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. George

    Time for a new Pope.

    November 20, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
    • Basic 101

      No its not! Long live the Pope!

      November 20, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  2. Amalia Sheran Sharm

    Hahahaha! The facade is cracking. Good. Good.

    November 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  3. Albert

    The Catholic church is the epitome of all that is wrong with religion. Although I do not agree with not allowing condom use (it is not scriptural), This apostate church teaches the teachings of man and not of the Bible. It will change doctrine to gain power and converts. With the Pope as its leader, it is the Biggest cult in the world.

    November 20, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
    • jon

      the Catholic Church created the Bible, so by acknowledging the authority of the bible, you are acknowledging the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
  4. michael

    As a lifetime catholic who went to parochial schools I am getting more and more disgusted
    With the catholic church. It gets more and more embarassing to be a catholic.

    November 20, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
    • Vertebrate Catholic

      @michael, maybe you shouldn't get your information about the Church from sources like this. The Church is smart, current, colorful, beautiful, reasonable, and stands for the true value and development of humanity. I'd suggest you visit http://www.wordonfire.org/ for starters. ๐Ÿ™‚

      November 20, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
    • LdftRightLef

      Michael...Almost feel like I'm whispering in your ear. Facts are facts! The Vertebrate can't himself/herself face reality. I once asked a priest for explanation of a passage from the bible. He made me go through his archdiocese and their "expert" told me that any bible discussions could be had for $75/hour. No joke! They were actually upset that I had read parts of the bible. I know you won't believe it because the brainwashing is so complete. My wife (catholic) wanted our new-born son to be baptized. No way – they would not do it because we weren't both verifiable practicing catholics. Well, neither one of us is now. I could even tell you more, but I find that people without first-hand experience never believe these things.

      November 21, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
    • Vertebrate Catholic

      You should really report that priest to the bishop... and if the bishop won't listen, write a letter to the vatican. That's absurd and goes against everything the Church stands for. Did you know that you can receive a plenary indulgence for prayerfully reading the bible for a half hour? There's infinite depth to every part of Scripture and there's plenty of room for personal interpretation, since God's written Word always speaks to us on a personal level, but the Church tells us when we've gone off the deep end in what we're reading into a particular passage. What passage was it that you asked for help interpreting?

      November 21, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
    • LdftRightLef

      Vertebrate...you seem genuinely interested, so OK, I'll give you a crack at this. It's a glimpse into my sordid past experiences with the catholic church. First, the bible question. It was long ago, and I don't remember the exact question, but it did concern the teaching by Jesus of how to pray. Second, after my military involvement with the destruction (ok, killing) of so many lives in Viet Nam, I tried to get some "forgiveness". After talking with three different priests, I realized that the whole catholic thing was a sham. I was told that I needed no forgiveness for I had done nothing wrong. I was acting under orders in a declared war. Give me a break! You know, I found out that my father was told the same thing after WWII. He was in the German army. His uniform belt buckle has the inscription "Gott mit uns" (God with us). Priests told him the same thing they told me. Apparently the catholic god is on all sides - "it's ok, it was a declared war". So much for the commandment without qualifiers. Next, my first wife was not catholic. We were not married in a catholic church. We got divorced. Five years later, my present wife (catholic) and I wanted to get married, and we thought it should be done in church by a priest. Well, when that priest found out I had been married before and divorced he said he could not do it until he got some clarification. That clarification came to me in the mail. I was officially excommunicated. When I protested, since I was never really married in the eyes of the church, my reply (again in the mail) was the last straw. The reply from (yes) the Vatican was that my protest might have some merit and for the sum of $2,000 US, a Vatican lawyer could peruse my case and possiby persuade the pontiff to reverse my excommunication. That was long ago, and I'm certain the amount would be considerably more today. Anyway, I told them to cram it. As a deist I am not bound to any weird dogma or rituals. y

