Vatican shifts on condoms

The Vatican has finally started to move in the right direction concerning condom use.

In a seismic shift on one of the most profound — and profoundly contentious — Roman Catholic teachings, the Vatican said Tuesday that condoms are the lesser of two evils when used to curb the spread of AIDS, even if their use prevents a pregnancy.

The position was an acknowledgment that the church’s long-held anti-birth control stance against condoms doesn’t justify putting lives at risk.

“This is a game-changer,” declared the Rev. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit writer and editor.

The new stance was staked out as the Vatican explained Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on condoms and HIV in a book that came out Tuesday based on his interview with a German journalist.

The Vatican still holds that condom use is immoral and that church doctrine forbidding artificial birth control remains unchanged. Still, the reassessment on condom use to help prevent disease carries profound significance, particularly in Africa where AIDS is rampant.

It would be nice if the next time I go to Africa, my travel doctor doesn’t specifically tell me, “Don’t have sex with the locals.” That’s a long way from happening, but at least the Vatican is doing less to make that dream stay so distant.

4 Responses

  1. I don’t know that this is such a profound shift. They are still against birth control. I don’t think the Vatican was ever against disease control.

    What they always said was essentially that condoms were worse because they increase “risky behavior” which might be completely true.

    Countries like Germany are kind of grappling with the same thing. On the one hand they have a decreasing German population and so are encouraging people to have children. On the other hand they face the issue of disease transmission.

    Did I read sothing about a pill that may prevent AIDS transmission today? I’ll try and find it.

  2. The Pope did say condoms contribute to the spread of AIDS. That doesn’t sound like an effective anti-disease stance, less we adopt an Andreas Moritz-style definition of “disease”.

  3. The fact that the papacy is even saying anything about this is a big deal–who knows how long this has been discussed, the vacillations that occurred, or efforts to avoid it. It might not be the shift of 2000 years of worth of doctrine for which everyone is looking (and I use everyone loosely because there are some people who do believe in intercourse for procreation, and I don’t disrespect them for having their own opinion in the matter), but just the admittance that something needs to change is a huge deal.

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