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Questions and Answers

Is it any of the Church’s business to be advising people on how to commit mortal sins in a more socially aware fashion, or is that the job of social workers? Some theologians within the Church seem to think that the Church should be advising people on these matters. But if somebody has decided to commit mortal sins anyway, is it really any of the Church’s business to be giving them additional moral guidance within the framework of their mortal sin? Should the Church issue moral guidelines on how to potentially mitigate damage to others if a person is already intent on committing mortal sins, for example, by using condoms to reduce the risk of spreading AIDS? Is that really part of the Church’s mission?

 
You’re referring here to a comment made by Pope Benedict XVI. It was an off-hand comment made to a reporter during an airplane flight; then, once it got into print in a book, many of those already intent on committing mortal sins seized on the comment as a way to justify their sins.

The comment concerned the idea that a prostitute who used condoms to help prevent the spread of AIDS was committing less of a sin than the usual sin of using a condom to obstruct procreation, even though the prostitute’s act still involved the sin of prostitution itself. Philosophically, this shows the Pope musing on the truth—fundamental to the Catholic Church—that all of us are essentially good, despite the evil to which we may assent.

Nevertheless, the urge to do some good even while committing sin leaves you still committing a sin. Choosing a lesser evil, therefore, is still a choosing of evil, and that is, well, evil. Period.

Consequently, the Pope was making a philosophical reflection, not attempting to justify a sin because it may be a choice of a lesser evil. He was not issuing moral guidelines, nor was he implying that using condoms to reduce the risk of spreading AIDS is a part of the Church’s mission.

Many theologians, however—and many social workers who fancy themselves to be theologians—twisted the Pope’s comment with classic casuistry. It would do them well if they were to reflect on the well-known saying: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

 

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