Catholic Theologian Explains How Theology Allows for Condom Use Against HIV
Fr. James Keenan, an American Jesuit theologian, told a media forum sponsored by the AIDS Society of the Philippines that it is "morally acceptable" for sexual partners to use condoms "if only" to prevent HIV transmission, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports. Keenan, who teaches moral theology at Ateneo de Manila University's Loyola School of Theology and has edited a soon-to-be-released book, "Catholic Ethics on HIV/AIDS Prevention," told the forum that the principles of "double effect and lesser evil" support the use of condoms to prevent HIV transmission. "Condoms for HIV are the same [as] condoms for contraception. Here we can see the principle of double effect," he said, adding that the same principle is used to justify civilian deaths when bombing military targets. "If a husband violates his marital vows and sleeps with other women he must make sure that he does not transmit the virus to his wife, else he would be violating the principle of justice. This is where the principle of lesser evil comes in," he explained, saying that the man "might as well keep his wife from getting the virus" by using condoms. Keenan said he was stating his theory "not to convince the Catholic Church to relax its strict rule against the use of prophylactics but to contribute to a healthy dialogue on the subject." He also added that Bishop George Courtier, the Pope's theological adviser and head of the International Council on Theology, considered the "lesser evil" argument and condom use to be a "legitimate issue." The South African Bishops Conference issued a statement last month outlining "the narrowest of exceptions on condom use" to aid the country in combatting its AIDS epidemic (Bordadora, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.