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Pope Endorses Condoms? Don't Believe It

The Associated Press is reporting that the Pope has endorsed the use of condoms in some cases?

The headline blares "Pope: Condom Use Can be Justified in Some Cases"

Really? The Pope says contraception is ok in some cases? Nope.

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI says in a new book that the use of condoms can be justified in some cases, such as for male prostitutes seeking to prevent the spread of HIV.

The pontiff makes the comments in a book-length interview with a German journalist, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times." The Vatican newspaper ran excerpts of the book Saturday.

Church teaching has long opposed condoms since they're a form of artificial contraception. The Vatican has been harshly criticized for its position given the AIDS crisis.

Benedict said that for male prostitutes -- for whom contraception isn't a central issue -- condoms are not a moral solution. But he said they could be justified "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection."

As always, the condom as contraception is always wrong. Condoms used by male prostitutes for whom contraception is not an issue, might be able to use condoms for reducing the spread of infection.

Even Time Magazine calls out these articles as disingenuous.
The headline around the world was that the Pope was finally allowing the use of condoms in certain circumstances. The news came after an Italian newspaper broke an embargo on a book-length interview with Benedict XVI by the German journalist Peter Seewald, perhaps the only popular interlocutor whom the Pontiff, in his previous role as a Cardinal, has cooperated with on such a scale.

Benedict's so-called condom concession was not a huge one. He still proscribes the use of condoms as contraception (as he does the birth control pill). His specific example, that of a male prostitute choosing to use a condom in a conscious choice to prevent HIV infection, is couched as "a first step in the direction of moralization, 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."

Move along. Nothing to see here.

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Anonymous said...

The Pope doesn't say that condom use is ever morally acceptable, even in homosexual relationships.

He just says that their use by homosexuals might indicate a 'first step' towards a more human understanding of sexuality.


Rob said...

[As always, the condom as contraception is always wrong. Condoms used by male prostitutes for whom contraception is not an issue, might be able to use condoms for reducing the spread of infection.]

I want you to know I greatly respect your work here on CMR and thank you for all you do.

I must, however, take issue with your statement above which is contradictory. In the first sentence you said that condoms are never morally acceptable (thus re-iterating the traditional teaching of the Church.)

In the second sentence you give the impression that they can be used in special circumstances, thus repeating the novel statement made by the Pope.

I think we need to be really frank with people on this. The Pope's statement has zero support in the Church's magisterial tradition.

It carries no magisterial authority because the statement was made during an interview and, as such, can be characterized as the Pope speaking as a private theologian regarding a hypothetical issue.

If Pope Benedict is going to talk to us about the hermeneutic of continuity then it is incumbent upon him to show us how such a statement finds any precedent in the previous teaching of the Popes.

The obvious answer is, sadly, it does not.

Did Pope Pius XI in Casti Connubii ever suggest such an exception? Did Pope Paul VI ever teach in Humanae Vitae that condoms were ever acceptable in any circumstances? Did Pope John Paul II ever, even once, anywhere, at any time, suggest that condoms could ever be licitly be used in the 27 years of his pontificate?

Hardly. Rather, the Popes have always taught that any form of condom use is intrinsically evil. You know well that "intrinsically evil" means that an action is evil in and of itself, meaning there can never be any circumstance where it can be justified.

So, in this respect, I'm afraid Pope Benedict is on his own, and as a Catholic who is completely obedient to the teaching of the Church in all matters, this avant-garde opinion, never before heard in the history of the Church, will find zero support from me.

God bless and regards always.

Emily said...


The Holy Father is not condoning the use of condoms. At all. Ever. However, what he is saying is that someone who is HIV+ and using a condom may be *beginning* to become more morally aware. This is not saying that his use of a condom is "moral", but rather that the person's disposition may be becoming more attuned to true morality.


Anonymous said...


Granted, we're relying on news reports which are not always accurate, but I'm afraid Rob is correct, and our Holy Father is indeed breaking new ground here.

You need to take a close look at how Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, a high-ranking Vatican official has interpreted the Pope's remarks:

"Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, the Vatican's long-time top official on bioethics and sexuality, elaborated on the pontiff's comments, stressing that it was imperative to "make certain that this is the only way to save a life". Cardinal Sgreccia said the condom question was one that "needed an answer for a long time," adding: "If Benedict XVI raised the question of exceptions, this exception must be accepted... and it must be verified that this is the only way to save life. This must be demonstrated."

I'm afraid this is no small thing that can easily be swept under the rug. Our beloved Pope has unwittingly (or not) opened a big can of worms and people will be debating this for a very long time to come; the Pope's words are, I hate to say, so ambiguous and confusing that many will be celebrating this as the official end to Humanae Vitae.

