Los Angeles Times Examines Catholic Church Debate Over Use of Condoms To Prevent HIV Infection
The Los Angeles Times on Friday examined the "quiet but intense debate" within the Catholic Church over the use of condoms to prevent HIV infection (Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, 2/4). Last month, 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. However, the Spanish Conference of Catholic Bishops later 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 bishops went on to say that sexual abstinence or monogamy are the "only successful" ways to prevent HIV transmission. Pope John Paul II on Jan. 22 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/24).
Because the church opposes the use of all artificial contraceptives -- including condoms -- it often has been called "insensitive to the pandemic spread" of HIV and "more interested in religious dogma than preserving the lives of tens of millions of people," according to the Times. However, the church never has issued a "formal ban" on condoms to prevent HIV infection, rather advocating abstinence and monogamy to prevent transmission, the Times reports. And while official doctrine has not "wavered," some senior church leaders have "explicitly or implicitly sanctioned" condoms in cases where "life is at stake," doing so with a "tacit acknowledgement that there are legitimate arguments that morally justify the apparent contravention of a church rule," according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 2/4).