Saturday, November 20, 2010


C. S. Lewis once wrote (he actually spoke it first, in fact) about Christian marriage in what became Mere Christianity (originally a series of BBC radio talks). He was discussing couples who wanted a church wedding without taking seriously the values to which such a public profession would commit them. He wrote:

...someone may reply that [they] regarded the promise made in church as a mere formality and never intended to keep it....Most often, I think, the couple (or one of them) hoped to deceive the public. They wanted the respectability that is attached to marriage without intending to pay the price: that is, they were imposters....If they are still contented cheats, I have nothing to say to them: would would urge the high and hard duty of chastity on the people who have not yet wished to be merely honest? ...If people do not believe in permanent marriage, it is perhaps better that they live together unmarried... But one fault is not mended by adding another: unchastity is not improved by adding perjury.

This is is the logic that illuminates the recently publicized quotes of Pope Benedict XVI with regard to condoms and male prostitutes (who potentially are carrying the HIV/AIDS virus)--it's a "first step" in responsibility, as he put it. It is scarcely "the high and hard duty of chastity," but it is the beginning of being "merely honest." People must walk before they can run, after all.

This is not exactly the kind of statement that should justify all kinds of clamor about how the Vatican is "caving in" on its teaching on sexuality and contraception. After all, it is of no comfort to me if the one semi-justified use of a form of contraception is in fact to be found in the context of being a male prostitute! We need to avoid being carried away: on this logic, physical violence in defense of self or others would lead to the "slippery slope" of validating gang shootings. I don't think so.

What is of relevance in all of this is the overall outlook we have as human beings on issues of respect for all life. I say this having just watched "Karol: the man who would be Pope" on EWTN. What kind of radical defense of the defenseless (including those in the womb) would you be willing to make, if you had lived through the horrors of the "final solution" first-hand?

If I can see that in some cases I might tolerate what is called "the lesser of two evils," I should never be tricked into thinking that somehow what I tolerate is in fact anything other than "evil." It is not a good; it is not a virtue; it is not honorable to choose it except in the context of a greater and immiment evil.

Let's be careful. Let's respect human dignity (all too quickly and easily dismissed in the case of those we do not like or with whom we disagree). There is only one "Final Solution"--it is love.

1 comment:

  1. You present an excellent explanation and perspective on the pope's recent comments. The Church must meet people where they are, not where the Church wants them to be. In the reality of an imperfect world, choosing the lesser of two evils is still better than choosing the greater of two evils. Though not a cause for celebration, perhaps it can be considered a small victory since it loosens, if ever-so-slightly, the grip of absolute evil over the soul. While acknowledging the lesser of two evils is still evil, choosing the lesser is at least a step in the right direction.