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. Gus

    Gee, really?
    Religion has caused nothing but hatred and guilt and suffering...

    November 20, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
    • thorrsman

      Wrong and stupid. Religion–whatever one you think of when you say stupid things like that–may not be all love, sunshine and bunnies, but it certainly is more than you profess to believe.

      November 20, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
    • jobleaux

      Absolutely right. It keeps people ignorant and stupid. All religions are just stupid old myths written thousands of years ago by primitive people. Why anyone with more than 3 working brain cells would believe in that nonsense is beyond me.

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

      Religion has come every 1000 years to educate us and print us closer to God, but man has taken it as a mean of acquiring power, man has changed its rules and made them to comfort and benefit himself. That is why we have so many denominations of Christianity. Religion has been the foundation for the arts, culture and so much more that defines humanity and not just war and hatred. The good and the bad is what man did with religion and not what religion did for man.

      November 20, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
    • Meh

      religion itself is good. Its the people who administer who make it bad. Whether it be priests r-aping alter boys or Muslims on jihad

      November 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
  2. joeName*

    He also said its ok for preists to use them with the alter boys

    November 20, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
    • Lambert


      November 20, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  3. Sean

    This article should not be in the section of beliefs, it should be in the section of personal opinions just like any joe out there. Pope and his cardinals need to find another job.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  4. religious sects

    Did God just tell him the rules changed ... or is he just making this up?

    November 20, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
  5. Javier

    It is unbelievable how the Pope manipulates acts forbidden by the catholic church, to gain followers.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
  6. Lambert

    Religion....what more can one say.....

    November 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
  7. Richard Cheese

    BURN HIM AT THE STAKE! Come on, Catholics! Where's your history!?

    November 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
  8. Ramgolfball

    Isn't it time we just stopped paying any attention at all to what these clowns have to say? What an idiot, the Pope!

    November 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
  9. T. Lee

    He should broaden this ruling out too all of mankind – not just for the priests

    November 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
    • religious sects

      Nicely worded. Well played!

      November 20, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  10. Dan

    What about the case of a priest and an altar boy?

    November 20, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
    • LdftRightLef

      Simple. Hang the priest.

      November 21, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  11. Jezis

    Look at that hat. He must be shilling for a brand of condoms. That is what is behind this. Be the first on your block to wear "Papal Infallability Raincoats"

    November 20, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      That hat is a giant reservoir tip. 😛

      November 20, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
  12. popeye1128

    Listening and agreeing to what the pope says is equivalent to listening and agreeing to what Sarah Palin says. There will always be those that do but the majority sees them for what they are.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
  13. Dan

    This church is so out of touch it is laughable.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
    • Kara S

      ackshully this church is in TOO MUCH touch with everyone. hopefuly the condoms will help keep their numbers down.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
  14. Phil Atley

    No statement was released on Saturday. The book is emargoed until Tuesday. Some people have advance copies. Wynne-Jones broke the embargo. Conveniently, no one can check the book to see whether he accurately reflects what the pope said.

    This CNN article is dishonest. It implies that an official statement was issued. Instead, it's a journalist trying to scoop others to sell papers, doing so by breaking his word. Why believe someone who breaks his promises?

    November 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
  15. annie

    Toby, i understand the reason u believe that way but u don't understand the difference between the old testament and the new.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
    • jobleaux

      The difference is, one is dumb and the other is dumber.

      November 20, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  16. Margaret

    If you are not Catholic then this article has nothing to do with you.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • chicagogam

      i wish...when he promotes hate towards me, yes it does.. i wish it didn't. he's not a force for good, unless you're an accountant in the vatican..

      November 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
    • Q

      Anything which will help prevent AIDS transmission affects all of us, particularly given the correlation between opportunistic/secondary infections like TB (which doesn't care who you sleep with but only who you share your air with).

      November 21, 2010 at 4:14 am |
    • LdftRightLef

      Well, thank God! Oh, and you too Margaret!

      November 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
    • Terry

      Thank you for pointing that out, Margerat. These God-haters can't see that they don't belong here.

      November 23, 2010 at 4:10 am |
  17. Dave P.

    All of this controversy could have been avoided if that Roman legionary had known that condom use was ok and had just used a condom when he got that Mary chick knocked up a couple thousand years ago.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • jobleaux

      LOL, yeah, Joseph was pretty gullible too, his wife got knocked up by some dude and she says "God did it" HA HA HA, he had to be the biggest dope alive at the time.

      November 20, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
    • DanW

      So you were both there, eh?

      November 20, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
    • LdftRightLef

      You know (maybe they didn't) that you can't get pregnant from swallowing.

      November 21, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  18. james

    Yes like sticking over your head so you cant breathe

    November 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
  19. Reality

    The One-A-Day Reminder:

    The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And then there is "a-pe" and "gra-pe. You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".

    More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.

    Sam Dude has a more complete list of forbidden words and fragments.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • swohio

      Well, apparently I wasted my time typing my comment before, but I'm sure as h-ell not going to retype the entire post again. If I have to worry about every darned word I type, I'll just keep my opinions to myself.

      November 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      SUM not Sam. Not same. Not some. I am the sum of my parts. I seem to sum some sims, but soon I will seem to say some sane sayin's. See? 😛

      November 20, 2010 at 6:50 pm |
    • Reality

      Sorry about that Sum. Sam somehow has a certain ring to it 🙂

      November 22, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  20. Firefighter

    Notice he said only for Aids and not family planning. Just look at the Philippines mostly Catholic controlled polices and theres a population explosion despite the majority of the people living in poverty. For years the discouraging of birth control was the norm. Bet if there was access to free or low cost birth control things wouldn't be so bad.

    November 20, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
    • LdftRightLef

      Firefighter...I totaly agree. If they would only start eating more storks!

      November 21, 2010 at 5:09 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.