As a conservative Catholic, I've been quite intrigued by the latest comments by the Pope on the use of condoms in the prevention of AIDS. Personally, I think the comments were both nuanced and overdue. The Catholic Church has received a lot of heat with regard to the subject, especially with respect to the AIDS epidemic in Africa and it's opponents frequently beat it over the head with the issue. Despite the Left wing's positive reporting on the matter, the reality is--at least in my mind--that there is nothing doctrinally new in his statements. Rather what I detect is a shift away from traditionalism to what I would call doctrinalism, applying our understanding of the faith(doctrine) to current circumstances rather than apply what previous men thought about the faith to current circumstances. There is a difference.
The Pope has not "approved" the use of condoms, rather he has simply stated that the use of them in the context of where deadly infection would be spread by the sexual act, is a lesser sin than knowingly not using a condom and infecting the other person. And a lesser sin is not a virtue. However by "considering" the welfare of another person, the Pope concedes that the "act" of using a condom shows that person may be developing the rude beginnings of a moral conscience; something which may grow over time. Really there is nothing new over here and I've always thought that this is the way that the Church should of approached the whole AIDS in Africa issue.
What has been interesting is the public commentary with regard to the issue. The Left Wing Press has generally been highly supportive of the Pope. It's interesting to note that even the photographs used in the story have been more flattering than usual. As usual the "open minded" left wing press are happy to lay on the charm when the Pope is in "sync" with their views but the love ends soon as there is disagreement. The more interesting response has been from the very traditionalist Catholic community. The hard core Catholics seem to be having some problems with the comments. What's interesting with regard to the Conservative criticism is their arguments resemble the arguments Liberals use when dissing papal Authority. The same guys who hold a fairly hard line with regard to Papal authority seem to have a bit of a hard time with it when the Pope says something they don't want to hear.
That's the problem with the Papacy, The liberals think you're too hard, and the trads think that you're too soft. Sometimes it's hard to be Pope.