Population Matters

A Major Step Forward for the Vatican

November 24th, 2010

After decades of silence and condemnation the Vatican has modified it position on using condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS. The shift, while it stops short of what is needed, represents a significant step forward.

Just last summer, Pope Benedict caused an international uproar when on a trip to Africa he told journalists that condoms should not be used because they could increase the spread of AIDS.  Now, however, he indicates that using condoms is less evil than risking HIV exposure. While the Pope’s comments do not go as far as those fighting HIV/AIDS would like, and the Vatican still forbids the use of condoms for family planning purposes, the remarks still constitute a major departure.

Groups of concerned Catholics, like Catholics for Choice, are to be congratulated for their efforts to persuade the Vatican to alter its position on the use of condoms.  At a time when many thought that the Vatican would never change its position, they persevered.

Jon O’Brien the president of Catholics for Choice issued this statement yesterday talking about the significance of the pope’s comments.

“The Vatican’s acknowledgement that Pope Benedict’s acceptance of condom use to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections relates to everybody shows how significant the pope’s comments are.

“This morning, the Vatican’s spokesperson, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said:

I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine. He told me no. The problem is this … It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship. This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point.

“Conservatives, who immediately raced into action to deny the significance of the pope’s statement – after the text of the interview was published on Saturday – are left clutching at straws. Their attempts to contain condom use to male prostitutes are shown up for what they were – a sham. They have long sought to make the case that church teachings on these issues are unchanging and unchangeable. One can only hope that they will embrace this new position and advocate for condom use whenever necessary.

“Some people have criticized the glacial pace at which the Catholic hierarchy moves. Certainly, this acceptance of condom use is more than two decades too late. But it has now happened, and organizations that have been hesitant to provide condoms to those living with HIV and AIDS must move immediately to put this new teaching into action.

“The first step on any journey is always the hardest, but it is also the most important one because without it change is impossible.”

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager

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