      November 22, 2010 at 1:36 am |
    • martin luther

      leftrightleft, had some issues with the catholic church as well

      November 22, 2010 at 1:42 am |
    • Vertebrate Catholic

      Sorry to hear you met with some unsavory folks, must not have done wonders for your faith. It happens, the Church is made of people. Regarding killing in war – the priests should have heard your confession and given absolution for venial sin, but they were correct in that you cannot be guilty of a mortal sin unless you were acting freely of your own will. Killing is always a mortal sin, but your guilt is dependent on your understanding and will. Self defense, for example, is permissible. The killing is still wrong, but your guilt is significantly mitigated by the fact that you are not freely choosing to commit the sin. That being said, killing will always haunt people regardless of the reasons. I hope you've found a way to make peace with yourself!
      Regarding the excommunication – being previously married outside the Church and then divorced is not in itself grounds for excommunication. I must ask the question, though: if you were willing to marry outside of the Church, therefore not entering into a sacramental marriage and being in sin according to Church teaching, why were you concerned about what the Church had to say about anything? Had you undergone a conversion following your first marriage which made you care what the Church had to say or was it just your wife who cared? What I'm saying is it doesn't really sound like you were a devoted Churchman, so perhaps the excommunication was only something of an annoyance to you rather than something you took seriously. After all, excommunication is a medicinal utility of the Church, and you did not seem interested in pursuing the solution. The solution, BTW, had nothing to do with canon lawyers. Perhaps if you wanted to contest the grounds of the excommunication you could get lawyers involved, but that's not the solution. The solution is simple, and you could have found it out with the tiniest amount of research – go to the sacrament of reconciliation with the bishop or a specially authorized priest, express repentance of the sin and a resolution to avoid sin in the future, recite the creed, and the excommunication is lifted as soon as the sacrament is complete. Excommunication is simply an official statement that you have separated yourself from the Church and need to be reconciled through official renouncement of some sin or error. The whole point of the Church is to direct our lives to God and eternal life, and if the Church doesn't tell us when we're out of line, how can it do its job?
      God bless!

      November 22, 2010 at 11:57 am |
    • LdftRightLef

      Vertebrate. Glad to hear from you. The fiirst marriage...we actually met with a priest because my first wife was willing to get married in catholic church. That priest strongly advised against this, citing that in the event we did divorce, no long lasting serious consequences would ensue. And should we a few years down the road still wish that catholic ceremony, he would help us achieve this. Followed his advice. That was in Dallas. Next marriag situation and priest in Chicago. Young, very ignorant and proud – no additional research on my part. And perhaps you are right, I was allready at a stage where I felt the church to be highly hypocritical, unablej/unwilling to practice what it preached (commandments). I did make peace with myself long ago (thank you for concern); however, sometimes my conscience haunts me. Many of my issues were brought on by myself due to ego or stupidity and I resolved (out of neccessity) to find the resolution on my own. Again, thank you for your insight and concern.

      Martin Luther...you make me feel like I'm in very prestigious company. But I know that there must be tens of thousands of me.

      November 22, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • LdftRightLef

      I forgot to add one relative point. There was never one incident of "self defense". I was in the Air Force. The issues I deal with are the targets that were non-combatant. People who never see it coming or survivors who don't know why, of all ages and genders. Did the church tell them "you deserved it, because the guy hitting the 'pickle' button is doing nothing wrong?" Men, human beings give the orders and that sits fine with your church. Incredible!

      November 22, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
    • Vertebrate Catholic

      Thanks for explaining. This makes me thankful that our seminaries have been undergoing reforms, because ill-educated and uncharitable priests can do so much harm. The Church will always be unable to practice what it preaches, since what it preaches is perfection – the saving message of Jesus. While we often use the term "the Church" to refer to the Church's teaching office, don't forget that "the Church" means everyone in the body of Christ. That includes me. I'm certainly unable to perfectly practice what Christ preaches. I can sure try, though, and I've got the grace of God in the sacraments to help me and pick me up when I fall. I wish there was something I could say to undo the damage done to the Church's reputation by proud, corrupt, and misguided individuals within it but that's not the way it works, is it? All of us, Pope included, are subject to selfishness and sin – the trick is not to try to transform the Church to fit our vision but to let the saving message of Christ in the Church transform us. The Church itself, with her teaching office, is not man-made, but comes from God and is incorruptible. Though every last person in the Church may fall into personal sin and error, our hope is in Christ who told us that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ and no one is ever beyond the point of reconciliation with His body as long as they're alive!
      Hope you're having a great Thanksgiving week, God bless.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
  5. popeye1128

    Just for the record. I equally despise ALL religious leaders who profess to speak directly for their god. Not just the Pope. I could list them but you know the names.
    How does the Pope have a clue what his god thinks of condoms? How do any of these religious leaders have the arrogance to think they speak for their god?

    November 20, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
    • Albert

      That's simple, they worship Satan. He is their God.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
    • Lisa

      I'm with Albert....

