What exactly did the Pope say?

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Pope Benedict XVI

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You might have heard recently that the Pope changed the Church’s position on condom use. When I read that headline, my eyebrows shot up, because I was sure it wasn’t correct, knowing as I do

  1. how easy it is to take things out of context and make them sound quite different than they were intended;
  2. how richly nuanced my Church’s teaching is on matters of sexuality, and how badly they are distorted; and
  3. how badly the secular world wants the Church to change this particular teaching.

Still, all the flap threw a lot of people, because let’s face it, a lot of Catholics don’t appreciate the rich nuance of the teaching any more than non-Catholics do. This is the fault of the Church leadership, both ordained and lay leaders (like myself, an NFP teacher). But I sympathize; it’s a hard topic to address, because

  1. the walls of defense around people’s minds on this issue are understandably thick and tall;
  2. the teaching on contraception, in particular, is so often understood as a negative (“you can’t use birth control”) instead of something that involves both negative and positive teachings, the negative less important than the beautiful, beautiful positive; and
  3. this positive involves a whole language about love that stands so far above the way we think of love that the language has to be learned first, and we haven’t done the proper catechesis.

So I was thrilled when our associate pastor spoke about the Pope’s remarks on Sunday. Rather than flap my own inexpert fingers anymore, I’m going to link you to his remarks. The one caveat I will add is that although Fr. Schrader is correct that the Pope is speaking from his heart, and not making a formal Church pronouncement, the reality is that anything he says will always be identified with the Church—and really, that’s as it should be. It’s a heavy responsibility, but there it is.

Anyway, I know that this is not a topic that many of you would choose to read about, but I’d love it if you’d do me a favor and read it anyway, especially the long, beautiful, but frank quote from Benedict that got so twisted when it was turned into a sound byte. This is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, and I think if more people really took to heart his words, the world would be a better place for it.