Pope eases con­dom stance

Use by male pros­ti­tutes may show re­spon­si­bil­ity


VAT­I­CAN CITY — Pope Bene­dict XVI has opened the door on the pre­vi­ously taboo sub­ject of con­doms as a way to fight HIV, say­ing male pros­ti­tutes who use con­doms may be be­gin­ning to act re­spon­si­bly. It’s a stun­ning com­ment for a pon­tiff who has blamed con­doms for mak­ing the AIDS cri­sis worse.

The Pope made the com­ments in an in­ter­view with a Ger­man jour­nal­ist pub­lished as a book en­ti­tled Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, which is be­ing re­leased Tues­day. The Vat­i­can news­pa­per L’Osservatore Ro­mano ran ex­cerpts on Satur­day.

Church teach­ing has long op­posed con­doms be­cause they are a form of ar­ti­fi­cial con­tra­cep­tion, al­though the Vat­i­can has never re­leased an ex­plicit pol­icy about con­doms and HIV. The Vat­i­can has been harshly crit­i­cized for its po­si­tion.

Bene­dict said that con­doms are not a moral so­lu­tion to stop­ping AIDS. But he said in some cases, such as for male pros­ti­tutes, their use could rep­re­sent a first step in as­sum­ing moral re­spon­si­bil­ity “ in the in­ten­tion of re­duc­ing the risk of in­fec­tion.”

Bene­dict made the com­ment in re­sponse to a gen­eral ques­tion about Africa, where het­ero­sex­ual HIV spread is ram­pant.

He used as a spe­cific ex­am­ple male pros­ti­tutes, for whom con­tra­cep­tion is not usu­ally an is­sue, but did not men­tion mar­ried cou­ples where one spouse is in­fected. The Vat­i­can has come un­der pres­sure from even church of­fi­cials to con­done con­dom use for such monog­a­mous mar­ried cou­ples to pro­tect the un­in­fected spouse from trans­mis­sion.

Bene­dict drew the wrath of the United Na­tions, Euro­pean gov­ern­ments and AIDS ac­tivists when, en route to Africa in 2009, he told re­porters that the AIDS prob­lem on the con­ti­nent couldn’t be re­solved by dis­tribut­ing con­doms.

“ On the con­trary, it in­creases the prob­lem,” he said then.

Jour­nal­ist Peter See­wald, who in­ter­viewed Bene­dict over the course of six days this sum­mer, raised the Africa con­dom com­ments, ask­ing him if it wasn’t “ mad­ness” for the Vat­i­can to for­bid a high-risk pop­u­la­tion from us­ing con­doms.

“ 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,” Bene­dict said.

Else­where in the book he reaf­firmed church teach­ing op­pos­ing ar­ti­fi­cial con­tra­cep­tion.

— The As­so­ci­ated Press

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