Monday, April 20, 2009

Condoms, Catholics and HIV - more

On a previous post on the RC position on using condoms, some have objected that it would be unreasonable for the RC Church to agree to say "You ought not have gay sex, but if you are going to, use a condom."

The suggestion is there is something inconsistent about saying such a thing. After all, we would not say "You should not rob houses, but if you do, don't cause more damage than you need to" or "You should not rape, but if you do, use a condom".

It's true that these are not things we would say. But why not?

There is a subtle distinction we need to make here.

Sometimes it is perfectly reasonable to say: You ought not to X, but if you are going to X, do Y. Other times less reasonable.

Doctor: You ought not to drink, but if you are going to, avoid spirits.

Nothing unreasonable about that. Jolly good advice for certain medical conditions! In fact, if the doctor thought you were likely to drink, it would be irresponsible of him not to add the caveat "but if you are going to....".

If you want a moral example:

Animal rights activist: You ought not to keep pets, but if you are going to, treat them humanely.

That's a reasonable position, and certainly consistent.

This seems odd though:

You ought not to rape, but if you are going to, use a condom.

But why? It is not inconsistent, I think. But it seems a silly thing to say because:

(i) anyone who rapes doesn't give a stuff about their victim, and so won't bother protecting them with a condom. So it's a pointless request (hence rather ridiculous, if safeguarding the victim is the aim). Ditto the remark to potential burglars (if they do have some concern for victims, they'll keep damage to a minimum anyway; if they don't, the advice is pointless). And

(ii) in the animal rights case, the activist recognizes you may not share their fairly unusual moral position, and so it is reasonable for them to add that even if you don't agree with them about keeping pets, you should still treat your pets humanely. But it is odd to add something similar about rape/burglary, as presumably the rapist/burglar knows what he does is wrong.

Note that for the RC Church to say "You ought not to have homosexual sex, but if you are going to, use a condom" would involve (i) no inconsistency, and, indeed, (ii) not even any of oddness of the sort that attaches to the parallel remarks about rape and burglary.

There may be other reasons why the RC feel they should not say such a thing, but to suggest that it's never reasonable to say "Don't do X, but if you are going to, do Y" is just a mistake.

Indeed, "Don't do X, but if you are going to, do Y" is often a reasonable thing to say, and in these above cases where it isn't, what makes it unreasonable does not make it unreasonable for the RC to say "Don't have gay sex, but if you do, use a condom."

POSTSCRIPT 21ST APRIL. A further thought: Note that the RC Church itself issues such qualified moral pronouncements:

You should not sin, but if you are going to sin, make sure you go to confession afterwards!

Note this applies no matter how serious the sin! (WZ: Also note that it is directed specifically at Catholics, just as you suppose the sexual prohibition is).

111 comments:

wombat said...

In the examples you give of the "you should not rob houses.." form we normally split the admonition into two (or more) parts - "Don't rob houses." and "Don't vandalize peoples homes". We recognize that these crimes are to some extent separate and treat them this way in law. e.g. for the burglar there might be a charge of criminal damage as well as theft. Similarly a kidnapper who treated his victim well might ask this to be taken in to account in mitigation.

The form of words used suggests that the seriousness of the misdeed can be diminished by taking the precaution suggested in the "but if you do" clause.
Where the first part is seen as a very serious then perceive this as trivializing the matter. As most people do not regard keeping pets or drinking as too bad we are not affronted by the use of the formula in those cases. Perhaps if we really were set against pet-keeping we might see it differently. How about "Don't own slaves, but if you must, treat them well"?

What perhaps we are missing is simply a different formulation which the RCC can accept. Something like "Putting peoples lives at risk from HIV is a mortal sin." which stands on its own alongside "Sex outside marriage is a sin."

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the statement depend on your audience as well.

If speaking to a group of convicted rapists, perhaps it would be appropriate to say "but if you do, at least wear a condom."

I guess my question is, to whom was the Catholic Church saying this?

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Thank you, Stephen, I see you've given the matter serious thought. But for the moment I am not sure I am quite getting the gist of your _sed contra_ (as a Schoolman would have said), I'll have to give IT serious thought.

Ad Wombat:

'What perhaps we are missing is simply a different formulation which the RCC can accept. Something like "Putting peoples lives at risk from HIV is a mortal sin." which stands on its own alongside "Sex outside marriage is a sin."',

well, I also lean somehow towards the assumption that a solution might lie vaguely along these lines Wombat's suggesting, acceptable both to the Church and to those non-Catholics who are seriously concerned about the spread of AIDS (and not just disparaging the RC Church). But still a lotta work needs being done to figure out what it (the solution) actually could be.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Stephen,

on reflection, I now seem to think that there is yet another subtle distinction to be made, and that is between three different kinds of 'ought' involved in your examples (and mine):

1. the 'ought' of the doctor. It's a non-moral ought, _prima facie_ (which is not to deny that it might have moral overtones);

2. the 'ought' of the animal-rights activist. I am not sure what kind of an 'ought' it be---maybe it's moral-ish of sorts. In any case, the difference to the RC teachings is that it is addressed not to other animal-right-believers, but to those who have not yet discovered animal rights. (Sorry, I have little experience in that, I may be misunderstanding something.)


3. The 'ought' of the rape-condemner. It IS a moral ought, and maybe for that reason the injuction, 'You must not rape, but if you do, use condoms' sounds odd (as you rightly remark).


Now---what kind of 'ought' is the `ought' of 'thou shalt not commit adultery'? It's clearly a moral 'ought' (or 'shall'). It's Judaeo-Christian morality, it is true, not a universal one, if there indeed be any such... . But then, the RC Catholic church does not admonish anyone (at least not in such matters) except one particular subset of Judaeo-Christians.

You note yourself, very correctly in my opinion, that the proviso '...but if you do (keep pets) do treat them humanely' (it's sort of funny to think of pets---as long as they are truly pets---kept INHUMANELY) is meant first of all for those who do not share the (mildly odd) beliefs of the animal-right activists.

The opposite is true of the RC Church (unless you mean special cases of missionaries amongst the not-yet-Catholics etc.). It addresses its teachings to ITS 'animal-right activists', i.e. its members, Roman Catholics. It must not, at least not in the form you seem to be demanding, send 'mixed signals' to them: On one hand, adultery and fornication are bad, on the other hand, if you do fornicate, then... . Please note that the Catholic church (or any church, for that matter) is not anything like the Vienna Circle or stuff, it's a mass enterprise and has tasks and commmitments traditionally called 'pastoral'; so, sometimes it is a mattter not of really is odd according to this or that axiomatic system of deontic logic, but of seems, appears odd, to an unschooled mind.


Now people who do not care about the Sixth Commandment (I am repeating myself), may they never so fervently declare themselves Catholic in polls and statistics, will much less (methinks) care about any Papal teachings and instructions you require of the Church to issue.

Ad Wombat

You're saying:

'In the examples you give of the "you should not rob houses.." form we normally split the admonition into two (or more) parts - "Don't rob houses." and "Don't vandalize peoples homes". We recognize that these crimes are to some extent separate and treat them this way in law. e.g. for the burglar there might be a charge of criminal damage as well as theft. Similarly a kidnapper who treated his victim well might ask this to be taken in to account in mitigation.'

Yes, this is very right --- we don't bunch them together them there crimes, and for good reasons.

But the teachings of most Christian churches keep things apart in a somewhat similar way: 'Do not fornicate', one thing, 'Do not kill', another 'un. And---we live in a Post-Enlightenment era, the Church is far from the only Public Enlightening institution, to understate the matter a little bit --- people do know, or can know, if they care (the trouble is, though, that they often don't)---how they can kill with their private parts. So...?

I have once read in a philosophical treatise about 'pigrizia inferenziale', 'inferential laziness' of those who fail to draw conclusions.... . Anyone impute 'inferential laziness' to the Africans?

During the sacrament of confession if the sinner says 'I have raped, seduced, fornicated' (and the like), the priest will most often ask about the 'how' and other circumstances, and it will certainly come in as an aggravating or attenuating circumstance, as the case may be, if the sinner cared about 'thou shalt not kill' during his fornications.... .

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Anonymous:

You are quite right that part of the problem (a very major part, I'd say) is exactly this: What kind of audience are we speaking to?

The Catholic Church will never say, If you rape, please at least wear a condom, because the chaps who are deep into the raping business could not care less about what that Church is saying... .

Of course, there might be some very weird circumstances under which a priest or a bishop WOULD, after all, say a thing like that --- even with a Papal blessing. 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy', as the poet says, or in your moral theology, for that matter, or whatever.

But we are talking here about what we think (Stephen thinks) the Church should say on the level of official Papal teachings, addressed to the whole (Catholic) world, supposed to cover typical, not weird, weirder and weirdest, cases.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Stephen wrote that there would be no inconsistency in the RC Church saying: "You ought not to have homosexual sex, but if you are going to, use a condom"Much like his recent comparison between political and religious beliefs, Stephen has an uncanny way of boiling these things down to their bare essentials. The failure of the Holy See to make this simple prounouncement (and, in fact, to prohibit condom usage under any circumstances) will surely go down in history as an act akin to genocide.

Kosh3 said...

I think it would be inconsistent for the Catholic church, given its views on sex and god, to advise people not to have unmarital sex, but if they do, use condoms. Doing so would prevent a means of god's punishment for sin: AIDS.

Kosh3 said...

To expand just a little: it would like neutering god. This is counter to something the RC church could opt for, given (unstated!) beliefs about the mechanisms of god's retribution.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Stephen wrote:

'"You ought not to rape, but if you are going to, use a condom".

But why? It is not inconsistent, I think. But it seems a silly thing to say because:
i) anyone who rapes doesn't give a stuff about their victim, and so won't bother protecting them with a condom. So it's a pointless request (hence rather ridiculous, if safeguarding the victim is the aim). Ditto the remark to potential burglars (if they do have some concern for victims, they'll keep damage to a minimum anyway; if they don't, the advice is pointless).'

This leads him to the conclucion that:

'"If you are promiscuous, use a condom" by the RC Church would involve (i) no inconsistency, and, indeed, (ii) not even any of oddness of the 'rape' case".'

I hope I am not misrepresenting anything in Stephen's argument.

But on yet more reflection I seem to see another problem with that.

I don't know what exact morality Stephen is ascribing to the rape-condemner (i. e. the one who says: 'do not rape, but if you do...') and/or the rapist him- or herself, but conceivable are (non-religion-motivated) moralities in which rape is, let us say, a less severe crime than murder, so that a rapist may, in perfect consonance with his/her conscience, 'let the matter rest at that', i. e. rape, without proceeding to murder (I am assuming all along that `use a condom' is short for `do not murder in a specific form'.)

Such rapist would care a bit about their raped ones, as far as the latter's life is concerned, but not as their bodily (sexual) integrity is concerned. To them, in other words, `thou shalt not rape' would be a less serious commandment (or none at all), whereas `thou shalt not kill' a more serious, and hence, an injunction like `you must not rape, but if you do, use a condom' directed to them, would not be that odd. Arsene Lupin stole but did not kill (mopre or less along parallel lines); I imagine great many `marital rapists' (marital rape having been quite common since times immemorial) and other rapists (thanks goodness, one should say), while flaunting the rape prohibition, stop short of murdering, be it directly, be it by means of HIV transmission.

This makes the (in Stephen's ears) odd-sounding `You ought not to rape, but if you are going to, use a condom' sound less odd.

But with an admonition like `Be not promiscuous, yet if you are, wear a condom' the situation is _somewhat_ different... . For Catholics and (methinks) all Christians (and Jews?) the value of life, in other words the 'force' of the `thou shalt not kill' commandment is not so clearly and staggeringly more prominent than the value of chastity (or the force of the `thou shalt not commit adultery' command) as it is or may be to the adherents of a purely secular ethics (and remember that Papal teachings in such matters at least are directed to no-one but Catholics); then, as I explained in a previous post, a half-way-through conscious Catholic knows that the Sixth Commandment is WAY more central to the teachings of his/her church than any _pronunciamientos_ about condoms and such-like (be they for or against), so if he decides to flaunt the former he will all the more easily flaunt the latter. So the 'you must not sleep around, but if you do, please use a condom' is rather incurably odd, more so than your rape example (which is, I admit, odd enough) as long as it is directed to Catholics (and by hypothesis it is).

Yet I agree that there is a serious problem here, and a solution must be sought and found; maybe along the lines suggested by Wombat in a previous post. Your solution is not perfect, but does contribute, too.

BTW: as a philosopher, you know that Quine once proclaimed it was not a business of philosophy to find out if wombats existed --- well, it might not be, but we know Wombats exist (for instance in these comments) and are quite useful... .


Ad Atheist Missionary:

'Stephen has an uncanny way of boiling these things down to their bare essentials'

yes, Dear, he certainly has, he's an astute philosopher, but in serious philosophical matters, when you try to think hard and thorougly, rather than just vent your feelings and give expression to attitudes you have once learnt to assume, it's sordda difficult to reach a true rock-bottom where you can sit back quite honestly say: 'this is how things really are, now I know'.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3

'I think it would be inconsistent for the Catholic church, given its views on sex and god, to advise people not to have unmarital sex, but if they do, use condoms. Doing so would prevent a means of god's punishment for sin: AIDS.

April 21, 2009 1:42 AM

Kosh3 said...
To expand just a little: it would like neutering god. This is counter to something the RC church could opt for, given (unstated!) beliefs about the mechanisms of god's retribution.'

Re this god's retribution stuff: I don't know how profound your familiarity with Roman Catholicism is, but the opinions you express in that regard do not strike me as having much to do with what Catholicism is all about... . Frankly, to me they smack rather of some variants of U.S Protestantism, some rather---how should I say---'deep in the boonies' variants, but then, I don't know much about U.S. Protestantism either. We ought not to be so opinionated on topics we don't know much about --- that is a good 'commandment' of all enlightened discussion on serious topics.... I propose.

Kosh3 said...

Hey, I never said it wasn't true even more so of Protestantism. I even said that the particular beliefs in question were unstated - if I was talking about fundamentalist protestantism, that would not be necessary, because there are explicit claims made to that effect.

Stephen Law said...

POSTSCRIPT 21ST APRIL. A further thought: Note that the RC Church itself issues such qualified moral pronouncements:

You should not sin, but if you are going to sin, make sure you go to confession afterwards!

WZ: Note this applies no matter how serious the sin! (WZ: Also note that it is directed specifically at Catholics, just as you suppose the sexual prohibition is).

WZ: I see no oddness in your promiscuity example. That's just the sort of thing some parents say to their teenagers, I believe. I admit the RC Church would find it difficult to say, of course.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Steve:

'You should not sin, but if you are going to sin, make sure you go to confession afterwards!'

I don't know this formulation. I have never seen anything like it; it was only just 'go to confession', as it is obvious that you're 'going to' (to understate the matter) sin.


'WZ: Note this applies no matter how serious the sin! (WZ: Also note that it is directed specifically at Catholics, just as you suppose the sexual prohibition is).'

