« Not Alicia Keys | Main | The Day After »

April 28, 2006



Allen writes:

In the early 1960s, Johnstone said, the Holy Office (today the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) gave permission for religious women in the Belgian Congo to use contraceptives as a defense against rape.

"It was seen as a protection against pregnancy arising from unwanted, unfree sexual intercourse," Johnstone said

I don't see how a "a leading moral theologian at Rome's Alphonsian Academy" can include rape and marital intercourse in the same discussion. How can using a contraceptive during a rape be in any way related to contraceptives between spouses? There is no unitive aspect to rape; why should there be a procreative component? It's like arguing that because dogs eat their vomit, maybe people should try it too.



There could be a nexus if, in marriage, the husband has AIDS and will not desist from intercourse . . . forcing it on his wife. Isn't that a species of rape?

Then the wife might request that the husband "at least" use a condom (or the wife might use a female barrier method). Maybe that's what the ethicists are thinking is a valid use of condoms/barrier methods.


Or the wife may up and leave. Something like this is very good grounds for annulment. I do not see how a conjugal arrangement would work that each sexual act could be potentially fatal, even with the so-called barrier methods. Kinda reminds me of why "homosexual unions" are immoral...any conjugal act that must occur between spouses is intrinsically immoral.


Then the wife might request that the husband "at least" use a condom (or the wife might use a female barrier method). Maybe that's what the ethicists are thinking is a valid use of condoms/barrier methods.

Count me as one of those who isn't sure that Africa is full of men who are intent on forcing themselves on their wives despite being HIV+, yet if the pope give the okay will meekly use condoms correctly in order to minimize the danger to the wife.

It's a nice hypothetical for people really eager to see "Pope Approves Condom Use In Some Cases" headlines, but I just can't see that it would make much of any difference in the lives of real people.



Even assuming having AIDS were grounds for annulment before marriage, there wouldn't be grounds for annulment if the AIDS were contracted after marriage, say, by a blood transfusion.

The life/health of some women is threatened by every pregnancy. Does this means that every act of "unprotected" intercourse in such a circumstance is immoral?


[Diversion... Apologies to our hostess...]

Uh, perhaps I am naiive but isn't this perhaps the "latest monologue" for the Vagina Monologues? A "Vatican official deciding when African woman could use a condom with an HIV infected husband? And her monologue is her pain over if she should use the condom?" Perhaps a defense for Fr. Jenkins decision to keep allowing VM at ND? Thus, we as a Church need to keep discussing women and sex and condoms and rape and violence against our bodies?

Isn't this an example of why some of the women at ND want to continue with the Vagina Monologues?

[Sorry if I've diverted too far. Continue with discussion.]


Since when is pregnancy in and of itself considered a fatal disease?

c matt

Not sure, but doesn't double-effect only apply when the means chosen is the only means possible and the unintended effect cannot be avoided? For example, someone who has uterine cancer and the only treatment is hysterectomy.

The problem in the "condom double-effect" scenario seems to be that there is another means available (abstinence/continence) that would not have the unintended effect.


C matt,

Also, as Gahl alludes to, condomistic intercourse is not sexual intercourse at all. It is more akin to masturbation. As such, condomistic intercourse is not "good" and cannot, therefore, be part of the double-effect analysis.

This is in addition to the abstinence argument you make, which I think is the strongest argument of all.

Jimmy Huck

Given the persuasive arguments that many of you are making, I find it hard to even fathom the possibility of a change in Church teaching that would sanction condom use in the specific case under question. Yet, here we are discussing that very thing. Is there no other avenue to consider this as somehow becoming permissible? It seems as if the double-effect argument, which is the only possible argument barring the creation of a new teaching, won't hold up.

Given this, though it is premature to even speculate, would it be even prudent at this point to ask not so much how such a potential change could be justifiable, but how should we prepare ourselves for the change should it come to pass.

Fr Martin Fox

I am skeptical about the supposed "new angle" on this. I agree with c matt about where the principle of double effect applies.

Also, I don't see the "lesser evil" approach working very well. It is true that sometimes one is faced with someone intent on commiting a sin; and it makes sense, in that situation, to try to counsel that person to minimize the evil.

But following that tack, it would make far more sense to say, "well, if you won't remain continent, then at least don't have intercourse, since that is so risky for spreading the infection." I.e., the "safer sex" idea.

But because this is the kind of conversation you have in a specific situation, where one has tried to talk the person out of the sin, and failed, I think it unlikely any official document will be promulgated pursuing that.

The other part of the reasoning on display in these discussions that makes little sense to me, is that somehow, the use of a condom would be more okay in marriage than out of it. Whaa?

A condom can't be "okay" as a component to marital relations, period, based on Humanae Vitae. But as I've pointed out before, Humanae Vitae, and the teaching the went before it, is about marital acts; it's not about fornication, sodomy, adultery or rape!

Now, I'm not saying that if two unmarried persons fornicate, using a condom is "okay" -- I'm saying, the Church really doesn't "forbid" the condom in that situation, because it forbids the sex itself!


This is not a deontological argument from double effect. That is a dead end here. It is an argument from proportionality, the lesser moral evil. Read Ambiguity in Moral Choice by the greatest Catholic Moral Theologian of the 20th centry Fr. Richard McCormack, S.J. and you will get the gist of the argument.


By the way the Sant Egidio International Prayer for Peace was not simply held in DC at was at Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic University in the US. Why couldn't you bring yourself to say that Amy? Only Rocco among Catholic bloggers could tell the truth on this one. I was there and I participated and it was a great moment for the Catholic Church in the United States as well as around the world.

Cardinal Mccarrick was masterful and full of grace. Andrea Ricadri was inspired and charismatice. John DoGoia, the President of Georgetown was a gracious and generous host.

At the closing ceremony children from the Jesuit parish school at Holy Trinity received the Declaration of Peace from the religious leaders and delivered it to the civic leaders symbolizing their request for their own future that peace prevail. What a moving moment.

This was a major Catholic event in this country and the ungenerous Catholic bloggers refused to cover it except the exceptional Rocco Palmo. You should all be ashamed of your lack of generosity and your small mindedness. You missed a great opportunity to promote the Roman Catholic Church and peace throughout the world.

mark j

i just knew Amy was part of a vast rightwing conspiracy.




I love sarcasm and I think I have a good sense of humor. My point had to do with a lack of generosity in this matter not necessarily a right wing conspiracy. I just noticed that something very important for the Church and for world peace took place at Georgetown from the 25th to th 27th of April and there was a studied avoidance of it on every Catholic blog except for Whispers in the Loggia. The silence was deafening. No need to make more of it, although I do appreciate your humor. Best wishes!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)