Rome Finds Sexual Ethics Errors in Work of Spanish Moralist

By Allen, John L. JR. | National Catholic Reporter, May 25, 2001 | Go to article overview

Rome Finds Sexual Ethics Errors in Work of Spanish Moralist


Allen, John L. JR., National Catholic Reporter


In a condemnation of "ambiguities and errors" in the work of a popular Spanish moralist, the Vatican has once again asserted that there are no cases in which abortion, sexual relations between homosexuals, masturbation or artificial birth control can be morally acceptable.

Three books by Redemptorist Fr. Marciano Vidal were the subject of a critical "notification" from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, released May 15 and published over two pages in the May 16 L'Osservatore Romano.

Vidal, 64, a professor in Madrid, is a well-known figure in Spanish-speaking theological circles. He is generally seen as a moderate disciple of the late Redemptorist moral theologian Fr. Bernard Haring, who emphasized personal conscience over abstract rules.

The Vatican's obvious preoccupation with Vidal's work is sexual ethics.

The notification quotes Vidal as saying that artificial contraception and sterilization can be acceptable "in situations of particular gravity" or when the intention is "to achieve a human good in a responsible way."

"Both these positions are contrary to the teaching of the church,' the Vatican congregation said.

Regarding masturbation, the Vatican said Vidal believes that the personal condition and circumstance of an individual must be taken into account.

Catholic teaching, on the other hand, is that "acts of autoeroticism are objectively intrinsically evil," according to the congregation.

Vidal, the Vatican said, has also taught that the church's teaching on homosexuality does not have "an adequate biblical foundation" and should not be so categorical.

This position, the congregation said, is in conflict with "the objective morality of sexual relations between persons of the same sex."

Vidal also "distances himself from the teaching of the church" by being open to in vitro fertilization procedures in which only a husband and wife are involved, not a third donor or surrogate mother, the Vatican said. The doctrinal congregation said Vidal's manual, Moral de Actitudes, "contains ambiguous judgments on other specific moral problems," including abortion.

"The author rightly affirms the overall immorality of abortion," but "his position on therapeutic abortion is ambiguous" because it does not distinguish clearly between "indirect abortion" caused by a medical procedure and an abortion performed to protect the life or health of the mother. …

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