Benedict argues for an open horizonFATHER RAYMOND J. DE SOUZA
Work, study, marriage, sexuality, politics, commerce, art – all need a more open horizon.
Light of the World, a lengthy interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, covers an astonishing array of subjects.
Benedict is candid and clear in his answers to questions about the usual canon of controversies about sex, and about matters much more important, like science and salvation.
To the question of whether using condoms is morally permissible to prevent the transmission of AIDS, Benedict is clear: "[The Roman Catholic Church] of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution."
The news came in his elaboration, for which he used the example of a prostitute: "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."
Benedict took the extreme case of sex that has been degraded to a commercial object. He noted condoms may indicate the prostitute has begun to think about the welfare of others, and therefore it may be a first step toward a more human approach to sexuality. The next step would involve giving up prostitution altogether.
That's not an endorsement of condoms or a justification for their use, but rather an acknowledgment that less-wicked behaviour is often the first step away from wicked behaviour toward virtuous behaviour.
The limited controversy over condoms ought not obscure the insight and wisdom of an expansive book. Indeed, it can serve as a lesson on how to read the work as a whole.
"The sheer fixation on the condom implies a trivialization 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," Benedict argues.
"Trivialization" is precisely what he fears threatens mankind, that narrowing of the wide horizons of human life, inquiry and creativity to a pinched view dominated by concerns about what can be measured and is efficient.
In the Church, Benedict argues for liturgy that truly opens man to the worship of God, instead of locking him within his own preferences and projects.
Noting the reluctance of Catholic preachers to speak about heaven and hell, he offers a rebuke and a challenge.
"Our preaching is really one-sided, in that it is largely directed toward the creation of a better world, while hardly anyone talks any more about the other, truly better world," Benedict says.
"These things are hard to accept for people today, and seem unreal to them. Instead, they want concrete answers for now, for the tribulations of everyday life.
"But these answers are incomplete so long as they don't convey the sense and the interior realization that I am more than this material life, that there is a judgment, and that grace and eternity exist."
Work, study, marriage, sexuality, politics, commerce, art – all need the more open horizon. Benedict applies that same approach to sexual abuse scandals, which he likens to a volcano, "out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything, so that above all the priesthood suddenly seemed a place of shame."
Priests who abused minors obscured what they were meant to reveal – God's love. And bishops who did not punish those priests in a timely fashion had forgotten "punishment can be an act of love."
Again Benedict argues for the broader against the narrow: "[The reluctance to punish] also narrowed the concept of love, which in fact is not just being nice and courteous, but is found in the truth. And another component of the truth is that I must punish the one who has sinned against real love."
Father Raymond J. de Souza, "Benedict argues for an open horizon." National Post, (Canada) November 23, 2010.
Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.
Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
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