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Neither Pope Pius XI nor any other pope has made any infallible declarations on contraception. There's a high bar for papal infallibility. A teaching can also be infallible if it is taught by the ordinary magisterium (the bishops dispersed in union with Rome) but whether the teaching on contraception fits this category of infallibility is debatable. But a reversal would be damaging to credibility nonetheless.

Celibacy for priests and nuns is not a doctrine but a discipline. The pope can change this discipline at will. Eastern Rite Catholic priests can be married. The pope occasionally waives the requirement for Latin Rite priests. I would not be surprised if the requirement is relaxed on a regional basis eventually.


The Pope did not justify the use of condoms in any case. This is a fallicy that was spawned by the media. Please read the below link for a clarification on what the Pope said.


Thank you.


"The problem of priests’ sexually molesting boys would be solved if priests were allowed to marry and if women could be priests, because then the priesthood would attract fewer homosexuals. " being homosexual does not automatically mean you are perverse enough to molest children, nor does the lack of feminine companionship. child molestation is a disturbance unto itself. priests who engage in this particular perversion are NOT homosexual or sexually deprived, they are criminally deviant. there's a gigantic difference here that you are oversimplifying.


Posner sez: "The Church has long been hostile to contraception, but the nature of its hostility has changed, and may be changing yet again with the Pope’s recent acknowledgment that the use of condoms may sometimes be justified as a way of preventing the spread of AIDS."

............... Seconded. The general public could be fairly unconcerned about religious contraception doctrine, and especially so as the Catholic membership is not growing. For contraception most couples choose The Pill but could opt for condoms, either of which violates the proscription against contraception.

Today, the use of condoms is far more related to responsible public health than contraception and it IS of public concern when any organization seeks to subvert measures to contain the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and throughout the world. The Pope and Catholic hierarchy should carefully review policies that result in the spread of an often fatal disease and make abortion and perhaps death by attempted abortion more common. What would Jesus do?


"The problem of priests’ sexually molesting boys would be solved if priests were allowed to marry and if women could be priests, because then the priesthood would attract fewer homosexuals."

Judge Posner, though I am usually a big admirer of you, I hope you realize how many ridiculous assumptions and errors there are in your comment above.

First, the mere opening of the priesthood to women and allowing priests to marry would not "solve[]" the problem of sexually-molested boys: how would marrying affect homosexuals in any way? Further, the addition of women would only decrease the proportion of priests that would molest boys, not decrease them overall.

Secondly, what is the overwhelming link between homosexuals and molesting boys that you seem to assert so strong? Of course, there is the obvious one that homosexual molesters generally want to molest boys (as opposed to girls). But is it so equally obvious that the non-presence of homosexuals would decrease molestation of boys? Straight men are equally capable of molesting boys, e.g., out of general sexual frustration perhaps. But what makes your claim even more surprising is how starkly you link - with no qualification - homosexuality and molestation.

Thirdly, let us not forget that priests have been known to molest and rape girls. To single out perpetrators who happen to be homosexual risks obscuring a general problem (molestation) by needlessly diverting attention to a controversial social issue (homosexuality).


On the affect of a married priesthood and female priests on sexual abuse:

For starters, let's distinguish between homosexuals and pedophiles.

Second, I don't see how it would make the priesthood less attractive to either homosexuals or pedophiles. Presumably homosexuals are more likely to join the priesthood because marriage is not an option for devout gay Catholics. If priests were allowed to be married, those devout gay Catholics don't disappear. The priesthood doesn't become any less attractive to gays. As for pedophiles, presumably they either join the priesthood because they are attracted to children or they aren't any more attracted to children than other adult males but are more likely to molest because they have more opportunities. If allowed to marry, they'd either remain single or they'd marry despite their pedophilia. Either way, neither the inclination nor the opportunities would diminish. If married with children, they may be more likely to molest because they have their own children to molest. It's possible that celibacy prevents some pedophile priests from acting on their desires.

Finally, I don't see how female priests does anything. It would increase the number of priests but it wouldn't push out homosexual or pedophile priests. It's possible that more female involvement in diocesan decisionmaking may prevent more abuse but that's merely speculation and, at any rate, a female priesthood isn't necessary to accomplish that. Decisionmaking can be delegated to nuns or even female laypersons.


