What the pope said about condoms, and what he meant
Statements by Pope Benedict XVI that were published in an Italian newspaper recently indicate that while the pope upholds the traditional church stand on the use of condoms, there are circumstances when a “moral choice” to use them can indicate a step towards responsibility.
The example cited by the pope is that of a male prostitute who is afflicted with aids. The prostitute may make a moral choice to use condoms so that his sexual partner is not infected, Time magazine said.
This does not mean that using the condom is accepted by the church, but that in a circumstance such as above, it is, on the part of the homosexual, “a first step in the direction of 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,” according to Time magazine.
First Vatican exception, break with tradition
The pope’s statement implies that condom use can sometimes be justified, and The New York Times said it is “the first Vatican exception to a long-held policy condemning condom use,”
The publication specified that the pope saw condoms as a last resort in the example of the male prostitute, as opposed to using condoms as a means to prevent pregnancy.
The New York Times said that while Benedict states that condoms are not “a real or moral solution,” the publication notes that “for the first time, he opened the door for at least some more open debate on the issue.”
The Observer called the pope’s statement a “break with his traditional teaching.” Because he said condom use can be “a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”
“Benedict’s surprise comments will shock conservatives in the Catholic church, while finding favor with senior Vatican figures who are pushing for a new line on the issue as HIV ravages Africa,” The Observer reported.
In 2009 the pope told reporters that HIV in Africa would be worsened rather than improved by distributing condoms. The actual excerpt in its entirety is shown in BBC News. Part of the transcript is as follows:
Pope Benedict: 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.
In the book, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times, the pope responds to the harshest issues of his tumultuous papacy, including his controversial 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany which offended Muslims, his stand on the ordination of women priests, the sexual abuse scandal of minors by clergy, and others.