Wednesday, November 24, 2010


No one realized that Pope Benedict cared so much about male whores that he would give them a dispensation that allowed the use of condoms in the course of their daily (er, nightly) work. Of course, they weren’t going to get anyone pregnant anyway. They weren’t going to stop the rain of babies that floods the world.

Did this mean that married couples could use condoms for contraception? Oh, no no no no. A man who wants sex must want babies. Then if he wants sex but not babies must he go to a whore? Does it matter whether it’s a male or female whore? (An off-label use of condoms. Maybe anatomy.) If he carries HIV or even has AIDS, then can he use a condom to protect his wife? If a male whore should use a condom as an act of compassion to protect his customers and maybe the wife of his customer, then who is it that will perform the act of compassion that will cure AIDS altogether? The United States will write a check to Big Pharma so they will send pills to Third World Countries, but that’s only if the country accepting the check will also accept other concessions, like military access or Big Pharma Third World drug trials. What does the Pope say about this?

What would Jesus say about all this? I think we know. We also know what Saint Paul would say, that man suspicious of all passion (except the Crucifixion). It is pointed out quietly in seminaries that Jesus is not the foundation of any institution. It is Paul -- oh, and Peter but he was not a very good bureaucrat -- who started the church and it was the Roman Emperor who solidified and located it. But a church is an institution, not an emotion. A church has no compassion. Only people can be compassionate.

A journalist is sent to interview a typical Catholic family about all this. “So,” the journalist asked the married couple, “Is this a big relief to you? Will it make a difference in your lives?”

The husband snorts. “Are you kidding? The Pope knows nothing about marriage. We haven’t paid attention to him for a long time.”

And the husband’s gay brother remarks rudely, “The Pope lives in a bubble smaller than the Popemobile. Nice shoes, though.”

The wife says, “Poor man. I hope he lives better than our parish priest who is too old and never gets a decent meal unless some married couple has him over and who is never sent the assistant he begs for. His cassock is threadbare and his rooms are too cold.”

Her brother-in-law laughs bitterly. “Maybe he can find ways to comfort himself.”

The twelve-year-old son says, “Yeah, but why use a condom anyway, now that you can just take a pill every day to prevent AIDS? What’s the difference between that and taking a contraceptive pill?” He gives a meaningful glance at his big sister who is home for Thanksgiving from Boston University.

The father bristles. “Five bucks a pill! You got that kind of money?”

Sulking, the son kicks a chair leg. “Only forty cents a day in third world countries.”

Now the mother bristles. “You can’t even remember to brush your teeth. Do you think you can remember to take a pill every single day without fail? That’s what you have to do.”

The sister looks over the top of the New York Times she has been checking. “My theology prof, Lisa Sowle Cahill, says the politics of AIDS has finally crowded the politics of contraception over to the side of the radar screen.”

“You’re right,” says the journalist, which causes the sister to reconsider -- maybe he’s cuter than she originally thought. “Back in 1987 when the doctors finally realized that AIDS was a retrovirus, an American committee of Bishops wanted a change in the policy on condoms but Ratzinger, then just a cardinal, whacked them hard with his doctrinal ruler. In 2001 -- that’s ten years ago -- the South African Bishops Conference issued a letter that said, ‘everyone has the right to defend one’s life against mortal danger.’ Even Opus Dei, that right wing of the church that Justice Scalia belongs to, agreed.”

“Let me see that,” says the gay uncle, taking the New York Times into his hands. “I’ve lost so many close friends since 1987. So many.”

The co-ed is indignant. “The Pope specifically said ‘male’ whores but in Italy they changed the wording to say ‘female whores.’ What is this? They think all whores are females? It’s not whoring if men do it? All females are whores?”

Her mother sighs. “How can you talk this way? You sound so cold-blooded. It makes me worry about you. If you say all these things, what might you do?”

The journalist is scribbling madly. “Don’t you believe that knowing things is good? Dr. John M. Haas, the president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, who is on the governing council of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, asked the publisher not to publish the book because it would cause so much trouble. Do you agree?”

“Knowledge is power,” says dad, tight-lipped, “And power is never easy.”

The mother wrings her hands. “What about the babies? The babies that shouldn’t be born because there’s no way to take care of them, no one to love them? What about the babies born with AIDS? Why can’t everyone use condoms?”

The twelve-year-old boy grumbles, “Heck, there are dispensers in the bathrooms of all the bars.”

Both parents look at him sharply. “How do you know THAT?” they demand.

The uncle is sheepish. “I told him.”

The father, angry, says to his brother, “I’ll take care of my son’s sex education, if you don’t mind.”

“But, Dad, you don’t know everything.”

The journalist begins gathering up his materials. “None of us knows enough. The world has been living in a Popemobile. It’s time we opened the doors and got out.”

The wife looks at him sharply. “I love my church.”

The daughter says, “I’ll help you carry your stuff out to the car.”

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