Pope says condoms sometimes permissible to stop AIDS

VATICAN CITY Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:09pm EST

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS may be justified in certain cases, Pope Benedict says in a new book that could herald the start of sea change in the Vatican's attitude to condoms.

In excerpts published in the Vatican newspaper on Saturday ahead of the book's publication next week, the pope cites the example of the use of condoms by prostitutes as "a first step toward moralization" even though condoms are "not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection."

While some Roman Catholic leaders have spoken in the past about the limited use of condoms in specific cases to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS as a lesser of two evils, this is the first time the pope has mentioned the possibility himself in public.

The Vatican newspaper unexpectedly published significant excerpts from the book on Saturday night, days before extracts were initially due to be made public.

The pope's words appeared to be a major shift in the Vatican's attitude. While no formal position existed in a Vatican document, the majority of Church leaders have been saying for decades that the use of condoms was not even part of the solution to fighting aids.

The late cardinal John O'Connor of New York famously branded the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS as "The Big Lie."

Last year, the pope caused an international uproar when he told journalists taking him to Africa that condoms should not be used because they could worsen the spread of AIDS.

The new book, called Light of the World, is made up of Benedict's responses to questions by German Catholic journalist Peter Seewald over a month of meetings at the papal summer residence.

The pope says that the "sheer fixation on the condom implies a canalization of sexuality" where sexuality is no longer an expression of love "but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves."

After the pope first mentions that the use of condoms could be justified in certain limited cases, such as by prostitutes, Seewald asks: "Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?"

The pope answers: "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 humane way, of living sexuality."

(Additional reporting by Tom Heneghan; Editing by Peter Graff)

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Comments (9)
WhyMeLord wrote:
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander; if it’s OK for the few, it’s OK for the rest of us.
Grey rules seem to be all the rage today.
I’m simply disgusted with all this pandering; why not just flush all the rules, and we can all enjoy life as heathens.

Nov 20, 2010 12:37pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Amiga5 wrote:
It is attitudes like this that has exploded aids in the public arena.

Our religious ideals have out weighed our health

Nov 20, 2010 12:46pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ibookworm wrote:
It seems to me that the pope is saying, if you are a male prostitute who has Aids the use of a condom to protect your partner is (as quoted on another site) “a first bit of responsibility, to redevelop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes.” He then says, “But it is not the proper way to deal with the horror of HIV infection.”

And what’s the headline? “Pope says condoms sometimes permissible to stop AIDS.”

Did he? Did he say that condoms are okay in this situation, or just that the use of a condom might indicate at least an understanding that one is responsible to more than one’s own self when engaged in sex, even if the means chosen is, in fact, wrong and not a solution?

Frankly, I don’t know myself.

This is exactly why the Church needs to be clear, clear, CLEAR in its teachings. Condoms are always wrong. Always. Always. Always. This is an oft-reiterated teaching by the Church. (And even if the pope said something contrary to this teaching in the interview, that would NOT constitute a change in the teaching, since the pope in this case would not be speaking in a capacity that could override official Church decrees like Humanae Vitae.) Trying to make some conciliatory remarks that downplay the very concrete moral realities can only backfire and contribute to the crisis of confusion that infects the Church. How much do you want to bet that many Catholics are going to read that headline and think, “Well, maybe condoms aren’t such a big deal after all. This is the first loosening, and — as we’ve seen so often in the past — it will surely lead to a greater loosening. But there’s no need to wait for that greater loosening, since it’s coming anyway.”

And so the crisis deepens.

Sure, you can blame the media for portraying the pope’s words in the wrong light. But the pope’s comments are a classic example of post-Vatican II obfuscation, trading clarity for palatability.

The Church has to regain her identity instead of trying to please all the people (including nominal “Catholics” who don’t follow the teachings of the Church) all the time. Benedict has often spoken of his belief that the Church will become smaller but stronger. It’s time for him to accept this and stop trying to hold on to the detritus who don’t really want to be Catholic anyway.

This made me realize just how far we still are from a restoration of the Church.

Nov 20, 2010 2:18pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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