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. God

    Thou shall use a condom.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  2. Lil papa

    Now, now what I really ment to say is we are losing the battle on abortion ban, so humor me by using condoms.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:04 pm |
  3. The Dude

    Pope says condoms are ok only when you are ass raping a small boy. You do not want to leave evidence.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  4. GrimShaw

    And most of us do not give a damn about the pope or his beliefs or opinions. But that being said, aids isn't prevented by condoms AT ALL.

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

      Sure it is. Condoms prohibit the transmission of HIV among other viruses that spread through bodily fluids. Are you actually taking Christine O'Donnell's position on this? It is not factual.

      November 20, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
    • GrimShaw

      The virus is about 1/10th the size of the micro holes in condoms. It has no trouble passing through. This is a well known fact to any virologist. So feed the myth.. and welcome your own immunodeficiency.

      November 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
    • Sum Dude


      cdc.gov shows you are full of BS.

      Quoted from cdc.gov : "Laboratory studies have demonstrated that latex condoms provide an essentially impermeable barrier to particles the size of HIV."

      I don't know what bathroom stall you are reading from, but you might want to avoid using graffiti as a resource for your "facts".

      November 20, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
  5. Gail Dapogny

    Wow...he's really going out on a limb here. I'm curious...are there any catholics out there who actually believe in and "obey" stuff of this sort? Hard to believe that there might be those with such blind obedience. As far as I'm concerned, it's another reason to distrust organized religion.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
    • gtizzle

      i agree w/ it. and it's after thoughtful consideration, not blind obedience, as i changed my original view on it.

      November 20, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
    • Gargoyle

      Sadly there are hundreds of millions who blindly do just that, and mostly to populations in impoverished 3rd world countries whom the Roman Catholic Church pander to.

      November 21, 2010 at 12:00 am |
    • Samuel

      I do. I believe in the one true GOD and the teachings of the catholic church.

      November 21, 2010 at 4:02 am |
    • Vertebrate Catholic

      @Gail Dapogny,
      Marriage is an expression of God's love. God's love is creative and completely self-giving. Using contraception in a marriage distorts the image of God's love, as it says "I will only give part of myself". It isolates the unitive aspect of s-exuality from its creative power, and even blocks the full expression of unity. It wrenches s-exuality from its proper context and contributes to a culture which life is denied and suppressed. How can a society which spends its time trying to suppress life actually value its own existence? No, the Church doesn't ask us to blindly obey anything, but instead provides with sound reasoning and wisdom. We trust in the truth of her teachings because we have solid reasons to respect the authority and expertise given her by Christ and His Spirit.

      November 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm |
  6. Michael

    Pope and the Catholic Church is a Insult to the Human Race

    November 20, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
  7. KG&GG

    Ifind myself a disgusted Catholic regarding the subjects of birth control and family planning! If the church was truly open to life it would encourage people to limit the size to their families to no more than they can feed and care for without relying on others. Instead the church supports over population which leads to world hunger. The church has no business regulating family planning!

    November 20, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
  8. Bensky

    A glacier thaws, one drop at a time.

    November 20, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  9. Chef

    Mamma you are correct, but the Africans are not using the condoms, despite being awash in them. They just keep having more babies while the babies they already have are starving and diseased. Condoms are not the answer to Africa's problems. Africa needs to learn to look inward for the solution to their problems instead of holding their hands out to the global community and always asking for more, more, more.

    November 20, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  10. Chris

    That's just the most stupid stance I've heard, well just about one of them, the church don't accept gays however half the priests are molesting boys, yea I'll pass....

    November 20, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
  11. will ferell

    It took 800 years to recoconize that the earth moved around the sun so at least were speeding up the process a little

    November 20, 2010 at 6:50 pm |
  12. Travis

    Can't you just pray the AIDS away?

    November 20, 2010 at 6:48 pm |
  13. Lori

    It is about time the Catholic church recognize using a condom isn't always about not getting pregnant!