First, the Church doesn't teach that there is only one proper function for sex. It teaches that there are multiple, complementary proper functions. The Cathechism makes a clear statement on this (it's available for free online).

Second, how do you know when the Church acted strategically by compromising moral standards to stengthen the institution? Isn't it possible that its teaching on sex just happened to be stategically useful? The Church teaches that husbands should be loving to their wives, which also increases Christianity's "appeal to women" - do you think the Church adopted that position as a strategic compromise?

Third, Pope Pius VI died in 1799. Neither he nor any pope made an infallible statement in response to the Anglican church's shift on contraception. Also, popes do not "reiterate" infallible declarations of prior popes (of which there are very few).

Fourth, allowing priests to marry won't eliminate sexual abuse in the Church any more than allowing, say, soccer coaches to marry has eliminated sexual abuse on kids' soccer teams. Fifth (as a sub-point), your link between homosexuality and sexual abuse of children is grossly unfair to homosexuals. And I would note that you write that allowing priests to marry would "greatly alleviate" the shortage of priests, but it would "solve" the sexual abuse problem. Really?

Sixth, is it really true that anything that facilitates homosexual acts is a sin in the Church's eyes? I.e., does the Church teach that the use of lubricant is an incremental moral harm?

Seventh, is the Church really "more strongly condemning" of homosexual sex than it is of contraception? The Catechism includes a blanket prohibition on both, but mitigating language with respect to homosexuality (homosexuals "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity" and "Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided" - I would commend the latter statement to your attention). Is this your interpretation of the Catechism's statements, or some other official teaching?

Have you read the Catechism, or do you at least have research assistants? I am not an expert on any of these topics, but there are a number of glaring errors in a pretty short post.


you're usually a little off, but today was wayy off.

If you want to describe the Church as a corporation, you have to explain how it has survived 2000 years--longer than any other institution I'm aware of. Further, we typically think that institutions survive by changing with the times, yet the Church is perhaps the most unflinching institution in history (much to the chagrin of her critics)!

Finally, where is the entry? Pope seems like a good gig! Why haven't others been successful in setting up similar institutions to guarantee their infallible authority?

You have to accept either: 1)The Church is super smart in figuring out the secret to institutional longevity 2) Nobody can enter the market for religious authority (until maybe Joseph Smith's small group of followers) or 3) there's something very different about the church not captured by standard organizational theory.


There is no evidence that homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men. In fact, many men who abuse young children (boys or girls) have consensual sex with adult women.
Priesthood (and certain teaching, mentoring, coaching, caretaking, counseling, corrections facility position and such) attract people who abuse children because the job creates an environment of trusting adults with children, giving adults respect which protects them from accusations, giving adults power over children who could otherwise leave or object, and a heierarchal power structure that protects abusers. Sexual orientation is not the problem in any way.
The only reason abuse of male children is brought up so often is because it's sensational. Older men abusing little girls is old news and happens everywhere all the time. The problem is environments that give abusers what they want.


Judge Posner:

This blog entry has disturbed me deeply. I loved your opinions so much in law school, that I named my designer Labradoodle "Posner" five years ago because I wanted him to be smart.

How could somebody so smart include so many untruths in a single blog entry?? I don't even know where to begin.

In addition to absorbing a lot of the comments posted here, which are good - particularly regarding the 'infalibility' doctrine that you terribly misconstrue, I recommend that you actually read Humanae Vitae, which is a beautiful explanation of the Church's position on contraception. It flows just as logically as any of your fine opinions.

Chris R.

Your history -- both doctrinal and secular -- is weak. You say "the church" this and "the church" that, when in fact for hudreds of years (past Nicea into the 5th c.) there were a variety of centers: antioch, alexandria, rome, jerusalem and eventualy constantinople, that were taking positions and hashing things out. This is not to say each went its own way on sex issues. But in fact each deduced the same basic stance from the general principle that we are children of god and vessels of the holy spirit.

