The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times
controversial passages

 Peter Seewald Interviews Pope Benedict XVI





CHAPTER 11 – The Journeys of a Shepherd




Seewald: 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.

Benedict XVI: 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.

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

Benedict XVI:  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.





CHAPTER14. Overdue Reforms?





Seewald: Homosexual practice has the status of a widely accepted form of life in the West today.  Modernists even publicize its approval as a measure of a given society’s degree of progress.  In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was promulgated under your responsibility as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, we read that “the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. . . .  They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.  These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives”.  And yet the same Catechism contains the following statement: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”  Doesn’t this second statement somewhat contradict the respect for homosexuals expressed in the first one?

Benedict XVI: No, It is one thing to says that they are human beings with their problems and their joys, that as human beings they deserve respect, even though they have this inclination, and must not be discriminated against because of it.  Respect for man is absolutely fundamental and decisive.

   At the same time, though, sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and direction, which is not homosexual.  We could say, if we wanted to put it like this, that evolution has brought forth sexuality for the purpose of reproducing the species, The same thing is true from a theological point of view, as well.  The meaning and direction of sexuality is to bring about the union of man and woman and, in this way, to give humanity posterity, children, a future.  This is the determination internal to the essence of sexuality.  Everything else is against sexuality’s intrinsic meaning and direction. This is a point we need to hold firm, even if it is not pleasing to our age.

    The issue at stake here is the intrinsic truth of sexuality’s significance in the constitution of man’s being.  If someone has deep-seated homosexual inclinations – and it is still an open question whether these inclinations are really innate or whether they arise in early childhood – if, in any case, they have power over him, this can be a great trial for him, just as other trials can afflict other people as well.  Bu this does not mean that homosexuality thereby becomes morally right.  Rather, it remains contrary to the essence of what God originally willed.

It is no secret that there are homosexuals even among priests and monks.  Just recently there was a major scandal on account of the homosexual passions of priests in Rome.

Benedict XVI: Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation.  Otherwise celibacy itself would lose its meaning as a renunciation.  It would be extremely dangerous if celibacy became a sort of pretext for bringing people into thepriesthood who don’t want to get married anyway.  For, in the end, their attitude toward man and woman is somehow distorted,  off center, and, in any case, is not within the direction of creation of which we have spoken.  The Congregation for Education issued a decision a few years ago to the effect that homosexual candidates cannot become priests because their sexual orientation estranges them from the proper sense of paternity, from the intrinsic nature of priestly being.  The selection of candidates to the priesthood must therefore be very careful.  The greatest attention is needed here in order to prevent the intrusion of this kind of ambiguity and to head off a situation where the celibacy of priests would practically end up being identified with the tendency to homosexuality.

But there is no doubt that homosexuality exists in monasteries and among the clergy.  If not acted out, then at least in a non-practiced form.

Benedict XVI: Well, that is just one of the miseries of the Church.  And the persons who are affected must at least try not to express this inclination actively, in order to remain true to the intrinsic mission of their office.

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