Yes, that is true. But the injunction in the form you 'quoted' seems not to have ever been formulated by the Church, at least not in the formal register. (I admit it's amusing and entertaining, Twainesque, of sorts.)

'WZ: I see no oddness in your promiscuity example. That's just the sort of thing some parents say to their teenagers, I believe. I admit the RC Church would find it difficult to say, of course.'

Yes, you're right. But in here resides a rather major part of the problem: you chaps want the Church formulate such precepts on the most official and most level of the general pronouncements of Pope, the Council, and such-like. Such things, embedded in the proper context, are being said by (Catholic) parents, educators, chaplains, confessors etc., but --- embedded in the respective proper contexts. On the level of papal teaching, however, it would HAVE to be out of every context (you don't expect Ban Kyi-Moon to pronounce good council what with the 'ravers' problem in Madchester, do you?) and hence---confusing.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3

Well, honestly, my familiarity with (North American) Protestantism is much to impressionistic for me to make any (malevolent) imputations to same, or what have you. I am sort of against disparaging anybody's religion (or atheism, for that matter, if seriously adhered-to), with the sole exception of Satanism, though even here discretion is required.

But to repeat: the 'god's retribution' stuff strikes me as rather askew to both the official teachings and the 'spirit' of Catholicism, with which I happen to be somewhat more familiar than with Southern Baptism or Evangelicalism or Pentecostalism or what not.

Which is not to deny that you might have (over)heard Catholic priests, monks, or nuns, or simply (in their own opinion) devout Catholics say such things... . The world is---maybe not essentially wicked---but very very foolish, at times.

Stephen Law said...

WZ you said: "but in serious philosophical matters, when you try to think hard and thorougly, rather than just vent your feelings and give expression to attitudes you have once learnt to assume, it's sordda difficult to reach a true rock-bottom where you can sit back quite honestly say: 'this is how things really are, now I know'."

But this is not a philosophical matter. Philosophers don't discuss this issue among each other, other than if at least one of them happens to be RC. To everyone else, it is perfectly bloody obvious that the official RC position is stupid and pernicious.

True, the debate goes on and on, but that's not because the answers here are not pretty obvious (they are), but because one side is wedded to a silly religious dogma, a dogma they feel obliged endlessly to defend. So they spin out interminable dodges and evasions (cf. creationists!)

Your comment: "We ought not to be so opinionated on topics we don't know much about" also seems odd given we are talking about policies on which thousands of lives hang. When it's obvious the RC is just wrong (and it is), we can and should say so. It would be wrong to hold out tongues. We need no more be familiar with the endless intricacies of Catholic theology in order to justifiably vent that opinion than we need be familiar with the various nuances of National Socialism to know that the Final Solution was wrong.

Stephen Law said...

oops: "our tongues" not "out tongues".

Stephen Law said...

WZ: "Such things, embedded in the proper context, are being said by (Catholic) parents, educators, chaplains, confessors etc., but --- embedded in the respective proper contexts. On the level of papal teaching, however, it would HAVE to be out of every context (you don't expect Ban Kyi-Moon to pronounce good council what with the 'ravers' problem in Madchester, do you?) and hence---confusing."

Did not entirely follow this, I'm afraid - what do you mean?

Anyway, I note that we have come some way, having established that:

There is in general no logical inconsistency in saying "It's morally wrong to do X, but if you do, do Y"

True there are occasions when it would be an odd and even dangerous thing to say. But the onus is now on you to explain why this is such an occasion. I can't see you have yet done so. Particularly when we balance the very obvious dangers on the other side!

I guess the above passage is an attempt to spell out these dangers but I think we need illustrations...

Take the gay example: "You should not have gay sex, but if you are going to, use a condom". What is the danger in saying that? You may say: "That more people will have gay sex". But of course, that's not a danger. Or at least the RC Church has failed to establish it is.

True, the RC saying "..if you do have gay sex, use a condom" may not directly influence many active gays to use a condom. But it will have some effect, and will certainly mean that condoms won't be banned or made v hard to get, etc. in areas where the Church has great influence (which remains large chunks of the world). That will save many lives.

Stephen Law said...

Hi WZ. Of course "If you sin, go to confession" is part of Catholic teaching. In fact it took me just a minute to find Catholic priest saying it:

"If you sin, go to Confession and be restored to a State of Grace. I would advise going to confession around once per month or so if you can. Certainly, if you commit a serious sin, be sure to get to Confession." Brother Ignatious Mary. [source: http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:sSUbCoyZi_QJ:www.saint-mike.org/spcdc/bbs/topic.asp%3FARCHIVE%3Dtrue%26TOPIC_ID%3D616+%22if+you+sin,+go+to+confession%22&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&client=firefox-a

So what's the obstacle to Catholics saying: "If you have gay sex, wear a condom!"

Kosh3 said...

"But to repeat: the 'god's retribution' stuff strikes me as rather askew to both the official teachings and the 'spirit' of Catholicism, with which I happen to be somewhat more familiar than with Southern Baptism or Evangelicalism or Pentecostalism or what not."

Go on? I don't see how it is contrary to the spirit of Catholicism. After all, unrepentant sinners will suffer eternal retribution.

anticant said...

You seem to be missing a couple of points.

First, the Catholic Church is [it claims] the Universal Church. It does not just address specific congregations, it speaks in God's name to the whole world.

Second, the ban on condoms or any other contraception [except tbe "rhythm method", aka menstrual roulette] applies to all sexual intercourse - not just to gay sex.

So frankly I find much of the discussion on this thread rather pointless. Either you buy the Church's claim to Divine Authority or you don't. If you don't, why niggle over the fine print of its pronouncements? What has to be hammered away at is the anti-social - indeed, lethal - consequences of much Catholic teaching about sex.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Steve:

You're saying:

'But this is not a philosophical matter. Philosophers don't discuss this issue among each other, other than if at least one of them happens to be RC. To everyone else, it is perfectly bloody obvious that the official RC position is stupid and pernicious.'

Well, let's strike a compromise, won't you? 'It's not only a philosophical matter'.

But, by the way, to me 'philosophical matters' is not even nearly-synonymous with 'unserious matters', 'gentleman-game-like matters' and such. This might---I am saying only 'might'---be more in the spirit of Anglo-Saxon philosophy (see my comment on your 'Continental philosophy' posting) but not in the spirit of let us say Socratic philosophy; and you certainly know how that man (Socrates) lived and died, don't you.

Silly---granted. (Because of I Corinthians 1, 23, and a host of other reasons.)

Pernicious, or 'lethal' as somebody has written---well, I dunno. Rather than armchair-philosophise (here I am giving up my own safe position), let's do some empirical, field research.

Here is what I mean: In Africa, as much as elsewhere, there are serious, right-thinking, thoughtful Catholics (Roman) who after having given the matter more than just one careful thought have decided that they must dissent from the official line of the Church (THEIR Church) re preservatives (and many other things thereabouts). Note well, I am not referring to people who out of laziness or inertia describe themselves as Catholics (but at bottom don't really care about all that incense, nonsense and stuff...) but those who really and reflectingly are Catholics.

It's not a hypothesis, I know such people personally, some of them are or have been my friends.

Now, after finding a significant number of such people (in Africa), we should examine how effective they have been in NON-spreading HIV and thereby also AIDS (and other sexual diseases). How many cases of HIV transmission did NOT occur due to those people's approval of condoms.

.... Well? Anybody volunteering to do the 'hard work' of actual field-research?...

Now, not that I want anticipate or still less influence the results of a field-study like that, but: my guess would be that such people would turn out to be very, very effective in NON-spreading HIV.

But---I surmise,again---they would be so simply by not being promiscuous, by not `sleeping around'. With or without condoms, well, with, in their case.

See, Steve, you are quite right in your assertion that these two:

1. you must not be promiscuous
2. if you are promiscuous, you may/must wear a condom


are NOT inconsistent. They need not, at least, for 2. can be vacuously true (as logicians call it), which it is, for certain groups of people, such as the one described above, or anyone who approves of condoms but disapproves of promiscuity (which is not the same as abstinence, celibacy) and takes his own approv- and disapprovals seriously.

The Atheist Missionary said...

anticant, I think the point is that the RC Church could save thousands (if not millions) of lives by using the same rationale that it uses for confession when it comes to the use of condoms: "Don't sin but, if you sin, confess". Quite frankly, the sense I am getting from this discussion is just how poorly informed the Vatican is when it comes to issues which, if managed better from a public relations standpoint, could assist in spreading their worldview. The teenage promiscuity example is perfect. People don't want their teenagers out having sex and will do everything in their power to make sure that doesn't happen. However, recognizing that it could happen, any parent who truly loves their child will also make sure that their kids know that the use of condoms can prevent the transmission of HIV. The implication of this analogy is troubling: the RC Church doesn't give a shit about the lives of its flock. To be fair, I guess that's consistent with belief in a glorious afterlife.

The Atheist Missionary said...

WZ, why bother to do the field research? Just look at the effect of "abstinence-only" education on U.S. teenage birth rates: http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE52H67H20090318I would say the same thing to you and the RC Church: If you are in a hole, stop digging.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Steve:

You're writing:

'Your comment: "We ought not to be so opinionated on topics we don't know much about" also seems odd given we are talking about policies on which thousands of lives hang. When it's obvious the RC is just wrong (and it is), we can and should say so. It would be wrong to hold out tongues.'

Well, of course it would, please do speak out... .

There is an Old Norse saying, you know, the Vikings and stuff: 'tunga fyrst hovudbani', the tongue is the first 'bane' of the head, i. e. the first step to having one's head chopped off, but we are not living in Viking's times, thanks goodness.

And please note well that I am not basically against what you're saying, I just point out (what I think to be) a few quite insignificant weak points in your position, things of little relevance, which you will remove by means of a subtle distinction or whatever other intellectual instruments are at your disposal... .


'We need no more be familiar with the endless intricacies of Catholic theology in order to justifiably vent that opinion than we need be familiar with the various nuances of National Socialism to know that the Final Solution was wrong.'

Well, this seems to me a bit over-stretched. ... I don't want to get too personal in this gentlemanly discussion, but I'd sordda hope for more famous English self-mastery.

The reason why your comparison is over-stretched (I think) is that there is not much evidence (afaik) to the effect that most (or many enough) cases of AIDS in Africa are causally due to Africans' faithfulness (not to their spouses, this by hypothesis not) but to the Papal teaching re condoms and their practical, conscious adherence to those teaching.

Maybe such evidence is abundant, please disabuse me on this point if I'm totally wrong.

Analogous evidence for the Final Solution and its causal connection with German National Socialism is, by contrast, much easier and much more copiously available, to my knowledge.... .

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Hi Steve,

you're saying:

WZ: "Such things, embedded in the proper context, are being said by (Catholic) parents, educators, chaplains, confessors etc., but --- embedded in the respective proper contexts. On the level of papal teaching, however, it would HAVE to be out of every context (you don't expect Ban Kyi-Moon to pronounce good council what with the 'ravers' problem in Madchester, do you?) and hence---confusing."

sorry for being cryptic.

I wished to say: there are 'general teachings' delivered by Pope and other such figures, the Council, like, and such. And there are 'particular teachings', tailor-made as it were, for particular groups of cases, sometimes rather narrowly, somewhat more broadly defined, on which Pope or the Council do not say anything but on which bishop, parish priest, chaplains, and so on, can and do talk with people who are interested in their counselling.

The 'raves' in Manchester (certain parts of it, which earned the city the name of Madchester), the concomitant (or subsequent) jolly-rides and other forms of juvenile deliquency used to be a serious problem in that city in the eightties, I dunno if they still are. Hope no longer. Anyway, no matter how serious such things be, you cannot expect Ban Kyi-Moon to have things to say thereon, maybe UNICEF, or WHO or whatever other Department of the UNO is in charge of such-like, and not even that on the top-level. I don't know if this helps.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Atheist Missionary

`WZ, why bother to do the field research? Just look at the effect of "abstinence-only" education on U.S. teenage birth rates: http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE52H67H20090318I would say the same thing to you and the RC Church: If you are in a hole, stop digging'

Thank you. I somehow prefer first-hand evidence (in things empirical, at least) to second-hand evidence, you see....

But talking about digging... will you help this fool to undig the direct relevance of this piece of reuters-news with the topic currently under discussion? Thanks.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Anti-Cant

'claim to Divine Authority or you don't. If you don't, why niggle over the fine print of its pronouncements?'

I quite agree with you. A hundred percent. But the trouble is, you see, that some folks think the RC Church should deliver more pronouncements... .

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3:

'Go on? I don't see how it is contrary to the spirit of Catholicism. After all, unrepentant sinners will suffer eternal retribution.'

Yes --- but AIDS is not ETERNAL (as far as I know, at least....).

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Anticant

'Second, the ban on condoms or any other contraception [except tbe "rhythm method", aka menstrual roulette] applies to all sexual intercourse - not just to gay sex.'

well, to be precise, the RC Church condemns ALL contraception, be it condoms, or the rhythm method, or Russian roulette or what not. This is not part of its religious dogma, but of its moral teachings.


But that's beside the point. We're talking about condoms as HIV-transmission-prevention means not as contraceptive means.

Stephen Law said...

Hi WZ

I don't doubt there are many good Catholics who say "Don't be promiscuous, but if you are, use a condom." Good for them. They are not saying "Don't have sex at all" and they are not saying "Don't use a condom".

You agree that by taking this position they probably will have a big effect in reducing HIV/AIDS: "my guess would be that such people would turn out to be very, very effective in NON-spreading HIV."

But then, puzzlingly, you add that this might well just be because they are promoting non-promiscuity, and not to do with their also recommending condom use.

But if you think it likely that such a combined policy will have a big impact on HIV/AIDS, but you are not sure whether it is dropping the chastity requirement or dropping the no-condom requirement that will have this effect, shouldn't you then do both, as these Catholics do?

Shouldn't the RC Church?

You yourself now guess that the no-sex-outside-marriage rule and the no-condoms-or-contraceptives rule in combination are costing many lives. Both rules are unjustifiable - indeed - silly. To sacrifice many lives to such silly dogmas (whichever one is the bigger problem) is, I suggest, morally wrong.

Re evidence for the effectiveness of allowing condom use: Surely, even a priori, we should expect a blanket prohibition by the RC on condom use to produce many more cases of HIV/AIDS in Catholic strongholds, and for several reasons, including that condoms are not then easily available to those RCs and non-RCs that are going to have sex (gay and non-gay) whatever the RC says.

Kosh3 said...

"Yes --- but AIDS is not ETERNAL (as far as I know, at least....)."

and therefore it is against the spirit of the Catholic church to secretly want for the suffering of sinners by temporary punishment? I don't think human pscyhology works that way at all!!!

Stephen Law said...

