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James Martin, S.J.November 23, 2010

As Austen Ivereigh reported below, the Holy Father has now said that he intended his comments about the use of condoms in the prevention of passing on HIV/AIDS as applicable to (according to the Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi, S.J.) “a man, a woman, a transsexual.” It applies to anyone “in relations” or “in relationship,” depending on the translation from the Italian.  "It's the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship [or are "in relations]."  This is something of a game-changer when it comes to the Church’s discussion on the overall use of condoms.  While it doesn’t mean at all that Pope Benedict XVI—or the Catholic church--has approved condoms for use in terms of birth control, it is the first time that a pope has given voice to what many moral theologians and bishops have been saying for years--and have gotten into trouble for saying. 

Over the past few days, some have interpreted very narrowly what Pope Benedict said in his book-length interview with Peter Seewald, a German journalist, about condoms as a “first step” in the “moralization” of someone like a “male prostitute” who uses one to prevent the spread of infection.  (The idea seemed to be that the prostitute would be doing something moral by thinking about preventing the spread of disease.)  As soon as the embargo on Light of the Worldwas broken (view excerpts here), many took issue with the notion that anything had changed at all. 

Some of the arguments ran as follows: The pope wasn’t talking about "average" men and women, some said: he was only talking about male prostitutes, and thus it applied only to such cases.  The pope wasn’t talking about sexual intercourse that could lead to procreation, some said: he was only talking about an act not open to childbirth; that’s why he was using the admittedly strange example of a male prostitute, who presumably would be having homosexual relations with another man.  (The notion of a male prostitute having relations with a woman apparently wasn’t considered by some.)  The pope wasn’t even talking about an act of sexual intercourse, others said: he was only talking about an intention. 

It seemed odd that some who normally great admirers of the pope were trying to narrow his comments so as to be applicable only to one particular case, nearly stripping the pope’s words of any meaning whatsoever.  It was also odd that some who support the pope’s authority on matters both great and small seemed to be waving aside these comments, on an issue of great importance for people across the globe (i.e., the prevention of HIV/AIDS) as if they were entirely meaningless, or as if the pope didn’t know what he was saying.  But agree or disagree with him, Pope Benedict understands what he is saying.  And the pope seems to be showing us that his understanding of the topic, particularly as a theologian, was far different than anyone had previously thought.  "He did it because he believed that it was a serious, important question in the world of today," said Fr. Lombardi.

Change can be frightening.  At the same time, some in the church are often skittish of change, because it is often believed that change on one issue might mean that the faithful will think that everything is up for grabs.  John W. O’Malley, S.J., the dean of American church historians, once told our church history class at Weston Jesuit School of Theology that when the church begins to alter its course on a particular issue, it says either one of two things, “As the church has always taught…” Or, “There has been no change whatsoever.”  That last tack was also taken over the last few days.  Nothing has changed, said some, because moral theologians and several bishops, particularly from the developing world, have long said that condoms should be used to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. 

And that is true.  Several bishops and theologians have indeed taught that. The difference is that those who taught it were sometimes censured by the Vatican when they said it.  Or the Vatican has simply rejected their arguments.  So it is false to say that nothing has changed. 

Indeed, I know two priests who wrote an article on that topic, an article which was seen as problematic by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was its prefect.   It has been a hotly contested topic within moral thheology.  Entire books wrestling with such subjects have been written.  But that particular conclusion on condoms and the spread of AIDS had not been accepted by the Vatican. 

Once again, the Catholic Church has not changed its teaching on the use of condoms as a means of birth control.  Nor has the church “officially” changed its teaching on the use of condoms: an interview is not the same as an encyclical or a document from a Vatican congregation.  But the previously out-of-bounds discussion about whether condoms can be used as a means to prevent the spread of disease is now in-bounds.  That is change, by any definition.  And that change is a good one, for if it moves the conversation ahead, it may mean a further lessening of the spread of HIV/AIDS and the prevention of death.  It is a pastoral approach that has listened to the voices of many in the field--Catholic lay healthcare workers, moral theologians, bishops, priests, sisters and brothers--who have reflected on their experiences ministering to those living with AIDS, especially in the developing world.  As such, it may be seen as a new kind of pro-life initiative on the part of the Holy Father. 

Change for the better is to be welcomed, not feared.  (A good resource on this John Noonan's A Church that Can and Cannot Change.)  As Blessed John Henry Newman said, “To grow is to change.  To be perfect is to have changed often.”  That would be the same John Henry Newman beatified by Pope Benedict XVI.

