Monday, November 22, 2010

Again, Condoms, the Absolute [Not Relativism] and the Beginnings of Relationality

1) The Word that the Catholic Church hears and speaks is the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. That Word is reality. It is the revelation of who God is and who man is.

2) Since God is a Trinity, and the human person has been created in the image of a divine Person (the Son), as the Son is pure relation and self-gift to the Father, so also man becomes who he is by becoming relational and self-gift

3) This relationality has been formulated by the Magisterium of the Church in Gaudium et Spes #24: “Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”

The supreme and absolute grounding of morality is conformity with this teaching: “man… the only creature on earth which God willed for itself [and therefore self-determining freedom], cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” Since the meaning of man is Christ, this Christian anthropology is absolute.

4) This self-giftedness is grounded on the ontological tendency to be self-gift that is built-into the human person. As then Joseph Ratzinger wrote: “there is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From its origin, man’s being resonates with some tings and clashes with others. This anamnesis of the origin, which results from the god-like constitution of our being, is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is, so to speak, an inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears it echo from within. He sees: That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.”[1]

4) Everything that is said in Catholic moral theology is built on and reverts to this divine-human reality of relationality. Divinity and humanity are parsed out in terms of relation or non-relation.

5) The condom issue must be resolved in the same terms. As Martin Rohnheimer wrote: the Church does not speak about the morality of objects like condoms: “There is no official magisterial teaching either about condoms, or about anti-ovulatory pills or diaphragms. Condoms cannot be intrinsically evil, only human acts; condoms are not human acts, but things. What the Catholic Church has clearly taught to be "intrinsically evil" is a specific kind of human act, defined by Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, and later included in No. 2370 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as an "action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible.”

Hence, the pope’s reference to condom use had nothing to do with the human action of contraception and the morality of its use as a contraceptive. That is a negative absolute. Nor is he speaking about the moral legitimacy or illegitimacy of homosexual actions. They are constitutively and absolutely immoral acts since they cannot be actions of bodily self-gift and receptivity since the body is intrinsically personal and therefore relational as reception and donation which we understand to be male and female.

His reference to the use of condoms is rather a first step within an intrinsically immoral act toward “humanization” or relationality as concern for the health of another: “a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Of course, even to speak in this way is to risk having the media pounce on the mere juxtaposition of the words “condom” and sex, and do with it what they will. But one must not be afraid to speak truth – absolutely and pastorally - in the public square.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “On Conscience,” Ignatius (2007) 32.

No comments: