November 22, 2010

Pope: Condom Use OK In ‘Exceptional’ Cases

While AIDS activists welcomed Pope Benedict XVI's apparent acceptance of condom use in certain cases to help curb the spread of disease, officials from the Catholic Church moved Sunday to clarify the pontiff's stance on the contraceptives.

In the forthcoming book "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," the Pope told German Catholic journalist Peter Seewald that "there may be a basis" for condom use in select cases, such as male prostitutes using the contraceptive in order to help stop the spread of the AIDS virus. However, he noted that condoms were "not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection."

"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," he added, noting 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."

On Sunday, the Pope's comments were welcomed by liberal members of the Catholic Church, as well as by groups leading the global fight against the spread of AIDS.

"It is a marvelous victory for common sense and reason, a major step forward toward recognizing that condom use can play a vital role in reducing the future impact of the HIV pandemic," Jon O'Brien, the leader of the American advocacy group Catholics for Choice, told Philip Pullella of Reuters.

"This is a significant and positive step forward taken by the Vatican," added Michel Sidibe, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, the United Nation's branch focused on battling the immunodeficiency disease. "This move recognizes that responsible sexual behavior and the use of condoms have important roles in HIV prevention."

However, Church officials were quick to point out that the Pope's comments do not change Rome's general stance on the use of condoms as contraception. According to Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, Pope Benedict was referring to "an exceptional situation in which the exercise of sexuality is a real danger to the life of another."

"In this particular case, the pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality, but considers that the use of condoms may be a 'first act of responsibility'," Lombardi told AFP reporter Ljubomir Milasin on Sunday.

Likewise, in a Saturday interview with BBC News, Catholic commentator Austen Ivereigh said that the Pope's comments were not all that different from the stance that the Church's moral theologians have maintained for years.

"The Church's teaching on contraception predates the discovery of Aids," he said. "The prevalence of HIV raised the question of whether condoms could be used to prevent the transmission of the virus"¦ If the intention is to prevent transmission of the virus, rather than prevent contraception, moral theologians would say that was of a different moral order."

According to Milasin, nearly six million of the 48 million people living in South Africa are HIV positive, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that an estimated 1.106 million Americans were HIV positive as of 2006. Furthermore, UN AIDS estimates that as many as 7,000 new people worldwide are infected with the AIDS-causing virus each day.


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