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Monday, November 22, 2010

His Holiness Justifies the Condom

In some extreme cases, that is.

Pope Benedict XVI said that condom use may be justified in "certain cases", such as with a male prostitute who would want to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like AIDS.  The Pontiff made the remark in an interview published in the official Vatican newspaper in relation to a new book called "Light of the World."

Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and the Signs Of The TimesThe leader of the Catholic Church, to which I belong of course, further said that where the intention to reduce the risk of infection, "it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality."  But His Holiness is quick to add that the Church does not see the use of condoms as a moral solution and "it is not the proper way to deal with the horrors of HIV infection."

The remarks, as expected, created quite a stir among Catholics who are for and against the use of condoms.  Pro-contraception and reproductive health advocates see this as a softening of the stand of the Pope on the use of artificial methods of contraception.  One legislator even announced that the Pope's statement will "undermine the hardline stand of the Catholic Church on the Reproductive Health Bill."  Although I would like that to happen, personally I do not share his enthusiasm because the Pope was not very clear if reproductive health is one of those "certain cases".  

The head of the Catholic Bishops' group in the country was also quick to say that the Pope's message does not change the church view on the use of artificial means of contraception.  He said that the Church will continue to condemn the use of condom as a contraceptive but will take a different mind set when it is used to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Interestingly, the Pope used a male prostitute as an example.  So, does that mean that it is still morally wrong for a man to wear a condom if he engages in sex with a female prostitute, even if he does so to avoid getting sick?  The UN agency working on AIDS welcomed Pope Benedict's remarks but noted that while most cases of HIV infection were sexually transmitted, only 4 to 10 percent result from sex between men.  

Nevertheless, the remarks are significant especially since they came from the same man who said just a year ago that condoms not only do not inhibit the spread of HIV infection but even aggravate it.  It is indeed a complete departure from his previous stand on the matter.  To me, by discussing AIDS and the use of condoms, Pope Benedict XVI has finally stepped into the 21st century where the epidemic continue to kill millions.  Whether it signals an enlightened view on the use of artificial contraceptives is still debatable.


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