Cardinal Burke clears up confusion around Pope’s statement on condoms

Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, spke to the editor of The National Catholic Register to clear up the chaos of media confusion regarding the Holy Father’s statements about prostitution and condoms.

National Catholic Reporter: Is Pope Benedict saying that in some cases condoms can be permitted?

Cardinal Burke: No, he’s not. I don’t see any change in the Church’s teaching. What he’s commenting on — in fact, he makes the statement very clearly that the Church does not regard the use of condoms as a real or a moral solution — in the point he makes about the male prostitute is a certain conversion process taking place in an individual’s life. He’s simply making the comment that if a person who is given to prostitution at least considers using a condom to prevent giving the disease to another person — even though the effectiveness of this is very questionable — this could be a sign of someone who is having a certain moral awakening. But in no way does it mean that prostitution is morally acceptable, nor does it mean that the use of condoms is morally acceptable.

The point the Pope is making is about a certain growth in freedom, an overcoming of an enslavement to a sexual activity that is morally wrong so that this concern to use a condom in order not to infect a sexual partner could at least be a sign of some moral awakening in the individual, which one hopes would lead the individual to understand that his activity is a trivialization of human sexuality and needs to be changed.

NCR: Is “the world” assuming too quickly that the Pope all of a sudden is open to “compromising” on condoms, that this may be a small yet significant opening toward “enlightenment” for the Catholic Church? For example: In rare cases, Pope justifies use of condoms (New York Times). “Condoms OK” in some cases — Pope (BBC). Boston Herald quoting male prostitutes saying “too little too late, but it may encourage condom use, and that’s a good thing.”

Card. Burke: From what I’ve seen of the coverage in the media, I think that’s correct, that that’s what they’re trying to suggest. But if you read the text there’s no suggestion of that at all. It’s clear that the Pope is holding to what the Church has always taught in these matters. He starts out — the context of the question — by saying that when he was asked this question on the plane on his way to his pastoral visit to Africa, he felt that he was being provoked, and he wanted to draw attention to all that the Church is doing to care for AIDS victims. In Africa, the Church is the main agent of care for the AIDS victims, and so he was trying to draw some attention to that.

The text itself makes it very clear that the Church does not regard it as a real or moral solution. And when he says that it could be a first step in a movement toward a different, more human way of living sexuality, that doesn’t mean in any sense that he’s saying the use of condoms is a good thing.

Protect the Pope comment: Cardinal Burke’s comments on the media confusion about the Pope’s statement on condoms is the most authoritative clarification so far. The rest of his interview about Pope Benedict’s interview with Peter Seewald is worth reading in full.

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