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The Pope says condoms are okay, for prostitutes anyway

Pope Benedict
Flickr, by miqul

The world is still all abuzz with reaction to Pope Benedict XVI’s very limited benediction on condoms as a means for some people, like prostitutes, to avoid spreading or getting HIV.

Given how little the Pope actually said here, I can’t even begin to imagine the reaction if he and the Holy See decide to reverse the decision made in 1079 AD by Pope Gregory VII that priests should be celibate.

“There can be single justified cases,” Benedict said, “for example when a prostitute uses a condom, and this can be the first step toward a moralization, a first act of responsibility in developing anew an awareness of the fact that not everything is permissible and that we cannot do everything we want.”

The Pope then went on to say condom use is still not the best way to prevent HIV, perhaps to give himself some cover for controversial statements he made in Africa last year, and that what’s needed is to “humanize sexuality.”

Okay, I’m not sure what that means, but then I am not a theologian.

At any rate, many of those active in efforts to prevent the spread of HIV — including many top bishops and church leaders in Africa — welcomed the Vatican’s change in position from blanket condemnation of condom use to this more nuanced stance. You’ve probably heard all those by now.

Here are a few outlier perspectives and reactions:

Is this just a way for the Pope to sell his new book?

Extracts in which the 83-year-old German pope broke a Church taboo and said condoms were acceptable in some cases have whetted the public appetite for the book, “Light of the World”, which is being published in 18 languages …. “We’ve had over 12,000 pre-release orders over the last month and the numbers are about to jump pretty rapidly” said Neil McCaffrey from Ignatius Press, the US publishers of the book.

The Pope actually didn’t condone condom use, according to The American Thinker:

The Pope clearly says that condom use, even in the extreme case, is not moral and not justified. He’s saying that people who use condoms might be showing some clouded understanding of what is morally right which is better than having no understanding of what is morally right.

The inevitable spoof, such as this one on Holy Foam contraception for unhappy marriages:

The Pope has declared that a special spermicide called Holy Foam may be used to ward off unwanted pregnancies by women who find themselves trapped in unhappy marriages.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.