Excerpts from 'Light of the World'

Light of the World, Peter Seewald's book-length interview with Pope Benedict XVI, has already drawn much attention here and elsewhere on the Web. Today, November 23, is the official publication day, and we are happy to provide excerpts from the book for our readers. Here you will find Pope Benedict talking about his first days as pope, his reaction to sexual abuse scandal and the legacy of Humane vitae--plus, his much-discussed remarks on AIDS and the use of condoms:

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.


There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Read the excerpts here.

Tim Reidy


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
7 years 11 months ago
Beth - I think that emphasizing the positives about sex instead of its sinfulness just gives those who are tempted by sexual promiscuity a source for finding a license and affirmation to engage in activities they are going to engage in anyway.  Since no one is saying anything bad about it, it must be ok.  All the publicity about the Pope's remarks is, as far as I can tell,  that he did not say that condoms are bad - that's what people are latching on to, that's what they want to hear.  I fail to see how the perception that condoms are now permitted will get people to stop being sexually promiscuous.

Our society has become so permissive that we bend over backwards to rationalize bad behavior wherever we can.  Rather than the Church backing down on its talk about sin, I think it needs to emphasize how sins of the flesh result in physical suffering and death (even with condoms), not to mention all of the emotional suffering caused by extramarital sex and infidelity. 

I teach my kids first about the immorality of sexual promiscuity, then about the risk of sickness and death caused by sexual promiscuity, then about the fact that there is no protection from all STDs - even condoms are not 100% effective against, eg., hpv.  They have enough people telling them about the "good" things about sex.
Thomas Farrelly
7 years 11 months ago
What puzzles me is why anyone thinks that the Pope's position will make the slightest difference in the fight against Aids.  Those who spread Aids through promiscuous sex, whether prostitutes, or Afican truck drivers, or careless Americans, are hardly refraining from the use of condoms because the Pope has withheld his approval.  If they cared about his teaching, they would not engage in promiscuoous sex.  
7 years 11 months ago
I read the excerpt on AIDs and condoms an I am more confused than ever.  Can someone paraphrase for me where they see the permissiveness in the Pope's remarks?  All I can see is an acknowledgement that people are using condoms and that while this is a positive sign of moral thought - that is, to think of others and to try to prevent spreading disease - it is still not condoned by the Church.  Is it because the Pope did not say directly that condoms are never permitted that this is such a big story?  Because I don't see where He said that they are ever permitted, either.  
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 11 months ago
It sounds to me like the Pope is sort of on the right track.  I wish he (and Catholicism, in general) would give more attention to the gift of sexuality, its sacredness and holiness, instead of worrying so much about the "sins" of the flesh. When we know that something about ourselves is inherently sacred, we will treat it with much more respect and care.   


The latest from america

Catherine Pakaluk, who currently teaches at the Catholic University of America and holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University, describes her tweet to Mr. Macron as “spirited” and “playful.”
Emma Winters October 19, 2018
A new proposal from the Department of Homeland Security could make it much more difficult for legal immigrants to get green cards in the United States. But even before its implementation, the proposal has led immigrants to avoid receiving public benefits.
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 19, 2018
 Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, then nuncio to the United States, and then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, are seen in a combination photo during the beatification Mass of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J., Oct. 4, 2014. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
In this third letter Archbishop Viganò no longer insists, as he did so forcefully in his first letter, that the restrictions that he claimed Benedict XVI had imposed on Archbishop McCarrick—one he alleges that Pope Francis later lifted—can be understood as “sanctions.”
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 19, 2018
Kevin Clarke tells us about his reporting from Iraq.
Olga SeguraOctober 19, 2018