No change on Church’s teaching on contraception

No change on Church’s teaching on contraception

The breathless headlines report that Spain’s Catholic bishops endorse condoms or that the Church has changed her teaching. AIDS and gay groups cheer and say it was only a matter of time. But what has really happened?

Is it true that “Spain’s bishops” have changed to endorsement of condom use? The article only says that a spokesman for the Spanish bishops’ conference has said, “Condoms have a place in the global prevention of AIDS. But is a single spokesman’s comment indicative of a change in teaching by the whole college of bishops? Our experience of the bishops’ conference bureaucracy in the US would tell us that such staffs often have a mind of their own and go off in directions that have nothing to do with the magisterium of the Church.

Yet, even if the spokesman does speak for every bishop in Spain and they all agree that condoms are good, does that change anything? Not a whit. The fundamental misunderstanding of both the general public and many Catholics is the belief that bishops decide what the teaching of the Church is. They don’t. The Church discerns the truth, which is the will of God, through the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit as she searches Revelation, both written and oral. You can’t lobby the Church to change her teaching because the teaching is from God. God is unchanging and He’s not going to suddenly decide tomorrow that all the reasons why artificial contraception and fornication are bad have been wrong all this time.

That’s why such stories are silly, except for the fact that by allowing this to happen the bishops have allowed confusion on a matter of grave importance to endanger many souls.

Update: It is now being reported that the spokesman says he was only saying that the bishops want to work on a common ground promoting abstinence with those who think condoms are the answer. Thus the promotion of Uganda’s successful ABC strategy (Abstinence, Be faithful, Condoms). While the strategy is successful and certainly better than condoms alone, it is a Trojan horse (pardon the pun) and not worthy of the bishops’ support in any fashion and this incident shows exactly why.

This is what happens: the pro-condom brigade invites the bishops or their spokesman in for a talk; they discuss the ABC strategy and the condom-pushers talk up abstinence and fidelity; the bishops like it and say something complimentary and conciliatory; the pro-condom people trumpet the tepid approval as if it were a full-throated endorsement. And thus the Church is suckered-in once again. So whether it’s a bureaucracy pushing an agenda or just getting conned, once again the quest for dialogue with those pushing a hard-line of objectively immoral behavior is rewarded with a slap in the face.

A friend sends the following analogy: It’s pretty clever as a ploy to get the Church on board.  You try not to snicker and put on a serious face and say in public: Either Abstinence Or Fidelity Or Full-Throttle Sodomy, which is like telling a nine-year-old, Either do your math homework Or clean the attic and garage Or take a handful of Snickers bars and play videogames.  The episcopal policy wonks think, “Great!  They have conceded the value of abstinence and fidelity.  Let’s go with the package and spin it so that everyone sees that Science has jumped on the Church’s bandwagon!”  Suckered by the jab-feint, they step forward and walk into a straight right to the jaw. 

  • Another very good reason for the Holy See to have bishops conferences to eliminate spokespersons.  No one should speak for the bishops.  They should, as ordainded teachers, as teaching Apostles, speak for themselves. How long will it take for the bishops to understand this?

  • long as the Bishops endorse condom use but the doctrine does not get changed…I’ll stay asleep and bask in the new Springtime.  Even better when Bishops approve the catechisms from which my children will be taught….as long as there is a tome buried in the Vatican that sets the record straight.

    We can turn this Catholicism thing into a debate society.

  • The current state of the Church is such that I read this announcement in a news report this morning, blogged it, and went on to something more important.  I have so little faith in bishops thanks to The Situation, that it didn’t even cause me to question.  It looked like business as usual.  I expect nothing orthodox to come from the Church anymore.  When it does, THAT’S news.

  • The point of a spokesman is to speak with authority for the principals.  Spokesmen are representatives, delegated speakers, stand ins.

    It makes absolutely no sense at all to have a ‘spokesman’ and hide behind the lie that what they say carries no authority or the deception that ‘often [they] have a mind of their own’.  (I’m not accusing you of this, Mr Bettinelli.)

    It is sickening that somone is trying to spin this, assuming that the words reported are reported accuratley.

  • The thing is, though, that the pro-condom brigade are not pushing ABC at all, as a “trojan horse” or anything else. Groups pushing ABC tend to be the “faith based” Evangelical development groups who dislike the way that conventional approaches tend to encourage promiscuity, but don’t object to condoms per se because they don’t share the Catholic view of contraception. The pro-condom brigade, on the other hand, viscerally despise ABC and probably do not care a whit about bringing the Church “onside”: the left is now in power in Spain and does not need the Church’s support to implement its policies.

    Rod Dreher wrote a very good overview of what ABC is all about a couple of years ago. While the Church of course cannot endorse the C in ABC, I think it is rather clever to say to the government: “Look, science does not support your AIDS prevention strategy; this scientific journal article shows that it is inferior to the ABC method. Why are you insisting on a condoms only strategy?” If the press wants to jump on a chance to cynically distort this line of argument, our immediate reaction should be “What’s the real truth to this story?,” not, “Oh boy, another confirmation of my long held position that the Church is run by complete morons and another chance to write something sarcastic.” I’m not attributing the second reaction to you Domenico but it’s clearly the attitude of some of your commenters here, and of that masked brick-thrower at CWN. However I do wonder whether, on a completely dispassionate and informed analysis of this sorry incident, your statement that “by allowing this to happen the bishops have allowed confusion on a matter of grave importance to endanger many souls” is fair.

  • “Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesman for the Spanish Bishops Conference, said “condoms have a place in the global prevention of AIDS.” He spoke after a meeting with Health Minister Elena Salgado to discuss ways of fighting the disease—-

    What a sad, sad commentary when world wide Catholic bishops no longer are unified. Also that one bishop takes it upon himself to speak for the Catholic bishops of his country when he publicly is “dissenting” against the Magisterial Teaching.  This ought to be solid grounds for this bishops dismissal from his teaching position as a bishop.