Pope Benedict Not Changing Catholic Teaching on Condoms

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 21, 2010   |   6:39PM   |   The Vatican

A forthcoming book “Light of the World: the Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times” by Peter Seewald is generating significant buzz because it reportedly has the Pope significantly changing Church teaching on the usage of condoms.

In the book, Pope Benedict XVI says the Catholic Church “of course” does not regard condom usage as the “real or moral solution” to the problem of AIDS.

But book says the Pope indicates there may be an “exceptional situation” when using condoms may be appropriate, such as cases of sexual intercourse that may threaten the life of another person because of a transmission of a potentially deadline sexual disease. That might justify their usage in instances such as male prostitutes using them to stop the spread of HIV.

“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 moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward discovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants,” the Pontiff said.

“But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality,” Benedict added.

Peter Seewald, a German reporter who conducted the interview, followed up by asking: “Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?”

According to a Catholic News Service transcript, Pope Benedict responded: “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 toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”

The supposed backing down of the longstanding pro-life teaching is creating a stir with secular media outlets and opponents of the Catholic Church making it appear Pope Benedict changed the Catholic Church’s position on condoms — though the top Vatican spokesman says otherwise.

However, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi responded to those speculations in a statement, saying, “the Pope is not reforming or changing the teaching of the Church but he reaffirms it, putting it in the perspective of the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of love and responsibility.”

Regarding those cases in which sex may result in a deadly disease, Lombardi said: “In such a case, the Pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality,” but using a condom may be “a first act of responsibility” and “a first step on the path toward a more human sexuality” rather than risking the life of another person.

“In this, the reasoning of the Pope certainly cannot be defined as a revolutionary turning point,” Fr. Lombardi said.

Lombardi noted that, while the book is not an official document from the Catholic Church, the book’s interview with the Pope is credible because excerpts were published in the official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.