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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. Puzzled

    Hey pope – trusting your incredible insight, I did not use condoms all these years.That is why everywhere I went, kids used to run out and call me Papa. Now you tell me I should have used condoms. What gives? Can't you ever stick to your word? Maybe I will just go back to playing with young boys, which still seems OK.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • Joey

      Are you my daddy? My mommy said you would show up someday!

      November 20, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
  2. Michael Labbe

    God is a silly construct. It is ridiculous to believe that, if there were a first cause to our universe, it had us in mind. The pope will die and rot like everyone. He has some nice robes though!

    November 20, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • DanW

      Why? Coouldn't God have in mind whatever he pleases, because he's God? Just because you can't conceive of something, doesn't mean it's false. Some people can't believe teh Holocaust ever happened. Does that make them right?

      November 20, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
    • LdftRightLef

      Dan W....Just the fact that the holocaust happened to the "Chosen People" should tell you something is amiss! Where was that wonderful, all-powerful, all-knowing and caring God? Maybe creating more flat earths?

      November 21, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
  3. annie

    Dave p, isn't that like saying God changes His mind about matters? do you believe that?

    November 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  4. Pete

    Every sperm is sacred! 🙂
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUspLVStPbk&fs=1&hl=en_US]

    November 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  5. J-Ro

    Whats even sadder is the fact that there are alot of uber-devout out there who actually have not used condoms because Mr. Pope said so. Get with the times people. This mythology needs to go already!

    November 20, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • DanW

      What do you care if someone else wants to practice a religion you don't care for? You people never cease to amaze me. You want the right to do as you please and to tell me to do as you please too.

      November 20, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @DanW

      And you would say the same about all other religions? Yeah, right. You love interfering with other people's lives. It gets you off.

      November 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  6. BillOh

    Welcome to the 20th century Catholic Church. (Yes, people I am aware this is the 20th century.)

    November 20, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • DanW

      No, Bill. It's the 21st century.

      November 20, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  7. Liberal4Obama

    Now tea baggers can screw each other safely.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
    • Curious?

      Ara – beastiality? Leave the animals out of it.

      November 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
  8. Resist710

    Who cares what he thinks? Is this supposed to be news?

    November 20, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  9. Charlie Putz

    Roll and Martin and Donna Brazzier can kiss my AZZ!!!

    November 20, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  10. TripleA

    So, that’s a GO for condoms. Did a burning bush tell you that? Or a talking snake? Or a couple of guys with wings on their backs? Or some dude sitting on a cloud write it down on rock slabs and send it to you by UPS? Please tell us how you got the OK; it’ll make a difference in deciding how credible you are.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  11. Carol Fort

    I love the part where he says "You can't resolve it (HIV) with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters. "On the contrary, it increases the problem." It only increases the problem if the condoms are used as balloons or water balls! Give me a break. This is ignorance beyond primitive.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  12. Stephen

    Uh, but this hint of enlightenment does not "rise to the level of official Vatican policy." It's just a tease, as in, "Hey, we thought about embracing the enlightenment, but nah, just kidding!" And there are people who regard this man as an authority! Amazing.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  13. NancyGermany

    Cool, the Catholic version of medical marijuana!

    November 20, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  14. popeye1128

    The Catholic church should have to pay to feed every unplanned child due to their archaic policy. They would be better off concentrating on eliminating hunger worldwide than worrying about people using condoms. It's policies like this that made me leave their church.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  15. Dejardins

    Can we get his excellency opinion on the use of Viagra

    November 20, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  16. pw

    Nah, just pull out people. It feels better.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Sturm und Drang

      sounds liek u need a new fleshlight 😉

      November 20, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
  17. Dave P.

    This is why I am one of the millions of non-practicing Catholics. Once the Church advances another couple hundred years in tehir ideology and beliefs and hits the 21st Century(priests can marry, allow some abortions, allow contraceptive use, allow women to be priests, etc...), I might actually consider starting to go again.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
    • Trey

      Actually, the Orthdox religion priests can be married, but once they become priests if they are single they are not allowed to marry. They have to be married before they become a priest.

      November 20, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
    • Adam

      Totally agree. I stopped going years ago, do not plan to go and will never contribute a dime to that corporation.

      the Catholic church is a huge billion dollar industry. Its policies are centuries old, its hypocritcal, it protects pedophiles and believes families should procreate like rabbits.

      Just the kind of policies this world really needs.... sheesh. The pope is a total idiot

      November 20, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @Dave P. – OMG! Don't keep holding it in! That's massively dangerous, dude! If you need to go, go!

      November 20, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
    • Wake Up

      Dave, and all the others, reconsider or good luck to you when you die. You will have to explain yourself. Deep down, you know you are not right but justify yourself in this secular society. Good luck to you. This life is very very short, but eternity never ends!

      November 20, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
    • Dave P.

      In case the last reply gets moderated out...

      I have lived a good life so far. I give to those who have less. I try to improve the lives of those who are less fortunate than I am. I respect my parents and my marriage vows. I also use contraception all of the time. Is this god that you believe in such a jerk that he is gonna send me to a bad place just cause I use a wrapper? I'm a good Christian/Catholic in every aspect except contraception. If your god is gonna send me to some really hot place for a minor infraction, when I've been a great person overall, then I want nothing to do with that religion. I know I am a good person, and thats all I am worried about. I made many peoples lives better, so skru your god, I know I did whats right.