How are orthodox Catholics who have defended the Church's teaching on sexual ethics all their lives (and have made numerous sacrifices in their married lives to comply with it) supposed to explain the Pope's esoteric and ambiguous language in terms the common man on street can understand?

Good luck on trying out your statement above on your sister-in-law over Thanksgiving dinner.

But, really, it puts all orthodox Catholics in a very tough spot, and I hate to say it, I resent this kind of theological sleight-of-hand immensely.

It doesn't change my obligation of obedience and respect for the Pope, but, similar to Pope John Paul II's comments on evolution, it's going to take a great deal to convince me that the Pope's remarks are authentic Catholic doctrine.

Chelsea said...

Julie: "Granted, we're relying on news reports which are not always accurate"

Speak for yourself. I'm relying on the pope's actual words (http://catholicworldreport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=221:pope-benedict-xvi-discusses-condoms-and-the-spread-of-hiv&catid=53:cwr2010&Itemid=70) and no, he is not "breaking new ground."

Janet Smith has the best analysis so far: http://catholicworldreport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=220:pope-benedict-on-condoms-in-qlight-of-the-worldq&catid=53:cwr2010&Itemid=70

Matt said...

I don't see the big deal. He doesn't condone condom use. He is saying that male hookers who use them to try to prevent the spread of aids are taking a small, halting step in the right direction morally.

I think if anything he's trying to be more charitable towards the sinner.

Jack said...


Sell crazy someplace else.
We are all stocked up here

Anonymous said...

People don't turn from sin instantly they do so in increments. This has always been the case. I applaud Pope Benedict. I love traditional liturgy, but too many of the posters on traditionally minded sites lack charity.

Craig Dennis said...

I agree with the those who say the Pope is not "breaking new ground" in saying that an immoral act where condoms are not contraception could be a sign of increasing moral awareness. Goodness, many people have noted in the past that criminals in prison often become more morally aware by seeing worse criminals who committed crimes they would never consider.

But I don't think the traditionally minded persons who disagree are lacking in charity. They've been respectful in their comments here. I just happen to seriously disagree on their analysis.

A condom is not immoral in and of itself. I mean, goodness, Catholic doctors use perforated medical condoms for sperm collection in a totally licit manner. Their use in the case the Pope mentioned is, as he stated, still immoral. But it may be a step in the right direction in their MORAL DEVELOPMENT recognizing that "this action is dangerous" or "this action is dirty" or "I have a responsibility to protect and consider others" which could be a very big step for the homosexual community whose sexual abandon is without compare.

A child who steals with abandon, who then chooses to "only steal stuff people won't be too sad if they lost" is still very wrong, but is possibly more morally aware. That is the jist of the Pope's statement.

William a sinner. Most unlearned. The Least of all the faithful… said...

Why the Vatican even deals with Secular Media who are in league with the Enemy of all things and wish to destroy the Church of God. They will twist and take everything The Pontiff says out of Context… They wish to destroy it and get as many souls to hate the One True Church and turn to false modernistic quasi Christianity or better yet, turn Secular and Atheistic…Pray…

John 15: 17-19

Anonymous said...

1) the Holy Father was not talking about contraception. There is no contraception in sodomy, because there is no conception to avoid. Any discussion of contraception here is off-topic.
2) In such cases, the primary (and only) end of the condom is to prevent the spread of disease.
3) Therefore, all it does is to lessen a possible evil natural consequence of a sinful act. Think of an assassin who chooses to kill (sinfully), but in a painless way: a first step towards abandoning a life of murder?

Anonymous said...

Craig Dennis said:
"I mean, goodness, Catholic doctors use perforated medical condoms for sperm collection in a totally licit manner. "

Are you sure that this is licit? I'd like to hear more.

(BTW I'm the same anonymous who made the 1)2)3) argument above.)

Gerry said...

Here's the latest AP take on BXVI's comments:
Pope's words offer guarded hope for some believers

Just like the MSM quite often does, it gets this sort of reaction from the less informed or less observant among us,
"For those focused on battling the scourge of AIDS, the Pope's message that condoms could be used in some limited cases came as a welcome surprise. Father Peter Makome, a Catholic priest in Zimbabwe, said he would spread the news.

"'I've got brothers and sisters and friends who are suffering from HIV because they were not practicing safe sex,' said Makome, who works in the capital Harare's Southerton Parish. 'Now the message has come out that they can go ahead and do safe sex; it's much better for everyone.'"

The MSM's misinformed Fr. Makome that the Pope said something that he did not.

