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. southhills

    Dear Holy See, not every ejaculation deserves a name.
    All the best.

    November 21, 2010 at 2:12 am |
  2. George Freasente

    Nothing has changed. Condoms as birth control are still forbidden by the church. They can be used as water balloons or, as here, to prevent disease in people who are already violating the church's teaching, as long as they're not used to interfere with insemination. Btw, contrary to popular belief, the church's restrictions have nothing to do with wasting sperm or "spilling one's seed."

    November 21, 2010 at 1:36 am |
  3. Roland from Canada

    Well now, there will be many many priests that are happy to learn they will be using protection while violating little boys.

    Oops I guess I'm going to H*LL for that one

    November 21, 2010 at 1:26 am |
  4. B. A.

    I dare to say, the pope and his accomplices make me sick. If I think about it too long, I get physically ill with disgust for the church and sadness for all the victims.

    November 21, 2010 at 1:18 am |
  5. Vjay

    I wonder if Mother Mary used one, there would not be any problem in the world

    November 21, 2010 at 1:16 am |
  6. B. A.

    I dare to say, the pope and his accomplices make me sick. If I think about it too long, I get physically ill with disgust and sadness for the victims of the lies.

    November 21, 2010 at 1:15 am |
  7. Margaret

    This man's opinion should mean absolutely nothing to anyone with their full mental faculties. He is nothing but a shallow, empty man incapable of living a full life. I would spit on him. Religious fanatics should be ostracized. They've done more than enough damage.

    November 21, 2010 at 1:06 am |
  8. Gregger

    yes, condoms are good for Priests to use on Altar Boys.

    November 21, 2010 at 1:05 am |
  9. queuebert

    When most people get to be about this age and babbling nonsense and thinking people care about it, their children put them in a retirement home. I guess you could think of the Apostolic Palace as a big fancy retirement home, but why does the resident's babbling nonsense make national news and so many people listen?

    November 21, 2010 at 12:51 am |
  10. David

    Who cares what the pope thinks! He needs to resign asap over his involvement int he squelching of the priest pedophiles when he was a cardinal.

    November 21, 2010 at 12:37 am |
  11. James M.

    Monty Python, Meaning of Life reference, love it!
    Harry Blackitt: Look at them, bloody Catholics, filling the bloody world up with bloody people they can't afford to bloody feed

    November 21, 2010 at 12:36 am |
  12. Hugo

    @yeahsureagain – did you actually think your comment about God changing the rules all the way through?

    The Pope is a Christian. Christians believe in Christ. What do Christians think Christ did with respect to at least some of the rules? Galatians is short. Give it a read, please.

    November 21, 2010 at 12:27 am |
  13. James M.

    @Gillenh20, Monty Python's Meaning of Life quote, excellent!
    " I'm afraid I have no choice but to sell you all for scientific experiments."

    November 21, 2010 at 12:21 am |
  14. Jebus

    I use the pray and spray pull-out method. It's natural so it's ok with god.

    November 21, 2010 at 12:17 am |
  15. TheRationale

    Loving the typos in this article...

    Anyway, yes, you may hold that abstinence is the best way to go, which is perfectly fine, but the point is that if you're not going to be abstinent, then at least have protection.

    November 21, 2010 at 12:14 am |
  16. Tom Joad

    What does it matter what the ex Hitler youth leader of a morally bankrupt religion has to say? The real shame is that his parents should have had better access to birth control.

    November 21, 2010 at 12:12 am |
  17. Mary and Joseph

    Uh... for the record... Abstinence doesn't always work either.

    November 21, 2010 at 12:03 am |
  18. Lance

    Finally, hypocrisy is accepted as the norm due to the Catholic Church sanctioning BS.

    November 21, 2010 at 12:02 am |
  19. Mary and Joseph

    Abstinence doesn't always work either.

    November 21, 2010 at 12:02 am |
  20. Jarno

    Wow. Always trust the Pope to say the right thing... after all the wrong things have been exhaustively tried, and obstinately held on to for decades, at least, against all evidence, and at the expense of human suffering, and human lives.

    I guess it's better late than never, but what is really wrong with the world is that so many people are hanging on to the word of an out-of-touch, medieval mentality religious leader of a corrupt and bloated organization. I wish people would wake up. Even if you do believe in the Christian doctrine, for goodness sake, see the Catholic church for what it is, and practice your belief outside it, without giving it the power and legitimazy of your support.

    November 21, 2010 at 12:01 am |
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About this blog

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.