WZ: "some folks think the RC Church should deliver more pronouncements... . "

I think it should deliver one less pronouncement: drop the prohibition on condom use. I don't mind so much if it carries on saying (very ineffectively) "No sex outside marriage" etc. as people aren't paying much attention to that in any case.

Kosh3 said...

Incidentally, to add one point, one can understand the ethics of condom opposition here much better on a deontic than consequentialist account.

Stephen Law said...

..or, more accurately, change pronouncements (given I'd prefer the RC to drop the no condom pronoucement and positively recommend condom use in certain circumstances).

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Steve

Hi. Thank you for your query:

'"If you sin, go to Confession and be restored to a State of Grace. I would advise going to confession around once per month or so if you can. Certainly, if you commit a serious sin, be sure to get to Confession." Brother Ignatious Mary. [source: http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:sSUbCoyZi_QJ:www.saint-mike.org/spcdc/bbs/topic.asp%3FARCHIVE%3Dtrue%26TOPIC_ID%3D616+%22if+you+sin,+go+to+confession%22&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&client=firefox-a'

We're embarking upon a truly rabbinic-midrashic debate here, good grief!... Well, I'd remind of what I have said previously: there are 'official', 'top-most'-teachings of the Church and various less than topmost-ones, such as the one you quote, which, without contradicting the former, make them more precise, more easily applicable, more suitable, more fitting various particular circumstances, but not necessarily publishable as they stand on the general level of Papal instruction. Take that 'un with 'once a month'. Go to confession once a month --- that may be OK in today's USA (is it? I ignore) but in areas where oppression, deprivation, aggression and other circumstances giving rise to temptation and to sin (in the Catholic sense) are everyday stuff (say in a place like Chechnya or similar), such advice will be ridiculous or plainly wrong... .

In the case in point, your monk is giving advice in an entirely informal discussion list where no-one's credentials (or the purity of intentions) can be checked, where language is sloppy, thoughts are curly... . Imagine someone would jump to conclusions about what 'Philosophy' has to say on various problems on the basis of an informal exchange like this one... . Wouldn't we have a good laugh, at least you and me? And I am not saying that the pious Brother is saying anything basically wrong, but his speech is very very informal and context-dependent... .

Then, there is a truly rabbinic problem with the tense. 'If you sin', says the clergyman. In our condom-examples, we were saying, 'if you are going to have sex', 'if you choose to have sex' and such-like, with clear reference to choice, decision, in short: future. Here, we have simple present, which (I would say without being able to give you undeniable evidence) has the force of the Present Perfect tense: If you have sinned. Not: going to sin, not: will sin, choose to sin,or such like, but have sinned -- and again, the advice to confess the sin already committed has, for a thoughtful Catholic, little sense if the sin is not already acknowledged as such, and repented, contemplated as something I would not do again, if I had a a chance... . If I don't repent, I'll only laugh at his 'go to confession'... . Mind your own bidness, buddy, I'd say.

OK, like rabbinic Judaism, Catholicism is complex (just think of the Roman Law component in it...), you're saying; 'too complex' and why bother if the Final Solution... etc. But I have set forth my uneasiness (to understate the matter) with your Final Solution analogy in a previous posting.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Steve

'..or, more accurately, change pronouncements (given I'd prefer the RC to drop the no condom pronoucement and positively recommend condom use in certain circumstances).'

yyyeah, I sordda agree, so maybe we CAN find a compromise somehow, but those recommmendations would have to be very very carefully worded, and wrapped---linguistically---in such a way as to avoid any suggestion of encouraging promiscuity, and to avoid confusing the faithful. See what I am driving at? 'You must not kidnap, but if you do, treat the kidnappees well' --- it does sort of create the impression as if kidnapping were in a way put up with... . Wombat was right to note that we usually separate such regulations by many paragraphs, exactly for the sake of avoiding a suggestion like that... .

The difference is, that for you promiscuity (or what the Catholics call so) is OK, whereas kidnapping isn't (at least I strongly hope so...).

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3


'Incidentally, to add one point, one can understand the ethics of condom opposition here much better on a deontic than consequentialist account.'

Yeah, this is probably correct, although the latter (consequentialism) is not my forte, but it kinda seems to me you're right.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3

'and therefore it is against the spirit of the Catholic church to secretly want for the suffering of sinners by temporary punishment? I don't think human pscyhology works that way at all!!!'

Oh well... . Do you really think all suffering is always a Bad Thing?... .

But no, no right-minded Catholic will ever relish the thought that someone suffers just for the case of suffering... . The very idea would have been laughable if the topic had not been so sad.... . You seem to have conversed with very wayward Catholics, if any, where do they flourish? (So that I may know which places to avoid...).

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Steve

Hi Steve

Your text in single quotes ('...')


'I don't doubt there are many good Catholics who say "Don't be promiscuous, but if you are, use a condom." Good for them. They are not saying "Don't have sex at all" and they are not saying "Don't use a condom".

You agree that by taking this position they probably will have a big effect in reducing HIV/AIDS: "my guess would be that such people would turn out to be very, very effective in NON-spreading HIV." '

Yes. They personally will make the proposition 'if you are promiscuous, use condoms' vacuously true, i.e. true in virtue of the falsity of the protasis.

But this is just my guess. I may well be wrong. On my opinion on guesses and a priori see below.

'But then, puzzlingly, you add that this might well just be because they are promoting non-promiscuity, and not to do with their also recommending condom use.'

Well, that should not and need not be so puzzling. The thing is simple: thoughtful, serious Catholics are usually more serious about their own moral principles and therefore tend to (not a hundred percent, of course) to live by them. Thoughtful, serious people are always somehow more faithful to whatever they have decided to believe in. There are, I am told, statistics that show that the general moral level of Atheists in the US is higher than the general level of Christians (in the US). This I willingly believe, or am ready to believe---the US is, after all, a traditionally Christian country, so if you are a conscious, serious Atheist, you have acquired your principles by your own hard work and cherish them more dearly... .

'But if you think it likely that such a combined policy will have a big impact on HIV/AIDS, but you are not sure whether it is dropping the chastity requirement or dropping the no-condom requirement that will have this effect, shouldn't you then do both, as these Catholics do?'

These Catholics do not drop the chastity requirement ('chastity' does not mean 'no sex', but 'no extramarital sex', please note). In the contrary, they persevere (let us say) in their adherence to this requirement. This, exactly this, makes them score so well in non-HIV-disseminating. But, the trouble is, that such Catholics are by the very nature of things a rather rare species, most people simply don't care about what 'their' church or some authority to which they (sometimes) pay a lip-service teaches, they just want to have a 'happy romp' and get away withit. I don't know if Pope or the Council objects to such people being instructed on condoms and what not by some Department of Public Health or some other public, secular organization. After all, even the Catholic Church has put up with the Church-State separation. Such people just won't listen if the Church were to tell them 'wear condoms', for, firstly, they've heard it innumerably many times before from other sources, and secondly, they don't give a d* about what the Church is saying. So it's 'Love's Labour Lost', to quote Will.

'Shouldn't the RC Church?'

Well, I think the Church should, indeed, say something like this: 'If you don't care about our teachings, please do care about those of your respective Department of Public Health (or whatever it is called)'. Yes, and the Church has already said such things many times, but not officially, not loudly, not clearly enough.... (Here, it does not help if the Church is constantly being disparaged, bashed and ridiculed by the secular powers, including those that cover the respective Department of Public Health. People won't take seriously a pronouncement like 'If you don't listen to us, listen to them' if everybody knows that those 'them' are constantly contemptuous if not inimical to the Church --- there is nothing inconsistent in a 'speech act setting' like that one, but simple minds will see it different.)

'You yourself now guess that the no-sex-outside-marriage rule and the no-condoms-or-contraceptives rule in combination are costing many lives. Both rules are unjustifiable - indeed - silly. To sacrifice many lives to such silly dogmas (whichever one is the bigger problem) is, I suggest, morally wrong.'

Here, we're entering the terrain of what the German calls _Grundsatzdiskussion_, a discussion on (first) principles. I'd rather not, that would lead us too far afield.

These silly moral teachings (not dogmas!) in combination might have cost many lives, but the second 'un alone (without the first) would have cost much more, I am afraid... . Now people adhere and will adhere to the second principle without the first, for a variety of reasons ... .

'Re evidence for the effectiveness of allowing condom use: Surely, even a priori,'

well, yeah, a priori... . We philosophers are good in predicting various things a priori, and we are almost invariably wrong.


' we should expect a blanket prohibition by the RC on condom use to produce many more cases of HIV/AIDS in Catholic strongholds,'


We should expect, ... OK, after a time of expectation, let's see the evidence. Where is it? Poland, for one, counts as one of Catholicism's 'strongholds' in Europe, yet it has comparatively few cases of AIDS. How come, d'you think? Because condoms are available everywhere (which they, indeed, are)?

'and for several reasons, including that condoms are not then easily available'

which countries are you specifically alluding to, if I may ask?

'to those RCs and non-RCs that are going to have sex (gay and non-gay) whatever the RC says.'

Yes --- exactly, whatever the Church says. But if this be so, why 'expect' (to use a philosopher's favourite word) the Church will bother to 'say' anything more?

This is the point I have been urging from the beginning: for those who don't care, all teachings and precept-givings of the RCC is 'Love's Labour Lost', to quote the great poet.

Stephen Law said...

"Yes, and the Church has already said such things many times, but not officially, not loudly, not clearly enough."

That's my point. The Church should say it clearly, loudly and, above all, officially. Do we disagree?!

You may add "but the Church should be cautious about not appearing to condone homosexuality, promiscuity, etc." Fine by me (well, not really, but for the purposes of this discussion, OK).

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Hi Steve,

`"Yes, and the Church has already said such things many times, but not officially, not loudly, not clearly enough."


That's my point. The Church should say it clearly, loudly and, above all, officially. Do we disagree?!'

funny, I used to think the English do not use exclamation marks... .

But do we disagree? As I said at the beginning of this discussion, there is a problem in this whole bunch of issues... . The Church should find a way to say something like `If you won't listen to us, listen to them' (i. e. the Governments, etc.), but don't expect it to find it very soon... for various reasons, good and bad. I don't regard it as an urgent issue with respect to the prospectively-to-be-infected Africans, because, for the reasons set forth above, I don't think the Church is actually doing much harm (give me empirical evidence, if you think I am blatantly wrong) Maybe to its image in the laicist press....





You may add "but the Church should be cautious about not appearing to condone homosexuality, promiscuity, etc." Fine by me (well, not really, but for the purposes of this discussion, OK).

OK, all the better.

The Atheist Missionary said...

WZ wrote: See what I am driving at? 'You must not kidnap, but if you do, treat the kidnappees well' --- it does sort of create the impression as if kidnapping were in a way put up with.Not at all. The UN has prescribed Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/h_comp34.htmI presume that the RC Church would have no difficulty advocating for the humane treatment of prisoners even if it disagreed with the reason why they are being imprisoned.

Your request for empirical evidence to support the notion that prohibiting condom use exacerbates the spread of HIV strikes me as ludicrous. That's like me asking for proof that seatbelts will save lives if I tell everyone to drive no faster than 20 km an hour.

wombat said...

The modern RCC seems to have missed an opportunity that its earlier self, having introduced such devices as selling of indulgences, classifying frogs as fish so you could eat them on Fridays and so on,, would have eagerly embraced. i.e. the use of official Catholic blessed condoms. Perhaps with suitably terrifying images in the style of Bosch on the packets and salutary messages on the wrappers - "Abandon hope all ye who enter.." ?

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Wombat

'frogs as fish so you could eat them on Fridays '

Beavers -- Lent. I know this funny story with 'beavers' and 'Lent' rather than 'frogs' and 'Fridays'.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Atheist Missionary

OK, but kidnapping and taking prisoners (in the sense of the UN resolution you are quoting) are two different things, arent' they? The latter document pertains to 'a model system of penal institutions' whereas your typical kidnappers are no institutions, let alone penal... .

'I presume that the RC Church would have no difficulty advocating for the humane treatment of prisoners even if it disagreed with the reason why they are being imprisoned.'

But given that you despise the RC Church so much --- why do you require that it should stick its nose into matters that are somebody else's bidness?

But yes --- it has been so advocating, at least since the 'Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes' stuff, thirteenth century.... .


'Your request for empirical evidence to support the notion that prohibiting condom use exacerbates the spread of HIV strikes me as ludicrous.'

Well --- as I carefully explained during my exchange with Stephen, I was referring to the to-be-expected decrease in the number of infections not in generally, but amongst those Catholics who are at all responsive to the teachings of the RC Church ('who at all care what that Church is teaching'). And again, I have set forth my doubts concerning this specific problem. You see? It's not whether, If more promiscuous people (or a larger percentage of them, which is not the same) used condoms, there would be less infections (there probably would, indeed) but whether a parallel decrease would take place amongst Catholics and AS A RESULT OF, not something else, but precisely a pro-condom pronouncement of the Catholic Church. That was 'the heart of darkness'... .

Kosh3 said...

WC:"Oh well... . Do you really think all suffering is always a Bad Thing?..."

Certainly not. But I think putting oneself to the risk of suffering AIDS in order to be obedient to the Catholic church is terrible.

"But no, no right-minded Catholic will ever relish the thought that someone suffers just for the case of suffering... . The very idea would have been laughable if the topic had not been so sad.... . You seem to have conversed with very wayward Catholics, if any, where do they flourish? (So that I may know which places to avoid...)."

"Relish" is overstated. Perhaps 'feel quietly satisfied with, at some inner level' is more along the lines of what I envision. And no, no right minded person should think such things, but that then just part of the danger of the pathology of religion. And to re-emphasis something I hope you have not missed, this is all unstated.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3

'"Relish" is overstated. Perhaps 'feel quietly satisfied with, at some inner level' is more along the lines of what I envision.'

How does it really differ from 'relish'? But let us not quarrel over words, I withdraw 'relish'.

But there is something in what you're saying; however, it matters why that person is satisfied: just because the 'sinner' is suffering? Or maybe for some other reason? Maybe because (s)he hopes that the 'sinner' will correct him- or herself? Similar is observable without religious context, read 'wrongdoer' instead of 'sinner' then.

'And no, no right minded person should think such things, but that then just part of the danger of the pathology of religion.'

Aah, so we're talking about pathologies of religion now; formerly I thought we were talking about religion (without 'pathologies of')...

' And to re-emphasis something I hope you have not missed, this is all unstated.'


Sure, I have not missed that; however, if 'unstated' then ---- well, then 'imputed', presumably, and then, the one who imputes should ask her- or himself if his or her intentions are quite pure in that imputing.... . It is easy to impute various evil things to other people, in particular those whom one dislikes, but is that really such an innocent enteprise? A Catholic would say such spiteful, vindictive imputations are sin ... . (I am NOT imputing anything to you personally, btw.)

Kosh3 said...

