Germany’s Cardinal Ratzinger Elected New Pope, Known for Opposition to Contraception, Including Condoms To Prevent HIV
The Roman Catholic Church's College of Cardinals on Tuesday elected as the new pope Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany -- now known as Pope Benedict XVI -- who is viewed as a "strict defender of conservative Roman Catholic doctrine," AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The pope is expected to face "a clamour from within and without the church" on issues such as abortion, restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research and contraceptives, including the use of condoms to prevent HIV transmission, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News , 4/19). He also is expected to "build upon the uncompromising hard line on doctrine" that he maintained during his time as head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position he has held since 1981, including his belief that there are "absolute truths" on issues such as abortion and homosexuality, the AP/New Bedford Standard Times reports (Winfield, AP/New Bedford Standard Times, 4/20). The pope also is "expected to stress 'culture of life' issues," including opposition to human embryonic stem cell research, the Los Angeles Times reports (Boudreaux, Los Angeles Times, 4/20). In addition, he likely will face calls to break with the Catholic Church's ban on contraceptive use, including the use of condoms, to help curb the spread of HIV worldwide, especially in Africa, according to the Washington Post (Cooperman, Washington Post, 4/20).
The new pope has "given no indication that he intends to soften -- even "one iota" -- the Vatican's ban on the use of contraception, despite the World Health Organization's stance that condom use is the most effective means of stopping the spread of HIV in Africa, AFP/Channel News Asia reports (AFP/Channel News Asia, 4/20). However, some observers say a change in the church's ban on condom use to prevent HIV transmission is the "best hope" for doctrinal change, in part because a "first cautious step" has been made by some African churches, which have condoned condom use between married couples when one partner is HIV-positive, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News , 4/19). Others, including HIV/AIDS and gay rights advocates, are less optimistic about a possible change in doctrine, AFP/Philippine Daily Inquirer reports. They believe the new pope might be "even more rigid" on the issue than the late Pope John Paul II, according to AFP/Philippine Daily Inquirer. "The former positions taken by the Catholic Church had already prevented the use of condoms and helped the spread of AIDS," Italian lawmaker Franco Grillini, who is honorary president of the Italian gay association Arcigay, said, adding, "We are very worried" (AFP/Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4/20).
Developing World Reaction
The election of Ratzinger "drew mixed reaction" in Latin America and throughout the developing world, where many people had supported the election of a cardinal from a developing nation, the Washington Post reports. Many observers have "urged" the new pope to address issues such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, violence and refugees, according to the Post (Sulllivan/Wax, Washington Post, 4/20). Many African church leaders "welcomed" Ratzinger's election, saying they support his "conservative views on social and sexual issues," BBC News reports. However, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, "We would have hoped for someone more open to the more recent developments in the world, the whole question of the ministry of women and a more reasonable position with regards to condoms and HIV/AIDS" (BBC News, 4/20). Tutu "expressed hope" that the new pope would reexamine "the whole question of disease, HIV/AIDS particularly," including the church's "prohibition" on condom use to prevent HIV transmission, AFP/Philippine Daily Inquirer reports (AFP/Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4/19). Father Efraim Tresoldi of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference said he did not think the pope would lift the church's ban on condoms. "I don't think there will be a change in the approach," he said, adding that the church "must continue to do her best to care for those who are sick with HIV and AIDS and prevent the pandemic from spreading further" (AFP/News24.com, 4/20). About 25 million people in Africa are HIV-positive (AFP/Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4/19).
HIV/AIDS, Women's Rights Advocates' Reaction
HIV/AIDS and women's rights advocates said they see little hope for change in Catholic Church policies toward contraceptives, including condoms, the Long Island Newsday reports. "We are possibly facing another decade or so of a ban on condoms and birth control, a blind eye to dying victims of AIDS/HIV and a Vatican run only by celibate men," Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, said, adding, "Birth control is a fundamental human right and to exclude women is profoundly flawed and discriminatory" (Voboril, Long Island Newsday, 4/20). Gay advocates in San Francisco also were "disheartened" by Ratzinger's election, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. They said it is "critical" for the Catholic Church to "preach the importance of using condoms to protect against AIDS," which Ratzinger opposes, according to Rev. Paul Fairley of the Metropolitan Community Churches. However, he said he "doubt[s]" that "there will be any move on behalf of the church to support the position that condoms should be used" (AFP/Yahoo! News , 4/19). Peter Tatchell, a gay-rights advocate with the group OutRage!, said, "He represents the hard-line fundamentalist stand of Catholicism; opposing condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, rejecting women's rights, denouncing fertility treatment for childless couples and endorsing state-sanctioned discrimination against gay people" (AFP/Yahoo! News , 4/19). "It looks like this particular cardinal will continue with the line on contraception, condoms and HIV prevention that Pope John Paul II had," Tony Kerrigan, a senior media officer with Marie Stopes International, said, adding, "It's regrettable because that will impact so terribly on the lives of millions of people, particularly in the developing world" (Agence France-Presse, 4/19).