November 20th, 2010
03:58 PM ET

Pope says condoms may be OK in some circumstances

Pope Benedict XVI said in comments released Saturday that the use of condoms may be morally acceptable in some cases to prevent the spread of AIDS, possibly foreshadowing a shift in the Roman Catholic Church's stance on the issue.

The pope's remarks outline an exception to the church's long-held policy against the use of artificial contraception, including condoms.

The pontiff, speaking to the author of a book that will be published next week, cited the example of a prostitute.

"There could be single cases that can be justified, for instance when a prostitute uses a condom, and this can be a first step towards a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, to develop again the awareness of the fact that not all is allowed and that one cannot do everything one wants," Benedict said.

The Vatican newspaper on Saturday released excerpts from the book, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times," written by German journalist Peter Seewald and pubilshed by Ignatius Press.

"What makes this newsworthy is that he's talking about an exception, where there were no exceptions whatsoever before," said James Martin, a New York Jesuit priest and author.

"Just that the discussion is happening is significant," he added.

CNN Senior Vatican Analyst John Allen cautioned that Benedict's comments do not rise to the level of official Vatican policy, but show the pontiff has flexibility in the church's opposition to birth control.

Allen said that a portion of the book refers to condom use among male prostitutes.

"I think the point he was trying to make, when somebody is using a condom, not so much to prevent new life, which has always been the Catholic Church's big concern, but to prevent the transmission of disease than it would be OK," Allen told CNN.

Although Benedict did not mention it, his statements indicate he may also find condoms appropriate in the case of heterosexual couples where one of the partners has a sexually transmitted disease, Allen added.

Catholic theologians and a special Vatican commission have previously said that condoms may be acceptable in some cases to prevent AIDS, Allen wrote in a blog Saturday.

But Benedict had kept silent on the issue.

Allen said he does not think the pontiff's comments signal a sea change in the church's broader birth control policy, as condoning the use of a condom to prevent the spread of disease is not the same as saying it's okay to use one to prevent a pregnancy.

Still, Benedict's comments open a door and appear to mark a shift in his thinking about condoms and AIDS.

Speaking about AIDS in 2009, he told journalists during a trip to Africa that "You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (641 Responses)
  1. T. Lee

    It is after all a rather courageous stand to break from church tradition – kinda like Muslim clerics announcing it would be better not to marry six to 14 little girls any more.

    November 20, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • T. Lee

      ....6 to 14 YEAR OLD little girls that is...

      November 20, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
  2. billclinton4


    November 20, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  3. Greg

    John Paul finally admitted Galileo was right and that Earth rotated the sun but I thought an Italian University protested this Pope for his stance. Did Benedict ever make his stance clear? Most of our Supreme court look to this guy as their religious leader, amazing.

    November 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
  4. JCVD

    I am trying to be a better Catholic, I know in the past I was extremely promiscuous, I always wore condoms and it terrified me to get tested for STD's and HIV/AIDS. I know there is a 6 month window period and during that time I would be a nervous wreck. I was relived to know everything was ok, but again after knowing the result I continued my promiscuous ways and put myself in the same position, waiting for the results of my tests. Well, everything is ok, but I believe if I didn't wear condoms I possibly would have been infected and infected others. So I stopped and I can say I will abstain until I get married. 3 years plus and going. I know its not for every one but just think of the financial burden you will put yourself with hospital and meds. Just my 2 cents.

    November 20, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  5. Vorpal

    Through the centuries, the Catholic Church's stand against contraception has caused more misery than all the wars put together.

    November 20, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  6. Paul Wolfowitz

    Pope says condom may be Ok in the case of church leaders doing alter boy.

    November 20, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
    • Carole Adams

      so true

      November 20, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
  7. RJ

    Does this also apply to the priests as well? My guess would be yes, so there wasn't any evidence.

    November 20, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  8. Maybeben

    Pope's words: "Condoms may be OK sometimes."

    Translation: "Condoms are OK in the developed world, where we are desperate for young Church members. In Africa, they still cause AIDS and are the work of witches. "

    November 20, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  9. Sam

    Didn't it take them a few hundred years to admit the earth isn't flat? I'd say they've greatly improved the speed of acceptance of modern science. Anyways, I'm completely shocked by the ignorance on this page, condoms have been proven to be one of the most effective way to stop the spread of HIV.

    Abstinence is like communism, it only works in theory, not real life.

    November 20, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
  10. GrumpyBearDC

    Papanazzi: welcome to the XX century. The rest of us are in the twenty-first.

    November 20, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  11. trp55

    Maybe the Catholic church are so against the use of contraception because they are worried that their numbers are dwindling and want their followers to produce more?

    November 20, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
  12. Gary

    Condoms can now be used when ever a priest is raping a young boy! We wouldn't want them to get AIDS now!

    November 20, 2010 at 9:44 pm |
    • Ray Carl

      Knowing now that the average man on the street is 2 x as likely to have touched anyone inappropriately as a priest, I don't know why we continue these low jokes. Lets grow up.

      November 20, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
    • waremtae

      @ Ray Carl
      Did a priest give you those numbers?

      November 20, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
    • Non Believer

      2 x as likely? Proof that 46.75% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

      November 20, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
    • Your Average Atheist

      Non Believer,

      I was thinking the same thing about his 2x idiotic statistic. I agree with you , and there is a 96% chance that we might be right.

      November 22, 2010 at 9:55 pm |
  13. Cafolic Freak!

    Woo-hoo! I'ma get my church FREAK on, yo! Da Pope say it be okay to gettin' a little somethin' somethin' with RUBBERS! I'ma be gettin' that A$$!!!!!!

    November 20, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  14. Jose

    Why don't we get our own Pope? We have plenty of balconies.

    November 20, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  15. Kevin

    The biggest problem is that the author doesn't know the difference between "then" and "than" ... How does that happen on CNN?

    November 20, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
  16. waremtae

    Yet again it appears as though god has changed his mind. How convenient.

    November 20, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
  17. Creel

    So the guy that helped all the pedophiles in his church get away with molesting little boys, now tells the world condoms are okay? How does anyone even take the guy seriously? Who cares what he says?

    November 20, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  18. Irene

    OH...did I say...that maybe he should concentrate on pouring more gold into the Vatican compound!! I'm sure it's worth billions of dollars! Let's get rid of the lavish Vatican and put him in the slums with the poor, maybe he'll be able to see reality from there!! Disgusted!

    November 20, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
  19. stu

    keeping church filled >alleged word of God. LOL.

    November 20, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  20. Irene

    OMG...this comment from the POPE...infuriates me!!! He's STILL telling all these poor devout Catholic families to keep having children, when they can't feed their children!! Maybe sometimes it's okay when the priests are molesting the children of their parish!!! MOVE ON POPPY....GET REAL!!!

    November 20, 2010 at 9:16 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.