Pope Benedict Faces ‘Difficult Choice’ in Determining Whether To Recommend Condoms as HIV Prevention Method, Opinion Piece Says
Pope Benedict XVI faces a "difficult choice": preserving the Roman Catholic Church's "traditional ban on contraception or shift[ing] to a relative yes-sometimes policy that gives us an effective weapon against AIDS -- but opens up church policy on contraception, abortion and infallibility to new challenges," Peter Boulay, former religious brother and editor of a Catholic newspaper, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece (Boulay, Los Angeles Times, 11/6). Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan in April said the pope had asked the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care and other scientists and theologians to study condom use as a means of HIV prevention, and the Vatican expects to release a document on the subject. Although some Catholic clergy have suggested that the use of condoms to curb HIV transmission would be the "lesser of two evils," the pope in a June 2005 speech to African bishops said that contraception is one of many trends contributing to a "breakdown of sexual morality." He added that abstinence and fidelity are the only "fail-safe" ways to prevent the spread of HIV (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/24). If Benedict "moves away from the absolute prohibition against condoms, it likely will be very measured step," such as allowing their use only in developing countries, according to Boulay. He adds, "[N]o matter how narrowly focused, any relaxation" of the regulation will have "far-reaching consequences," noting that Catholic Relief Services does not distribute condoms in any of the "AIDS-plagued countries where it operates." Boulay says, "I hope that worthy organization[s] will soon be filling out requisitions for condom shipments. And I hope that priests everywhere will begin to recommend condoms." He adds that "a change of doctrine may not be easy," as it would "call into question" rules in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae on abortion and contraception (Los Angeles Times, 11/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.