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13 years 3 months ago
Adrienne - In civilian government law, it seems to me that there is the law on its face as written, and then there is the intent of the law underlying it.  Sometimes what is written gets trumped by overriding circumstances that are counter to the intent of the law or were not contemplated in the drafting of the law.  Thus, the pregnant couple zooming to the hospital in her 9th month will not get a speeding ticket.  

As a matter of drafting legislation, it would be silly to try to anticipate all exceptions that might come into play, and announcing such exceptions in the written law would only serve to take the teeth out of the law, enouraging violators who sense that the law is as flexible as they can argue it should be.  So, the speed limit is the speed limit (except when it isn't, but don't tell anybody).  And, even there, people are breaking the law, hoping that they don't get caught or perhaps hoping that they can talk their way out of a ticket - the slippery slope you speak of.  But that doesn't mean that we should get rid of speed limit laws.

We know that God would catch you in your violation, but I would hope that He would let you talk your way out of your ticket ;)

(OK, Tim, this is my last comment today)
Christopher RUDDY
13 years 3 months ago
Your story about the two priests who ran into difficulty over the morality of condoms raises the possibility that, as CDF prefect, Benedict properly did the bidding of John Paul II (and perhaps of the other members of the Congregation). Benedict has always had a more supple mind than his predecessor-which is no slam at all against JP II, given the extent of Benedict's intellectual gifts-and perhaps his latest comments are evidence of this as well. Or, perhaps, it's evidence that his position has developed (a la his comments on infant baptism when the parents' practice is weak:

In a similar vein, I'm not surprised at all that Benedict left open the possibility of resignation. He has in some ways a different sense of his role than did JP II. Without diminishing JP II, whose witness of suffering was as powerful (and Christian) as anything he ever said or did, Benedict has a less ''dramatic'' and ''public'' sense of self and mission. He really did mean that he was a ''humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.'' Knowing himself to be called to the papacy, he nonetheless does not believe himself irreplaceable. I could easily see him-facing a drawn-out illness or simple aging-resigning and returning to his beloved home in Regensburg. It would be an act of genuine humility, well-fitting his personality. (Within a couple of years, Benedict will be older than any pope other than Leo XIII in nearly 300 years) 

By the way, while I agree that some people are threatened by change, such psychologizing is incomplete, unless one posits as well that some people have a hard time with necessary boundaries or have unresolved authority issues (e.g., parents, teachers, superiors, etc.) and are reflexively reactive to any exercise of authority, however well-founded it may be. It gets stale hearing, for instance, that more 'traditional' believers are afraid of change and growth (and so cling defensively to what is familiar and comforting), without hearing that their more 'progressive' counterparts might be working from an adolescent, rebellious sense of autonomy (and so fail to consider the needs of the whole family-body, or even the fact that they might be wrong). The sword cuts both ways.
Peter Lakeonovich
13 years 3 months ago
Fr. Jim,

Don't you honestly think that your response in incomplete?

To say that "the discussion is in the use of condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS, which had been previously seen as entirely off-limits, according to the Vatican," and only about that misses the point that there is an absolutely necessary prior decision and act, namely, to decision to engage in the sexual act and the act of doing so.

In other words, the decision to use a condoms in never merely about preventing diseasse.  To even imply that such is the case is misleading at worst and stick one's head in the sand at best.

Stated still differently, living the principles of Humanae Vitae alone can and will prevent the spread of disease, and it does constitute the teaching of the Church's Ordinary Magesterium as exercised by Pope Paul VI.  Now, if has already  ruptured oneself from the Church's teaching and has moved out of communion with the Church (such as in the case of prostitutes), then when confronted with a second moral decision (i.e., whether to use a condom) is when use of a condom may be justified as a moral decision.

As for married couples, Humanae Vitae has also addressed this and would make a similar exception where the primary intent is not to prevent conception but to express the unitive aspect of marriage consistent with the principle of totality.

So, it seems to me, that perhaps what has changed is that the Vicar of Christ has articulated an explanation that had not previously been articulated, but nothing in fact has changed in what has been the Church's firm and constant teaching on condoms.
Peter Lakeonovich
13 years 3 months ago
Fr. Jim,

You're a son of St. Ignatius, so I can only argue with you so much before the nature of my conscience grabs hold of me and tells me to stop and just listen instead.

I guess I just do not for the life of me understand (honestly and humbly), what any of this means at all in the context of the soul or, more precisely, the salvation of the soul?

Can you help make that link for us?

Maybe some finding some quiet over Thanksgiving do so Ignatian discernment of spirits will help.