      November 21, 2010 at 1:05 am |
    • Charlie

      @Dave P.
      It's not what you do or don't do that will send you to heaven or hell. Good deeds won't get you into heaven and sinning won't send you to hell. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast." – Ephesians 2:8-9

      Good works aren't for getting to heaven; they're a reflection of God's grace and mercy upon us in our lives.

      November 21, 2010 at 8:41 am |
    • Frogist

      @Charlie: So doing good won't be rewarded, and doing bad won't be punished. No wonder there are so many hypocrite Christians, if they all think like you do.

      November 22, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  18. annie

    Is there a more inconsistent religion?

    November 20, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @annie – Probably, but I can't imagine which one it would be....

      November 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
    • buddhamaster

      Yes there is. It's known as Zen Buddhism. It's rational and consistent.

      November 24, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  19. Trey

    If the Catholics really want to follow the word of God, then they need to do what God says is right and not what the pope says. The pope changes his mind and acts like that is okay, when God does not change.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
    • Gargoyle

      Trey wrote: " I don't believe in the whole biblical God, but I rather just know that we can go somewhere after death, because I don't believe the whole rebirth junk."

      Whatever you believe regarding your after death experience has absolutely no influence on what will happen. None of us has any knowledge of what's beyond, and all the religion, belief, and praying makes no difference. Try to make the best of the life you know, and try to leave the world a better place. For all you know you may be back whether you believe it or not...

      November 20, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
    • LdftRightLef

      Need a little help here Trey. How does anyone know what God says? Have you considered calling yourself "deist"? I have been for many years. Notice lately that there are many who think alike. Look it up, it probably fits. AND as far as the catholic church's change of view on physical facts?...Here it is: God created a flat world. Later, when budget permitted, he made it round. Still even later, he changed things up a bit more by commanding the earth to go around the sun instead of the other way around. It's His learning curve and budget considerations. The Pope knows this...he just can't tell us. Haa,ha,ha. AND the thing about the rubbers: priests don't like to shower wearing a raincoat. So they tell all their "sheep" that god does not allow it. They're home free. It's all OK, just confess whatever and all is good. Really, SHEEP!

      November 21, 2010 at 10:54 am |
  20. Mit

    Apparently he missed that gay males are NOT the great transmitter these days. Nice. Welcome to the 1980s. I still feel sorry for my church. Always looking for a group to isolate and point at.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
    • DanW

      Sorry. Here in teh US ad Europe they are still the major transmitters of the disease.

      November 20, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      Sorry, Dan. Here in the US, they are NOT the greatest transmitters of the disease.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
    • Basic 101

      @MIT white, g-ay males are still the primary transmitters according to the CDC, other groups are joining ranks as noted in articles but data on the old adage WGM has not change! Stick to the facts baby!

      November 20, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @Basic101
      You are misinformed.

      A tiny fraction of statistics from cdc.gov on HIV/AIDS:
      Diagnoses of HIV infection

      Age group: From 2005 through 2008, the rates remained stable among children (less than 13 years of age) and persons aged 13–14, 30–34, 40–44, 60–64, and 65 years and older. The rate for persons aged 35–39 decreased. The rates for persons aged 15–19, 20–24, 25–29, 45–49, 50–54 and 55–59 increased. In 2008, the largest percentage—14% of all diagnoses— and the highest rate—38.7 per 100,000 population—were those for persons aged 40–44 years.

      Race/ethnicity: From 2005 through 2008, rates among American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asians, and blacks/African Americans increased (Table 1a). The rates among Native Hawaiians/other Pacific Islanders and persons reporting multiple races decreased. The rate among whites remained stable. Among Hispanics/Latinos, the rate decreased, although the number increased. In 2008, blacks/African Americans accounted for 52% of all diagnoses of HIV infection. The rates by race/ethnicity in 2008 were 73.7 in the black/African American population, 25.0 in the Hispanic/Latino population, 22.8 in the Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander population, 14.1 in the population of persons reporting multiple races, 11.9 in the American Indian/Alaska Native population, 8.2 in the white population, and 7.2 in the Asian population (Table 1a).

      Sex: In 2008, males accounted for 75% of all diagnoses of HIV infection among adults and adolescents. The rate among adult and adolescent males was 35.9, and the rate among females was 11.5. During 2005–2008, the rate among males increased 7%, but the rate among females remained stable (Table 1a).

      Transmission category: During 2005–2008, the number of annual diagnoses of HIV infection among men who have sex with men (MSM) increased. Among male and female adults and adolescents exposed through heterosexual contact, the numbers of diagnoses increased. Among male and female adult and adolescent injection drug users (IDUs), MSM who were also IDUs, and children, the numbers of diagnoses decreased. In 2008, MSM (54%) and persons exposed through heterosexual contact (32%) accounted for 86% of all diagnoses of HIV infection in the 37 states.

      November 20, 2010 at 7:50 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.