WC:But there is something in what you're saying; however, it matters why that person is satisfied: just because the 'sinner' is suffering? Or maybe for some other reason? Maybe because (s)he hopes that the 'sinner' will correct him- or herself? Similar is observable without religious context, read 'wrongdoer' instead of 'sinner' then.Punishment by AIDS is the best way god could think up to get people not to use condoms? Well, I suppose that does make about as much sense as many other things in Christianity...

"Sure, I have not missed that; however, if 'unstated' then ---- well, then 'imputed', presumably, and then, the one who imputes should ask her- or himself if his or her intentions are quite pure in that imputing.... . It is easy to impute various evil things to other people, in particular those whom one dislikes, but is that really such an innocent enteprise? A Catholic would say such spiteful, vindictive imputations are sin ... . (I am NOT imputing anything to you personally, btw.)"Reasons for imputing:
-to give (or to contribute towards) an explanation of what is to non-religious eyes a disastrous and quite extraordinary policy of the Catholic church.
-its a priori plausibility, given human psychology.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3


'WC:"Oh well... . Do you really think all suffering is always a Bad Thing?..."

Certainly not. But I think putting oneself to the risk of suffering AIDS in order to be obedient to the Catholic church is terrible.'

Yes --- and it is terribly foolish, at that. But again, as I explained many times over in my exchange with Steve, I don't think it likely that someone should be at the same time obedient to the no-condom teaching of the Church and DISobedient to the (much older, much better-known, much more central and much more fundamental) no-adultery teaching of that very same Church.

This is not to deny, let me concede this, that such cases, unlikely as they be, might at times happen. There is a German proverb, very useful to all philosophers: 'es gibt nichts, was es nicht gibt', literally, 'there is nothing that there is not', i. e. everything, most weirdest things of all, do happen occasionally. Men bite dogs, rabbits put snakes to flight (there is a funny YouTube movie featuring exactly that)... . It can be, and has in fact recently happened in Germany, that a man gets seduced by a beautiful woman who happens to be AIDS infected, and, acting without all due self-control, forgets to slip on the rubber (just because he can't think clearly, not because he is a Catholic, which he is most likely not). And then... .

Well, such things do happen `and overcome us like summer's clouds' to quote Will. But they are vastly exceptional. Whereas people like Steve, the Atheist Missionary and many many others mount accusation against the Church involving mass murder, trigger-pulling, Nazi Final Solution, and such like.... . This I find a bit over-done, to be frank (you see, I like my 'steak in the society well-, but not over-done...').

Now, another aspect of things is: What does the Catholic Church do about those vastly exceptional individuals who (unCatholically) fornicate, but (Catholically) abhor condoms? Or those, who are faithful but whose spouses are ill? Or similar relatively rare cases? Well, it does something, it finds tailor-made solution, up to, and including, distributing condoms, afaik. But this is being done without great publicitity, to avoid 'sending mixed signals' to the faithful at large. Of course, you can say, it is still not enough, the Church is not working hard enough on that... . Well, I admit that there is large rooom for improvement still... .

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3


'.Punishment by AIDS is the best way god could think up to get people not to use condoms? Well, I'

But that's begging the question, sir. Who ever spoke of 'punishment by AIDS'? It's sounds---again, with all due respect for things I don't really understand---vaguely Evangelical or some other U.S.-Protestant, not Catholic, to me.


'Reasons for imputing:
-to give (or to contribute towards) an explanation of what is to non-religious eyes a disastrous and quite extraordinary policy of the Catholic church.
-its a priori plausibility, given human psychology.'

Sorry, I am gradually getting lost: whose human psychology is that, the Catholics' or the anti-Catholics'? I thought we were talking about the motives of imputing evil things by anti-Catholics to Catholics, not the other way 'round, am I wrong?

'Human psychology' should not come in here. I was saying (maybe not clearly enough, I am not a native English speaker, you see): whenever John Smith imputes anything, in particular anything evil, to Tom Bull, he should ask himself: 'Why am I imputing to him that (evil) thing?' And if the answer is 'Just because I hate him', he should ... well, he should think twice about his imputations. This independently of whether both or either are Catholic, Protestant, Shinto, Agnostic, Atheist, Vegan, Young Earth Creationists, stamp collectors or what not.

But I don't want to be selling my morality to you, sorry.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3

''.Punishment by AIDS is the best way god could think up to get people not to use condoms?'

As your rightly (imho) noted in another posting, Catholic ethics is not consequentialist. There are various acts which it qualifies as 'sin', great many of which have various unpleasant (to say the least) consequences. People seized by (sinful) cupiditity of material goods accumulate huge debts, under which they labour afterwards ('Is there life after debt?' --- Newsweek's quip).

But no god, at least no Catholic god, has thought up debt as punishment for greed and concomitant sins. Nor are they sinful because they lead (as to their natural consequences) to debt (well they lead to us having all those beautiful toys and gadgets and gizmoes around us, is that such a bad thing?...)

Or sports. The Catholic god punishing those excessively concerned about their physical fitness by 'athlete's foot' and similar diseases?

These are not the lines along which a Catholic ethicist will think. But you must remember that in your milieu, amongst your Catholic friends and acquaintances you'll always find people, well-meaning or ill-meaning, fact-deprived or cynical as the case may be, who do say such things. People say various things, and there is no limit to human foolishness... .

Kosh3 said...

"But that's begging the question, sir. Who ever spoke of 'punishment by AIDS'? It's sounds---again, with all due respect for things I don't really understand---vaguely Evangelical or some other U.S.-Protestant, not Catholic, to me."

The Catholics I am imputing responses to. I suppose it could be that there just so happens to be this thing called AIDS, created by god (along with all other things), but not specifically in order to bring retribution to sinners who engage in carnal pleasures like sex (it just so happens to do that though), and that this is what is first thought of by the Catholics who find some secret satisfaction in knowing sinners suffer from their sinful ways. Fine - but that does not preclude the other beliefs about things as well, where it is believed AIDS was placed in the world by god quite knowing that it would bring misery to sinners.

"Sorry, I am gradually getting lost: whose human psychology is that, the Catholics' or the anti-Catholics'? I thought we were talking about the motives of imputing evil things by anti-Catholics to Catholics, not the other way 'round, am I wrong?"

Both: non-Catholics have hidden and unstated biases and prejudices just the same as Catholics do about all kinds of things. It is a human thing. Surely you recognise this.

"whenever John Smith imputes anything, in particular anything evil, to Tom Bull, he should ask himself: 'Why am I imputing to him that (evil) thing?' And if the answer is 'Just because I hate him', he should ... well, he should think twice about his imputations. This independently of whether both or either are Catholic, Protestant, Shinto, Agnostic, Atheist, Vegan, Young Earth Creationists, stamp collectors or what not."

Of course. And what I proposed was two reasons, unrelated to any distaste of Catholicism, that warrant consideration of what we have been talking about: a resistance to recommending condom use, in virtue of other beliefs held about god, sin, and punishment.

Stephen Law said...

Hi again WZ

Your initial objection was to the suggestion that if the RC was to change its official line on condom use, many lives would be saved as a result.

Let's sum up so far:

1. We have established (contrary to a worry you expressed initially) that there is in general no contradiction involved in saying "You ought not to X, but if you do, you ought to Y".

2. You have now conceded that were RCs to change position and say "Don't be promiscuous, and if you have sex use a condom": "my guess would be that such people would turn out to be very, very effective in NON-spreading HIV". In other words, your guess is that by RCs dropping official RC policy and prohibiting neither sex outside marriage nor condom use, many lives would be saved. In other words, their sticking to official RC policy will cost many lives. That, at least, is a consequence of your best guess. Quite a concession.

3. Neverthless, you doubt whether the RC officially just changing its line on condom use *alone* would have much effect. Which is the specific issue at hand. This, as you say, an empirical question, to which evidence can and should be brought to bear.

What about this: Catholics like to point out that in Africa HIV transmission rates are no higher in Catholic countries than in non-Catholic countries.

This strongly suggests that Catholic policy on abstinence outside of marriage is being pretty much ignored (otherwise, the transmission rate would be much lower). There's about as much sinful sex going on in RC countries as in non-RC countries. This supports what other data also supports (though the RC deny it): abstinence policies aren't effective (or aren't very effective) in controlling HIV.

In addition, there is evidence that condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV transmission (though the RC deny this - in the teeth of the evidence!), and also that condom promotion programmes are effective in controlling HIV.

Put this evidence together, and it strongly suggests that while the RC's abstinence position is going to be largely ignored, its promotion of condom use would not be. Were it to promote condom use where abstinence is not followed, that would be effective in controlling HIV(it is, indeed, effective when other bodies promote that policy - so why wouldn't it be if RC were to promote it?).

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3

'I suppose it could be that there just so happens to be this thing called AIDS, created by god (along with all other things)'


here we are touching the difficult topic of theodicy, the nature of evil, and such like... . Since Augutine's times it is 'received doctrine' in the Christian churches that God did not create any evil, because evil is not (is no being). Shall we talk about Leibniz, perhaps? It's getting very very philosophical... . Maybe Steve can help us.

', but not specifically in order to bring retribution to sinners who engage in carnal pleasures like sex (it just so happens to do that though),'

well, more than 'just so happens'---there are laws of nature explaining that.

'and that this is what is first thought of by the Catholics who find some secret satisfaction in knowing sinners suffer from their sinful ways.'

They should confess that, such satisfaction is sinful (I guess, without being a moral theologian, just from general formality with Catholic teachings and practices.)

' Fine - but that does not preclude the other beliefs about things as well, where it is believed AIDS was placed in the world by god quite knowing that it would bring misery to sinners.'

No, unfortunately not, yet I insist, they are not Catholic. They might be cherished by some ill-informed or misled Catholics, sure thing.


'Both: non-Catholics have hidden and unstated biases and prejudices just the same as Catholics do about all kinds of things. It is a human thing. Surely you recognise this.'

Yes I of course do, sadly, but Catholics have one motive (viz., confession, and the antecedent conscience-examination) more, which others don't have, to fight against such biases and prejudices.

'Of course. And what I proposed was two reasons, unrelated to any distaste of Catholicism, that warrant consideration of what we have been talking about: a resistance to recommending condom use, in virtue of other beliefs held about god, sin, and punishment.'

no, I'd say the resistance has its roots elsewhere, first of all --- this I have been trying all along to make clear --- in the Catholic conception of human sexuality and its 'proper use', plus a number of other things. Catholicism, as distinct from some variants of Protestantism, is not so much about 'sin and punishment', it's a more joyful, more life-affirming variant of Christanity, it's---well---'gayer'... .

The reluctance to comment condoms on the level of Papal teachings---I have several times tried to make clear its rationale. Obviously, I failed. To repeat, in the form I started off this whole thread:

1. You must not be promiscuous
2. If you are promiscuous, use condoms

it would be either inconsistent or ineffective:

Those Catholics who care about their Catholicism, and are responsive to Papal teachings at all are, as a rule, not promiscuous, so 2. would be vacuously true for them, and Pope could just as well teach them to paint elephants pink or what have you; those Catholics, by contrast, who do not care won't care about any new Vatican pronouncements, and all the less so non-Catholics. Nay, I even hypothesized that on some non-Catholics the pronouncement you require would have an adverse impact: 'If these asinine fools, and criminals, mass murderers and what not, the Popists, recommend condoms, then they--the Popists and the condoms---must be wrong; after all they also teach that the Earth is flat, the Darwin was created by god, and other such bullsh*, no, I won't use condoms any more'... .

But this may be far-fetched, I dunno.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Hi again WZ

Hi Steve, your text for me to respond to in single quotes ('...')

'Your initial objection was to the suggestion that if the RC was to change its official line on condom use, many lives would be saved as a result.'

Not quite initial, maybe, but an objection it was.


'1. We have established (contrary to a worry you expressed initially) that there is in general no contradiction involved in saying "You ought not to X, but if you do, you ought to Y".'

Well, depends. I have not the feeling the have quite established it, but we have found a way out: make the part after 'but' vacuously true. Much of the rest depends on your conception(s) of deontic logic, which is a tricky issue in itself.


'2. You have now conceded that were RCs to change position and say "Don't be promiscuous, and if you have sex use a condom": "my guess would be that such people would turn out to be very, very effective in NON-spreading HIV". In other words, your guess is that by RCs dropping official RC policy and prohibiting neither sex outside marriage nor condom use, many lives would be saved.'

No, sorry, this is a grave misunderstanding. I obviously failed to express myself clearly. I only said, if the RC C dropped the condom ban or even positively allowed/enjoined its use. There are quite a few Catholics who on conscience reasons (not just because they're self-indulgent) reject the _Humanae Vitae_ teachings concerning condoms and certain other things, yet who at the same time cling fast to the Sixth Commandment. Serious Catholics (as distinct from: nominal Catholics, people who habitually describe themselves as Catholics,and so on,without caring much) who reject BOTH the condom ban AND the Sixth Commandment are methinks far rarer, I at least don't know any... . Now those who reject the condom prohib but not the Sixth commandment will be and are quite effective in non-spreading HIV, namely, not by using condoms, but by not sleeping around.

'In other words, their sticking to official RC policy will cost many lives.'

No, they were non-prommiscuous BEFORE they rejected the condom ban,and go on being so afterwards, in both cases saving (or rather: failing to destroy) the same number of lives.

'That, at least, is a consequence of your best guess. Quite a concession.'

This is a misunderstanding on your part, but I just clarified my point.

'3. Neverthless, you doubt whether the RC officially just changing its line on condom use *alone* would have much effect. Which is the specific issue at hand. This, as you say, an empirical question, to which evidence can and should be brought to bear.

What about this: Catholics like to point out that in Africa HIV transmission rates are no higher in Catholic countries than in non-Catholic countries.

This strongly suggests that Catholic policy on abstinence outside of marriage is being pretty much ignored (otherwise, the transmission rate would be much lower). There's about as much sinful sex going on in RC countries as in non-RC countries. This supports what other data also supports (though the RC deny it): abstinence policies aren't effective (or aren't very effective) in controlling HIV.'

Yes, but the point I have been urging from the outset is: those 'Catholics' who ignore the fundamental teachings of (allegedly) 'their' Church on chastity (not the same as abstinence, please kindly note) will not in the least care about any new pronouncements of the Church concerning condoms. They will not be in the least impressed. They may even think: OK, now 'they' condone free f*ing (otherwise 'they' wouldn't be saying 'if you free-f*...'), so it's high time I got rid of my deepest-hidden remorse about that' quickly forgetting about the '...but use condoms' part of the new teaching.

'In addition, there is evidence that condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV transmission (though the RC deny this - in the teeth of the evidence!), and also that condom promotion programmes are effective in controlling HIV.'

In a German (laicist) newspaper I have recently read that the probability of condoms' stopping an HIV virus is '90 p.c.'. Now I don't know how they measure probabilities in p.c. (I used to think they are measured in real number from 0 to 1) but if that were to mean that the probability of an HIV-virus NOT being stopped is 1/10 (one-tenth), then... its very very probable.... .

But, Steve, please understand, I am not frontally against condoms, or their propaganda; for the reasons I have carefully explained I don't know if propagating them is the Church's business.