      November 20, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
    • Meh

      Youre right. Religion sucks because man screwed it up

      November 20, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
    • Gargoyle

      And this also applies to certain former American presidents!

      November 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
    • Lisa

      not all religion....just false religion. Jesus said in Matt. chapter 7:21 that you would know false teachers by their fruits and that someday he will say" get away from me, I never knew you"

      November 20, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
    • popeye1128

      Lisa....then the way I see it, 99.9% of religions are false. No? They have leaders who profess to speak for their god.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
    • Vertebrate Catholic

      "Jesus replied, โ€œBlessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."" (Matthew 17:18-19)
      Jesus made Peter the prime minister of His Church, referencing the prime minister of the Davidic kingdom in the Old Covenant:
      "I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open." (Isaiah 22:22) What's more? "He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem" (Isaiah 22:21) The Church is the New Jerusalem, the new Davidic Kingdom. Where Shebna and his successor Eliakim held the office of prime minister and ambassador of the king in the Old Covenant, Peter and his successors hold this office in the New Covenant, of which Jesus is the Davidic King.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
  6. gtizzle

    This is what the statement by the Pope really mean: http://catholicworldreport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=220:pope-benedict-on-condoms-in-qlight-of-the-worldq&catid=53:cwr2010&Itemid=70

    November 20, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
    • Basic 101

      CNN should burn in hell for taking the pope statements out if context.

      November 20, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
  7. Lisa

    Well I read it and now I see that he is called "Holy Father", again are you kidding me? Jesus said "call no man your Father..." how can you think what you believe goes along with the Bible? No wonder so many choose Atheism when religion doesn;t adhere to the Bible so it is hypocritical. How sad....

    November 20, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
    • Albert

      You are 100% correct Lisa. Since the Catholic church does not encourage its followers to read the Bible, they don't know any better. This church teaches many pagan traditions. But again, they follow the Pope and not God or his son Christ Jesus. This church has a lot of blood guilt on its hands.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
    • Joseph

      Is not every person born with a biological father. Check out Ephesians 6:4, Paul calls men Fathers. Didn't Paul know Jesus? Also is not Abraham called our father in faith. "Honor your Father and your Mother". However, treat no one like you Father in Heaven, for you have but one true Father who is yours and mine. Praise the Lord.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
    • Verterbrate Catholic

      When Jesus said "there shall be one flock and one shepherd" (John 10:16), was he then forbidding the use of the term "pastor" (which means shepherd) for any man? No, this is a misunderstanding of His words. God is the one true father, pastor, mediator, teacher, etc, but it is possible for us to share in these aspects of who He is as members of His body, only through His power. A literalistic reading of these passages is misguided and can lead to silly conclusions, such as refusing to call your biological father "father" or refusing to call your Sunday School teacher "teacher" based on Matthew 23:10. Jesus' words are much more profound and deeply relevant than that.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  8. Verterbrate Catholic

    Things to consider:

    a) This book has yet to be released, so we don't really know the context of the Pope's remarks.

    b) The Pope's words are very likely being distorted here in order to get views, leaving out the meat of what he has to say on the subject.

    c) The Pope's personal opinions expressed in a book are not official Catholic teaching.

    November 20, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
    • jayb

      thank you for the clarification. it's a good thing we have people like you to attain to the fact that all is safe and right in good old 1492, wait... it's 2010?!

      November 20, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
    • Verterbrate Catholic

      There is nothing "progressive" about the denial and suppression of life. True development must encompass all aspects of humanity, especially morality. The danger of "modernism" lies in its sense of superiority and enlightenment, as if the leaving behind of meaning and value for the sake of material progress is really a positive step for humanity.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
    • jayb

      i can assure, the fear and unwillingness to advance as human beings is far more dangerous. i feel confident in my own views and faith and dont need dolts like you telling me what to believe. if u and the church had ur way people like isaac newton and galileo wouldnt be catalysts in the advancement of the human species but sinners and liars.

      youre on the wrong side of history bud

      November 20, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
    • Lisa

      Do you call your biological father "Holy Father"? I think everyone knew what I meant. No one should take the place of our Heavenly Father. And I would encourage all to read the Scriptures for themselves to see what's in them. For instance, fornication is condemned and should not be encouraged.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
    • Verterbrate Catholic

      The Catholic Church established our hospital system, our university system, invented the scientific method, is the largest charitable organization in the world, educates more children than any other secular or religious organization in the world, and the list could go on and on. There is absolutely nothing sinful or wrong about science and technology, so long as they do not become an end in and of themselves rather than a tool to foster true human development.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
    • Vertebrate Catholic

