Huh?: Pope Benedict XVI has caused some confusion as to whether his recent condom talk really changes anything in the Catholic Church.
Now there’s a headline we didn’t count on writing anytime soon, at least not with this news under it: Pope Benedict XVI followed his surprising words about male prostitutes and condoms with a clarification, according to one Father Federico Lombardi, papal spokesman, saying that women and transsexual people could also consider using condoms in certain circumstances.
But what exactly are those circumstances? Father Lombardi had some answers Tuesday as members of the Catholic Church, as well as assorted other people and several journalists, endeavored to make sense of this latest development at the Vatican. —KA
Several, particularly conservative, commentators pounced on the pope’s unusual example to claim he was not authorising a change in his church’s opposition to artificial contraception. By referring in the original to homosexual sex, in which condoms are not used for contraceptive purposes, it was argued, he was maintaining the ban on their use in heterosexual relations.
But at a press conference in the Vatican to mark the launch of the book, his spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, explained that he had raised this issue with the pope on Sunday.
“I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine,” Lombardi said. “He told me ‘no’.”
Lombardi said the key point was: “It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship … This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual.”
As several experts have noted, the book cannot alter doctrine. But Lombardi’s comments show that the pope approves of condom use as a lesser evil where there was a risk of HIV contagion.
The Catholic ban on the use of condoms, or any other device, for contraceptive purposes remains. One of the pope’s most senior officials, Cardinal Rino Fisichella, told the press conference condoms were “intrinsically an evil”.
The pope’s comments do not detract from his insistence that abstinence and fidelity are more important in fighting Aids.