A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Double effect for condom usage?

Ironically, just as I'm in the midst of wrapping up a series on the contraception-NFP debate, I discover some rumors that the Vatican may make a statement allowing the use of condoms for disease prevention purposes in the case of AIDs infection. See The Cafeteria is Closed for more details.

In many ways, it would make sense for condoms to be allowed for use in disease prevention. After all, birth control pills are allowed as medical treatments for women with various reproductive disorders. Moralists are split as to whether women should abstain while on the pill for medical reasons, but there's a healthy chunk of orthodox Catholic thinkers who believe that abstinence isn't necessary, because the double effect allows a woman to take the pill to treat her endo even though it will have an unwanted contraceptive effect on marital intercourse. In the same way, a man who is HIV positive might desire the disease-prevention effect of a condom but not the contracepted aspect. The contracepted aspect of condom useage would be a necessary but undesired side effect, and it would seem that the double effect would allow the use of a condom.

In the past, however, Catholics (including myself) have argued that the double effect doesn't actually apply in such cases, because "condomistic intercourse" is inherently not unitive in the way marital intercourse is meant to be. It is not a true, one-flesh union, but a rejection of such union. (I have to say that I argued for that position before I was married, for whatever that's worth.) At this point, I'm not personally opposed to allowing condoms for AIDS prevention among married couples. I think there may be great wisdom in it.

However, I also worry that this move might make the Catholic position on contraception seem less coherent. Will allowing the use of condoms for disease prevention "muddy the waters" and make it harder to argue that barrier methods prevent full unity? Or will it just seem more consistent, given that Catholic couples are already allowed to use "slotted condoms" for collecting fluids for fertility testing, as well as menstrual "barriers" which may resemble diaphraghms but don't have contraceptive effect. If such seeming barriers do not, in fact, pose a barrier to marital unity, why not condoms used for disease prevention?

In any event, these are just rumors. We'll just have to wait and see what the Magisterium does.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think with the Pill the seriousness of potential abortifacient effects adds another layer to the discussion of double effect in use for health reasons -- since the abortifacient factor has come to greater attention I'm not sure if I've heard/read support of its use unless the user remains abstinent.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Teresa H.T. said...

-- since the abortifacient factor has come to greater attention I'm not sure if I've heard/read support of its use unless the user remains abstinent.

It's my understanding that there are still some theologians who are argue that a couple need not abstain while on the Pill for medical reasons. However, I cannot name names, since this is a second-hand "fact." So you might well be right.

The other factor is that not all doctors believe that the Pill actually ever causes abortions. So some theologians may not believe that the abortifacient potential is as serious of a threat as it is often considered.

10:34 AM  

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