things wrong in its metaphysics in the past, and is capable of doing so now, and in the future, no?

BenYachov said...

>As regards the link I posted above, contrary to its brief historic development of church theory on contraception, abortion, and point of ensoulment being, as you say, “historical theological, & metaphysical ignorance of the so called "tolerance" crowd”, it would seem that your article completely affirms what mine said.

I reply: Then clearly you did not read the article carefully.


>They never state that God infuses a rational soul into the fertilized egg – they give it a special claim for our honor and also legal rights. I read nothing about God intervening to infuse a soul in the revised talk about the fetus.

I reply: Again try reading it more carefully next time. Use your intellect for once instead of your emotions.

QUOTE"Now it belongs to the natural order that a thing is gradually brought from potency to act. And therefore in those things which are generated we find that at first each is imperfect and afterwards is perfected. [25]


We believe that the general metaphysical principle is demonstrably true, and that the application of it in the second sentence is plausibly so. All three of the embryological beliefs, however, are known to be false. Modern embryology shows that the female provides a gamete (the ovum) which is already a highly organized living cell, containing highly complex, specific information, in the genetic structure of the nuclear chromosomes. This information (together with that provided by the genetic structure in the chromosomes of the male sperm) helps guide the development of the new living organism formed by the fusion of the sperm and the ovum. Hence the ovum is actually very close to readiness for rapid embryological development; it only requires fusion with the sperm and the activation that occurs with that fusion. To a certain extent the gradual transition from the simple to the complex that Aquinas sought actually occurs during gametogenesis (of which, of course, he was unaware).Thus, applying Aquinas’s metaphysical principles to the embryological facts uncovered since his time leads to the conclusion that the human being is present from fertilisation on. [26] END QUOTE

Skimming the article does not help you. It's not hard.

BenYachov said...

>They never state that God infuses a rational soul into the fertilized egg – they give it a special claim for our honor and also legal rights. I read nothing about God intervening to infuse a soul in the revised talk about the fetus.

I reply: Again try reading it more carefully next time. Use your intellect for once instead of your emotions.

QUOTE"Now it belongs to the natural order that a thing is gradually brought from potency to act. And therefore in those things which are generated we find that at first each is imperfect and afterwards is perfected. [25]


We believe that the general metaphysical principle is demonstrably true, and that the application of it in the second sentence is plausibly so. All three of the embryological beliefs, however, are known to be false. Modern embryology shows that the female provides a gamete (the ovum) which is already a highly organized living cell, containing highly complex, specific information, in the genetic structure of the nuclear chromosomes. This information (together with that provided by the genetic structure in the chromosomes of the male sperm) helps guide the development of the new living organism formed by the fusion of the sperm and the ovum. Hence the ovum is actually very close to readiness for rapid embryological development; it only requires fusion with the sperm and the activation that occurs with that fusion. To a certain extent the gradual transition from the simple to the complex that Aquinas sought actually occurs during gametogenesis (of which, of course, he was unaware).Thus, applying Aquinas’s metaphysical principles to the embryological facts uncovered since his time leads to the conclusion that the human being is present from fertilisation on. [26] END QUOTE It's not hard.

I

BenYachov said...

You do remember Just Emotion a human being by definition is a being with a rational soul right?


BTW Vincent is right. Even when it wasn't considered full homicide (i.e. the moral equivalent of killing a sperm or an Egg) it was still forbidden and mortally sinful to have an abortion.

BenYachov said...

stupid double posts!!!!!!

jt said...

Ben

I honestly spent over an hour with your article as I found it interesting and well written. I do think they may have gotten too carried away at the end saying a mother is doomed if there is a problem delivery – I think inadvertent killing the fetus is allowed in rare cases.

I stand by what I said:

Does human being mean what a scientist means – this is an attempt to square bad metaphysics w/ science, after all, or does it mean a creature infused with an A-T rational everlasting soul thru God’ intervention?’

In a philosophical journal, I would think the importance of the specific definition of human being in this case would have been spelled out, especially if they were dead certain they were right, but this is how they worded their opinion:

We believe that the general metaphysical principle is demonstrably true, and that the application of it in the second sentence is plausibly so…To a certain extent the gradual transition from the simple to the complex that Aquinas sought actually occurs during gametogenesis. Thus, applying Aquinas’s metaphysical principles to the embryological facts uncovered since his time leads to the conclusion that the human being is present from fertilisation on.

Lastly, Ben Yachov, ole’ just emoting actually did say “They never state that God infuses a rational soul into the fertilized egg – they give it a special claim for our honor and also legal rights. I read nothing about God intervening to infuse a soul in the revised talk about the fetus.”

And they never did.

BenYachov said...

>And they never did.

Clearly they did.

