Pope Reiterates Catholic Church’s Opposition to Condom Use for HIV Prevention
Pope John Paul II on Saturday reiterated the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to the use of condoms, saying that "respect of the sacred value of life and formation about the correct practice of sexuality" is the church's position on the issue, the AP/Indianapolis Star reports (AP/Indianapolis Star, 1/22). The pope's comments follow a week during which the Spanish Roman Catholic Church for the first time appeared to have indicated acceptance of the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, although Spain's Conference of Catholic Bishops later backtracked on the comments. On Tuesday, Spanish Bishops Conference spokesperson Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino -- following a meeting with Spain's Health Minister Elena Salgado to discuss the fight against HIV/AIDS -- said that "condoms have a place in the global prevention of AIDS," adding, "The church is very worried and interested by this problem." Martinez Camino also said the Spanish Roman Catholic Church is willing to cooperate with the country's Socialist government -- which in November 2004 launched a campaign promoting condom use -- to address the "grave problem" of HIV/AIDS. "The moment has arrived ... for joint work," Martinez Camino added. However, the Spanish Conference of Catholic Bishops on Wednesday released an unsigned statement saying that Martinez Camino's comments "must be understood in the context of Catholic doctrine, which holds that the use of contraceptives implies immoral sexual behavior." The statement said, "It's not true that the church has changed its doctrine on condoms," adding, "It's impossible to advise the use of condoms" under Catholic doctrine. The bishops went on to say that sexual abstinence or monogamy are the "only successful" ways to prevent the spread of HIV (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/20).
Addressing the Netherlands' new ambassador to the Vatican, Pope John Paul II said, "The Holy See ... considers that it is necessary above all to combat this disease in a responsible way by increasing prevention, notably through education about respect of the sacred value of life and formation of the correct practice of sexuality, which presupposes chastity and fidelity" (AP/Indianapolis Star, 1/22). The pope also stressed the Catholic Church's efforts to treat HIV/AIDS patients, specifically through the Holy See's Good Samaritan Foundation, which was established last year to coordinate funds and organizations to help people with the disease. "At my request, the church has mobilized in favor of the victims and especially in order to assure access to help and the necessary medical care through a number of treatment centers," the pope said.
Monsignor Angel Rodriguez Luno, a professor of moral theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and an adviser to the Doctrine of the Faith -- a Vatican department charged with safeguarding orthodoxy -- said, "The problem is that anytime we try to give a nuanced response, we see headlines that say, 'Vatican approves condoms.' The issue is more complicated than that. From a moral point of view, we cannot condone contraception. We cannot tell a classroom of 16-year-olds they should use condoms." Rodriguez Luno added, "But if we are dealing with someone or a situation in which clearly persons are going to act in harmful ways, say, a prostitute who is going to continue her activities, then one might say, 'Stop. But if you are not going to, at least do this.'" Rodriguez Luno said that sex outside of marriage breaks the sixth commandment. However, he added, "Infecting someone with AIDS would also mean sinning against the fifth commandment -- you shall not kill. Condoms would diminish that danger." Two European cardinals this week "separately spoke of a hypothetical situation in which use of a condom might be justified: when a woman must have sex with someone who is infected with HIV and therefore must protect herself," the Washington Post reports. Meanwhile, Felipe Arizmendi, a bishop from southern Mexico, said on Friday that "[i]f someone is incapable of controlling their instincts ... then they should do whatever is necessary in order not to infect others." Arizmendi said condoms were a "lesser evil" (Williams, Washington Post, 1/23).