Theology: November 2010 Archives

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.

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 tyrannical."

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).

Christ the King

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Sunday marks the final Sunday of the liturgical year with the Solemnity of Christ the King. Pope Pius XI established this feast for us in an encyclical Quas Primas, to help us to recognize the reality of the Lord's kingship over the universe. The Lord's kingship is not one of an arbitrary use of power or an arrogant rule of peoples or a subjugation of the dignity of man and woman. The Lord's kingship extends over all peoples based on the Divine Love and Communion of the Blessed Trinity. Here is a paragraph from Quas Primas to help our prayer.

Christ the King on cross detail.JPG"If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God" (Romans 6:13).

Pope Pius XI
December 11, 1925
With last the announcement last week about a study session of the new Rite of Exorcism seemingly many peoples' interest in the devil and evil soared. But I wonder if we all know the implications of having an interest in the "devil and evil" means. What it means is that we are in a spiritual battle with evil, a fact that is being spoken of more and more.

The Servant of God Pope Paul VI addressed the issue in a General Audience on November 15, 1972. What he said in 1972 remains so very true today:

What are the Church's greatest needs at the present time? Don't be surprised at Our answer and don't write it off as simplistic or even superstitious: one of the Church's greatest needs is to be defended against the evil we call the Devil.

The papal address is not long and it covers topics of a Christian's vision of the universe, the mystery of evil, seeking answers to our questions, the biblical witness to evil and the Devil, the Devil's ability to tempt us, the peril of ignoring the Devil, the presence of diabolical actions and what our defense against the Devil means. Read what Pope Paul said.

Two Standards Loyola.jpg
In his meditation of the second week of the Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius of Loyola presents to us "On the Two Standards" telling us we are faced with making a choice: "The one of Christ, our Commander-in-chief and Lord; the other Lucifer, mortal enemy of our human nature." Loyola places in front of us the choice of how we are going to live our lives, either for Christ or against Christ, either for good, or for evil. Why sell our soul for money, power and fame when the Lord offers us a life that's attractive and beautiful through the virtues of spiritual --and possibly in actual poverty, contempt for worldly honor and humility against pride? Poverty, whether spiritual and/or actual, obedience and humility are virtues that lead to all other virtue and everlasting life in Jesus Christ.

Training Exorcists

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Make no joke about it: the devil exists, people do evil things. Of course, the existence of the devil is not at all the same as we seen in the movies. We know this is a fact from our personal experience and from the Gospels: the devil works on believers to get them away from adhering to Jesus Christ. We don't fool around with the devil and his temptations, nor his ability to possess a person. So, ridicule would not be the correct approach to understanding the nature of the devil and demonic possession. While believers say that evil is real, it is our unqualified belief that evil and the devil are powerless to the power of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. It is Jesus who expels the devil, not the priest. Evil is terminated only through prayer, fasting, the sacraments; when it is discerned by competent authority, the praying of the Rite of Exorcism may be done. The Rite is performed only by a validly ordained Catholic priest who is deputed by the bishop of the diocese in which the priest lives, and who is known to live a life of virtue and sanctity.

Rite of Exorcism.jpgThe Church protects the exercise of the Rite of Exorcism in the Code of Canon Law (1983) by saying, "No one can perform exorcisms legitimately upon the possessed unless he has obtained special and express permission from the local ordinary. The local ordinary is to give this permission only to a prebyter who has piety, knowledge, prudence and intergrity of life (1172).

The awareness of evil in the world is increasing with the desire of the Church to find competent priests and bishops --not every priest and bishop have the qualifications to do an exorcism-- i.e., some are incapable of doing the Rite of Exorcism.

"Anyone who does not believe in the Devil does not believe in the Gospel," Pope John Paul II.  Catholics hold that the Lord gave the power to cast out demons to the Church (cf. Mark 16:17).

A recent story dealing with the training of exorcists today. The Catholic bishop of Sprinfiield in Illinois and canonist, Bishop Thomas Paprocki organized a meeting of priests and bishops to orient them with the 1999 revision De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam (On Exorcism and Certain Supplications). The purpose is to gain the proper skills to correctly discern the need to use the Rite of Exorcism. Its use is infrequent but sometimes necessary.

Some critics suggest this type of meeting is playing into a "reversion" to prior times, playing on the fears of the weak. What Bishop Paprocki did is to provide some members of the clergy the tools, theology and expertise, training and insight into knowing more about matters transcendent.

I have heard from priest friends that the old rites of baptism and exorcism are stronger in getting rid of the devil than the newer ones. You may want to read this article, "The New Rite of Exorcism, The Influence of the Evil One."

The Pope celebrated Mass for the bishops and cardinals who died in the past year on Wednesday. In his homily he addressed what I believe --and the Church has consistently taught-- are central themes of our Catholic faith which are too often misunderstood or not understood enough. The last line of this post is THE most important thought for us to contemplate on today. From the Vatican's Press Office we read:

Thumbnail image for Salvador-Dali-Christ.jpg

The Pope remind his congregation that "eternal life" designates "the divine gift granted to humankind; i.e., communion with God in this world and its fullness in the next. Eternal life was opened to us by Christ's Paschal Mystery and faith is the way to attain it". Referring then to Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus, as recounted in today's Gospel, the Pope explained how in this exchange Jesus "reveals the most profound meaning of the event of salvation: ... The Son of man must be raised on the wood of the cross so that those who believe in Him might have life. ... The cross, paradoxically, from being a sign of condemnation, death and failure, becomes a sign of redemption, life and victory in which, with the eyes of faith, we can see the fruits of salvation."

The salvific significance of the cross "consists in the immense love of God and in the gift of His only-begotten Son. ... The verbs 'to love' and 'to give' indicate a decisive and definitive action expressing the radical way in which God approached man in love, even unto the total giving of self, ... lowering Himself into the abyss of our utter abandonment, and crossing the portal of death. The object and beneficiary of divine Love is the world, in other words humanity. This completely cancels the idea of a distant God divorced from man's journey, and reveals His true face." God "loves without measure. He does not show His omnipotence in punishment, but in mercy and forgiveness."

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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This page is a archive of entries in the Theology category from November 2010.

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