Developments in the great condom controversy have been coming thick and fast in the last few days. The furor now seems to be dying down a bit, so perhaps it’s safe to comment again without having to issue constant updates or corrections.
One correction that I should issue is that what appears to be the “official” German text of the crucial passage — that is, the one coming from the actual book — has now surfaced on Sandro Magister’s blog – it replaces the text I quoted in my first post below; the text was replaced without the slightest word of explanation. This text contains the clause that the original text Magister quoted did not, as well as the addition of the words “the HIV-infection” also lacking in his original. (Emphases mine).
“Es mag begründete Einzelfälle geben, etwa wenn ein Prostituierter ein Kondom verwendet, kann das einerster Akt zu einer Moralisierung sein, ein erstes Stück Verantwortung, um wieder ein Bewusstsein dafür zu entwickeln, dass nicht alles gestattet ist undman nicht alles tun kann, was man will. Aber es ist nicht die eigentliche Art, dem Übel der HIV-Infektion beizukommen. Diese muss wirklich in der Vermenschlichung der Sexualität liegen”.
The big question here is: where did these two versions of the text come from? I now suspect that Magister may not have been one of the journalists authorized to receive an actual copy of the book pre-publication. But is he perhaps well-connected enough to have been able to get hold of a copy of the final edited MS, or perhaps the uncorrected galley proofs so as to be ready in advance? But this doesn’t really work out, since he never showed any real understanding of what was in the German compared to the Italian Maybe he just knows someone who did have access and who supplied him with that text? Because of its length, it was unlikely to have come from a press report.
If what Magister reported was the original MS or proofs, it would indicate that someone, most likely the Pope himself, added those introductory words to this controversial passage before publication, attempting to clarify what he had originally said in the interview.
The German words themselves — Es mag begründete Einzelfälle geben are translated as “there may be a basis” in some individual cases” in the official English text. They could just as well be rendered as “There might be individual cases in which there is a foundation [for a more human understanding of sexuality]” in the case of some condom users.
If the Pope did add these words, it would also strengthen my idea that he was trying to make a connection between his thought in the previous paragraph about the re-humanization of sexuality and his words about condom users in the next. I think the whole thing is best understood as a parenthetical statement: ‘Of course I realize that all moral considerations are not necessarily absent in condom users, and someday this may lead them to actual moral actions; nevertheless this is not a good or moral choice.”
The fact that the Pope has clarified his words personally to Father Lombardi as referring not just to male prostitutes (whose sexual acts with condoms are non-contraceptive) but to everyone (possible married contracepters included) makes it much clearer to me that Benedict did not mean to say that condom use was to be approved in this or any case, because this would contradict official Church teaching. Especially since, in the same interview, Benedict definitely upholds the teaching of Humanae Vitae.
I have tried to make some of the basics of this clear in my little video parody (my first ever animated film! Thanks to Xtranormal, which is an extremely cool site. I finished it yesterday while waiting for my Thanksgiving dinner to cook. I also finished it before learning that Manuela Camagni, a consecrated woman who worked in the papal household and often shared conversations with Poe Benedict was killed in an automobile accident Tuesday night. I’d like to dedicate this video to her.
Hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving, as I did mine!