Second, christianity's differential at the time was belief in everlasting life, as witnessed by those who saw the risen Jesus and as reported in the gospels. Christ's statements did not include doctrine on sex and he was known for having friends from forbidden classes, such as mary magdeline. Specifics on sex were a tier down from everlasting life in the presence of God.

Third, many "pagan" practices -- and "pagan" encompasses hundreds, if not thousands, of belief systems across the known world and across many centuries, it was not a single unified brand like "Macy's", valued abstention and restraint, there was no uniformity.


Several individuals posted their objection to Posner's assertion that "[t]he problem of priests’ sexually molesting boys would be solved if priests were allowed to marry and if women could be priests, because then the priesthood would attract fewer homosexuals." Arguments include the following:

"[B]eing homosexual does not automatically mean you are perverse enough to molest children, nor does the lack of female companionship."

"[P]riests who engage in this particular perversion are NOT homosexual or sexually deprived, they are criminally deviant."

"[T]he addition of women would only decrease the proportion of priests that would molest boys, not decrease them overall."

"Straight men are equally capable of molesting boys, e.g., out of general sexual frustration perhaps. But what makes your claim even more surprising is how starkly you link - with no qualification - homosexuality and molestation."

"For starters, let's distinguish between homosexuals and pedophiles."

"I don't see how it would make the priesthood less attractive to either homosexuals or pedophiles. Presumably homosexuals are more likely to join the priesthood because marriage is not an option for devout gay Catholics. If priests were allowed to be married, those devout gay Catholics don't disappear. The priesthood doesn't become any less attractive to gays."

Clearly, many of the objectors believe that Posner has unfairly linked homosexuality with pedophilia within the Catholic Church. However, Posner's claim is actually quite fair. For many years, the mandate of celibacy for the clergy has created an attractive option for gay Catholics because homosexuals were expected to remain celibate anyway. All other things being equal, the opportunity cost of becoming a priest for the gay Catholic who intends to practice celibacy is smaller than the opportunity cost for the straight Catholic who might otherwise marry and have children. Also, priesthood provides the gay Catholic an additional bulwark against future homosexual transgressions. Such a strategy is not unlike the strategies employed by the recovering alcoholic who chooses to spend more time with friends who do not drink rather than friends who do, the shopaholic who cuts his credit cards, or the repentant adulterer who decides that his wife should accompany him whenever he goes on a business trip. Furthermore, the presumption of celibacy and non-marriage amongst the clergy affords the closeted gay Catholic an opportunity to disguise his sexuality and be viewed as "normal" whereas the closeted gay Catholic who does not join the clergy may find himself under increased scrutiny for his sexuality unless he enters an opposite-sex marriage (especially in societies where young men and women are expected to marry and procreate).

By allowing priests to marry, the priesthood does indeed become less attractive to gays because priesthood no longer affords the closeted homosexual an avenue by which he may disguise his sexuality. Also, by reducing the opportunity cost of joining the priesthood, more heterosexuals would be willing to enter. The proportion and (probably) the absolute number of homosexual priests would be reduced. Allowing women to become priests would have a similar effect.

Of course, none of this analysis is pertinent if it were the case that homosexual priests were equally or less likely to molest children than straight priests or hypothetical female priests. This is not the case. The straight priest who breaks his vow of celibacy has many options. He can test the waters more easily with his female congregants (the vast majority of whom are heterosexual) than the gay priest can with his male congregants (only a slim percentage of them are gay); the gay priest who socializes with men to initiate romance is more likely to be rejected (and detected) because he must overcome both the stigma associated with breaking his vow of celibacy and the taboo of homosexuality.

The cost of failure in adult romance is much higher for the gay priest than for the straight priest, and the chances of success for the gay priest are substantially lower than for the straight priest. A high cost of failure coupled with a low chance of success for adult romance makes opportunistic pedophilia more appealing in comparison than it would otherwise be. In addition, it is easier for the closeted gay priest to escape detection of his homosexuality if he targets children instead of adults because children are less worldly. The benefits (in terms of sexual gratification) of pedophilia may also higher for gay priests than for straight priests because sex with children might be a closer substitute for homosexual sex than it is for heterosexual sex. Since some closeted homosexuals enter the priesthood to escape detection, they may regard the vow of celibacy less seriously; if one is already a furtive outsider in terms of sexuality then he may not feel as strongly adverse to pedophilia.