    November 20, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
  14. kyactivist

    Hooray for the intelligent insight of a theocratic ruler! Where's Attila to sack Rome when you need him?

    November 20, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  15. jessica

    hmm.. and people actually wonder why catholicism is a dying faith.

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

      Dying how? the numbers keep going up. And the Catholics that actually practice their faith are reproducing, unlike the pagans who are contracepting their population to nothing.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
  16. Mike S.

    "They are especially effective at disguising the DNA evidence of molested alter boys."

    November 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
  17. bvilleyellowdog

    You think your minions actully pay attention to this BS? In the US the birth rate amongst catholics is the same as everyone else – and it's not because they don't get any.

    November 20, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
    • jon

      Among people who actually practice (rather than just claim to be Catholic) the rate is much higher.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
  18. Ravi

    Pope sounds like "I successfully tested these condoms myself and give my approval"

    November 20, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  19. Albert

    You ever notice how the Pope rarely uses the Bible? This is why many are becoming Atheist, and many call the Bible outdated and full of myths. People confuse what religions teaches versus what the Bible teaches. Churches such as the Catholic one are far removed from what the Bible actually teachers. Did you know for example that Easter, Christmas, etc are nowhere to be found in the Bible. Did you know that the Trinity is an ancient Pagan teaching as is Hellfire? Did you know that the Bible states that the Earth is round (Isaiah 40:22)? People need to study the Bible and not take what religion

    November 20, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
    • Lisa

      Of course Albert you can figure I agree with you totally...thanks for the truth...

      November 20, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
    • PDXSerric

      Any follower of the New Testament is far removed from the grace of God.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
    • mel

      You are woefully ignorant of the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope's books are full of Biblical references. The idea of "Church" comes from the Bible (again you are unaware of that too), in hundreds of locations in the New Testament. The idea that the Church can make decisions on behalf of Christ again can be found in the Bible and is based on Christ's words to Peter and the apostles. The story of Jesus nativity (Christmas) is found in the Bible and the idea of remembering Jesus' life as a memorial is found in the Bible and the story of Easter takes up a large section of all the Gospels, and Jesus says to re-enact the Last Supper in memory of him. (Sure, the names Easter or Christmas aren't in there, but does that matter?) The Trinity is explicitly referred in the story of Jesus' baptism – the voice from the clouds God the Father says "This is my Son" and the Holy Spirit rests on him like a dove and again in the great commission of the apostles, Jesus sends them out to baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (ie Trinity). The idea that we shouldn't have a name for that idea is plain silly. Also, Jesus teaches about hell and hellfire in the Bible, which is why Christians accept these beliefs. About whether the earth is flat or round, both Mesopotamian and Greek ideas exist in the Bible reflecting different points of views on the subject among Jewish people. Rather, telling others to study the bible, you should take the log out of your own eye and begin studying it properly yourself. Peace.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
    • jon

      The Catholic Church created the Bible. You might want to do some cursory historical fact checking before you spout off about things of which you know nothing.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
    • Lisa

      Mel- I'm sorry you are so misled but it sounds like you choose to be....for example you say that all through the gospels it talks about easter...let's see, can you show me where it says to decorate eggs and have bunnies lay them? These customs are of pagan origin and there are plenty of them. Those particular traditions come from the goddess Astarte, goddess of spring, I believe...churches incorporated these pagan teachings so that nonbelievers would become part of the church. It all started back in the year 340 with Constantine . It doesn't take much to look it up. Also the word Ecclesia means congregation, that is where the word church came from, actually mistranslated todayb because the ecclesia means the people, not the building..
      Space won't permit me to answer all of your claims but i do wish you would look to the Bible and not men for what you believe...

      November 20, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
  20. thegadfly

    Hey, Pope: Shut up. No one with half a brain listens to you anyway.

    Hey, people with less than half a brain: Stop listening this creep.

    November 20, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
    • jose

      why can't you just express your opinion without insulting others? you're probably just an ignorant "wanna-be" criticizer of real important issues. go find yourself a teen magazine or something.

      November 20, 2010 at 6:35 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.