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)

    Just another instance of church defying any common sense and logic. If birth control of some kind weren't used, we'd likely already be overpulated. And this statement:

    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."

    is just as silly. Black men here can't be convinced to use condoms, which is easily evidenced by the number of single baby mommas. There's no reason to think uncivilized blacks in Africa would do any better. If people actually usd condoms, it would make a difference.

    November 20, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
    • Lilarose in Bandon, OR

      Our planet is already so overpopulated that I think before my life is over (within twenty years) people will be killing each other to survive. Killing for space, for food, for health reasons, out of fear.

      November 20, 2010 at 8:46 pm |
    • popeye1128

      So Bristol Palin was impregnated by a black man and 'uncivilized blacks in Africa' won't use condoms? Your bigotry is showing.

      November 20, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
  2. dan

    thanks catholics for making sure stupid people reproduce.

    November 20, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
  3. Joe

    I detest the Catholic religion.

    November 20, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
    • Joseph

      Maybe you should read the Bible and study authors of the early Church. I pray that you may claim Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. Amen.

      November 20, 2010 at 8:31 pm |
  4. j.rhenn

    Good God Almighty. How can anyone take this lunatic seriously?

    November 20, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  5. jobleaux

    Nazi Pope Ratzinger's parents should have used condoms.

    November 20, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
  6. 5t1v roma

    hey Pope – shut up already ok?

    November 20, 2010 at 8:04 pm |
  7. Dan

    in the 60s the pope said birth control was immoral, Catholic churches lost usually at least 25% of the congregation.

    to little to late

    November 20, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
  8. Wholly Mary


    November 20, 2010 at 7:58 pm |
  9. wann2know

    Only use condom if junk is hard and given the sign of the cross.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:58 pm |
  10. Chip H

    Especially if you are Sarah "Sally" (née Sheeran), and Charles "Chuck" Heath, ...parents of Sarah Palin.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
  11. Muneef

    Well since con-doms does not help much in avoiding unwanted pre-gnancy or transmission of diseases then there is no alternative and more logical solutions than to for-bid prost-itution and Ho-mo. But more towards opening introducing easier regu-lations for legal marriages and divorces between males and females...
    Do not know how you will handle the rest of the mess you got your self in to? Meaning relation of male to male and female to female since the latter I do not know if you had a speacial con-doms made for??

    November 20, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  12. Jacob

    To all atheists out there: so your saying everything came out of nothing rather than everything was created by God? thats just sad -_-

    November 20, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
    • Non Believer

      You've missed the point.

      I once asked a co-worker where his God came from and he replied, "He always was". He then asked me where I thought everything came from if it didn't come from a God. I replied, "It always was".

      Not everything has a beginning or an end.

      November 20, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
    • popeye1128

      We can't wrap our heads around it so a god is the easy way out. We're still primitive in many ways.

      November 20, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
    • Jacob

      @Non Believer – thank you for your comment now if you watch this 7 minute video im sure it will answer your statement the RIGHT way. after watching the video please write a reply to my previous comment telling what you have learned

      November 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
    • Jacob

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sr5lY0TcdAw heres the link

      November 20, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
    • Don

      So where did god come from, Jacob? God had to come from somewhere. What created god? The video doesn't answer the question. What created god? God must be created, Jacob. It cannot just be.

      November 20, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
    • waremtae

      That is one of my MANY problems with religion... you only believe out of fear and doubt. No I don't know where we came from. Nor do I know why we are here. What I do know is that I am not going to believe in the equivalent of santa claus because I don't have the answers to these questions.

      November 20, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
    • Jacob

      @ Don – Did you watch the video? it proves that god has always existed scientifically within the laws of physics

      November 20, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
    • Grist

      So you need to just read Steven Hawking's recent book to see that the link you post to is a false proof.

      November 20, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
    • Don

      I watched the video, Jacob. It begs the question of existence apart from the universe. It's ontological nonsense. So what created god, Jacob?

      November 21, 2010 at 12:29 am |
    • Your Average Atheist

      @Non Believer,

      That is funny, isn't it ? Understandably, it is hard to imagine that something came from nothing. I do believe that iit actually all came from a tremendous amount on energy that converted into matter.

      Regardless, christians are stuck here. If there had to be a beginning, then where was god's beginning ? It he always "was" , then the energy or universe also can be seen as "always was.". Religion only introduces more implausible variables and contingencies.

      It is mind boggling and hard to comprehend – but introducing an invisible man in the sky, doesnt solve anything.

      cheers ! See you in heaven.... or not.

      November 21, 2010 at 2:11 am |
    • Non Believer

      I prefer the "the universe always was" to "God always was" as it eliminates the middle man. We all know that it's much more cost effective to eliminate the middle man.

      November 21, 2010 at 10:43 am |
    • Marilou P

      Yeah, dirty athiests! Your all gonna burn in hell forever! You made the wrong choicel! You can't prove God doesn't exist!
      So there!

      November 23, 2010 at 4:18 am |
  13. Rat Zinger

    What he means is it is OK for ONLY priests to use condoms to prevent getting little girls pregnant and/or preventing the priests from passing AIDS to little boys or little girls. It also doesn't leave forensic evidence allowing the church to BS even more than they currently do.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
  14. John

    Independent of what the Pope says on many topics, the "flock" will continue with their own "Don't ask....Don't tell" approach to the Catholic Faith. You would not believe how many of my Catholic male relatives have "hernia" surgery and all of a sudden the family size stops growing. (wink wink). BTW, leadership is recognized by having faithful followers, not creeping decree-ism to catch up with the practices of the flock.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:30 pm |
  15. Lee Oates

    At last, an almost intelligent statement from the Pope.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
  16. brown

    Looks like the Pope has been hanging out with the Jews again, or ... maybe it was the priests.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  17. D Webb

    Not what I was expecting. I figured the only way the church would allow condoms, was to leave as little DNA evidence as possible by the priests.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  18. goandseek

    I dont listen to the pope I think hes a jerk and clueless

    November 20, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
  19. Non Believer

    Christianity: The idea that a cosmic zombie Jew can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically accept him as your master so he can remove from your body evil spirits that are only there because a rib woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat forbidden fruit from a magical tree.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
    • Chip H

      Global Oil Wars of Terror – The idea that cosmic zombie acolytes are telepathically willed by their zombie Jew G-d to go forth and impose their symbolic flesh eating cult, expressed as glorification of consumption and thoughtless devastation of the environment, and symbolized by the serpent wrapped on a staff $, on a humble population of goat herders and clerics,
      then steal their resources, create a cratered moonscape narcostate, and declare it was to bring 'Freedom and Demoncracy'.

      Christianity: The idea that a cosmic zombie Jew can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically accept him as your master so he can remove from your body evil spirits that are only there because a rib woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat forbidden fruit from a magical tree.

      November 20, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
  20. wrack

    Though I'm happy to see that he is actually thinking progressively on the issue I'm sorry to say that most of our environmental problems stem from too many people and not enough resources to take care of them. This doctrine of "prevent no life" is part of the problem. Responsible adults know when they should curtail the creating of new human beings and use intercourse as a way to bond and enjoy each other.

    November 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
    • Vertebrate Catholic

      There is honestly nothing "progressive" about the denial and suppression of life.

      November 21, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
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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.