Pope: Condom use can be first step in a moral direction

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Pope Benedict XVI made news around the world this weekend when he commented to a German Catholic journalist on the use of condoms by male prostitutes. “This can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants,” the pope said in the interview for the book Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times. “But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.”

A Vatican spokesman clarified that the pope “does not morally justify the exercise of disordered sexuality, but believes that the use of condoms to reduce the risk of infection is a 'first step on the road to a more human sexuality', rather than not to use it and risking the lives of others."

ACSH staffers believe the pope’s unexpected statement on condom use could have a sizeable public health benefit. “We are glad to hear that the pope has shifted his position slightly on the Catholic Church’s long-standing dictum against condom use, while we recognize that his statement is directed toward only a small subgroup of some men who have sex with men to protect against the spread of STDs,” says ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. “We believe he chose this subset because their condom use does not constitute birth control. Hopefully, devout gay men can feel more comfortable using condoms and thus promote public health within that population. But we wonder why the new papal position statement does not include heterosexuals who use condoms expressly for the purpose of preventing STDs.”