Jaeger David-M. A. ,
Antonianum, 84/2 (2009) p. 219-222
Even at this late date it is at least probable that most of you remember the media furore that followed statements attributed to Pope BENEDICT XVI while on his way to Africa. The debate indeed had been going on for some years, and the attribution to the Holy Father of certain assertions concerning its subject only re-ignited it. What struck one particularly about the multiple discussions of the matter was how little care was being taken by critics to define the terms of the debate, or indeed its very object.
As is abundantly well known, the Catholic Church teaches that the use of the sexual faculty is only morally licit between a man and a woman who are truly married to each other, and even then only when it takes place in such a way as to be – by and of itself – open to the transmission of life. Only so, Catholic doctrine holds, can the two ends of marriage be present at the same time – and they must both be simultaneously present for the liceity of sexual congress – namely, affirming the love of the couple (the “unitive” end) and intrinsic openness to procreation. This is perhaps an oversimplification of a complex discourse, but essentially I believe this is a true reflection of our doctrine.
A consequence of this teaching is that in all other circumstances, sexual relations are not morally licit, are – to put it simply – sinful. This applies to relations between any persons who are not a truly married couple – either because they are not married, or because at least one of them is married to a third party (even though a civil divorce and “re-marriage” to the present partner may have intervened) or because they are both of the same sex. It applies also to sexual congress between man and wife where the possible transmission of life is being deliberately blocked by one or the other or both, which deprives the act of its moral goudness.
There is none who is not aware of the passionate debates aroused by the clear re statement of this constant doctrine by Pope PAUL VI, in his Encyclical Letter, “Humanae vitae”, of 1968. Following in his footsteps, Pope JOHN PAUL II, following in his footsteps, not only consistently and prominently upheld it, but worked to gain for it ever wider understanding and acceptance, seeking to demonstrate its rootedness in a proper understanding of human nature, and especially in the nature and meaning of human love.
And so, of course, does the reigning Pontiff, BENEDICT XVI.
This is one strand of the affaire. Another strand is this: With the fearful spread of H.I.V. and A.I.D.S., which has been devastating especially to several African countries, many public health experts and organisations have been calling for public promotion of the use of the male prophylactic in sexual acts, as a way to block the transmission of the virus. Many others have been opposing such promotion of the male prophylactic as the way par excellence to combat the spread of H.I.V., contending that it is far from being as effective as its supporters would have it, and especially that making the promotion of “condom” use into a major public health policy would rather have the undesirable effect of appearing to condone sexual immorality, of signifying authoritatively that it is “OK” to engage in morally illicit and health-wise risky behaviour (as long as this “safety measure” is employed), with negative consequences to both the moral and the physical health of entire populations.
Most often it has been Pastors of the Catholic Church who have been insisting that there could be no adequate substitute for educating the at-risk populations to observance of “fidelity in marriage and abstinence outside of marriage” as the only sure way to prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, including that caused by H.I.V. In response, the Church’s fiercest critics have been accusing her of opposing vital public health policies that could save numerous lives, whipping up storms of protest at every opportunity.
It is in this flammable context that such critics have pounced on the reported comments by the Roman Pontiff to inflame the debate further, or rather to re-propose their verbal attacks against the Church’s hierarchy, specifically the Apostolic See.
The immediate furore may have passed by now, at least to some degree, but is more than likely to return whenever some further occasion presents itself.
It is therefore that we are particularly grateful to our colleague, Professor Lluis Oviedo, ofm, and his co-authors, for having put together the report we are publishing in this issue of Antonianum, in the new section titled, for brevity’s sake Disputationes. It is designed to offer readers scholarly insight into current disputations that are not simply public disagreements (we have so many other media for that), but that have reference to philosophical and theological principles of a high order.
There is another new section we are inaugurating in this issue: L’Essai.
