Condoms sometimes permissible to stop AIDS: Pope

November 20, 2010

pope seatedThe 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 L’Osservatore Romano on Saturday, the pope cites the example of the use of condoms by prostitutes as “a first step toward moralization” but says that condoms were “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.

(Photo: Pope Benedict at a consistory in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican November 20, 2010/Tony Gentile)

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 week of meetings at the papal summer residence.

The pope says that the “sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalisation 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 human way, of living sexuality.”

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Make no mistake about it. The Holy Father is not approving the use of condoms. He is just saying that some of those who use condoms might be moving in the direction of realizing that one’s sexual actions shouldn’t harm others. He wants them to stop altogether from having sex that threatens to transmit the HIV. There is not approval of condemns here. Rather a call to a more moral life.

Posted by berniethomas | Report as abusive

@berniethomas – it is so much more than just stopping from having sex. Millions of people are infected with HIV and don’t know it – they bring it home to their wives, or mothers pass it to their children unknowingly. Condoms provide the possibility of slowing that spread. Then, when people know they are infected – many disadvantaged or uneducated people don’t realize how damaging their actions can be. After all, they look healthy.

Condoms are one of the many tools we have to fight spread of HIV. These include education and awareness, access to testing, access and education about condom use, access and education to male circumscision. Why condemn one of the cheapest and most effective ways of HIV prevention?

Posted by SheRa | Report as abusive