'Put this evidence together, and it strongly suggests that while the RC's abstinence position is going to be largely ignored, its promotion of condom use would not be. Were it to promote condom use where abstinence is not followed, that would be effective in controlling HIV(it is, indeed, effective when other bodies promote that policy - so why wouldn't it be if RC were to promote it?).'

Why it would not? Because, as you rightly observed, the exacting teachings of the RC Church are little adhered-to.

See, the compromise we have struck was this: The Church should say something like: 'Do not fornicate, AND do not kill, neither yourself nor your neighbours, and for hints as to how not to kill turn not just to us but also to the Government, the Department of Public Health, Medecins sans Frontieres, W.H.O. and your friendly pharmacist around the corner, though he be a Protestant or an Atheist'. Well and good. But even this is not easy for the Church to say, given that:

1. In the past it has all too often compromised itself by entering too close alliances with various secular powers;

2. These secular powers to-day are sort of bent on ridiculing and disparaging the Church, making it appear worse than it is *even by purely secular, 'humanist', standards*. This makes it addtionally difficult for the Church to join in any campaign lead by those powers. Especially if suspicions are not quite unfounded that they (i. e. the powers) do have their hidden agenda, too.

Stephen Law said...

hi WZ. You said: "Yes, but the point I have been urging from the outset is: those 'Catholics' who ignore the fundamental teachings of (allegedly) 'their' Church on chastity (not the same as abstinence, please kindly note) will not in the least care about any new pronouncements of the Church concerning condoms."

I have just given you evidence that appears directly to contradict this.

Being chaste is an unrealistic expectation (evidence: abstinence programmes not terribly effective, and indeed RC countries have much the same incidence of HIV as non-RC countries). Using condoms is a realistic expectation (evidence shows that when promoted, they are used).

Thus the evidence does indeed suggest that were the Church to say "You should be chaste, but if you are not, use a condom, which is at least very effective in preventing HIV", people won't be chaste, but will follow the condom advice.

Stephen Law said...

{{ I said: "'1. We have established (contrary to a worry you expressed initially) that there is in general no contradiction involved in saying "You ought not to X, but if you do, you ought to Y".'

WZ replied: Well, depends. I have not the feeling the have quite established it, but we have found a way out: make the part after 'but' vacuously true. Much of the rest depends on your conception(s) of deontic logic, which is a tricky issue in itself."}}

We established it by means of various uncontentiously non-contradictory examples.

Your reference to technical issues in logic is just smokescreen.

Stephen Law said...

WZ: Incidentally, what is the distinction between chastity and abstinence, and why is it relevant here?

There is an explanation here:

http://www.reapteam.org/abstinence-vs-chastity

but I cannot see the relevence. By "abstinence programmes", I mean programmes recommending abstaining from sex outside of marriage (obviously such programmes don't say no sex at all!) But then "abstinence", thus understood, and chastity are pretty much the same thing (except maybe chastity also requires e.g. no impure thoughts while screwing your wife).

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Stephen


'Thus the evidence does indeed suggest that were the Church to say "You should be chaste, but if you are not, use a condom, which is at least very effective in preventing HIV", people won't be chaste, but will follow the condom advice.'

the evidence shows, at best, that if the Department of Public Health said that, people would use condoms, not that if the CHURCH said that they would... .

Re what we have established. I am afraid I can't share your position.

If you think that my reference to deontic logic is smokescreen then ... well then 'you can't be helped', as a German would say. It's your perfect right and your sovereign choice to think so, of course... .

Re abstinence vs. chastity; well, abstinence is in a sense a simple concept: no sex. In a sense. While chastity involves other things, does NOT imply no sex, and yes, does involve consideration concerning the purity or otherwise of thoughts, words and actions, and many others... .

Please note that the issue is orthogonal to that of Roman Catholicism, religion, atheism and such. People can choose to be chaste for various reasons, not necessarily connected to their religion, if any... .

By the way, in Uganda, some say, they have scored at least some success in propagating, not just condoms, but also faithfulness and abstinence, not necessarily out or religious, still less RC, motivations, AND also in lowering HIV-infection rates. Of course, it's controversial what was due to what, maybe had they propagated just C(ondoms), not A(bstinence) or B(e faithful) the rates would have gone even lower... .

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Stephen

Once again re abstinence-chastity.

I have had a look at the site you linked to your posting. Well, the girl seems to explain the thing quite well, afa I can tell... .

Now, one thing worth noting: from a point of view of a purely materialist-hedonist ethics, abstinence must seem an absurdity, nay, a 'sin' even, if that ethics has a counterpart of 'sin'. A wrongdoing to oneself, say.

But chastity? I don't understand so well about materialist-hedonists ethics, but it at least seems to me that to some variants thereof chastity MIGHT appear a positive value, more or less along the lines of: you don't have to be an anti-gourmet or an enemy of all gustatory pleasures to reject the practice of 'making oneself pigs over food' and such-like... . In the contrary.

Stephen Law said...

WZ, you said: "the evidence shows, at best, that if the Department of Public Health said that, people would use condoms, not that if the CHURCH said that they would... . "

The evidence strongly suggests that when organizations (charities, public health bodies, etc.) say such things as "Be chaste, and, if not, at least use a condom" that has a very positive impact in HIV rates.

Thus, until we are given some reason to suppose that HIV rates would NOT fall if the Church said the same sort of thing, it's reasonable to suppose that its saying such a thing would have much the same effect.

We do now have prima facie good evidence that the R.C. Church could have a major impact on HIV rates by saying such a thing.

You can of course just ignore this evidence if you want.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Stephen

'WZ, you said: "the evidence shows, at best, that if the Department of Public Health said that, people would use condoms, not that if the CHURCH said that they would... . "

The evidence strongly suggests that when organizations (charities, public health bodies, etc.) say such things as "Be chaste, and, if not, at least use a condom" that has a very positive impact in HIV rates.

Thus, until we are given some reason to suppose that HIV rates would NOT fall if the Church said the same sort of thing, it's reasonable to suppose that its saying such a thing would have much the same effect.'

Here is the reason: As you observed yourself, people generally disregard what the Church says. They disregard basic things; they will even more readily disregard its non-basic teaching, especially if it seems to contradict (or really contradicts) is basic teaching.

'We do now have prima facie good evidence that the R.C. Church could have a major impact on HIV rates by saying such a thing.'

But it's only prima facie, not secunda facie. A consideration like the above shows that secunda facie it's no evidence at all.

You remember the field-research I proposed? To be conducted among thoughtful, caring Catholics? Well, IT could deliver some relevant evidence.

'You can of course just ignore this evidence if you want.'

No, of course I shall not turn a blind eye on any evidence that comes my way. But the evidence which you quote (I haven't studied it so thoroughly, but I take your word for it) pertain to institutions which are officially in charge of making people's sexual life safer WHATEVER sexual ethics they live by (if any). Now the RC Church is not---for better or worse---such an institution. In the contrary, it has very exacting views on human sexuality, views which for instance to such a clever, brilliant, enlightened man like yourself appear silly, at best. So, it cannot speak and carry itself in quite the same manner in which secular institutions (which don't care about your sexual ethics) do. It can, however, make people more aware of their (those institutions') existence, and we have already agreed upon, although I don't believe it will help much.

See, you teach at Heythrop, you tell students how to philosophise, earn applause and admiration --- this is good, because you are in charge of all that and you are good at what you are in charge. But if you were, in your capacity of a University professor, to advise people with respect to interior decorating, or how to keep pets, or water flowers, or how to invest their money, or how to cheat on their spouses and not get caught or how to conduct cross-examinations under duress or the like --- do you think anybody would take you seriously?

Stephen Law said...

So when other organizations say "Be chaste, or, if you are not, wear a condom" this has a positive effect. But you maintain the Church saying the same thing won't have such an effect because - no one listens to it anyway?

That's ridiculous. True, people don't listen and obey when it comes to chastity. But there's an obvious reason for that. They do respond to papal calls to action on many other fronts (I can did up some examples if you like). But then there's every reason to believe they'd respond to this new injunction too.

Stephen Law said...

HI WZ

In part,the issue is not just that an injunction from the RC Church would be helpful, but that accurate information from the Church, such as that condoms are effective in stopping HIV infection (almost 100% one study of partners one of which was HIV positive showed) would be very helpful. Instead, the Church (the Pope) tells its flock that condoms are ineffective at preventing HIV transmission, because they are full of tiny holes through which HIV passes.

That's just a fib, isn't it (certainly, it's flatly contradicted by the evidence)?

A very dangerous piece of misinformation. That really is a shameful thing for the Church to say, wouldn't you agree?

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Steve,

'other organizations say "Be chaste, or, if you are not, wear a condom''

But most, a leonine part, of these organizations say just 'wear a condom', not 'be chaste'. Chastity is simply not their business (qua organizations, of course, for their individual members may have different views on it).



'But you maintain the Church saying the same thing won't have such an effect because - no one listens to it anyway?'

I would at least very strongly suspect so.

Similarly, I suspect (again, you know my line on the a priori, I may be wrong) that those Catholics and 'Catholics' who are not chaste do not wear condoms (if they don't, that is) NOT because of the Ecclesiastical condemnations but for other reasons, sheer laziness, for instance, or because the rubber reduces sensations, or some such.

Yes, people sometimes seem to obey Papal adhortations, when that's more or less what they would be doing anyway, but how effective as a motive those adhortations are, I dunno, I really don't.

'helpful. Instead, the Church (the Pope) tells its flock that condoms are ineffective at preventing HIV transmission, because they are full of tiny holes through which HIV passes.

'That's just a fib, isn't it (certainly, it's flatly contradicted by the evidence)?'

I don't know, either. Recently I have read (in a laicist newspaper) that the effectiveness of condoms as HIV-stoppers is about 1/10. Or: very low. One would have to give the evidence an in-depth study.

Of course, the Church must not put about lies. True enough. But sometimes you don't know what the truth is and want to 'err on the safe side'. Which side is safe --- depends on your fundamental choices (even if you are not a fundamanentalist of any couleur).

anticant said...

I cannot see any poiny in this long-winded discussion. The Church is not going to listen to either of you. The Church only listens to God.

As for the Church not putting about lies, has it done anything else throughout its existence?

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Anticant

'. The Church is not going to listen to either of you. The Church only listens to God. '

But with your leave, sir, the issue was not, Whether the Church will listen to anyone, but, much rather, Whether anyone will listen to the Church. Steve said: yes, quite many; I said: few, and the wrong ones. You've got(ten) the sequence, or the 'arrow-direction', wrong.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Stephen

'I cannot see any poiny in this long-winded discussion. The Church is not going to listen to either of you.'

This from Anticant.


EITHER OF YOU... gosh... .

Well, Stephen, you'd better avoid entering into discussions with idiots like myself, or Anticant'll stop liking you... . Cheers.

Stephen Law said...

WZ

"I suspect (again, you know my line on the a priori, I may be wrong) that those Catholics and 'Catholics' who are not chaste do not wear condoms (if they don't, that is) NOT because of the Ecclesiastical condemnations but for other reasons, sheer laziness, for instance, or because the rubber reduces sensations, or some such. "

I am sure you are correct. That does not mean that if the RC Church were to urge the use of condoms as an effective protective against HIV, for those who choose to go against its views on chastity, those urgings would not be listened to. Particularly if backed up with evidence of the effectiveness of condom use.

Your reason for being skeptical about this now seems to boil down to little more than - but no one listens to or deliberately follows Church policy on anything anyway.

Again, that's an empirical claim - got any evidence to back it up? (don't point to Catholics not following advice about chastity and or abstinence outside marriage, as no one listens to that advice anyway, no matter who is giving it)

People do listen to advice on the use of condoms, especially when backed up by evidence that it may well save their life if they have sex outside marriage. I see, as yet, no reason to suppose they won't listen to that advice even if given by the RC Church.

anticant said...

WZ - I've enjoyed reading Stephen's blog, and sometimes commenting, for quite a while now. I don't always agree with him, but that doesn't mean I don't like him. And you're not an idiot, even if you are rather prolix.

As for how many people actually shape their conduct in accordance with the Catholic Church's teachings, I suspect it's rather more than you think. As Nazi Germany demonstrated, a great many people prefer to be told what to do by some "authority figure" rather than taking responsibility for themselves. We'd need to do a market research survey to find out.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

"I suspect (again, you know my line on the a priori, I may be wrong) that those Catholics and 'Catholics' who are not chaste do not wear condoms (if they don't, that is) NOT because of the Ecclesiastical condemnations but for other reasons, sheer laziness, for instance, or because the rubber reduces sensations, or some such. "

'I am sure you are correct. That does not mean that if the RC Church were to urge the use of condoms as an effective protective against HIV, for those who choose to go against its views on chastity, those urgings would not be listened to. Particularly if backed up with evidence of the effectiveness of condom use.'

But not even you listen to all advice, even if it seems quite plausible to you, but comes from the wrong, or simply not authoritative, source. I don't know if you do or don't believe in Astrology, say, but let's suppose you don't; now, it is quite conceivable that, while you have your opinions about the best investment possibilities in your area, some Astrologist or another publicises his diagnoses which are quite consonant with what you think on the topic. Now let's suppose you do, in fact, act (i. e. invest your oofes) on that advice, i. e. as it advises---have you been listening to the Astrologist? Have you 'followed' his advice? Clearly not; you've followed your own beliefs, whatever their source, and the Astrologist might only marginally, if at all, reassured you that you're right.

People listen to what they want to hear --- that is again part of human psychology, a topic raised here by I believe Kosh3. And they want to hear various things because they have heard them already.

'Your reason for being skeptical about this now seems to boil down to little more than - but no one listens to or deliberately follows Church policy on anything anyway.'

Well, not exactly no-one, but those who need being told about the condoms don't.

'Again, that's an empirical claim - got any evidence to back it up? (don't point to Catholics not following advice about chastity and or abstinence outside marriage, as no one listens to that advice anyway, no matter who is giving it)'

you meant '... don't point to Catholics following [without "not"] the advice about chastity' --- otherwise I can't make sense of your proposition. But you are wrong that no-one listens to that advice. And methodologically, exactly pointing to such Catholics would be the right to do.

'People do listen to advice on the use of condoms, especially when backed up by evidence that it may well save their life if they have sex outside marriage. I see, as yet, no reason to suppose they won't listen to that advice even if given by the RC Church.'

The reason to suppose is that everybody knows that that Church is no authority on that matters (just like you, _qua_ philosopher, are not on investment papers or horse races), that such precepts are in contradiction to what the Church has thought before, that they, by their very contents, presuppose that people disregard other, equally important precepts by the Church. Ain't that reason enough?

