Pope Benedict XVI said he is not against condom use if the purpose is to prevent the spread of AIDS. In response to interview questions by German Catholic journalist Peter Seewald, the Pontiff said that condom use is justified in certain limited cases, such as by [male] prostitutes. The statement was the Vatican’s first exception to a long-held policy banning contraceptives.
“[The Catholic Church] does not regard it as a moral solution, but, 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,” the Pope said, when asked by Seewald if the Catholic Church is not all opposed to the use of condoms.
The interview is from a 219-page book titled “The Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” written by Seewald during his month-long meetings at the papal summer residence. It will be publicly available in July 2011.
The statement also gave boosts to countries such as Africa where the AIDS epidemic remains staggering and the Philippines in which pending Reproductive Health Bills are under pressure from Catholic Bishops.
Ilagan and Representative Arlene Bag-ao of Akbayan Party list said that the Philippine Catholic hierarchy should take its cue from their leader and welcomed the pronouncement.
“It is a glimmering illumination toward the brighter light at the end of the tunnel of misunderstanding and ignorance,” Bag-ao told the Inquirer. “It is an acceptance of the reality of AIDS and that condom is not merely for contraception.”
Bag-ao added that the reproductive health debate should not be, and is not, confined within theological debates, but must be seen as a public health issue.
Recent events in the Philippines highlighted the clout of the Catholic Church in influencing policy outcomes. The Catholic Church leadership in the Philippines even threatened those advocating for the passage of the RH bill that it will lead a nationwide protest to denounce and oppose the bill.
The Pope’s statement emboldened supporters of the bill and said that it is a welcome development.
Paranaque Representative Roilo Golez told the Inquirer that “[the Pope] did not say the Church is not at all opposed to condom use, especially to fight AIDS.” He also pointed out that it was clear in the pronouncement that condoms should be used by male prostitutes with AIDS to prevent them from infecting others.
However, concerns over the statement were also raised. One of which is the probable misrepresentation of the Pope’s statement that the Pontiff is all-out supportive of condom use. The Pope’s statement is extremely limited and there is no backing-out from its prohibition of contraceptives. Another would be that the statement will be used as a ticket for promiscuity as opposed to being a tool for making responsible choices.