FaithWorld

Vatican broadens case for condoms to fight AIDS

licht 1Pope Benedict’s landmark acknowledgement that the use of condoms is sometimes morally justifiable to stop AIDS is valid not only for gay male prostitutes but for heterosexuals and transsexuals too, the Vatican said Tuesday.

The clarification, which some moral theologians called “groundbreaking,” was the latest step in what is already seen as a significant shift in Catholic Church policy. (Photo: The pope’s book in German (r) and Italian (l) displayed at a Vatican news conference, November 23, 2010/Alessandro Bianchi)

It came at a news conference to launch the pope’s new book, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times.”

In the book, a long interview with German Catholic journalist Peter Seewald, the pope made clear he was not changing the Catholic ban on contraception, but, using the example of a male prostitute, said there were cases where using a condom to avoid transmitting the HIV virus could be justified.

licht 2Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi made the clarification because the German, English and French versions of the book used the male article when referring to a prostitute, but the Italian version used the female form.

Guestview: Did the Pope “justify” condom use in some circumstances?

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. is founder and editor of San Francisco-based Ignatius Press, the North American publisher of “Light of the World.”

popebook 1By Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.

Did the Pope “justify” condom use in some circumstances?

No. And there was absolutely no change in Church teaching either. Not only because an interview by the Pope does not constitute Church teaching, but because nothing that he said differs from previous Church teaching. (Photo: Pope Benedict with his new book, 23 November 2010/Osservatore Romano)

Then why all the headlines saying that he “approves” or “permits” or “justifies” condom use in certain cases?

Pope book breaks ice on Catholic view on condoms

condom 3 (Photo: Brazilian gays in Sao Paulo protest against the Catholic Church’s views on homosexuality, May 9, 2007. The posters read, “No more hypocrisy! Condoms and health”, and “Jesus loves gays”/Luludi-Agencia Luz)

The big surprise with Pope Benedict’s new book is not that he believes the Catholic Church can permit condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS in some circumstances, but that he took so long to say so.

Quotes from a new book of interviews with him made headlines around the world and some commentators went overboard by saying the Roman Catholic Church had made a sudden about-face on birth control and finally caught up with modern society.

A close reading of those quotes shows the pontiff not breaking from past teachings but thinking his way through the issue with logic dating back to the 13th century Saint Thomas Aquinas. He concludes that condom use, while still wrong, can be a lesser evil in certain circumstances.

Jewish leaders dismayed over Pius XII comments in pope book

piusJewish leaders reacted with dismay Sunday to comments in Pope Benedict’s new book that his wartime predecessor Pius was a “great, righteous” man who “saved more Jews than anyone else.”

Many Jews accuse Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of having turned a blind eye to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked quietly behind the scenes because speaking out would have prompted Nazi reprisals against Catholics and Jews in Europe.

In his book to be published Tuesday, called “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times,” the German pope says Pius did what he could and did not protest more clearly because he feared the consequences.

Grammar experts needed for pope comment on condoms

ossrom luce002Male prostitutes? Did Pope Benedict actually say that only male prostitutes can use condoms to avoid transmitting the HIV virus? Why did he limit this unsuspected flexibility only to men?

Well, it’s not actually clear from the new book Light of the World, where this statement appears, that he is only talking about male prostitutes. In fact, the Vatican’s own daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has him granting this conditional dispensation to female prostitutes. And his spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi has made a statement that supposedly clarified the pope’s comments but skirted around the gender isssue altogether. (Image: L’Osservatore Romano of 21 November 2010 with front-page mention of pope’s book — Luce del Mondo in Italian — at lower left. Interview excerpts were on the back page)

The problem is that the pope gave the interview in his native German, which is not 100% clear on this issue. The key phrase about condom use reads in the English translation: “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be the first step in the direction of a moralisation.”

Selected quotes from new book by Pope Benedict

pope massHere are some quotes from the English translation of Pope Benedict’s new book, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times”. The book, in question and answer format with the German Catholic journalist Peter Seewald, is due to be published on Tuesday in several languages. (Photo: Pope Benedict at Mass at the Vatican November 21, 2010./Tony Gentile)

On condoms to fight the spread of AIDS:

“There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanisation of sexuality.”

Jewish group urges pope to shut Holocaust denier Williamson out again

williamsonA Holocaust survivors group urged Pope Benedict on Saturday to ban an arch-traditionalist bishop from the Catholic Church because he hired a lawyer close to neo-Nazi groups to defend him in court in Germany. Bishop Richard Williamson, one of four rebel bishops re-admitted to the Church in January 2009, recently hired a far-right lawyer to conduct his appeal against a 12,000 euro fine imposed last year for denying the Holocaust.

His ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), which is now negotiating its return to the Church with Vatican officials, also threatened to expel Williamson from its ranks if he did not distance himself from the lawyer. (Photo: Bishop Richard Williamson, February 28, 2007/Jens Falk)

Williamson’s re-admission to the Church only days after he denied the Holocaust on Swedish television sparked protests across Europe and created major problems for Pope Benedict, especially with Jewish groups outraged by the move.

Condoms, Pius XII, sex abuse and other main points in pope book

benedictPope Benedict says in a new book, Light of the World, that condoms may be used in certain limited cases to prevent the spread of AIDS. He also addressed several issues facing the Church in the book, which is based on a long interview with German Catholic journalist Peter Seewald. (Photo: Pope Benedict, 17 Nov 2010/Max Rossi)

Here are some of the main points in the new book:

* CONDOM USE – Pope Benedict says the Church does not see condom use as “a real or moral solution” to the AIDS problem. But it could be justified in some cases, such as a prostitute who uses one to reduce the risk of infection and thus take responsibility for his actions (see an excerpt here).

Condoms sometimes permissible to stop AIDS: Pope

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.

Catholic bishops must take more action on sexual abuse – Vatican

vatican 2The Vatican has told Roman Catholic bishops around the world that they will have to take more responsibility to prevent sexual abuse of children by priests. It also said in a statement issued after a day-long meeting of cardinals on Friday that it was preparing new guidelines for bishops on how to deal with the sexual abuse, including cooperation with local authorities. (Photo: A picture of a clergy abuse victim at a news conference by SNAP (Survivors Networks of those Abused by Priests) in Rome November 19, 2010/Alessia Pierdomenico)

Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world held a rare gathering to discuss religious freedom, sexual abuse of children by priests and accepting converts from the Anglican church.

Cardinal William Levada, the American head of the doctrinal office headed by Pope Benedict before his election, spoke of “greater responsibility of bishops for the protection of faithful entrusted to them,” the statement said.