Even though the straight priest may not scruple to remain celibate at all times, the likelihood that he (unless he is a true pedophile) chooses a boy or a girl over an adult female is substantially lower than the likelihood of the gay priest choosing a child over an adult male. The straight priest has more options for romance and the possibility of marriage if he leaves the priesthood. He can even continue to be a man of the cloth after marrying if he switches to a different Christian sect.

Perhaps some of the criticisms of Posner's claim may have been averted if not for an omission; he could have added that allowing priests to marry would also provide heterosexual priests with an outlet for sexual energy and thereby reduce molestation. I think that was innocent oversight on his part.

Dan M.

This reply was written in about 25 minutes in between revising a 90 page paper. Ah, the life of a law student. I am happy to follow-up on any points in 48 hours or so.

1. The Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality make very clear that sexual activity has both a procreative and a unitive aspect and that both must be honored and in that sense there is no qualification; the procreative aspect requires that the couple be open to the creation of new life. Since it is the openness to creation of new life and not the explicit intent to have a child that must be fulfilled, couples suffering from sterility or older couples where a woman is no longer capable of conceiving, do not violate Church teaching by engaging in sexual intercourse. Being infertile does not make one mentally closed off to the idea of creation of new life. Part of the Church’s views on birth control is based on the sacredness of human sexuality and on the idea that each member of a couple is willing to give everything to the other, and yes, everything includes their fertility. By withholding one’s fertility, one is in essence refusing to properly fulfill the unitive act as well as closing oneself off to the creation of new life. Unfortunately, allowing artificial birth control into the equation does just that, and this is the reason it is inconsistent with Catholic doctrine and not morally permissible.

2. Faithful Catholics should not worry about seeming “out of it” and neither should their Church. Early on, people were persecuted for their faith and fed to the lions. Maybe they seemed “out of it” as well as being a threat to the Roman Emperor, but they were not worried about going along with what a majority of people believed, they were concerned with standing up for what they believed was right. Truth and morality never have and never will be determined by a popular vote, unless you want to argue that at one time slavery was moral, racism was moral, subjugation of women was and (in many countries is) moral, and so forth. Either you must admit to the existence of moral absolutes, something the Church does and one of the reasons why appearing “out of it” may not be the biggest concern of the Pope, or you decide to just go along with a majority or perhaps a supermajority or some arbitrary size. Even if you go the route of the majority, you must decide which majority. Do you take a majority of the city, state, country, continent, world, etc. Do you let dead people vote (In Chicago the answer is yes in ordinary elections, so it would seem wrong to deprive them of the franchise here). The sheer problem of actually picking a majority and rationalizing why that particular majority should govern in matters of morality (not of law which is another issue entirely) demonstrates the absurdity of the notion that one should worry about appearing “out of it” versus actually caring about the truth.

3. Catholic morality is based on deontology, not consequentialism. Yes, bad consequences are certainly not desired, but it is no argument to say that the existence of more children born outside of marriage due to promiscuity, is worse from a Catholic doctrinal perspective than allowing use of condoms. From some consequentialist non-Catholic perspective, one may be able to argue that, but even a cursory glance at Catholic doctrine should tell you how absurd this statement sounds to a Catholic. Even from a consequentialist perspective, abandoning principals and supporting a view on sexuality that causes people to devalue their partners (birth control makes it very easy to view a member of the opposite sex as a way to satisfy one’s desires with minimal consequences and many people do think this way) is a huge adverse effect that you neglect. The frank reality is that people who do not follow the Church on premarital sex are probably not going to follow it on contraception, so why would the Church even think about engaging in this consequentialist nonsense which is largely irrelevant for the just-stated reason?

