Monday, November 22, 2010

Blast from the past

Sounds vaguely familiar. But no doubt it's just a bad translation.


After decades of opposition, Vatican view on condoms begins to shift

John Hooper in Rome
The Guardian, Thursday 23 November 2006

The Roman Catholic church has taken the first step towards what could be a historic shift away from its total ban on the use of condoms.

Pope Benedict XVI's "health minister" is understood to be urging him to accept that in restricted circumstances - specifically the prevention of Aids - barrier contraception is the lesser of two evils.

The rethink, commissioned by Pope Benedict following his election last year, could save millions of lives around the world.

The Mexican cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, who heads the papal department responsible for health issues, revealed on Tuesday that he had completed the first stage of the review. A 200-page report, reflecting opinion within the church, had been sent to the Pope and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's "theology ministry", he said.

He did not reveal its conclusions. But Cardinal Barragán is known to favour reform and Vatican sources said it was highly likely that he had come out in support of using condoms in marriages where one of the partners was HIV-positive.

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which broke the news of the policy review earlier this year, reported yesterday that the Vatican would "go from prohibition to the definition of exceptional cases in which it would be possible for the faithful to use prophylactics to avert fatal risks".

Cardinal Barragán noted a passage from a 1981 document issued by the late Pope John Paul II. This said that "every conjugal act must be open to life".

Until now, this has been interpreted as an injunction against contraception. But it could also be used to support an argument in favour of the preservation of life by the use of barrier methods.

The cardinal said some 40 million people were reckoned to be HIV positive and Aids was claiming around 8,000 lives a day. "The disease is not retreating. On the contrary, its aggressiveness seems to be increasing, even though in the more developed countries the strength of the increase is noticed less," he said.

The first-hand experience of Roman Catholic missionaries and pastors in the developing world has been the driving force behind the current rethink. But it is also noted in the Vatican that the Pope, when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, left open the possibility of a change in the church's stance.

The 1987 document Donum Vitae, which he signed together with the late Pope, declared that the Roman Catholic church could never agree to the use of contraceptives in homosexual relationships or by men and women who were not married. However, it omitted to mention married couples. In recent years, the case for condoms as a defence against Aids has been taken up publicly by several Roman Catholic leaders. The Belgian cardinal Godfried Daneels broke the taboo in 2004 when he said it was morally different from using a condom for birth control.

The following year, the Pope's own theologian, Cardinal Georges Cottier signalled doubts within the papal household and argued that the Roman Catholic "theology of life" could be used to justify a lifting of the ban. "The virus is transmitted during a sexual act; so at the same time as [bringing] life there is also a risk of transmitting death," he said. "And that is where the commandment 'thou shalt not kill' is valid."

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a former archbishop of Milan who was considered a candidate for the papacy, said earlier this year that a married person with HIV was "obliged" to protect his or her partner from the disease.


  1. Wow. This was written almost 4 years ago.

  2. I've never understood the Vatican's policy on condom use.