Pope skirts condoms issue in World AIDS Day statement
When Pope Benedict expressed his closeness to victims of AIDS in advance of World AIDS Day on December 1, one thing was conspicuously absent from his comments — either a specific mention or a reference to the use of condoms.
The Pope, speaking at his weekly general audience on Wednesday, called for increased efforts to stop the spread of AIDS and said victims of the disease should not be treated with disdain. He criticised international agencies he said were spreading abortion. The C-word was not present in either in letter or spirit in his two-paragraph comments in Italian.
When his predecessor John Paul spoke of AIDS, whether he was speaking in the Vatican or during his trips abroad, he often mentioned, either directly or indirectly, that condoms were not the answer.
The Catholic Church opposes the use of condoms in general because they block the possible transmission of life and teaches that fidelity within heterosexual marriage, chastity and abstinence are the best way to stop the spread of AIDS. It says promoting condoms fosters immoral and hedonistic behaviour that will only contribute to its spread. It teaches that homosexual acts are immoral in the first place.
In fact, the Catholic Church’s position on the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS has never been made totally clear or definitively pronounced.
Perhaps by not mentioning condoms, Pope Benedict has decided to take a more subtle approach to the problem.
In recent years, several top Church officials have called for a change in Vatican policy on condoms to allow their use by married couples where one partner is affected by HIV or AIDS. But the Vatican has so far been loath to issue any document that could be interpreted as a green light for the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS, fearing it would endorse promiscuity.
Little has been heard about a possible Vatican document recently. In November, 2006, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head of the Vatican’s Council for Health Pastoral Care, told reporters a study commissioned by the Pope had effectively passed its first hurdle.
“This is something that worries the Pope a lot,” Barragan said of AIDS at the time. The study, which Barragan at the time said was carried out from both a scientific and moral point of view, had been passed on to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and would eventually be passed up the Pope for his use as he saw fit in a document of his own or a pronouncement. It is not clear at what stage the document is now but perhaps, judging by the Benedict’s words, he has decided not to confront the issue the way his predecessor did — at least for now.