4. The history here is rather weak; the intellectual battles in the early Church are far more complex than you give them credit for, and I worry that a bit too much of law and economics has crept into an analysis of an institution that actually has some interest in promoting what it regards as objective truth. Also keep in mind that in the early periods of the Church, people were still being persecuted for the Christian faith. I think that “ambitious” people would not have bothered being Christian at all. After all, why die for something unless you actually believe it is true? If you believe it is true, then your motivation is going to be a lot different than if you view it as some sort of pretext for ambition.

5. The prohibition of priests marrying is a matter of discipline and not of doctrine, which means that the Church could choose in the future to allow priests to marry without undermining any of its authority or legitimacy. Discipline versus doctrine is an important thing to understand, and without understanding this, it frankly is quite difficult to make any sort of assessment of the Catholic Church and its religious authority. Indeed, even a quick Google search would show that currently, married Eastern Orthodox or Protestant clergy who convert to Catholicism and wish to serve as priests are allowed to remain married.

6. The Pope’s statement on condoms has unfortunately been taken out of context and blown out of proportion by many media outlets. The basic premise is simply that for people who are going to engage in risky behavior that is condemned by the Church anyways, they should take care and responsibility in how they do so. Not using a condom does not make premarital sex more moral in the eyes of the Church. Contraception is a sin because it causes one to engage in sexual activity without the requisite procreative intent, defined previously as openness to the creation of new life. Most people having premarital sex are not truly open to the creation of new life, as much of the reason for the widespread existence of premarital sex is pleasure and gratification, not the desire to have as many children as possible with as many people as possible. I would further point out that there is empirical evidence suggesting that promoting monogamy and sexual morality has been more effective in some cases in Africa than dropping off condoms. A basic economic principal is that when you reduce the risk of something without decreasing the reward (I will ignore the complaint of some people that condoms reduce sexual stimulation), you cause people to engage in the activity more. So with condoms, people will probably have more sex.

7. You are correct that the Church cannot simply abandon and reverse its teachings with the cavalier attitude that the Supreme Court may in some cases reverse precedent with. The reason for this is that the function of the Church is to teach truths that are timeless and whose merits do not depend on the number of people who believe in them at any given point. In that sense, the Catholic Church, unlike the corporation that you analogize it too which may have shareholder voting on key initiatives, or the United States, is not a democracy.


Posner points out:

"would be to relax the ban on contraception only with respect to condoms, viewed as an essential preventive of AIDS. Yet even that might be a problematic solution, because it would be seen as an acknowledgment that people cannot control their sex drives, yet that control is basic to the most distinctive features of Catholic doctrine, such as the ban on sexual activity........"

............. This appears all through the "abstinence only" set of many religions. Do they think their flock is so simple that one "message" is all they can handle? Am I overloading my teen when advise "drive carefully AND wear a seatbelt?"

Am I condoning underage drinking by advising against imbibing at a young age, moderation and a standing offer that no matter the lateness of the hour that if he and friends did become inebriated that I'd much rather come and pick him up than either DUI or climb in a car with another inebriate?

Is it too much to ask of the church to look at the statistical failure of abstinence only regardless of litany and come into some modern century in regard to public health and lessening the frequency of abortion?


At an archaic "church" level of discussion, can we even discuss the current options for our youth? The ideal seeming that of finishing college prior to marrying in one's late 20's and what, realistically are the young to do with raging hormonal drives for 15 years or so? The other path seems that of an early "test marriage" considering that over 75% of marriages consummated in the early 20's fail.


Apparently one of the main vectors of AIDs transmission in Africa is that of truck drivers and others providing business to the world's oldest profession. Is it beyond the church to suggest that one sin is not made the worse for the use of a condom? Perhaps even distribute them with "love (or have concern for) your neighbor?" on them?


Do we honestly believe that rapists and fornicators spreading HIV in Africa will begin using condoms because THE POPE says it's okay???


Judge Posner,

This is the first blog entry of yours that I've read. I will be frank in saying that it is apparent you are not knowledgeable on the subject of contraception within the Catholic Church and furthermore your view on Catholicism as a whole is greatly flawed. Your statements were overly-simplistic and (to be kind) simply wrong at times.

