In all the talk about Benedict’s comments on the use of condoms to avoid transmitting AIDS, the words use have been “ban.” “allow,” “permit,” etc, all referring to acts of the will. 

But the Pope was not making an act of the will, he is not making a law, but expressing a judgment. Moral discourse is infected with nominalism and voluntarism, which regards the moral law as an act of the will (either of God or the hierarchy) rather than a judgment, an act of reason. 

Catholics believe that the judgments of the official teachers in the Church are guided by the Holy Spirit, and are reliable, and indeed in certain cases infallible. But they are judgments, not acts of the will.  

In any case the scope of the Church’s teaching on contraception applies to married couples, no one else. As Martin Rhonheimer, a priest of Opus Dei who teaches at the Opus Dei university in Rome, explained:

The teaching of the Church is not about condoms or similar physical or chemical devices, but about marital love and the essentially marital meaning of human sexuality. It affirms that, if married people have a serious reason not to have children, they should modify their sexual behaviour by at least periodic  abstinence from sexual acts. To avoid destroying both the unitive and the procreative meaning of sexual acts and therefore the fullness of mutual self-giving, they must not prevent the sexual act from being fertile while carrying on having sex.

But what of promiscuous people, sexually active homosexuals, and prostitutes? What the Catholic Church teaches them is simply that they should not be promiscuous, but faithful to one single sexual partner; that prostitution is a behaviour which gravely violates human dignity, mainly the dignity of the woman, and therefore should not be engaged in; and that homosexuals, as all other people, are children of God and loved by him as everybody else is, but that they should live in continence like any other unmarried person.

But if they ignore this teaching, and are at risk from HIV, should they use condoms to prevent infection? The moral norm condemning contraception as intrinsically evil does not apply to these cases. Nor can there be church teaching about this; it would be simply nonsensical to establish moral norms for intrinsically immoral types of behaviour. Should the Church teach that a rapist must never use a condom because otherwise he would additionally to the sin of rape fail to respect mutual and complete personal self-giving and thus violate the Sixth Commandment? Of course not.

Whatever one thinks of the magisterium’s judgment on contraception, it simply does not apply to sex outside of marriage.

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