      Just realized I had made a typo in my name. ๐Ÿ˜› Anyway... @Lisa, I think you're gravely misunderstanding what the Pope is saying (since it's presented so terribly in this article), because he is in no way condoning either fornication or contraception. This should help put his remarks in their true context: http://catholicworldreport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=220:pope-benedict-on-condoms-in-qlight-of-the-worldq&catid=53:cwr2010&Itemid=70

      November 20, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @Verterbrate Catholic

      Where are the words Jesus wrote?
      I wanted to write more, but let's keep things simple, shall we?
      Any clues as to where the written words of Jesus himself are to be found?

      November 20, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
    • Vertebrate Catholic

      @Sum Dude,

      The writings of Jesus? I think the brave little toaster has those in a magical floating vault somewhere in his candy cottage in fairyland, next to the empirical proof that God doesn't exist. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Jesus did not write anything or even instruct anyone to write anything as far as we know. The living Tradition of the Church tells us that He sent out His Apostles out with authority to teach all nations everything He had taught them, and we do have a paper trail to historically validate this Tradition, going back at least as far as 70 AD. Second century writers confirm the martyrdoms of first century writers who wrote eye-witness accounts of Jesus. People may die for a lie they were brainwashed to believe by someone else, but no one dies for a lie which they themselves invented. There is no motive. No money, no power, just persecution by all the powers that be. Claiming that Jesus is God and King was a direct threat to the emperor and to the Jews, the two most powerful forces in the area. Sticking to such a claim unto death if you secretly knew it wasn't true is unthinkable. Therefore, in order to reasonably assert that the eye-witness accounts were fabricated, you must also assert that all of the accounts of first century Christian martyrdom were fabricated. Then the same question must arise for the second century Christian martyrs who supposedly invented the stories of the first century Christian martyrs. Were Nero and Diocletian also fabricated? If we follow this path, we abandon all rules of historical study.

      November 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
    • Terry

      Verbetrite Catcholic, you are very correct and wise. We should all listen to everything you say. You would make a great priest.

      November 23, 2010 at 4:13 am |
  9. Sparky

    friggin redamndiculous

    November 20, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  10. Joseph

    I think you all should read the Pope's actual words instead of that of the media. And read it in the context of all his other writings on the topic.

    Here is the real interpretation:


    November 20, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
    • gtizzle

      great article. her 'contraception, why not' CD is also excellent.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  11. Steve

    I think its fair to say that this an evolution in the principles of the Catholic Church. EVOLUTION OH NO!

    November 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  12. Greg

    Did the Pope mention that the world may be round and not the center of the universe as well?????

    November 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
    • pete

      That's ridiculous, we would fall off.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
  13. jayb

    this just in- the earth revolves around the sun, church "might" agree

    November 20, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      omg! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

      November 21, 2010 at 1:55 am |
  14. Briana

    It seems like Roman Catholicism is becoming more liberal while Christians are becoming more conservative.

    November 20, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  15. Simona Rasquinha

    All you that disrespect the Catholic Church, will someday realize how wrong you are. God is real! Jesus' legacy will never die.

    November 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
    • jayb

      wow, you're definitely going to heaven now.. there is no doubt that you have totally earned a direct ticket to paradise.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
    • Steve

      Congratulations you have overlooked an essential concepts of your own religion. Forgiveness, and acceptance Jesus never said you must follow him to be saved. The church is proved wrong again and again. According to you your "God" (definitely not mine) gave us all we have including the gift of reason, yet it is the use of this gift that destroys all belief in "God".

      November 20, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • AP

      The Catholic Church – one of the largest cults in the world. They have actually brainwashed their believers into thinking that they are the one and true church. Classic cult thinking!

      November 20, 2010 at 6:20 pm |

    the pope and his cardinals should be burned at the stake

    November 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  17. Brett

    The Catholic Church would lose a race with a glacier.

    November 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
  18. victor

    religion is a rip off

    November 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
  19. Saleem

    Buy condoms' stocks on monday ..

    November 20, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  20. Dick M.

    What does the pope know about condoms? Is he speaking from personal experience? What planet/century is he talking about?

    November 20, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
    • Dave

      Message to Pope Bennie:
      You no playa da game, you no make-a da rules

      November 20, 2010 at 8:06 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.