Alana Schrader
13 years 3 months ago
Fr. Martin, isn't the “change” here that Catholic organizations may be able to provide condoms to those who engage in acts considered immoral by the church, but who might be willing to use a condom to prevent the spread of AIDS and those organizations will still be functioning as a Catholic organizations aligned with church teaching? I realize that this possibility might be years away as the full implications of this statement are fleshed out by organizations, but the idea that prostitutes are all running to the store for condoms certainly isn't the change that's likely to occur as a result of the pope's statement. Prostitutes are hardly trying to align with church teaching or reading these media commentaries, while those who work to prevent the spread of AIDS are following it closely.
Andy Buechel
13 years 3 months ago
Out of curiosity, does anyone know if there are any other times where the Vatican has referred to transsexuals?  I realize that Lombardi was simply trying to show that this position applies to anyone at all, but it's very surprising to me that he referred to transsexualism.  As far as I know, the Vatican has never before mentioned or addressed the topic.
Andy Buechel
13 years 3 months ago
That strikes me as very interesting, given the Vatican's insistence that people are only created male and female, and is very specfic about what each of those terms mean.  Any construction of 'male, female, and (insert any other gendered term here)' was highly unexpected from any Vatican official, even if I have no idea what they intend by it.
13 years 3 months ago
Well, this is getting confusing...

Here is Fr. Jim quoted in the AP via Yahoo news:

"By acknowledging that condoms help prevent the spread of HIV between people in sexual relationships, the pope has completely changed the Catholic discussion on condoms," Martin said.

Where is the context?  Should all people in sexual relations use condoms around the world just in case HIV is present?  That is certainly not the message we want to be sending, is it?  Where are the moral demensions of the decision?  Concern for human dignity as created beings and responsibility as such? 

This looks like tact approval for a technical solution to a very human problem - something the greeks called the "pharmakon" - a poison that is also the cure or an evil that "negates" itself via some technological device.  It give human responsibility and culture a pass in the short term

Promotion of "safe" sex is one thing for married couple where one spouse is infected or in instances of prostitues; however, a blanket statement like that AP quote read by thousands seems dangerous and almost negligent when taken out of context.
Dale Rodrigue
13 years 3 months ago
I thought I would never say this but bravo B16!
FINALLY, he admits that infecting someone terminally with HIV is morally worse than using a condom.

The exact quote, I believe,  is ''more humane''.  Logically, this may apply to other instances where intercourse may lead to a terminal condition for the mother or fetus?  Using a condom is ''more humane'' and less immoral than the death of the mother or fetus. This is similar to Adrienne's situation.

Not having sex because a couple may conceive children putting the fetus and mother at risk is also contrary to St. Paul's advice to submit to one another lest satan tempt.  He also states that the only time a couple not have sex is briefly in order to pray.

I hope his courageous move doesn't get bogged down in semantics particularly by those who are wailing and knashing their teeth over his decision.
13 years 3 months ago
I, too, think that Benedict's exceptions are great and in keeping with Catholic thought and nuance on the subject of human sexuality.

That said, I will "nash teeth" at attempts to over generalize these exceptions to put foward the message that, "the pope says all should use condom who have sex!" 

This is what the liberal press is aiming to do with the help of (out of context) quotes from insiders such as Fr. Jim.
13 years 3 months ago
What really saddens me is that it seems that both "camps" seem to pounce on every major statement by the Pope and use it to cudgel their supposed ideological enemies with it.  Thus the conservatives bang on about the Pope's liturgical pronouncements, both verbal and sartorial, and seize on it to bludgeon their enemies, and the so-called liberals do the same with Caritas in Veritate or this recent statement, the sex abuse camps cry "its not enough" (what is?), and on it goes.  Its like his words are more important for what they say about your enemy than what they do about the Gospel.  Its just really sad and in the process it seems we're missing out on what is turning out to be a very interesting and perhaps pivotal Pontificate.
Christopher Scaperlanda
13 years 3 months ago
Father Martin,

I appreciate your take on the topic and I do think it is helpful.  For a pastoral explanation of what the Pope is saying in a way that makes sense, I recommend that you - and others - take a look at Janet Smith's analogy:

If someone was going to rob a bank and was determined to use a gun, it would better for that person to use a gun that had no bullets in it.  It would reduce the likelihood of fatal injuries. But it is not the task of the Church to instruct potential bank robbers how to rob banks more safely and certainly not the task of the Church to support programs of providing potential bank robbers with guns that could not use bullets.  Nonetheless, the intent of a bank robber to rob a bank in a way that is safer for the employees and customers of the bank may indicate an element of moral responsibility that could be a step towards eventual understanding of the immorality of bank robbing.

