The pope is at it again: Confusing the faithful and activists on whether the use of condoms to help stop the spread of AIDS is OK with the church.
I respect all religious views, but I want to be up-front here and happily disclose that I am a FORMER Catholic, and the most recent flap has only strengthened my resolve to never, ever go back.
How is it even possible to have to think about whether the use of condoms to help stop AIDS and all STD’s is advantageous? It is a no brainer, but apparently the Vatican remains stuck in the wrong century, as usual. It also remains blatantly homophobic and obviously bigoted, views it has held close to his hypocritical chest and has carefully nurtured for over 2,000 years.
While some AIDS activists welcomed the pope’s apparent softening of the Vatican’s opposition to the use of condoms, sex workers said his concession, directed only at infected prostitutes, demonstrated both his prejudice, and stark removal from reality. Not to mention, his apparent belief that sex workers are responsible for AIDS!
In a book-long interview entitled Light of the World to be published on Tuesday, the 83-year-old German pontiff suggests that using condoms could be justified in some cases on moral grounds to prevent infecting others with the virus causing AIDS, citing the example of a “male prostitute.”
In a book to be published this week, Benedict XVI said there could be “justified individual cases” in which condoms could be used, softening Rome’s blanket ban on contraception, one of the most controversial issues facing the Church.
"In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality," the head of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics said, giving as an example a male prostitute having sex with a client.
Of course, he gave no guidance on the long-standing moral and religious question of whether it would be permissible for a married couple, in which one partner is HIV positive, to use condoms in order to prevent the other partner from becoming infected. Not to mention, the millions of homosexuals worldwide who are sexually active and want to protect themselves and their partners from AIDS and any and all other STD’s.
If that is what he meant even in this very narrow area, it is quite a contradiction, since the pope spoke out against condom use as recently as March 2009 during a trip to Africa. At that time, the pope caused an international uproar by claiming that condoms “increase the problem” of AIDSs. Ridiculous, disgusting and incredibly dangerous, in my view.
Pressed yesterday by Peter Seewald, a German Catholic journalist, whether he meant that the Church was not opposed in principle to the use of condoms, Pope Benedict replied: “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.” Um, what?
While the Vatican’s ban on artificial birth control was set out in a 1968 encyclical, it has not formally documented its position on condoms as a means to combat AIDS.
“This is a significant and positive step forward taken by the Vatican,” Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAids, said. “This move recognizes that responsible sexual behavior and the use of condoms have important roles in HIV prevention. This will help accelerate the HIV prevention revolution.”
Predictably, Jon O’Brien, head of Catholics for Choice, a U.S. group, commented quite positively, proclaiming, “It is a marvelous victory for common sense and reason, a major step forward towards recognizing that condom use can play a vital role in reducing the future impact of the HIV pandemic.”
O’Brien asserted that the pope’s words were especially significant for “the many, many people who work for Catholic aid agencies and have been secretly handing out condoms while fearing that they will lose their jobs.”
But, the Vatican today apparently contradicted that all-too rosy interpretation as well as its Pope! The Vatican's chief spokesman today said that the pope is neither "reforming or changing" the Catholic Church's position banning condom use. Reverend Federico Lombardi emphasized that the church does not consider condoms a "moral solution" to sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS.
Some activists, including dissident Catholics, were dismayed that the pope only specifically cited the narrow example of a male prostitute – although the Vatican’s own newspaper fueled confusion by translating his words in Italian as a female prostitute.
“Thirty years of Vatican prevarication and refusal to admit the gravity of the HIV pandemic – which has already claimed the lives of 25 million people and threatens not only the 33 million currently affected but their partners and offspring – cannot be wiped away by a narrow exception constructed by a papacy under fire,” commented Mark Harrington of Treatment Action Group.
The pope’s shift was also interpreted by some Vatican observers as a communications ploy to soften his image as an out-of-touch fundamentalist whose papacy has been tarnished by revelations of hundreds of cases of child abuse committed by priests, sometimes protected by their bishops.
Sex workers were equally unimpressed by the pope’s new insight. “What the pope said is not connected to reality,” said one 23-year-old male prostitute in Rome who asked not to reveal his name. “No one cares about him. Maybe it is interesting from the theological point of view but in practical terms it makes no difference.”
A representative of the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe said his remarks were a, “damn sight better than saying condoms are of no use, but still pins the blame for AIDS on sex workers who face discrimination and stigmatization.” She also questioned whether the pope was really directing Catholic social workers to do anything differently.
Catholic aid organizations account for some 25 per cent of AIDS programs in sub-Saharan Africa, providing education, treatment and working against the stigma attached to the disease.
— The Curator