Pope approves condoms?


There seem to be some reports that indicate that the Pope was speaking specifically of homosexual condom use (e.g. "a male prostitute"), where conception is already impossible. The media seems determined to blow this up into a major change in Roman Catholic teaching on contraception.


Actual quoted text:


His [the Pope's] comments came in a series of interviews given to a German Catholic journalist, Peter Seewald, which are published in a question and answer format in a book to be launched on Tuesday.

Here is an extract of the book - entitled Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times - in which the Pope refers to the use of condoms in preventing the spread of Aids:

Peter Seewald: On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican's policy on Aids once again became the target of media criticism. Twenty-five percent of all Aids victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church's traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church's own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

Pope Benedict: The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on Aids. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim.

Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many Aids victims, especially children with Aids.

I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering.

In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work.

This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man's being.

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 moralization, 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 humanization of sexuality.

Peter Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

Pope Benedict: 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.

Light of the World is to be published in English on Tuesday and available for general release from Wednesday. To order a copy of the book, or for more information, please contact the Catholic Truth Society.


Robert said...

The pope's remarks seem to be an argument of prudence, and as such do not signal a change in Catholic teaching. The press is so ignorant and biased when it comes to traditional morality, its presentation of what the pope actually said, and meant, is most likely skewed. The problem, of course, is that in the African context, the primary transmission of HIV/AIDS is through heterosexual, not homosexual, sexual activity. That being said, what the pope says about condoms not being enough and actually encouraging illicit sexual activity is absolutely correct.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Good point. I wonder how soon the Vatican will be issuing a clarifying statement. The media is running wild with this.

Anonymous said...

I think that it has to be emphasized that this addresses both heterosexual and homosexual liaisons. The idea that HIV/AIDS is a "gay issue" has been obsolete for over twenty years now.
It should also be emphasized that though not ever child born of an HIV+ mother will be HIV+, most will be. That reality puts His Holiness in a big bind.
The issue is complex and full of 'lesser evils' and I applaud Benedict for trying to move forward on this issue (and undoing the severe damage done on his Africa trip.)
As for the media- who would have thought that for-profit news agencies would flirt so closely with sensationalized lies?

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Mollie Hemingway covered this well: A vatican condom conversion

Robert said...

According to the CDC, gay and bisexual men still at the most risk for transmission of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Heterosexual women are at the most risk in most African countries.

As for B16, this statement cannot be considered a "move forward." It is a prudential argument equivalent to advising a suicide to take out life insurance before he blows his own head off.

The pope is not advocating contraception; he's merely trying to improve the lot of those who are effected by immoral decisions, in this case, illicit sexual activity.

Robert at bioethike.com

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Vatican responds to media hype:


Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau, an expert on the Vatican's bioethics advisory board, said the pope was articulating the theological idea that there are degrees of evil.

"Contraception is not the worst evil. The church does not see it as good, but the church does not see it as the worst," he told the AP. "Abortion is far worse. Passing on HIV is criminal. That is absolute irresponsibility."

He said the pope broached the topic because questions about condoms and AIDS persisted, and the church's teaching hadn't been clear. There is no official Vatican policy about condoms and HIV, and Vatican officials in the past have insisted that condoms not only don't help fight HIV transmission but make it worse because it gives users a false sense of security.

"This pope gave this interview. He was not foolish. It was intentional," Suaudeau said. "He thought that this was a way of bringing up many questions. Why? Because it's true that the church sometimes has not been too clear."

Lombardi said the pope didn't use the technical terminology "lesser evil" in his comments because he wanted his words to be understood by the general public. Vatican officials, however, said that was what he meant.

"The contribution the pope wanted to give is not a technical discussion with scientific language on moral problems," Lombardi said. "This is not the job of a book of this type."