The analogy is incomplete - I don't think that the Pope is merely saying that the use of a condom could be a step towards understanding that illicit sex is wrong.  But it does help illuminate the somewhat curious nature of the comments.  And it is important that he never actually legitimizes condom use as something the church should promote in fighting disease.  But it shows an openness to the possibilities of grace in all moments, and the opportunities to be opened to God's goodness in the same.
Dale Rodrigue
13 years 3 months ago
I personally do not like Janet Smith's analogy at all, too tortuous and attempts to explain away what B16 was courageous enough to say (the emphasis is on people not the type or lack of bullets). 

Let's give B16 some credit.  I was taken aback by the change.  Rather than emphasing the church law against contraception he is emphasizing concern for mercy and health of those involved first then the law, rather than the law first and the consequences of HIV transmission be damned.

BREAKING NEWS (but I'm sure the more savvy contributors know already): The Russian Orthodox Church announced that it has dropped its ban on condoms for contraception.  They have divided contraception into barrier contraception and abortive contraception.  The former is now allowed, the latter is still banned. Interesting. 
They just can't let B16 have some limelight.

Brett, I haven't seen any press reports that all should use condoms, perhaps you have somewhere but I haven't.

Finally a question for Fr. Jim. Is the ban on contraception considered a ''discipline'' as is mandatory celibacy?  As I understand it a discipline can be changed by the Pope, can the ban on contraception be changed by the Pope as the Russian Orthodox Church has done?

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody! I'm preaching to the choir but don't forget to give thanks, easy to forget in all the hub hub of the day!
13 years 3 months ago
I think this is the key quote from the pope:

"She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality."

If it is not a "real" or "moral" solution then how can a Catholic either use a condom of encourage others to use them.

The fact that the pope says that there is some good in a person's "intention of reducion the risk of infection" does not in anyway imply that this is a moral solution.

I am always amazed at liberal (such as America Magazine) obsession with sex.  I can just imagine the America Magazine editors jumping for joy when they first heard about his.  I know I am a cynic buy I don't imagine them to have similar joy if Roe was ever overturned.  I hope I am wrong.
13 years 3 months ago
I understand, but you - if anyone in the Church - know how the media works.

Is this really what we want millions of people to read?:

"By acknowledging that condoms help prevent the spread of HIV between people in sexual relationships, the pope has completely changed the Catholic discussion on condoms," Martin said.

If I didn't know better, reading this quote would lead me to think that condoms are now Vatican approved in all circumstances in the name of "safe sex."

This is clearly not what the pope was saying; while the right may be trying to wildly narrow the meaning of his words, you seem to be trying to expand them.  Both are distortions, right?
13 years 3 months ago
Sheesh, just watched that ABC video.

Considering the interviewer at ABC news asked you about the use of condoms to prevent other diseases, it is useful to remember the diseases that condoms do not prevent and that are spreading like wildfire.

Especially, HBV (human paploma virus) - where 1 out of 4 American teenage girls is now infected with this virus that causes cervical cancer and CANNOT be prevented by a condom.

Also, why not mention that dehumanization and sexualization of girls (and everyone) that result of the contraceptive mentality.

The reporters are materalists/positivists - Catholic spokesmen (i.e. witnesses!) should remind them that there is more to human beings and their communal interactions than mere biology....
13 years 3 months ago
Fr. Jim,

Does the data support the assertion that condom distribution in Africa saves lives?   Or are you just a beliver in condoms without data?
13 years 3 months ago
Joe, it does help in target communities (drug users, prostitutes, homosexuals) but it actually makes the problem worse when distributed and promoted in larger, untargeted populations.

Prof. Edward Green is the expert to look up on this.
13 years 3 months ago
Douthat has a great blog post on this too:

Peter Lakeonovich
13 years 3 months ago
So I took the night off before posting an additional comment, to avoid any possibility of acting at a moment of great desolation or consolation (as the case may be).

Then I re-ead the excerpts from Light of the World, specifically those quoted in the following article by George Weigel, which Archbishop Timothy Dolan had linked as insightful in his own blog (The Gospel in the Digital Age):


After re-reading such excerpts, I am convinced that the implications in the original post above are not at all an accurate portrayal of what the Pope said.  Consider:

"Benedict XVI: The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on Aids. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many Aids victims, especially children with Aids.           
I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.           
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.
Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?
Benedict XVI: She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality."
John Hayes
13 years 3 months ago
According to an 11/23 article on the website of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, as between couples of whom one member has AIDS:

"The matter continues to be debated among theologians but the more common opinion among moralists faithful to the magisterium is that the use of the condom would be wrong because it could endanger the life of the spouse and could be an act of contraception."

Sounds very much like; "I have decided which theologians are faithful to the magisterium and, surprise!, most of the people in my select group believe the use of a condom would be wrong."