Your lame objection is like saying "They never did literally say Jesus was fully divine equal to The Father"

when they in fact said "Jesus in his divine nature is of the same substance as God the Father"
which of course means the same bloody thing.

Cueless!

>In a philosophical journal, I would think the importance of the specific definition of human being in this case would have been spelled out, especially if they were dead certain they were right, but this is how they worded their opinion:

They are writing from a Thomistic perspective thus logically we would assume a Thomistic/Catholic philosophical definition. Which is as well known as the Nicea definition to most educated people.

Sheesh!

jt said...

Ben

I am well informed of the church and contraception/abortion thru time.

You said

“BTW Vincent is right. Even when it wasn't considered full homicide (i.e. the moral equivalent of killing a sperm or an Egg) it was still forbidden and mortally sinful to have an abortion.”

I had already said

“Pro-choice legitimately looks at the church’s history to claim there has only recently been a univocal dogma from the Catholics. It has always been considered a sin, but with a wide range of gravity.”

We all agree on this.

My contention throughout this discussion is to suggest that the claim that the church has consistently held a single view of the nature of contraception and abortion AND a consistent rationale for their view is unsupported. And this is a major reason people of good faith can still disagree about these matters.

just thinking said...

VJ

I left a few questions back there for you, if any should strike you as interesting.

Ben’s article is speaking to the same issues you cover with greater biological detail in previous links. It seems to me that Haldane and yourself are in close agreement on the embryo. I sense both of you are moving away from the Aristotelian essentialism Aquinas uses to incorrectly describe the formation of new life.

Some of your earlier writings on ID lead me to think you have a greatly modernized version of essences going on – more in step with science. You also spend great energy effectively employing this science to explain many traditional faith issues raised in debates (like ID and abortion).

I am not in your league, but do wonder about some things you say below.


VJ: “No animal embryo is a vegetable first. An animal embryo is an animal from the beginning, because the instructions that direct its bodily formation are there in the embryo from the beginning, and they're in run mode (switched on and executing) from the very start.”

A particular mammalian embryo is equivalent to an adult squirrel, full stop? An acorn is identical to an oak tree? I cannot see this. Squirrels hide and eat acorns, but they make their nests in oak trees with a healthy modicum of intellect in both processes, I think.

VJ: “A human embryo is a human animal from the very beginning. However, philosophy tells us that some acts performed by the human animal (e.g. intellection) are non-bodily acts. Hence the form of the human animal cannot be generated by any physical process. Thus the parents of a child are not its creators but its pro-creators. Only God can create a form that is capable of non-bodily acts.”

Again, was the embryo equivalent to the adult Einstein? Did not the reasoning processes have to develop, much as for squirrels?

I am sure your definition of intellectus includes capabilities you presume a squirrel to lack, but are they not still scientifically predicable of a physical body?

If you would clear up your views on this, VJ, I would appreciate it.

BenYachov said...

>My contention throughout this discussion is to suggest that the claim that the church has consistently held a single view of the nature of contraception and abortion AND a consistent rationale for their view is unsupported.

I reply: But you have already conceded the Church has always consistently held the single view that they are mortally sinful. It is not important that the Church have the same rational for a belief but have the same belief.

The Church teaches murder is wrong.
Abortion was seen as specifically murder when it was shown the fetus became human according to basic Catholic philosophy. Science showed humans received their substantive seed form at conception contrary to the scientific errors of the ancients. Thus the Church recognizing this enforced constant church teaching & declared it murder. It's unremarkable.

That the Church has explored the degree or extent abortion was sinful using science and philosophy is also unremarkable.
This is mere development of doctrine which is also part of historic Catholic tradition.

http://www.catholic.com/library/Can_Dogma_Develop.asp

Nicea did tell us Jesus was divine but didn't tell us if he had one or two natures, one or two wills etc....thus the need to develop doctrine.

So what you are arguing is unremarkable & you have already conceded the argument in admitting both contraception & abortion have always been sins. If you are trying to justify the liberal idea that somehow these views can be declared "un-sinful" clearly history shows you are wasting your time.

Abortion & Contraception have always been sinful. Always.

So I don't see what it is you are trying to do here & having argued with you in the past I am convinced you don't know what you are trying to argue either.

BenYachov said...

>I sense both of you are moving away from the Aristotelian essentialism Aquinas uses to incorrectly describe the formation of new life.

This is 100% the opposite of what the article is trying to argue anybody with an IQ over 3 can see that.

Also Just Emotion is using a bait & switch here. The article is repudiating Aristotle's false natural science but it is clearly holding fast to his metaphysics as developed by Aquinas. The article is clearly showing how using Aquinas' principles science has forced us to conclude human life begins at conception and not several months after.

It's not hard.

Just Emotion is all over the place moving goal post trying to make an argument any argument stick.

