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    Re: On Pell Conscience, Truth and Communications....and CONDOMS!!
    Posted by Frank Donovan on October 14, 2003, 4:37 pm

Thanks Brian for a very comprehensive evaluation of Archbishop Pell's Philadelphia paper. It is worth a quiet read isnt it?

The paper is quite timely, given the latest controversy over the Vatican's latest PR blunder on condoms.

And, yes, Maggie, it is reported globally - not just on the BBC - that Cardinal Alphonso Lopez Trujillo was speaking as head of the Pontifical Council for the Family; a pivotal and important institutional player in the whole debate about sexuality, procreation and contraception.

Worse was the cardinal's cavalier dismissal of a decade of health science research around the world - including Australia - with his peremptory "They are wrong about that [ie condom impermeability] ... this is an easily recognisable fact."

Indeed the Associated Press story has Trujillo going further than that even, on the much advertised BBC Panorama about to be shown: "There are several doctors on our pontifical council and these people have studied this matter and they have also given instruction through various published articles, so we have not seen any denial of this fact at the level of medicine."

Well at the level of medicine Trujillo may well have not see any denial - nor should he expect to. It's not so much an issue in which medicine has any especially important contribution to offer - health science and public health research are not typically areas into which your average doctor spends much time. It is, however, an issue about which the health science community and public health authorities around the world have had much importance to say - and AIDS prevention is most definitely in their field.

So the point here is that Cardinal Trujillo digs the Vatican's hole even deeper when, recognising that he has a credibility problem here, he leans back on his medical mates on the council to shore him up!

So what's all that got to do with Dr Pell's paper?

Quite a lot really.

His argument for the subordination of conscience to the truth of God (Pell, 4 October, 2003)who "...speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives" (ibit:5)can only stand if those representatives (presumeable the pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops and magisterium of the Church speak the truth. Indeed, in an earlier paragraph (ibit:4) Dr Pell enjoins Catholics (including cardinals, I guess)to the teaching of 'Dignitaris Humanae' (Vatican II); '...that all men are "bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth".

Now, I do concede that you wouldn't necessarily want to point the BBC's performance, nor that of many of its media counterparts, as a beacon of 'the truth'. But you would want to point, with some confidence, to the elevated representatives of God, would you not?

Brian is quite correct to call for an open apology from Cardinal Trujillo for trying to win a moral argument by recourse to a scientific fiction. I don't share Brian's optimism for a positive PR coup, of the order of Fr raper's; but I do agree that an apology is an essential if not sufficient remedial step.

Then one can but hope that, at the forthcoming consistory, the very first thing Cardinal Pell does with his red hat is to pass it around all of his colleagues full to the brim with copies of his Philadelphia paper.

I would point them especially to the particular sentence I reproduced in an earlier posting:

"The denial of truth makes an enduring concept of justice that genuinely serves human life and love impossible." (ibit:9)


Frank Donovan

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