I really wonder how much help that is to a woman whose AIDS-bearing husband insists on having sex with her. 

As to the claim that using a condom would endanger the life of the woman, can anyone believe that it would endanger it more than not using a condom?

The article is by John M. Haas, Ph.D., S.T.L., NCBC President


Joshua Kibler
13 years 3 months ago
Fr. Martins' comments on the pope's comments are prudently modest in their claims about the breadth of change: the broadness of the latter's comments remains a bare couple dozens words, including articles. I'm really not sure where the smoke here is, much less the fire.
Peter Lakeonovich
13 years 3 months ago
"Once again, the Catholic Church has not changed its teaching on the use of condoms as a means of birth control.  Nor has the church “officially” changed its teaching on the use of condoms: an interview is not the same as an encyclical or a document from a Vatican congregation.  But the previously out-of-bounds discussion about whether condoms can be used as a means to prevent the spread of disease is now in-bounds.  That is change, by any definition.  And that change is a good one, for if it stands, it will mean the prevention of death.  As such, it may be seen as a pro-life move."

Fr. Jim, aren't you missing a very important point in your comments quoted above which needs to be mentioned? 

And that is that there are crucial moral choices to be made prior to getting to whether or not using a condom would be morally justified.  The necessarily prior moral framework is that any sexual acts outside the sacramental union of marriage between one man and one woman, or any such acts at all which violate the principle of totality, are illicit and immoral and that already puts the soul in jeopardy.  But, having first made immoral prior choices, using a condom could be a morally justified first step.

Where is this discussion?
13 years 3 months ago
apropos of this development, I'm reminded of Fr John Padberg SJ's favorite quotation:

If we want things to stay the same, everything will have to change.

-Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard
George Curran
13 years 3 months ago
In addition to HIV, condoms also offer some protection against cervical cancer and other deadly (and non-deadly) diseases.
Do the Pope's remarks apply to a married couple wanting to avoid these diseases also?

Adrienne Krock
13 years 3 months ago
I'm a bit reluctant to post my comment because I do appreciate the significance of addressing the question of condoms in relation to AIDS/HIV. 

But as an (opinionated) married person, condoms and birth control mean something else to me. In our case, I have been told (after having 3 children,) that due to a medical condition, if we were to get pregnant again, the child would not survive and it could probably kill me as well. It's not AIDS/HIV, but I'm an important part of this family and making love is an important part of our marriage. Using non-abortive birth control is an issue of life or death in our marriage. This is a tip of a slippery slope on a number of levels. One which I support, but a slippery slope nonetheless. 
13 years 3 months ago
George77 - Since the Pope didn't take a position but merely acknowledged that people are using condoms for use in sinful activities and that such use could be looked at as a first sign of moral thinking, I'd infer that he would say that a person who used a condom to prevent spreading disease to a spouse was showing a sign of moral thinking, as well.  The question as to whether the use of a condom in heterosexual sex is sinful is already settled doctrine; this comment does nothing to change that.  And contrary to what Fr. Martin suggests, I don't see where any of this is subject to change merely because a reporter asked the question and the Pope answered it.

As I see it, all the hoopla about the Pope's comment comes down to is this: There is no change in what the Church teaches about contraception and the use of condoms.  Some believe that such a change might be open for discussion, apparently, since the Pope did not use certain operative words that imply that there is no opportunity for discussion on the matter.  I don't know whether the latter part is true, but I know that the liberal wing will latch on to like white on rice to try and force the discussion.
13 years 3 months ago
If what the pope said represents a change in Catholic teaching it seems inappropriate that we should hear about it from a journalist.  If his comments represent no change then his remarks have to be seen as ill-considered.  Either way ...  God help us!
13 years 3 months ago
It seems obvious to me that the Pope is essentially saying that some people are so screwed up morally that it doesn't matter what the Church teaches; if they exhibit any kind of moral thought, even if it is done during the commission of an evil act, it's better than doing the act without any moral consideration for its consequences. 

It's like the Pope saying that some criminals will steal someone's key and unlock their door rather than break a window in the commission of a larceny.  If you're going to steal anyway, better that you not also ruin someone's window.  Ah!  But he didn't SAY that stealing the key was wrong, so he must be giving way on the issue of theft of keys!  I suppose that there are justified thefts, but no one would ever say that this would be the least bit indicative of a change in the Chuch's teaching about stealing.  But surely the thieves would say it is!

13 years 3 months ago
"Change can be frightening" - yes, indeed - for some but not all. I think that is at the center of much of the conversation around the pope's comments. How do we integrate the Pope's statements into our current understanding of how things are? People process it according to their own capacity to absorb change.

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