I'm not impressed.

BenYachov said...

>And this is a major reason people of good faith can still disagree about these matters.

Either you agree abortion is sinful or you don't. You either agree with science or you don't. You either agree with the Church metaphysical tradition & philosophy or you don't. You either agree combining all three abortion is full blown murder or you don't.

That fact the Church has developed her rational in the vein of Development of Doctrine is not a license to descent from her initial teaching & her full conclusions.

Abortion is the murder of the innocent. One of the 4 sins that cry to Heaven for divine vengeance.

Liberals & Atheists/Agnostic like Just Emotion are fooling themselves & showing their profound ignorance of both history, theology & philosophy.

jt said...

O.K., BenYachov.

jt said...

VJ

Please come back with the final word.

just thinking said...

I guess the final word must be that "an acorn is identical to an oak tree," just like "a human embryo is identical to an adult," both explicable in the same non-supernatural way.

BenYachov said...

>I guess the final word must be that "an acorn is identical to an oak tree," just like "a human embryo is identical to an adult," both explicable in the same non-supernatural way.

Well an acorn has the same genetic material as an oak & both have a mortal animated vegetative soul.

Just as a Tiger embryo has a mortal sensitive soul same as an adult tiger & of course a human embryo has an immortal rational soul like an adult human.

Science has shown humans receive their substantive form at conception rather then over time with blood & seamen forming into a substantive human form as Aristotle and the ancients wrongly thought. The Soul is the Form of forms & the form of the body. Do the philosophical math.

It's not hard.

jt said...

"Science has shown humans receive their substantive form at conception"

OK. But just the same for a tiger and its soul, right.

So where does the supernatural difference in their souls enter the picture? Is a tiger embryo less rational than a human embryo?

And, you did not quite address the idea of equivalence. Is an acorn an oak tree? When you eat a pecan, are you killing a pecan tree?

Steve said...

I guess the final word must be that "an acorn is identical to an oak tree," just like "a human embryo is identical to an adult," both explicable in the same non-supernatural way.

Identical in what sense? I'm guessing most people here wouldn't reduce identity to morphology.

jt said...

If a squirrel eats an acorn, does he kill an oak tree, or merely prevent one from becoming a tree.

If a fetus is aborted, is a rational human killed, or is a human being simply not going to develop.

Does the Catholic church hold funerals and/or give last rites to miscarriages?

BenYachov said...

>If a squirrel eats an acorn, does he kill an oak tree, or merely prevent one from becoming a tree.

I reply: Both. (assuming we are using the term "Oak Tree" here to describe a species and not simply as a term for a "grown up acorn").

>If a fetus is aborted, is a rational human killed, or is a human being simply not going to develop.

I reply: A human being(i.e. a creature with a rational soul) is killed and preventing an adult from developing.

>Does the Catholic church hold funerals and/or give last rites to miscarriages?

Yes if they are given a body to bury or intern. If not Masses are still said for the souls of the miscarried. I had a Mass said for my eldest daughter's failed twin, ie my son or daughter whom I named "Chris" short for either Christine or Christian depending on his/her gender which we don't know.

It's not hard.

BenYachov said...

JT,

Assuming you are sincere in your questions might I suggest you get a copy of Feser's PHILOSOPHY OF THE MIND & AQUINAS so you can catch up with the rest of us.

Because I'm not going to try to explain Thomism to you. I'm not qualified & I lack the patience.

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

I will depart with this.

In Mechanistic Post enlightenment philosophy an act of the supernatural was defined as a "breaking or suspension" of the laws of nature. Since in Mechanism if "God" made something it in theory could still exist even if "God" somehow committed metaphysical suicide and stopped his own existence.

In Thomist God is the First Cause of Pure Actuality which is at the beginning of a top down chain of secondary causations.

A miracle is defined simply as a potency that is actualized directly by God instead of threw the top down chain.

jt said...

Ben

I am very sorry that you and your wife lost your twin child.

You say it is not hard, but that is not so for non-essentialists. I cannot see that an acorn is the same substance as a tree. Throughout a process of becoming, an acorn becomes a tree (by taking on ‘accidents’ in essentialist terms). You must have that essentialist mindset to see them as a unity. Few would say I’ll have a piece of pecan tree pie, right?

If you believe in essence as form plus teleology, then a zygote is a human being.
If essence is form alone, perhaps no.

As I recall, Aristotle changed his views on this definition of essence.

I am not uninformed, I just do not see the world thru that paradigm. I am not evil or stupid for this, nor am I alone.

Again, I am sorry about your child, and hope I did not raise too many sad feelings.

BenYachov said...

Jt,

Fair enough. Thank you for you lovely sentiments in regards to my child & I wish you well.

Let us have peace.

Cheers.

just thinking said...

Peace.