Vatican Denies Reports That It Plans To Release Document Easing Ban on Condom Use To Prevent Spread of HIV
Vatican officials have denied reports that the Vatican plans to release a document easing its ban on condom use to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV, Time Magazine reports (Israely, Time, 5/8). The statements come after Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, in an interview published last month in Rome's La Repubblica said Pope Benedict XVI has asked the council and other scientists and theologians to study condom use as a means of HIV prevention, and that the Vatican will release a document on the subject soon (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/27). Barragan over the weekend said the council only is drafting an internal study of the issue, according to Kenya's Daily Nation. The council lacks the "competency to present a document to the Church," Barragan said, adding, "It is the Holy Father who has the competency or whoever he entrusts." Barragan said once the study is complete, "[t]here might or might not be" a document released (Daily Nation, 5/1). Meanwhile, South African Catholic Bishop Kevin Dowling -- who supports condom access to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS -- last week expressed hope that the study would lift the ban on condom use. "It would in fact be an ethical imperative to use condoms in order to preserve and protect life," he said (Religion News Service/Washington Post, 4/29).
Two-Thirds of Roman Catholic Priests in England, Wales Support Condom Use
In related news, 65% of Roman Catholic clergy in England and Wales believe that the use of condoms to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV is acceptable, according to a survey conducted by London's Sunday Telegraph, the Telegraph reports. The survey of 100 priests also finds that 43% of respondents say the Catholic Church should reconsider its position on contraception (Day/O'Brien, Sunday Telegraph, 4/30).
Editorials, Opinion Piece
Several newspapers recently have published editorials and opinion pieces related to the Vatican's announcement. Some of these are summarized below.
Baltimore Sun: Even though the "Vatican has only called for a study" to investigate its condom use policy, the findings of such an investigation could have a "profound impact" on curbing the spread of HIV in developing nations, a Sun editorial says. There are numerous reasons for the Vatican to change its "blanket opposition to condom use," and, while the investigation might "raise sensitive theological questions," the policy shift would "promote the doctrine of life," the editorial concludes (Baltimore Sun, 5/1).
Newark Star-Ledger: The commissioning of a study evaluating the Vatican's condom use policy shows that it is "evaluating the importance of condoms and AIDS," a Star-Ledger editorial says. However, the U.S. "continues to attach strings to federal funding for the fight against global AIDS," the editorial says, adding that countries that receive U.S. grants must stress abstinence-until-marriage and faithfulness-in-marriage programs as the primary mode of prevention. While abstinence until and faithfulness in marriage are important, "condoms should not be a distant third part of the strategy," the Star-Ledger says, concluding, "Forty million people worldwide have been infected by an adaptable virus that is spread by sex and the rigidity of those who should be leading the fight against it" (Newark Star-Ledger, 4/29).
- James Carroll, Boston Globe: "No Vatican policy could have stopped the spread of [HIV], but there can be no doubt that Vatican rejection of condoms, and its aggressive campaign against condom use, helped that spread, especially in areas of the world where Catholic influence is high," Globe columnist Carroll writes. The announcement that the Vatican is calling for a review of its condom use policy is being viewed as an improvement on its current policy, but even if the Vatican were "to change its position now," Catholics still must deal with the fact that the "rejection of condom use has been killing people," Carroll writes (Carroll, Boston Globe, 5/1).