Instead of calling them "condoms" for the use the Pope supposedly approves of, would it help to call them "Gay Toppers" to differentiate their ends from "Baby Stoppers" (or "Sperm Stoppers" to be more precise)?

Just a thought.


Michelle Therese said...

How is it legal for the media to whip up such angst, hatred, and anger against Catholics?

This is a serious question. If the media spent this much time and this much effort doing the same towards Jews, Muslims, Blacks... yeah, it wouldn't happen. It would be **illegal**

So why is it legal for them to fan the flames of hatred against Catholics? What is it going to take before the media is reined in?? Violence against Catholics here in the West?? I'm starting to get nervous.

Catholic Mom said...

Headline: The Pope is still Catholic.

Amazing how the media that clamors for a more nuanced (read relativistic) approach by the church, can't handle a nuanced (read single example, not condoning contraception or homosexuality) quote from the Pope.


Anonymous said...

The only way the media can get the Pope to say that condoms are morally licit is...well...to report that he did, whether he did or not.

Blackrep said...

Thank you so much Rob - your analysis was so clear, and respectful at the same time.

Why does the Pope speak with such a lack of clarity on an issue that need a great deal of clarity, especially right now?

Praising the "intention" of using a condom? What if my intention is not to endanger a sick wife with a pregnancy? Moral acts are so much more than intention. You would think that a careful moral theologian would attend to that principle. This is bad, bad, bad stuff. If your statements call forth an army of theologians to your defense in a swirl of confusion, you've pretty much botched your job.

And PLEASE everyone, don't keep blaming the media. That is so tired I could vomit. If it wasn't for the media, Father Chester the Molester would still be running your kid's altar boy camp.

Caroline McCamley said...

This guy (ok, my husband) has a great analogy on his blog - http://mccamley.org/blog/holy-father-tells-terrorists-how-to-plant-bombs. He writes:

The Holy Father was asked in a recent interview to comment on the behaviour of terrorists who plant no warning bombs in heavily populated areas of cities, close to schools and nurseries. He said it was a bad thing.

He was then asked if it was better if the terrorist telephoned in bomb warnings so that buildings could be evacuated.

The Holy Father said that while engaging in such acts of terrorism was always morally wrong, telephoning a warning "can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, 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 political issues or demands for justice".

Media: "So you're saying it's okay to plant bombs so long as you use phone warnings?"

Holy Father: "No, of course not, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of serious injury or death to an innocent person, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of policital action".

In other news, the Pope said male prostitutes who use condoms so as not to spread HIV may show the first step to realizing they cannot just do what they want and that sex outside of marriage has consequences.

Anonymous said...

What Pope Benedict says is morally true. Scientists have known for several decades that all viruses are so microscopic thst they pass between the molecules of the material of the condom. The risk of infection is very great but some protection is better than none at all.

rosaryvictory said...

In other matters concerning the church:


Divine Law is a covenant between God and Man. Corporate law is a contract between man and man. The bankruptcy of the Diocese of Wilmington is being tried under corporate law as a contract between man and man, the bishop as employer and the priest as employee. They two laws do not even speak the same language. The word Covenant is absent from the lectionary of corporate and bankruptcy law in civil court.
The covenant between God and the priest, that is, between God and a man called by God, employed by God, so to speak, exists in the sacrament of Holy Orders.
The priest takes vows to serve God. In the language of the corporate court God is the first and true employer of the priest. God is the first and most grievously offended victim of the abusive priest.

Anonymous said...

Ah, let's see where to begin?

It may be the case that in "some" cases the use of a condom by a Homosexual prostitute may indicate "a first step in the direction of moralization, a first assumption of responsibility", BUT it is also just as likely to be a way for a Homosexual prostitute to reassure a nervous or reluctant client about the risks of a homosexual encounter.

In such a case it would be anything but a set in the direction of a more human understanding of sexuality. It (use of condoms to prevent the spread of disease) would have the effect of furthering a degenerate way of living sexually.

Anyway, since all acts of sodomy are intrinsically immoral and cannot be condoned under any circumstances, the use of condoms, no matter what the intention of the participants, can never make an immoral act moral.

Therefore, the Holy Father should be more sensible and refrain from making such obscure hairsplitting distinctions and stick to the basics: Sodomy is sin, it will send you to hell, don't do it. Using a condom to avoid getting AIDS is the least of your worries.

John Vicente,

Subvet said...

Oh for crying out loud.

The Holy Father had a bad day, didn't speak clearly enough (hey, he's in his eighties!), the MSM does what it will always do (slant the news). End of story.

Now, can we get on with trying to insure our individual salvation?

Anonymous said...

But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil. Mt 5:37

Anonymous said...

Or Ephesians 5:12: it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.

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