I cannot possibly unwrap the Catholic teachings on sex in a short reply post like this but I would encourage you to read John Paul II's discourse called "Theology of the Body" which lays out very nicely the Church's view on sex and the human person as a whole.

If you would like a thorough analysis of the Church's sex scandals, please read George Weigel's "The Courage to be Catholic".

I hope that you take the time to truly educate yourself on the issues you spoke of because your post makes you seem rather uneducated which, judging by the regards of the other posters, is not the case.


Mitchell, "By allowing priests to marry, the priesthood does indeed become less attractive to gays because priesthood no longer affords the closeted homosexual an avenue by which he may disguise his sexuality."

I'm not so sure that's a significant reason why homosexuals would be attracted to the priesthood. Besides, even if the Catholic Church allows a married priesthood, it would still retain celibate religious orders and would choose bishops among celibate priests. That's sufficient cover for gay Catholics.


Actually - I disagree that homosexuality is or can be linked to pedophilia. However, I definitely believe that homosexuality is strongly linked to the sex abuse scandal in the Church.

The victims of abuse were overwhelmingly post-pubescent males. This is an illegal form of homosexuality (arguably no worse than heterosexual statutory rape - albeit with a perpetrator who is in a position of power). This is NOT, however, pedophilia.

The main stream media never reports on this undeniable statistic, but I definitely expect Judge Posner (one of the most prolific jurists America has EVER seen) to rely on sources other than main stream media prior to authoring such a poorly-researched blog entry.

For example, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice conducted an extensive study of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church at the behest of the USCCB. The study can be found here:


As George recommended, George Weigel also gives an exhaustive synopsis of the entire scandal and - though Catholic and John Paul II's official biographer - Weigel certainly did not pull any punches. The facts do not support categorizing the vast majority of the abuse allegations as pedophilia. And - unless you were to allow these priests to marry MEN - it seems that the propensity to desire other post-pubescent males would still be there . . . Desire and action, however, are not the same thing. The Church teaches discipline and self-restraint not only to priests but to everybody.

As for ordaining women: other Christian sects have tried that. It did not increase the number of clergy. It did, however, verifiably decrease the size of those congregations willing to 'ordain' women.


Bob: Doubtful. However some 150 million Catholics are among the 900 million who populate Africa. Rape, as you mention, is a huge problem with recent stats indicating something like 1 in less than 10 African males had committed some form of rape.

With just 15% of the population being Catholic, they are not responsible for the woes of the society in general, but for his flock I'd expect the Pope to go further than "OK" to something like "For god's sake if you're going to engage in casual sex show some respect for your wife, future children, and your society in general that is being destroyed by a controllable disease."

Am I right in saying AIDS is a controllable disease? Here in the US the number of new cases each year is pretty flat. Consider; if you can get the flat line to slope downward you'd soon realize the compounded benefits of fewer infected people creating fewer infectees which could reach zero in a reasonable time span.

Let's agree that society should expect Catholics and those of other sects to do their part?


Dan: Well counselor you're off to a good start in writing and of defending your client's position against.................? agents of change? and depict the often irrational position of the Catholic church well.

"The reason for this is that the function of the Church is to teach truths that are timeless and whose merits do not depend on the number of people who believe in them at any given point."

Spiritually I lean more to those who tirelessly seek truths than those who are certain someone went to the mountain and received ultimate truths to be accepted whole hog ever after.

In regard to sexuality and procreation the "truths that are timeless" appear outdated and far more suitable to an age when life expectancy was barely 40 and one had better get on with it for the survival of humanity and perhaps to flesh out some battalion or another. You seem to make the case that even married couples should, if not actually seek to beget another child, after a long week at work, a nice dinner and glass of wine in their home, at least be tolerant of their expression of love and mutual respect bringing one new family member to their abode.

How's this work out in an era of infant death rate being a fraction that of a century or so earlier and a procreative life for a woman from less than 15 to well into the 40's and much longer for men? Huge families? or the restraint expected of the priesthood?

In the case of the huge family option, does the church have a position on being able to afford....... well, law school? or other college for each? Or just procreate wildly and expect society in general to pay for more than your share of K-12 education and dump them on a labor market that has little use for those not holding at least a bachelor's degree in something or other?

