Times of India
22 November 2010
By Rachel Donadio & Laurie Goodstien
Pope Benedict XVI has said that Condom use can be justified in some cases to help stop the spread of AIDS, the Vatican’s first exception to a long–held policy banning contraceptives. The Pope made the statement in interviews on a host of contentious issues with a German journalist, part of an unusual effort to address some of the harshest criticisms of his turbulent papacy.
The Pope’s statement on condoms was extremely limited. He did not approve their use or suggest that the Roman Catholic Church was beginning to back away from its prohibition of birth control. In fact, the one example he cited as a possibly appropriate use was by male prostitutes.
Still, the statement was something of a milestone for the church and a significant change for Benedict, who faced intense criticism last year when, en route to AIDS–plagued Africa, he said Condom use did not help prevent the spread of AIDS, only abstinence and fidelity did.
The interviews are to be published this week in a book, and excerpts were posted online by the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, on Saturday afternoon.
In the book, Benedict said condoms were not "a real or moral solution" to the AIDS epidemic, adding, "that can really lie only in a humanisation of sexuality." But he also said that "there may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a Condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility."
The decision to grant the interviews was a rare effort to humanize a pope often seen as a distant intellectual whose papacy has lurched from crisis to crisis, including revelations worldwide last spring that called into question the Vatican’s handling of cases of child abuse by priests.
Although Benedict, 83, took pains to explain his most controversial decisions, he did not veer from them. That included his defense of Pope Pius XII, whose tenure during World War II has been criticized by Jewish groups who say he could have done more to help Jews escape the Nazis. Benedict also suggested that he was a victim of overly zealous critics, including those who criticized him for revoking the excommunication of a bishop who denied the scope of the Holocaust.
The pope did, however, acknowledge the church’s failings during the years that children were being abused. "The deeds themselves were hushed up and kept secret for decades," he said. "That is a declaration of bankruptcy for an institution that has love written on its banner."
The book, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," comes from a series of interviews conducted in July by Peter Seewald, a German journalist and the author of two previous books of interviews with Benedict when he was still a cardinal. The New York Times saw an early copy of the English version of the book. Benedict’s concession on condoms, however slight, may have left room for debate on the issue of whether they may be used as part of campaigns against AIDS.
The use of condoms has been a contentious issue ever since Pope Paul VI denounced birth control in his famous 1968 encyclical, "Humanae Vitae."
In recent years, bishops in Africa and elsewhere have been calling on the Vatican to allow for Condom use as part of a broader approach to fight the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The Vatican has also faced pushback at some church–run health clinics in Africa.
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