Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Jack Valero and Austen Ivereigh need remedial training in Catholic teaching on sexual ethics

Jack Valero (pictured) and Austen Ivereigh, the co-ordinators of Catholic Voices, have been busy sporting open-neck collars in a series of television interviews on Pope Benedict's comments on condoms, about which I blogged on Sunday morning. In those interviews, both Mr Valero and Dr Ivereigh claim that the Church has never spoken against the use of condoms outside of marriage. Mr Valero even made the ridiculous claim that:
“There isn't a specific teaching [by the Church] about condoms"
The Valero-Ivereigh claims are simply false as a matter of historical fact. I list below their false claims, and follow that with some statements from Church authorities throughout the ages. (Although some of those statements do not mention barrier methods of contraception such as condoms, they are all applicable to condoms as condom use is by its nature contraceptive.) The use of condoms (or other contraceptives) in extra-marital genital acts is an aggravation of the principle sin of engaging in extra-marital genital acts.

The fact that Mr Valero and Dr Ivereigh are publicly and repeatedly contradicting this truth of Catholic sexual ethics is one of a growing number of reasons why they should be disqualified from any representative position in any official or unofficial Catholic or pro-life/pro-family organisation. Readers should remember that these men deny that there is any such thing as a liberal bishop (Mr Valero) and deny that The Tablet is a vehicle for dissent (Dr Ivereigh).

Why is the Catholic Church's teaching on condom use (and the Valero-Ivereigh campaign misrepresenting that teaching) important for the pro-life movement? The late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, taught in paragraph 97 of his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection.

The false claim by Jack Valero and Austen Ivereigh that the Church has never spoken out against the use of condoms outside of marriage

Mr Valero, Sky News, 21 November:
"The Church never said to a prostitute, “Don’t use a condom”, the Church has said “Being a prostitute is not a good thing, ‘Don’t be a prostitute’. It didn’t say to people ‘Don’t use a condom if you are having sex outside of marriage, it said, ‘Don’t have sex outside of marriage’ ... There isn't a specific teaching about condoms."
Mr Valero, BBC News, 21 November:
“I think the Church never said to people who were having sex outside of marriage: ‘Don’t use a condom’, but ‘Don’t have sex outside of marriage’. It would say to a prostitute: ‘Don’t be a prostitute’, it wouldn’t say: ‘Don’t use a condom’ ... [T]here’s been no specific teaching [by the Church] about condoms.”
Mr Valero, BBC News, 21 November:
“[T]here isn’t actually a written-down doctrine [of the Church] on condoms ... [The Church has] never said that in a particular case it’s wrong to use a condom to protect somebody ... [The Church] doesn’t say to a man sleeping around: 'Don’t use a condom', it says: 'Don’t sleep around'
In the particular case which the Pope talks about in the book, he talks about a male prostitute ... [T]hough the act is bad in itself, not because of the condom – the condom itself may be a good thing...
[T]he way the Church looks after people is very good in Africa, you’ve got lots of nuns and priests and so on looking after people, and if in a particular case they think that a condom will protect then that may be OK, but they always look after people very well."
Dr Ivereigh, The Independent, 21 November:
"[There is a] misperception that the Church's message to an HIV-positive prostitute is that he, or her client, shouldn't use a condom under any circumstances. The Church has never believed that..."
Dr Ivereigh, Telegraph video interview, 21 November :
"[For] people who might be engaging in risky sexual behaviour, in other words, who aren't listening to the Church's message, actually [using a condom] might be the right and responsible thing to do in order to prevent infection
A lot of people have been saying - wrongly - that the Church says to any infected person, 'Never use a condom'. In fact the Church has never said that. People have wrongly interpreted the Church's ban on contraception as also applying in those circumstances."
Dr Ivereigh, BBC Today programme, 22 November:
"[T]he Church does not say to [serodiscordant married couples] ‘Do not use a condom’ nor does it say ‘Use a condom’. That is a very, very difficult ethical decision for that couple to make and the Church accompanies them in that...".
Statements by Church authorities throughout the centuries which rule out the use of condoms and other contraceptives outside of marriage (my emphases in bold): 
  • Holy Office (now known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), answer, 1853: "[C]ondomistic copulation [is] a thing intrinsically evil." (Enchiridion Symbolorum Definionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum n.2795, Q.2 and ad 2. ed H. Denzinger, A Schonmetzer, Romae, 1974)
  • The bishops of the United States, 1976: "In contraceptive intercourse the procreative or life-giving meaning is deliberately separated from its love-giving meaning and rejected; the wrongness of such an act lies in the rejection of this value." In other words, contraception is wrong in itself, not only in the context of marriage.
  • The bishops of France, November 1968, pastoral note on Humanae Vitae: "Contraception can never be a good. It is always a disorder..."
  • Decretals of Burchard, an influential collection of canon law, A.D. 1020: "Have you done what some women are accustomed to doing when they fornicate...if they have not yet conceived they contrive not to conceive? If you have done so, or consented to this, or taught it, you must do penance for ten years on legal ferial days." (num. 19; PL 140, 972)
  • Second Council of Braga, A.D. 572 : "If any woman...contrives to make sure she does not conceive, either in adultery or in legitimate intercourse...such women and their accomplices in these crimes shall do penance for ten years. (Canon 77; Mansi IX, 858).
  • St Augustine, Doctor of the Church, A.D. 419: "[I]f he does not control himself, let him enter into lawful wedlock, so that he may not beget children in disgrace or avoid having offspring by a more degraded form of intercourse." (De Conjugiis Adulterinis 2, 12; CSEL 41, 396)
  • St John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, A.D. 390, referring to men who use prostitutes: "Why do you sow [w]here there are medicines of sterility? ... [F]or she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God, and fight with His laws? What is a curse, do you seek as if it were a blessing?" Professor John T. Noonan, author of a famous history of Catholic teaching on contraception, has written about this sermon: "[T]he reason given for condemning contraception is equally applicable whether contraception occurs in fornication or in marriage."
  • St Jerome, Doctor of the Church, A.D. 384: "I cannot bring myself to speak of the many virgins who daily fall...Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness." (letter 22 to Eustochium)
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