I don't know if you have ever been Catholic, but most likely not, or not for long, for your opinions betray a fair degree of unfamiliarity with the 'spirit' and the general 'flavour' of that institution. I have once met a young Dane, a highly intelligent young man who was extremely competent in sociolinguists or some or maybe sociobiology, I forget, but knew next to nothing about Catholicism (or Christianity in general). This Dane asked me quite in earnest why Pope (John Paul II by then) should condemn the G. W. Bushite war on Iraq. 'After all', he said 'that is Christians against Saracenes, Crusades remade, and such'. This question rendered me speechless. 'You're quite right' I explained, 'yet the Church doesn't work that way'. In our case, the Church is not anything like 'Ask Mary' in 'The Spectator' where (in the times I still read it) you could get answers and good advice on most wildly diverging questions concerning manners, good taste, etiquette, netiquette, what not.

One serious obstacle in your case is your notion of chastity. No-one follows it and so on. You consider it pure nonsense, something totally incomprehensible (I have respect for your position, let me make this clear) and since you know that churchmen are not total madmen and 'jerks', you think---I suppose---more or less like this: 'Well come on, chaps, after you're done with your nonsensical stuff about chastity and other idiocies which nobody wants to hear, please stop raving, come to your senses, and say something intelligent and useful, yes I know you can, you've done this so many times before'. Hence the vehemence with which you urge the Church should 'stop raving and say something useful', at last... .

But that is not how the Church works, I'm afraid.

But I agree: the Church could say, for instance, 'Thou shalt not kill. And---on how not to kill, please ask your friendly local Health Department'
Cheers.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Anticant

'WZ - I've enjoyed reading Stephen's blog, and sometimes commenting, for quite a while now.'

I strongly hope you will go on doing so for a long time yet.

' I don't always agree with him, but that doesn't mean I don't like him.'

No, I was kiddin'. But it would be funny to be seen as someone who has 'kidnapped' Stephen (say in the sense of getting him to go to lengths refuting my 'absurd' arguments), in the light of the examples given in this debate: 'do not kidnap, but if you choose to do so, please do treat your victims well'.

' And you're not an idiot, even if you are rather prolix.'

Thank you. Re prolixity, sorry for that, but here I have to write in a language which is not my native one, and which I neither speak nor hear in my everyday life, so it's not always easy for me to find the most succinct and pithy formulation on those difficult and abstract issues.

'As for how many people actually shape their conduct in accordance with the Catholic Church's teachings, I suspect it's rather more than you think. As Nazi Germany demonstrated, a great many people prefer to be told what to do by some "authority figure" rather than taking responsibility for themselves. We'd need to do a market research survey to find out.'

Yes, this is probably correct, but do you seriously think it is realistic to expect people to do without any authority? Maybe some extremely exceptional individuals can, maybe.. . Enlightened Zen-Buddhists, like, but even they need a Master to get started. Besides, authorities are not always Hitler-like, nor do they always present themselves as authorities: take advertisement, popular culture, fashion... . These things (and the human beings behind them) are, in fact, a helluva authority in modern societies, they fool us into buying thousands of things we don't need and soon throw away ... yet they do not present themselves as authorities; in the contrary, they flatter our 'egos', pretend to help us to discover our inner self and such stuff. A 'real' authority, unless diabolic (Hitler, Stalin, and their ilk) is somehow more tractable, easier to deal with ... . See what I mean?

anticant said...

Obviously no-one accepts responsibility for their life choices without reference to some - often many - authoritative voices, but that is very different from pleading "I did it because so-and-so told me it was right" or "because no-one told me it was wrong".

The leading [though flawed] authority for the - in my view correct - doctrine that moral values outweigh legal or political commands is the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal judgement.

It is interesting that the self-same arguments they refuted are now being employed to excuse those who carried out torture at the behest of the Bush administration, and [more trivially] by British MPs who have been claiming excessive expense allowances. In both cases the plea is being made that those concerned thought what they did was OK because the rules allowed it.

The Catholic Church, of course, claims above all to be the supreme moral authority for Christians. How many of its nominal followers accept this is doubtful; the falsity of the claim itself is not.

The Catholic Church is a totally immoral institution: read "Double Cross. The Code of the Catholic Church" by David Ranan for a damning indictment of its double standards.

Kosh3 said...

WC:
"No, unfortunately not, yet I insist, they are not Catholic. They might be cherished by some ill-informed or misled Catholics, sure thing."

But why not? It is not as though in the Christian tradition god has not brought wrath to the world before. Why is AIDS then a special exception to god's means of punishment - such that if one actually believes it, one is not Catholic?

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Anticant

'Obviously no-one accepts responsibility for their life choices without reference to some - often many - authoritative voices, but that is very different from pleading "I did it because so-and-so told me it was right" or "because no-one told me it was wrong".'

I agree. People who say such things (unless they are shorthands for something more) are either moral imbeciles, or---more often---pretended moral imbeciles, pretendedly naive.

'The leading [though flawed] authority for the - in my view correct - doctrine that moral values outweigh legal or political commands is the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal judgement.'

You seem to be a 'legal naturalist' (as distinct from 'legal positivist'. I also am a kind of legal naturalist, though I am not blind to the weaknesses of that position. The issue (one of the most fundamental ones in the whole of legal philosophy) is a very knotty one.

'It is interesting that the self-same arguments they refuted are now being employed to excuse those who carried out torture at the behest of the Bush administration, and [more trivially] by British MPs who have been claiming excessive expense allowances. In both cases the plea is being made that those concerned thought what they did was OK because the rules allowed it.'

On this I know too little, though I of course condemn torture, 'waterboarding' and similar things.
However, I don't know if you are a soldier, a policeman or some other functionary, if you are an 'underdog' in such an organisation, and bound to act 'on behest' of someone or other most of your time, you are so much under distress that you might well develop a 'reactive moral imbecility'. I would primarily condemn those who issue such 'behests', only secondarily those who act on them.

'The Catholic Church, of course, claims above all to be the supreme moral authority for Christians. How many of its nominal followers accept this is doubtful; the falsity of the claim itself is not. '

Supreme authority for all who acknowledge its authority, i. e. for all Catholics, first of all. It's like FIFA (for all its ugly doings) being the supreme authority for all who care about football (soccer). All Christians, no, of course the Church knows the Orthodox, or the Copts, or Southern Baptists do not acknowledge him. Which does not mean that there is a sense commonality with them, as there is with the Jews, somewhat more remotely with the Muslims, then also Hindus, Shintoistst, Atheists and all people of good will. John XXIII talked to Khrushchev. But that 'sense of commonality' or 'dialogue with people of good will' is not exactly the same as pretending to be an authority.

The notion of (Ecclesiastical) 'authority', btw, is extremely important for the whole of Kierkegaard's philosophy, which Steve has something to say on in another thread, and there are interesting comments thereon too.

'The Catholic Church is a totally immoral institution: read "Double Cross. The Code of the Catholic Church" by David Ranan for a damning indictment of its double standards.'

Immoral --- agreed, we're all immoral, part of the time. FIFA, for instance, is quite immoral, often. 'Totally' --- I don't know.... I'll have a look at the book, thank you.

Wojicech Żełaniec said...

Ad Anticant

Sorry, I lost a 'not': it should read:

...which does not mean that there is NOT a sense of commonality.... .

Too many negations are dangerous... .

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3

'WC:
"No, unfortunately not, yet I insist, they are not Catholic. They might be cherished by some ill-informed or misled Catholics, sure thing."

But why not? It is not as though in the Christian tradition god has not brought wrath to the world before. Why is AIDS then a special exception to god's means of punishment - such that if one actually believes it, one is not Catholic?'

Certainly not a 'special exception', but not God's punishment means at all. You seem to be talking about a very Old-Testamental god, not the Christian-Catholic god. You seem to have been raised in some very rigorous Old Testament-leaning Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition, or if not raised, then much conversed with.

This whole 'wrath' stuff and such, that's not very Catholic..., take my word for it. :).

Lemme stress this one more time: there MIGHT be, and there probably ARE Catholics, Roman, Latin, who believe in a vindictive god like that, or who speak that way, or even gloat at people's suffering (which is a sin). For there are, for every idiocy you can think of, every kind of sin or indecency or destructive behaviour someone who indulges therein, either habitually or a at least a couple of times in a lifetime. But your god punishing people by means of AIDS, or tsunamis, or 'all debts, publick or private', or aeroplane crashes or such, is not the god of the RCC official teaching, is not the god Catholics would believe in if they all were 'good' Catholics.

Kosh3 said...

"Certainly not a 'special exception', but not God's punishment means at all."

And how do you know this? God tells you the ways in which he punishes, and those in which he doesn't? Remember, the bible says god created all things, both seen and unseen. Well, we can't see the HIV virus with our eyes.

"You seem to be talking about a very Old-Testamental god, not the Christian-Catholic god."

While Jesus might be a moral improvement over the Old Testament descriptions of his father, he was far from morally unimpeachable.

"You seem to have been raised in some very rigorous Old Testament-leaning Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition, or if not raised, then much conversed with."

I can assure you neither is true.

"This whole 'wrath' stuff and such, that's not very Catholic..., take my word for it. :)."

Oh damn, I must have missed it. When did the Catholic church renounce the doctrine of punishment by hell?

"Lemme stress this one more time: there MIGHT be, and there probably ARE Catholics, Roman, Latin, who believe in a vindictive god like that, or who speak that way, or even gloat at people's suffering (which is a sin)."

No see, again, this is not what I was talking about. I have explicitly said time and time again that this is all (imagined to be) unstated. It is below the level of conversation, even conscious reflection. I'm sure many Catholics don't sit around thinking consciously to themselves 'it is good that those who sin are punished by horrible diseases'. That does not stop that being an influence on their attitudes and values though; our own minds are not transparent to us. Publicly, of course, opposition to condom use will always be couched in terms of Church doctrine, god's wishes, and so on. That however does not preclude unstated values, attitudes, and beliefs being part of the story. That is possible here, and it is possible in virtually every other area concerning our thinking.

anticant said...

WZ - John XXIII was an exceptional Pope. He had more humanity than most others - certainly than Pius XII or John-Paul II. He saw what needed to be done if the Church was to retain any intellectual credibility in the modern world, and endeavoured to set the process in motion. Inevitably, he was defeated by the Vatican old guard.

Yes - the Papacy may sometimes find it necessary to speak to other Christian denominations [and even to Muslims and Jews] in the language of commonality, but it is always as 'primus inter pares'. The Pope is God's voice on earth. Do you disagree? [I presume you are a Catholic.]

I don't put myself in any particular 'school' - legal, philosophical, or other. I form my opinions of people according to what they do, and not by what they say, which is often diametrically opposite. My current worldview is that for the past decade at least, and probably a good deal longer, the world has been in the hands of moral imbeciles. The lunatics and hypocrites have taken over the asylum. What is to be done?

And as for Christian churches of any stripe, I cannot for a moment believe that the Jesus Christ of the Gospels, if such a person ever existed, would wish to touch any of them with a barge pole.

Stephen Law said...

Hi WZ

There's good evidence that while abstaining-from-sex-outside-marriage advice is not heeded much, no matter who gives it (and public health bodies etc. do say that it is the best way to avoid HIV), people do listen and act on advice that condoms are an effective protective and should be used if you engage in sex outside marriage.

That suggests that were the Church to say the same thing, it would be listened too as well.

You deny this. You maintain that while people do listen to public health bodies, charities etc. on public health matters, and follow advice, they won't follow the Church's advice, because it is a religious body, rather than e.g. a health charity, government health body, etc.

Boy, that's a dubious suggestion. Got any evidence to support it?

Are you aware, for example, of cases where religious organizations have given public health advice (on e.g. vaccinations, use of malaria nets, importance of hygiene, etc), and - specifically because they are religious bodies rather than governmental bodies or charities - that advice has then been largely ignored?

I doubt it. The Catholic Church and other religious bodies rightly puts a lot of effort into such educational programs, and they are, I'm guessing, pretty effective.

To show that the RC advice on condom use wouldn't be effective because the RC is a religious body rather than a governmental body or health charity, you now need to show that such other religiously-run programmes are not effective, and that they are not effective specifically because they are run by religious organizations.

Over to you...!

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3


'"Certainly not a 'special exception', but not God's punishment means at all."

And how do you know this? God tells you the ways in which he punishes, and those in which he doesn't? Remember, the bible says god created all things, both seen and unseen. Well, we can't see the HIV virus with our eyes. '

For Catholics the Bible is not the only source of faith, nor do they take it (only) literally, as do some Protestants. Evil was not greated by God, they think (after St. Augustine of Hippo) because it is a non-being. May I ask if you've ever heard of such things?

''"You seem to be talking about a very Old-Testamental god, not the Christian-Catholic god."

While Jesus might be a moral improvement over the Old Testament descriptions of his father, he was far from morally unimpeachable.'

Yes --- for instance, the ancient Germanic peoples, the Anglo-Saxon, for instance, impeached him for his passivity, his non-fighting, his letting himself be led to Golgatha 'like a lamb'. And there are certainly many other points on which a non-Christian may impeach Jesus, no doubt about it.

'"You seem to have been raised in some very rigorous Old Testament-leaning Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition, or if not raised, then much conversed with."

I can assure you neither is true.'

Well, OK, I have no stake on that surmise, but you were raised in an Anglo-Saxon country, and these are permeated and shaped, even in their Catholic or other enclaves, by the spirit of rigorous, Calvinist, literalist and Old-Testament-leaning Protestantism, as compared to which even German Lutheranism seems lax and luke-warm. (which is not a reproach to you personally, god beware...)

'"This whole 'wrath' stuff and such, that's not very Catholic..., take my word for it. :)."

Oh damn, I must have missed it. When did the Catholic church renounce the doctrine of punishment by hell? '

Well, there are is on-going debate in the RC C on the 'empty hell', an idea of von Balthasar, see 'First Things' (a journal_) on that. I don't know and the thing is not within the scope of my interests or competence. I personally (if you're interested) doubt if (under the presupposition that there is a hell, Catholically conceived) the hell be empty. I have seen too many unrepenting sinners in my life. But it was not at all about the topic we're talking about now, nothing with sex, AIDS, etc. --- it was about sins of quite different kind and calibre, and the sinners, far from being poor, ill or something, were faring quite well---not to say: very well---on this-worldly terms.

'"Lemme stress this one more time: there MIGHT be, and there probably ARE Catholics, Roman, Latin, who believe in a vindictive god like that, or who speak that way, or even gloat at people's suffering (which is a sin)."

No see, again, this is not what I was talking about. I have explicitly said time and time again that this is all (imagined to be) unstated. It is below the level of conversation, even conscious reflection. I'm sure many Catholics don't sit around thinking consciously to themselves 'it is good that those who sin are punished by horrible diseases'. That does not stop that being an influence on their attitudes and values though; our own minds are not transparent to us. Publicly, of course, opposition to condom use will always be couched in terms of Church doctrine, god's wishes, and so on. That however does not preclude unstated values, attitudes, and beliefs being part of the story. That is possible here, and it is possible in virtually every other area concerning our thinking.'