And what of those, and I know several, who've opted to devote their lives to pursuits other than child raising; are they to be held to the standards of the priesthood?

Undemocratic, stubbornly inflexible or not, isn't it time for Catholics? no the Catholic hierarchy as largely the Catholics themselves have move on, along with those of other faiths to think in terms of being good citizens of the world as well?

Matt C. Abbott

Regarding homosexuality, pedophilia and the clergy abuse scandal, Brian Clowes, Ph.D., has a very good essay on the subject, reprinted here:


Also, it’s interesting to note that an Evangelical Christian has authored a book opposing contraception from a biblical perspective. The book’s full Introduction can be read here:



Also - I think most people advocating for the Church's position are still missing the Pope's point. He is NOT saying, "hey, if you're going to sin anyhow, you might as well do so in a way that will not spread an infection."

He IS appreciating the possibility that concern for health of others (as evidenced by a behavior such as condom use) may give way to other - even greater - moral behaviors such as self-restraint, chastity, and self-sacrificial love.

We all have to start someplace, right?

Matt C. Abbott

Good points, Nora!

Joel Clarke Gibbons

Since there are many excellent comments here I will be very selective. The Church has only one mission, which is to serve Jesus. That is often a very hard calling, but it is the only one worth even thinking about. The repeated persecutions of the Church all over the world stand as silent testimony to her faithfulness. After all, as Mother Theresa of Calcutta noted, Jesus does not ask us to be to successful, he only demands that we be faithful. So no one can threaten us with the prospect of failure. We have been failing for 2,000 years. That is the genius of Calvary Hill: the world can't beat our failure.

However, on the specific proposals the judge has made, I find them unconvincing. One small matter illustrates the broader point. He characterized the pope's recent remarks as endorsing the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS. First of all, if one reads his whole statement, Benedict expressly rejected the use of condoms to address the AIDS crisis. So is this a mystery? Approve their use by a male prostitute but reject their use in general?

The good judge is forgetting the consequences of the Law of Composition in this matter. Suppose a condom is 90% successful in stopping the spread of AIDS in the instance when it is used, but that when condoms are promoted and made available in a whole population the multiply the rate of sexual activity between unrelated individuals by, say 20 times. (Note that what matters is in effect what it does to the number of sex partners the average person has. The frequency of sex between any given pair of partners is of little consequence. Thus, it is not at all hard to multiply the relevant incidence by a large number.) For a male prostitute --yes, a MALE prostitute -- with AIDS to use a condom lessen the chances that he will infect his customer by 90%. That is a good thing; a good in itself (a "bonum in se"). For UN or WHO functionaries to distribute condoms to the public however would double (20 x 0.1 = 2) the incidence of transmission of AIDS. That is a wrong and a crime. Watch out for the Composition.

By the way, the evil of promoting condom use is actually far worse than its contribution to the spread of AIDS. The purpose is genocidal: it is to lower the birthrate of the native population. I do not by any means assert that evil motive to all those who, perhaps simply uninformed, favor the distribution of condoms, but it is the motive of the promoters of this idea.


This post is embarrassing.

Cameron Guenzel

This post, I'm sure, is interesting for the perspective of non-Catholic examining the Church, as a Republican might analyze the Democratic Party. It has nothing of value for a Catholic, however.

Here, unfortunately, Judge Posner plays the common game by the non-Catholic (and often, more generally, by the non-theist) of assuming a belief structure to be false and offering explanations for that belief. Such discourse cannot possibly add to the discussion between Catholics and non-Catholics.
To demonstrate this, imagine, for the sake of argument, that the Church is actually divine--in such a case, none of the wise judge's comments make any sense. As a Catholic, I believe the Church's "stance" on contraception as not a stance at all, but a reflection of an eternal reality, that could no more be changed than could the value of pi. Within this framework, the Pope's recent comments may have effects on society, or on the members of the Church, but cannot possibly have any effect on the Church's statements of eternal morality.

Frankly, Catholics should stop indulging in debates which at best presuppose Catholics to be subscribing to a false religion, and only add their voice to reject that presupposition.

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