BY ANNA ARCO
BENEDICT XVI has said that if those with HIV use a condom with “the intention of reducing the risk of infection” it might be the “first step in the direction of a moralisation” of sexuality.
He made the comment in ight of the World, a booklength interview with German ournalist Peter Seewald, which was published this week.
Although Pope Benedict used the example of a male prostitute, the Vatican has clarified that his comments applied to both sexes.
In the book Mr Seewald asked the Pope about his statement on the way to Africa in March 2009 that condoms were not the solution to the Aids crisis.
Pope Benedict replied: “Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on Aids.
“At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many Aids victims, especially children with Aids.” He continued: “In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offence, that we cannot solve the problem by distrib uting condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.
“As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen.
“Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence – Be Faithful – Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalisation of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves.
“This is why the fight against the banalisation of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.” He added: “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanisation of sexuality.” Mr Seewald then asked the Pope whether he was saying that the Church is not opposed in principle to condoms.
The Pope answered: “She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.” Pope Benedict’s comments were hailed by some commentators as a U-turn in the Church’s policy on condoms, but Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said on Sunday that “the Pope is not reforming or changing the teaching of the Church”. Fr Lombardi acknowledged that “until now these positions have not been heard with such clarity from the mouth of the Pope, even if the Pope is speaking in a colloquial, rather than Magisterial form”, and that the remarks offered “a profound and important clarification”. Speaking at a press conference to launch the new book on Tuesday, Fr Lombardi said that the Pope’s comments applied to women and transsexuals, not just male prostitutes.
He told reporters: “I person ally asked the Pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine. He told me no. The problem is this... it’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship.
“This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point,” Fr Lombardi said.
At the weekend Dr Janet Smith, a consultor to the Pontifical Council on the Family, said: “[The Pope] says that the Church does not find condoms to be a ‘real or moral solution’. That means the Church does not find condoms either to be moral or an effective way of fighting the transmission of HIV. As the Holy Father indicates in his fuller answer, the most effective portion of programmes designed to reduce the transmission of HIV are calls to abstinence and fidelity. The Holy Father, again, is saying that the intention to reduce the transmission of any infection is a ‘first step’ in a movement towards a more human way of living sexuality.” Vatican commentator John Allen said: “Pope Benedict XVI has signalled that in some limited cases, where the intent is to prevent the transmission of disease rather than to prevent pregnancy, the use of condoms might be morally justified”. While that position is hardly new, this is the first time the Pope himself has publicly espoused such a view. The comments do not yet rise to the level of official Church teaching, but they do suggest that Benedict might be open to such a development.”