Thursday, 19 January 2012

An Own Goal

Why would a Catholic newspaper, whose editorial was used, not as a means to defend, but instead as the basis for critical media reports about Catholic Church teaching, choose to boast about this fact? I would think this would be news that one would happily see fade away with time and buried, never to be remembered, especially not as one of the significant events in the newspapers history.

The Southern Cross ran an editorial in July 2001 titled “The Condom Debate”. In it the editor says: “When the Church’s message on sexuality is not heard, alternative ways of protecting life must be considered.

The History Page of The Southern Cross boasts that “In July, a Southern Cross editorial receives worldwide media coverage, including Time magazine, the BBC Worldservice, and the Voice of America.”[Sic]

Well, let’s take a look at the type of media coverage it featured in and then you decide if this is an editorial the newspaper actually wants to boast about on its History Page:

BBC News – “Plea to church on condoms” – “The editor of the Southern Cross Journal, Gunther Simmermacher wrote that condoms have an important role to play in preventing the transmission of HIV.

Time Magazine – “Condoms For Life” – “South African Catholics have called for a relaxation of the church's ban on the use of condoms to help the fight against aids.

It is important to remember that Pope Paul VI anticipated these reactions when he so bravely wrote his encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae, in 1968. In it the Pope said:

It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction."  She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.

In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage "to share God's life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men."[1]

Personally, I believe this editorial was nothing more than an embarrassing own goal. A Catholic newspaper should be focussed on promoting the teaching of the Church and why it makes sense, not joining its voice with that of the secular media.

But, Editor, if you are concerned that Catholics won’t be aware of opposing views, don't worry, the secular media is taking real good care of making sure Catholics never ever forget the opposing views. They don’t need your help, though it must be said, you seem to be doing a darn good job of helping them.

Here is an excerpt from a statement that the South African Catholic Bishop Conference issued a few weeks after The Southern Cross editorial. The statement just proves, thankfully, that our bishops in South Africa are not easily swayed or blinded by silly editorials, even when it gets world wide media coverage.

Widespread and indiscriminate promotion of condoms [is] an immoral and misguided weapon in our battle against HIV-AIDS. …Condoms may even be one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV-AIDS.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, why don't you? 

[1] Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, July 25, 1968, #18

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