has broken with decades of established Vatican tradition by stating in an interview that there are situations in which condom use is acceptable for preventing the spread of disease.
In a book-length interview called Light of the World
released today, Benedict said that controversial remarks of his about condom use in Africa
were mischaracterized. He had said on a visit to several African nations that distributing condoms were not the answer to that continent's raging HIV epidemic.
In Light of the World
he explains that he meant condoms -- widely
recognized as cheap and effective in preventing the spread of HIV and
other sexually-transmitted infections -- were not the only thing needed
to help prevent new infections.
He stopped far short, however, of saying that the Church endorses condom
use. He merely said they have a place in morality, in avoiding the
spread of HIV:
"She [the church] 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," the pontiff said in the book.
While it's a far cry from endorsing condom use, public health
professionals laud it as a small step in the right direction. Paula
Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region
, told the Daily RFT
that even baby steps are appreciated.
"We're grateful for the Pope's statement," Gianino says. "It is a small
but, in our view, really critical step in the right direction. I think
all of us in public health hoped that the pope would go further, but
it's undeniable that within his statement is a recognition of something
we have said forever: that the consistent use of condoms is one of the
most effective defenses people have to protect themselves and their
partners from infection."
Don't expect a condom basket next to the holy water font at your local cathedral any time soon, but do check out the Pope's remarks