Vatican Issues Communique To Clarify Pope’s Statement On Condoms

“The Vatican on Tuesday issued its most authoritative clarification on Pope Benedict XVI’s recent remarks that condoms could sometimes be used for disease prevention, saying that the pope in no way justified their use to prevent pregnancy,” the New York Times reports (Donadio, 12/21).

The pope’s “comments in [the book] ‘Light of the World’ signaled to many a shift at least in pastoral terms in his thinking and a first in acknowledging that condoms can have a role to play in fighting HIV. Previously Vatican officials had focused on abstinence and fidelity in marriage as the only sure way to prevent HIV’s spread,” the Associated Press/Bloomberg writes.

“Reports of the pope’s original comments had been greeted with relief among AIDS activists and even among some church personnel working on the front lines in Africa, where UNAIDS estimates that 22.4 million people are infected with HIV,” the news service continues. “While the Catholic Church has no official policy about condoms as a means to fight the spread of HIV, its long-standing opposition to condoms as a form of birth control has drawn fierce criticism given that 54 percent of infected Africans — or 12.1 million people — are women,” the news service adds (Winfield, 12/21).

Still, the pope’s statements drew criticism from “some conservative Catholics, especially in the United States, [who] feared that it would be misinterpreted as a move to condone condom use,” the New York Times continues.

“Tuesday’s statement did not go beyond or contradict two previous clarifications by the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, on the same issue. But it came directly from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the most powerful Vatican office, in what experts said could be a sign of internal Vatican tensions – or a response to criticism,” the New York Times writes (12/21).

“The two-page statement … said the pope’s words on condoms had been ‘repeatedly manipulated for ends and interests which are entirely foreign to the meaning of his words,'” Reuters writes. “The statement said the book did not represent ‘a break with the doctrine concerning contraception,'” according to the news service.

“The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought,” the statement stated, according to Reuters (Pullella, 12/21).

The New York Times writes, “Tuesday’s statement … said that condom use by a prostitute for disease prevention could not be considered a ‘lesser evil’ because prostitution is ‘gravely immoral,’ and that ‘an action which is objectively evil, even if a lesser evil, can never be licitly willed. … Yet it added that ‘those involved in prostitution who are HIV positive and who seek to diminish the risk of contagion by the use of a condom may be taking the first step in respecting the life of another even if the evil of prostitution remains in all its gravity.'” The article examines the uniqueness of the release of the communique to clarify statements made by the pope, as described by Paolo Rodari, a Vatican expert at Il Foglio, an Italian daily newspaper (12/21).

The AP/Bloomberg examines the contributing factors to some of the confusion over the Pope’s original statements and includes reactions to the Vatican statement released Tuesday by George Weigel, a conservative Catholic writer, Rev. Jon Fuller, a Jesuit associate professor of medicine at Boston University’s medical school (12/21).

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