Category Archives: Theology

Don’t trivialize sexuality Vatican urges

Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the

On the trivilization of sexuality regarding

certain interpretations of Light of the World

Following the
publication of the interview-book Light of the World by Benedict XVI, a
number of erroneous interpretations have emerged which have caused confusion
concerning the position of the Catholic Church regarding certain questions of
sexual morality. The thought of the Pope has been repeatedly manipulated for
ends and interests which are entirely foreign to the meaning of his words – a
meaning which is evident to anyone who reads the entire chapters in which human
sexuality is treated. The intention of the Holy Father is clear: to rediscover
the beauty of the divine gift of human sexuality and, in this way, to avoid the
cheapening of sexuality which is common today.

Some interpretations have
presented the words of the Pope as a contradiction of the traditional moral
teaching of the Church. This hypothesis has been welcomed by some as a positive
change and lamented by others as a cause of concern – as if his statements
represented a break with the doctrine concerning contraception and with the
Church’s stance in the fight against AIDS. In reality, the words of the Pope –
which specifically concern a gravely disordered type of human behaviour, namely
prostitution (cf. Light of the World, pp. 117-119) – do not signify a
change in Catholic moral teaching or in the pastoral practice of the Church.

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Where is heaven?

Heaven does not belong to the geography of space, but
to the geography of the heart. And the heart of God, during the Holy Night,
stooped down to the stable: the humility of God is Heaven. And if we approach
this humility, then we touch Heaven. Then the Earth too is made new. With the
humility of the shepherds, let us set out, during this Holy Night, towards the
Child in the stable! Let us touch God’s humility, God’s heart! Then his joy
will touch us and will make the world more radiant. Amen.

Pope Benedict XVI
Christmas Homily, 2007

The International Theological Commission meets with Pope: God “has gifted us with a reason in harmony with his nature”

The Pope met yesterday with the members of the International Theological Commission in plenary session, a bi-annual meeting, though I think the Pope only meets in a plenary session with the ITC once a year. I am familiar with several members of the group and I can attest to their diligent and honest work in theology for the good of the entire Church. The work of the ITC deals with some of the most interesting theological and philosophical questions these days. The ITC is working on questions of theological methodology, the question of one God for the 3 monotheistic religions and question of the Church’s social doctrine in the context of Christian doctrine. The ITC documentation is published in various languages and useful for one’s own theological reflection. There are several important points the makes about the vocation of a theologian and the nature of theology. He reminds us, namely, that a theologian does not work in a solitary way, that faith and reason are intrinsically linked and that theology is outward thinking and acting. Benedict XVI’s address to the ITC follows:

I receive you with joy at the end of your annual
plenary session. I would like first of all to express my heartfelt gratitude
for the words of homage that, on behalf of all, Your Eminence, in his capacity
of president of the International Theological Commission, addressed to me. The
work of this eighth “quinquennium” of the commission, as you
recalled, addresses the following very weighty topics: theology and its
methodology; the question of the one God in relation to the three monotheistic
religions; the integration of the social doctrine of the Church in the wider
context of Christian doctrine.

“For the love of Christ impels us, once we
have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He
indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians
5:14-15). How can we not make our own this beautiful reaction of the Apostle
Paul to his encounter with the risen Christ? In fact this experience is at the
root of the three important topics on which you reflected in your plenary
session that has just ended.

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What the Pope really said about condoms…

If you want to know what Pope Benedict XVI really said about AIDS and condom use, you will want to read Chapter 11, of Peter Seewald’s interview of the Pope in Light of the World,  “The Journeys of a Shepherd,” pages 117-119:

On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican’s policy on AIDs once again became the target of media criticism. Twenty-five percent of all AIDs victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on AIDs. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many AIDs victims, especially children with AIDs.

I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be 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.

Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

Christian faith breaks myth that the totality of state gives hope & gives humanity a true and good world-view

Getting to the point of thinking more intelligently and from a Christian point of view about the feast of Christ the King and its relevance today, I think we ought to consider what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) said about politics and human dignity viz. faith in Jesus Christ.

On early Christianity
& the state:

“The state is not the whole of human existence and does not
encompass all human hope. Man and what he hopes for extend beyond the framework
of the state and beyond the sphere of political action. This is true not only
for a state like Babylon, but for every state. The state is not the totality;
this unburdens the politician and at the same time opens up for him the path of
reasonable politics. The Roman state was wrong and anti-Christian precisely
because it wanted to be the totality of human possibilities and hopes. A state
that makes such claims cannot fulfill its promises; it thereby falsifies and
diminishes man. Through the totalitarian lie it becomes demonic and

The Christian world-view stands for an authentic hope for humanity
in being happy in this world:

“The Christian faith destroyed the myth of the divine state, the myth of the
earthly paradise or utopian state and of a society without rule. In its place
it put the objectivity of reason… True human objectivity involves humanity, and
humanity involves God. True human reason involves morality, which lives on
God’s commandments. This morality is not a private matter; it has public
significance. Without the good of being good and of good action, there can be
no good politics. What the persecuted Church prescribed for Christians as the
core of their political ethos must also be the core of an active Christian
politics: only where good is done and is recognized as good can people live
together well in a thriving community. Demonstrating the practical importance
of the moral dimension, the dimension of God’s commandments — publicly as well
— must be the center of responsible political action.”

Joseph Ratzinger’s (Benedict XVI) Church, Ecumenism & Politics (San Francisco: Ignatius 1988).

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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