OK, but so we are returning to the topic of imputation. You impute (let us say for the sake of argument) various unstated beliefs to Catholics or whomever. Now are you sure, or anywhere near sure, that your imputations are correct? Do you think you have the right sort of reasons (be they never so (in)sufficient, that's a different matter) for your imputings? Not just: because you dislike these people (you impute the 'unstated beliefs' to)? Do not just say: 'religion shapes our attitudes and valuations', for, though it is obvious that it does, it would be begging the question to assume that it shapes them in that 'nasty' fashion you're imputing to those people.

Please be aware of this point, too: those people who say: 'My religion does not allow condoms' and sleep around without condoms in most cases (even in all cases, I'd say) do not use condoms NOT because of the prohibition they pay a lip-service to. Those, by contrast, who say such things but not by way of a lip-service, do not infect other people with HIV, because they do not sleep around. So their 'nasty' rejection of condoms is not so nasty in terms of practical consequences.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Anticant:

'Yes - the Papacy may sometimes find it necessary to speak to other Christian denominations [and even to Muslims and Jews] in the language of commonality, but it is always as 'primus inter pares'. The Pope is God's voice on earth. Do you disagree? [I presume you are a Catholic.]'

I am not sure about _primus inter pares_ in any technical (and still less, by the very nature of things, in any non-technical) sense. Quite often for instance Protestants object to the RC C against NOT being treated as 'pares' (equals).

With God's voice on Earth things are a bit more complex. Are you alluding, perhaps, to the Papal infallibility? But that is nothing but an 'extrapolation' of the infallibility of the Church. In neither case does the infallibility cover all teachings delivered by either Pope or the Council or any othe Ecclesiastical body. In fact, it covers very few of them. So yes, I do disagree.

My personal religious (un)beliefs are quite beside the point, I'm afraid... .

Re the world being in the hands of moral imbeciles (or worse), my 'favourite' period would be, not the last decade (why IT for goodness' sake?) but, say, the decades between 1889 (the founding on the second International) and 1991 (the demise of Communism in Europe). Maybe not exactly 'in the hands', but very very evil people having a lot of influence, and at moments nearly in the hands.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Steve,

hi, I'll respond to your interesting posting, I'll have to do some _ex officio_ work now... .

anticant said...

I don't agree that anyone's personal religious beliefs or unbeliefs are beside the point: they condition the individual's entire way of thinking about and relating to the world. They determine one's perceptions of reality. If you believe in the existence of a supernatural Creator or other Being, you think and behave quite differently - though not necessariy any more ethically - from someone who doesn't hold such beliefs.

So your beliefs do shape your opinions. So does your age. I have lived through seven decades of the twentieth century and one decade of this one, and I am in no doubt whatever that in terms of immorality, criminality and systematic lying in high places the last ten years take the biscuit.

anticant said...

No, I was not alluding to the widely misunderstood doctrine of papal infallibility, but to the conviction which any pope who takes his office seriously must surely have that he is Christ's chief spokesman on earth.

While one can never be sure about what goes on in another person's mind, I would be extremely surprised if Benedect XVI does not believe this. It's quite possible that Alexander VI did as well....

Kosh3 said...

"May I ask if you've ever heard of such things?"

Yes of course. The Pope's must make room for themselves as having something to say, after all.

"Now are you sure, or anywhere near sure, that your imputations are correct?"

For some Catholics, sure. For many or most? No I'm not sure. It is one plausible possibility though.

"Please be aware of this point, too: those people who say: 'My religion does not allow condoms' and sleep around without condoms in most cases (even in all cases, I'd say) do not use condoms NOT because of the prohibition they pay a lip-service to. Those, by contrast, who say such things but not by way of a lip-service, do not infect other people with HIV, because they do not sleep around. So their 'nasty' rejection of condoms is not so nasty in terms of practical consequences."

Refraining from sex may be much harder than refraining from condom use. Why commit two sins when you can commit only one? I accept though that there is something to the point you make; I respond by noting however that all that the RC does that is criminal here is not simply to tell them not to use condoms. It also tells people that using condoms does not work effectively to protect against HIV.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Hi Steve,

OK, you have a point. I of course am aware of such programs as you mention, not only supported or aided or approved of, by almost or entirely exclusively run by various churches and similar organisations.

But I don't know of any such as would presuppose as its 'input' things---activities, forms of behaviour---freely and voluntarily ('it's my choice') flaunting important teachings of such organisations.

Re vaccinations, elementary schooling, hygiene, etc. it's no problem, 'coz there is nothing inherently sinful (say in the Catholic sense) in being non-yet-vaccinated, unschooled (illiterate) or not in the habit of washing one's nether parts and one's feet. And typically, there is nothing as-a-matter-of-fact sinful about these things.

But with promiscuity, things are different. An admonition like 'if choosing to be promiscuous, wear condoms' presupposes (unless it should be vacuously true, as I noted earlier) being promiscuous, i.e. flaunting one of the most important teaching of the Church. How would you expect a man who doesn't care about a larger thing to care a about a lesser? This problem does not trouble the hygiene-vaccination-schooling examples we mentioned earlier.

Lest we should be turning in circles, let me give another example: Prostitution. I don't wanna talk about the general problem, just this 'un: a few years ago in Germany there was a public debate concerning a Parliamentary bill proposal, a bill which would 'legalise' prostitution in the sense of social security, access to welfare-state facilities, old-age-pension claims and what not. Now a prominent nun, her name is Lea Ackermann, who had been (and still is, I think) something like Street-Worker-in-Chief for women in Germany (at least in the Catholic sector of street-workery), and who had been working with prostitutes (to help them quit the business) was very much against that proposal (although, as you will probably urge, it would, if embraced, ease the situation of prostitutes in Germany). Because, she said, that would make appear normal what is not; acceptable what is inacceptable.

But don't worry, Germans are getting growingly unChristian, visiting brothels (and working in them) is growing more and more socially acceptable in that country.

Of course, you will note there is the problem of involuntary prostitutes (those from Third World Countries or from Eastern Europe, lured to German brothels under the pretence of a chance to work as a waitress or sumpin'); but the German Bill proposal was not meant for THEM.

Another example: for decades, in Sicily and other parts of Southern Italy, there was a semi-official (tolerated, rather than positively encouraged) institution of mafia-priests, who would hold services for their 'honourable flock', baptise their children, bless their weapons and so on. It was suppressed by John Paul II, partly even personally by him, partly on his 'instigation' by the local churches. No doubt, the life of mafiosi bathing in the sense of piousness and the odour of incense was a better life, and maybe even marginally better for their victims (a bandit with Church hymns still resounding in his ears will press the trigger of his machine-gun somewhat less readily, and for a shorter time, perhaps?); since then, the mafias of Southern Italy have grown more rabid, so there is a causal connection, maybe. Let them restore the mafia-priests, then? Well --- again, the same story: despite the (surmised) positive consequences, you cannot give a hand to someone who freely and consciously, demonstratively even, treats you with contempt, and, to boot, in so much as he so treats you; or ease somebody's plight if the plight results from that person's actively disregarding your advice.

None of which bedevils the hygiene or schooling or irrigation projects, of course.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Anticant

'I don't agree that anyone's personal religious beliefs or unbeliefs are beside the point: they condition the individual's entire way of thinking about and relating to the world. They determine one's perceptions of reality. If you believe in the existence of a supernatural Creator or other Being, you think and behave quite differently - though not necessariy any more ethically - from someone who doesn't hold such beliefs.'

Yeah that's perfectly true; I only intended to say: my personal (un)beliefs have nothing to do with the discussion we're conducting here. So as to avoid all kinds of _ad hominem_ arguments.

'So your beliefs do shape your opinions. So does your age. I have lived through seven decades of the twentieth century and one decade of this one, and I am in no doubt whatever that in terms of immorality, criminality and systematic lying in high places the last ten years take the biscuit.'

So does your age, that's very true. I can boast three decades less than you, so I must defer to you on this point. But also: the place where you have lived shapes your beliefs too; Now I don't know about your places but mine has been Poland, and you might have heard about the kind of things that were going on in that country say between 1939 and 1989? Horrible, horrible things.... .

This topic reminds me of ballad entitled 'The Return' by Kipling, 'If England was what England seems' -- do you know it? I admire it, for all its 'jingoist' overtones.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Kosh3

'"May I ask if you've ever heard of such things?"

Yes of course. The Pope's must make room for themselves as having something to say, after all.'


Oh c'mon, now you're just being cynical.

'"Now are you sure, or anywhere near sure, that your imputations are correct?"

For some Catholics, sure. For many or most? No I'm not sure. It is one plausible possibility though.'

Plausible, yes, but this plausibility logic is not monotonic, if I may use this comparison. There are over a milliard (billion) Catholics in this world, how many of them do you know? Besides, not all Catholics are alike and in great many of them their Catholicism is just declarative.


'Refraining from sex may be much harder than refraining from condom use. Why commit two sins when you can commit only one? I accept though that there is something to the point you make; I respond by noting however that all that the RC does that is criminal here is not simply to tell them not to use condoms. It also tells people that using condoms does not work effectively to protect against HIV.'

Well, refraining from condoms is very easy, to begin with, nothing to do with the amount of self-control and self-mastery you have to have in order not to indulge in illicit sex ... . The point is: few, if any, Catholics who during illicit intercourse refrain from condoms do this BECAUSE OF the Church condom-ban. More often, much more often, just because it (i. e. refrain) is easier than its opposite.

See what I mean? I was once in a Department one faculty-member of which, a highly respected but somewhat ecccentric and not quite taken seriously professor was very much against the teachings of one Jacques Derrida (doesn't matter who she was). Now this Derrida once got invited by that University and was to come and give a talk. The faculty-member I mean distributed posters saying something like this: 'Out of protest against the visit and lecturing of Jacques Derrida at our University, all faculty-members, staff and students are kindly requested on that day [i .e. when the talk was scheduled] to wear shoes'. And, oh wonder, they WORE shoes on the day indicated... . Great success of a great authority?

Better commit one sin than two? Sure. But non wearing a condom would have to be defined as a sin, which it is not yet, though in special circumstances some priests allow their use (for instance, in a married couple with one spouse infected), at least I have heard of such cases.


The issue of whether condoms are efficient as HIV stoppers is a separate one. As you rightly observed, viruses are too small for us to see, and so are pores in rubber, if any. In a (not at all RC) daily newspaper I have recently read that the said INefficiency is about 1/10 (one-tenth), i. e. condoms stop nine viruses in ten), which makes them appear rather inefficient as HIV-stoppers. But that's an empirical matter on which I cannot claim any competence and still less authority --- as little or less as the RC Church on how to live promiscuously and 'get away with it'... .

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Anticant

'which any pope who takes his office seriously must surely have that he is Christ's chief spokesman on earth.'

I dunno, I really dunno, frankly. Methinks such a 'spokesmanship' can be (felt to be) legitimately claimed by mystics only.... . By no-one else. And that only to a very limited extent.

Let alone 'chief spokesmanship'... .

The Renaissance Popes (such as Alexander VI) might have cherished various illusions about themselves, that's true, if this particular one too---is bound to remain their sweet secret.

Believing is a tricky matter, as know all epistemologists and epistemic logicians (provoking Steve's reproach to be raising a smoke-screen), and believing various things about your very self is even far trickier than average.... . You can believe that you believe something about yourself (for instance, you can believe that you're self-confident) without holding that latter belief in fact, in other words, you can err about your own beliefs about yourself... . This is one of the reasons why I wouldn't like to speak about anybody's personal beliefs, e. g. mine.

anticant said...

Well, maybe...

Getting back to the subject of this thread, AIDS is a social issue and the teachings of the Catholic Church concerning condoms is another social issue. The question is, whether the latter [the Church's teachings] have a benign and alleviating effect upon the former [AIDS], or a toxic exacerbating effect.

There is abundant evidence that the second proposition is the most accurate. Stephen asks, understandably, why the Church cannot modify its teachings about sex in accordance with the doctrine of the lesser evil.

I agee with him, but don't think there is the slightest prospect of the Church doing so.

I am still unclear as to what your view is.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Anticant


'I am still unclear as to what your view is.'

And rightly so, because I have no view.

In this thread, I have raised two problems (so my 'views' are problems, questions, 'troubles'), one concerning the consistency of the RC C's hypothetical admonition to use condoms while having extramarital sex with fortuitous partners (1); and one concerning the practical effectiveness of such an admonition (which I suspect would be negligible, so Stephen's campaign is Much Ado about Nothing) (2)

To this, add (1a), the possible adverse effects (adverse in the eyes of the Church) of such an admonition upon its 'flock'---such as confusion, desorientation, false conclusions ('so it's alright now to sleep around?') and such.

I'd be happy to see see these doubts of mine removed. Stephen has done some work in that direction, without removing them quite.

A tentative compromise I struck with Stephen was: the Church ought, perhaps, say something like 'Killing, also killing by means of spreading, or risking spreading, sexually transmitted diseases is sinful, as you know; on how to avoid such killing listen not just to us, but also to your respective Goverment, doctors, pharmacists and others'.

This is not without problems, too, which I explained in another posting, but a compromise is a compromise.

'Here I stand, I can no further', as Dr. Martin Luther would have said (but not 'M. L. King')---at least pending further convincing arguments, or empirical arguments from statistics, refuting mu suspicion mentioned above under (2).

Sorry for being prolix.

anticant said...

If I am correct in thinking that the Church's teaching is that the use of condoms in ANY circumstances is sinful, and that is not going to change in a hurry, much of this discussion is futile. All that remains is for each of us - Catholic or otherwise - to make our own judgements about the social utility of the Church's teaching in the face of a worldwide lethal epidemic. Obviously, it hasn't been helpful in preserving the health of those who pay attention to it and have condomless sex - even within marriage, which, according to the Church, is not sinful.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Ad Anticant

'of the Church's teaching in the face of a worldwide lethal epidemic. Obviously, it hasn't been helpful in preserving the health of those who pay attention to it and have condomless sex'

but this is a contradiction: 'pay attention to the Church's teaching and having condomless sex' in the overwhelming majority of cases, at least in the context of HIV-infections;


' - even within marriage, which, according to the Church, is not sinful.'

First of all, how numerous are the couples whose members have no extramarital sex condom-less or -ful, and yet who are HIV infected. I am sure that the Church has a solution for such untypical cases (this is something which peoples stamped by Protestantism, like the Anglo-Saxon, cannot understand: there are general rules, and there are exceptions for particular cases, this is Catholic, and Protestants often sneer at it, see the 'frogs on Fridays' example quoted by someone here).

Then, intramarital sex need not, it is true, but can be sinful, too, according to RC teachings (marital rape, for instance). This, again, difficult to understand for people from formerly mostly Protestant countries, not for religious but for cultural reasons.

Judgments on various things we must make, that is perfectly true, but nothing new, either. It matters, though, that they should be thought-through judgments, not dictated by feelings, (re)sentiments, ideological preferences and other 'hidden agenda' (well, sometimes not hidden).