The idea has long appealed to us. This section is meant for serious reflection by established scholars who share their mature thought other than through the usual article format. First to appear in this section is Fr. Francisco Martinez Fresneda ofm, well known as a leading scholar in things Franciscan, as well as a member of our University’s earstwhile “Council of Regents”, which is called something else nowadays, but which remains an international body of scholars appointed by the Order of Friars Minor to accompany, advise and encourage the life and progress of our University. We are grateful to him for having elected to share with us his extended reflection, the fruit of decades of study and thought.
But the past is only superficially less turbulent than the present. Our Professor of the Hebrew Scriptures, Fr. David Volgger, ofm, takes us back a long way to the no less agitated environment reflected in them, evoking the fascinating accounts of particular women at turning points of salvation history.
The depth of meaning of those accounts are never sufficiently mined, and his article provides further evidence of that. scholasticism. Our Faculty
of Philosophy’s Fr. Cristobal Solares, ofm, then wrenches us once more into the discussions characteristic of our time, with his article on the principal challenges to contemporary psychologists. While our Theology Faculty’s Maksym Adam Kopiec, ofm, continues his series of articles1 on the religions of humankind in a Christian theological perspective, venturing into the theological minefield of discussing their possible relationship to the economy of salvation. His is an extremely subtle theological investigation, which does hypothesise a possible role for humankind’s multifarious religions in relation to the economy of salvation while keeping firmly to the Christian faith in the uniqueness and definitiveness of the mediation of Jesus Christ the Son of God (cf. Mk 1,1).
Having risen to the heights of philosophical and theological speculation with the preceding three authors, Andriy Tanasiychuk, an evidently promising young scholar who teaches Eastern canon law in both Venice and Rome, keeps our feet on the ground with his insightful and practically useful article on certain significant elements of the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium.
The second millennium of the Church’s history was marked by the titanic struggle between Church and State. Or, if you will, by the Church’s unrelenting effort to keep, or as the case may be, to win back her liberty, and by the State’s unceasing effort to enmesh the Church in its net. Pedants may flinch at the use of “State” as being somewhat anachronistic for much of that period (the early centuries), but the meaning is clear enough and we shall let the word stand. Some of the most intense and most riveting chapters of that story were written in the Iberian Peninsula. A youthful scholar, one with a particularly wide range, Fabio Vecchi (well, after all youth is a transient condition, as one is painfully aware oneself ) offers us, in his article, a peculiarly well put together account of a specific episode in this chapter of the multifaceted relationship of the temporal and spiritual power in that most Catholic region of Europe. It will surely delight jurists in particular, and others too who like a well-told good story, which has the advantage of being true to the meticulously researched facts.
The reader will then encounter once more Prof. Lluis Oviedo, ofm, well remembered as our distinguished former Editor, in his review article, which takes a look at several recent works together, bringing us up to date on the state of the debate that engages them all, each in its own way. I trust I am not the only one who finds this form of a review article, a relatio bibliographica, as we at Antonianum have chosen to call it, an especially helpful way to keep up with entire areas of intellectual discourse, especially in disciplines and areas of study other than one’s own.
As always, some other book reviews, chronicles, and the list of books received bring up the rear, as it were, holding their own interest for the reader.
As I finish this brief overview of this issue of Antonianum, I am struck by the variety, as well as by the quality, of its contents. The quality is entirely due to our contributors, while we at the editorial team do wish to take some little credit for the variety. It is harder these days of increasingly specialized publications to keep a multidisciplinary one going. Yet we think this a distinctly worthwhile enterprise, not only – not even principally – to showcase our own Pontifical University “Antonianum”, but to keep faith with the conviction, ever more necessary precisely in an environment of increasing specialisation, that truly specialised knowledge is best acquired in dialogue with other specialties, at least in the same broad area of scholarly endeavour and in those most closely related to it.
As we go to press, our readers in academe (at leas in the northern hemisphere) are probably preparing for their long vacations; we are preparing the third issue of Antonianum 2009.