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Gentlemen,

OK, let us suppose that the Church gives in, and says: 'from now on let everybody who chooses to fornicate (which we disapprove, but still) wear condoms during intercourse'.

I'd like to ask you who you think should come next, whose turn for analogous moral pressure, disparaging and condemnations from Secular Humanist Moralists it will be.

In case you should have no cue, here is my proposal: The porn industry.

'But', you'll say perhaps, 'we have nothing against porn, it's a neutral and sometimes even guite diverting thing, if anyone likes it, well, then let'im watch it'. So be it. But I am referring (not to porn in all generality but) to one specific point: condoms, and that which they are supposed to stop (in the context of our discussion).

Porn sites are amongst the most frequently called up. (If any credence is to be given to Alexa.) Profits of porn manufacturers run into milliards of dollars, say some sources (unreliable?) On the topic of internet porn see this 'un, among many others:

http://cse.stanford.edu/class/cs201/projects-00-01/pornography/main.html

from Stanford (which is not a Catholic University, to the best of my knowledge).

Now an impressionistic surfing over various xxx-sites (and that is far from the only form in which porn is disseminated) reveals that intercourse with condoms plays a somewhat secondary role there, i. e. in the scenes and events therein depicted--to understate the matter a bit, right? In the contrary, there is a lot of naked, quite unshielded flesh there, including private flesh, and semen is being splashed all over the place. It is swallowed, rubbed in, and comes into contact with female (gay porn---male) body in an astounding variety of ways, for instance by being deposited directly on the eye-balls, which some sources says is very dangerous (HIV-wise). (Sources obviously untrustworthy... .)

I am talking only of what an impressionistic, quarter-of-hour, costfree surfing may reveal. But these chaps obviously don't take money for such stuff, so there is nothing 'more' behind what that kind of surfing reveals... . So be it.

Now, lemme ask you, gentlemen: Is it 'done' in the circles with which you converse and which you regard as your ethical and moral allies to raise as much criticism directed to the manufacturers of such flick---all those 'jizzbombs, 'gangbangs', 'bukkakes' or whaddayacallit---not on account of porn as such (which is, we agreed, perfectly OK) but what with all that semen proudly dealt out into all orifices of the female (or male, for gay) body and elsewhere --- as much criticism as is habitually raised by the same circles against the RC Church, and with as much vehemence? Are your friends as ready to call the makers of such stuff 'criminal', 'trigger-pullers', 'final-solvers' and what not as they are ready to call those names the Church and Pope?

If your friends are so concerned about the Africans---which is of course laudable---may we safely assume that they are equally concerned about those not-only-Africans who watch such stuff (and I am talking only about what is accessible from every computer, and only about regular porn, not child-porn or other 'illegal' (I'm chuckling) porn) and who will want to imitate what they see? Or do your friends think those milions of mostly males who call up such sites far more often than they hear stern admonitions about condoms in church will NOT want to imitate what they see? ... Then your friends are a bit naive, sorry.. .

One hates to impute anything base to anybody, and especially to one's friends' friends but---one almost cannot help thinking that those who pressurise the Church to bless condoms (and promiscuity, without which the former blessing is pointless) but next to never cry out a very loud 'STOP SHOWING THAT' to all those numerous 'jizzbombers' and 'facializers' simply know, at the bottom of their hearts, that if they did, the latter would either contemptuously ignore them, or else talk to them in a completely different fashion than do various folks from the RC Church; how? well, not exactly in in self-restrained, gentlemanlike fashion. .

Or maybe your friends have already cried out 'STOP SHOWING THAT" to the makers of some xxxfacials or other --- except that their crying was hardly louder than a murine squeak, whereas their voices of protest against the 'criminal policies' of the RC Church were, like, leonine roars ('well roar'd, lion'...)? I have never heard the former, only the latter.

With Anticant I quarrelled over imputations and the purity of intentions. Well, 'purity' is somewhat redolent of Catholicism so let us say 'honesty'. Honestly, the Pornographers with all their 'cum-bombs' and what not, are after all a bit better (to your friends) than are the asinine clergymen, or ... there are other reasons why the latter, not the former, are some Moralists' (quick to condemn hypocrisy, Catho-Nazism and what have you) favourite target...?

I have no views, I am only asking questions.

anticant said...

Well, WZ, you really have displayed the cloven hoof with that diatribe!

"I have no views, I am only asking questions."

This reeks of humbug. Of course you have views, and they shine out through the sneering, contemptuous - not to say patronising - tone of your remarks.

OK, so you dislike porn. But that is not the subject of this thread, which is the Catholic Church's attitude to HIV prevention and AIDS.

You are an accomplished casuist [having attended all those universities - several of them Catholic - you should be]. But you make the mistake - which more sophisticated Catholic apologists don't - of underestimating your opponents' insight into Catholic theology, and you also display your own ignorance of Protestant and secular traditions.

You really should know better than to try and score points by resorting to one of the oldest tricks in the book: namely, putting up a diversionary topic [porn] so that you can falsely claim that the Catholic attitude to condom wearing in the age of AIDS is a lesser evil by comparison. Have you never heard the saying that two wrongs don't make a right?

There is an English story, which you may not have heard, about a Victorian servant girl who excused her illegitimate baby to her employer by saying "but it's only a very little one, madam". This is how your latest defence of the Catholic Church's condom docrtine strikes me.

And as for your having no views, well really....

Until this latest post of yours I had a great deal more respect for you. Now it has dawned on me that you are simply another Catholic propagandist, vainly trying to defend the indefensible.

anticant said...

I said "you dislike porn", but on reflection I'm not so sure. Your leering, drooling, detailed descriptions of its excesses make me suspect that you may be more than an occasional or casual viewer, and that your obviously intense interest in it does not stem from the loftiest of motives.

You would be none the worse for that, professor - sex is a universal human interest, and unlike the prurient religious who are so obsessed with it I do not regard it as either 'sacred' or filthy.

wombat said...

Thinking that the case where the act is within marriage might be illuminating I came across this - article in "Faith"If this is typical of the RCC approach, I am appalled. It seems to boil down to - "condoms are evil, even in marriage. You should not force the matter because rape is a sin, but it's OK'ish for her to commit suicide by letting you."

Kosh3 said...

"Oh c'mon, now you're just being cynical."

No, I'm recognising that authority/power needs significance/purpose to exist.

"Plausible, yes, but this plausibility logic is not monotonic, if I may use this comparison. There are over a milliard (billion) Catholics in this world, how many of them do you know? Besides, not all Catholics are alike and in great many of them their Catholicism is just declarative."

It's not clear what you are arguing. That all Catholics don't have these hidden beliefs or attitudes? But I never claimed they did. In the post you are responding to I claimed the opposite, in fact.

If you are simply saying: "look, there is great diversity amongst Catholics, don't seek to give them all the same motives", that is completely compatible with what I have said.

"Well, refraining from condoms is very easy, to begin with, nothing to do with the amount of self-control and self-mastery you have to have in order not to indulge in illicit sex ... . The point is: few, if any, Catholics who during illicit intercourse refrain from condoms do this BECAUSE OF the Church condom-ban. More often, much more often, just because it (i. e. refrain) is easier than its opposite."

The bolded just begs the question.

To preempt something I suspect you might try and implicitly argue - it doesn't have to be that they fail to use condoms for the exclusive reason that the RCC tells them not to. It just needs to be one reason they hold (alongside, say, sex just being straight up better without condoms) for not doing so. So long as considerations of church wishes are a part, there is culpability earned. It would be a tremendous mistake to suppose that our reasons for acting are often or always singular.

...I'm not sure what the Derrida story was supposed to show? (Derrida was a He, btw).

Re: the efficacy of condoms - certainly an empirical question, and if you have any reputable scientific sources to indicate what the RCC keeps saying, please share.

Kosh3 said...

Re: Porn and condom use

Similar arguments are made against violence in television and video games - that they promote violence in real life (e.g. the storm caused by grand theft auto). Not explicitly of course, as in "you must go out and be violent!", but implicitly.

Now which of those two maps to the RRC and condoms, and which maps to the porn industry and condoms? Any encouragement of a lack of condom use by porn is implicit, not explicit. That difference has moral difference to, in my judgment.

I honestly don't know (not that I've ever asked, though...) anyone who would not use a condom because they saw a pornstar not using one... but then, I don't know anyone either who would be violent, because movies and computer games are violent. There are surely such individuals out there, however, who are more open than most to implicit suggestion. Should we remove then all implicit suggestions deemed damaging? Difficult question that I am not sure I know the answer to. I know what I think in the explicit case though - they should be the objects of criticism.

anticant said...

Also, WZ, you conveniently ignore the fact that HIV/AIDS is transmitted by other means than sexual intercourse. Injection of drugs using dirty needles is a major source of infection. Also ignorance of the fact that one is HIV-positive, because of failure to be tested. Both of these are common sources if infection, especially in third-world countries. They make tranmission through 'sin-free' condomless sex within marriage highly likely.

If the RC Church is serious about reducing the spread of AIDS, why does it not campaign against drug misuse and for regular testing as vigorously as it fulminates against the use of condoms? Presumably because it is not really concerned to halt the spread of AIDS any more than it wants to see sensible population limitation - the burgeoning number of new people coming into the world being an even greater threat to humanity's survival. The RC Church, I suppose, relies on primitive Malthusian doctrine to deal with this problem rather than advocate any concerted human action to mitigate it, which would be 'sinful'.

The trouble with the RC Church - as with most Churches and Islam - is that they rabbit on endlessly about sexual 'sins', which pruriently obsess them, instead of attempting to tackle the far greater evils of nuclear threat, war, genocide, hunger, poverty and disease. To outsiders they present themselves as a bunch of ignorant celibate [officially, anyway] old men indulging in what is a form of religious pornography.

As a positive social force in the 21st century the RC Church is worse than useless - it is retrogressive.

But then it always has been.

Stephen Law said...

Hi WZ

Your post about porn is interesting but you have now changed subject - the question you raised was - how likely is it that the RC Church's promoting condom use for those who choose not to be chaste would have much effect. You suggested not at all likely, and suggested no evidence to suggest otherwise. Well, now you have given up denying there is good prima facie evidence for that claim, and switched to accusing those who criticize the Church of inconsistency (cos we don't also criticise the porn industry). Even if we are inconsistent, that would not mean we are not right to criticise the Church, would it?

Stephen Law said...

But, if we are going to change subjects and talk about the role of porn in spreading HIV, there are various differences between the RC case and porn case worth noting, whether or not the justify a difference in attitude, such as:

The porn industry does not advocate non-use of condoms, unlike the RC Church.

I believe the industry (the mainstream industry, I mean - not amateur stuff) is fairly well self-monitored, with porn stars being checked for HIV very regularly and having to show they are clear.

To present images of something for titillation is not to suggest it is a good idea to go and do it yourself (cf. movies about the mafia, murder, etc.)

The Church does not merely explicitly say "do not use condoms", it:

(i) does so with an air of moral certainty and superiority, which (understandably, I think you'll agree) is particularly galling!

(ii) spreads false (or at least highly dubious) information about condoms as scientifically established "fact".

These last two facts alone legitimize a our sense of outrage, I think.

anticant said...

The RC Church always speaks "with an air of moral certainty and superiority", because it gets its information direct from God. What else do you expect?

I would find its delusions of grsndeur more pathetic and amusing than galling, were it not for the immense practical harm it does which makes me very angry.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Gentlemen,

I don't know to what extent (if any) any of you reads German, but here is a link to a German 'official' RC Web-Site:

http://www.katholisch.de/9456.html

I just found.

which is about a prospective possibility of the Holy See's admitting of condom use _in particular cases_.

This is of course far below what you expect and it's only a possibility... .

The title of the contribution is, like, 'The matter rests at a general 'no' to condoms', the logical stress lying in this case on the word 'general'.

The thing, if it ever goes beyond the stage of 'prospects' and 'working papers', will be a first top-level instruction of this sort, but, to my knowledge, far from only non-top-level one.

anticant said...

Oh casuistry! What verbal quibbles are committed in thy name......

b.b.b said...

Stephen Perhaps we should bring out a second catechism - a guide for people who don't want to follow the first catechism - then we could bring out another called "the catechism for people who arent quite managing to follow the 2nd one". This could go on infinitely - where would you like it to stop - or are you actually writing one without knowing it ?

Stephen Law said...

What point are you making exactly, BBB? After all, the Church tells us not to sin, but then tells us what to do if and (inevitably) when we do - repent. If it can say that, then why can't it tell us not to have sex outside marriage, but can also add: but if you do, use a condom?

b.b.b. said...

For the sake of madness I am suggesting you look at things from the churches point of view - and attempt to understand this from inside the culture of catholicism....

The church provides a rule - it doesn't deal in exceptions. In short - thats not its job. The grey
areas of morality - such as this - become the subject of individual conscience and pastoral concern. In short there are two sides to this story. One the public sees - because you listen to the pronouncements of the vatican which are public - the other you dont - because you are not part of a parish church.

There is a dual force inside catholicism - thats why it is called catholicism - no part can ever be the whole - it is the pressure of multiple agendas which squeezes the church into life . In honesty I think the neo-liberal critique of the church is based on the assumption that you know what you are talking about - which can be dangerous. In your writings you are criticising a neo scholastic and certainly not a contemporary catholicism.

I can quite understand why you would want clarification from the church about this issue - but as an insider can I suggest you are looking at the wrong part. The grim realities are worked out on a personal parish level. Your approach Its a bit like watching the news and complaining they dont make you a cup of tea as well. Thats not an expectation of most television viewers. I can understand why someone might want that - but if they started saying the news was rubbish because of this - thats a different matter.

Mark said...

I am of a mind that much so called philosphy is simply wordy circumlocution which fits my father's view: "If you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with b*llsh*t".

Philosophy is logic-based. In order to have "logic" one must have "rules" of logic, and that is where it all breaks down. The deifinitions of the rules are themselves subject to debate. So we are back to the premise that there are no absolutes. Which itself is subject to debate. (The "circum" of circumlocution.)

But I digress without ever progressing. My issue is with the assumption that the advice "If you must rape someone, then wear a condom" is silly and inconsistent. I maintain that, in relation to rape, it is quite sound advice and is quite consistent with the nature and goals of the typical rapist. You have pre-supposed that the advice was given from a stance of compassion for the victim. However, from the standpoint of "protection" of the rapist, it is fantastic advice! He can decrease the probability of contracting an STD and avoid leaving DNA evidence that could be used to identify and convict him of the crime. Nothing silly or inconsistent there.

Stephen Law said...

Mark - perhaps you are right. If so, that further reinforces the main point I was making against a certain Catholic defence of the view that they cannot sensibly suggest to people that they ought not to have sex outside marriage, but if they do they share wear a condom.

Your point about rules seems to me to be an example of "going nuclear":

http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2007/12/letter-to-ibrahim-nuclear-option.html

but perhaps I'm mistaken. Not sure what it's supposed to be, other than an insult.