(cross-posted from veritiesandvagaries.com)
In comments released today from the Vatican, Pope Benedict seems to have changed his mind a teensy tiny bit on the morality of condom use. Benedict on condoms in 2009:
“You can’t resolve [AIDS in Africa] with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”
Benedict on condoms in 2010:
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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.
So basically, prostitutes are so far gone down the path of immorality that for them, using condoms is alright, because they’re doing so many other things wrong that in comparison, the condoms are the good part of their behavior? The pope’s comments come in advance of a book to be released next week, which apparently has a whole section on male prostitutes. It’s unclear to me why male prostitutes using condoms is more acceptable than their female counterparts, but trying to find logic in the Catholic Church’s stance on gender issues is always a losing strategy.
According to CNN Senior Vatican Analyst John Allen (true title, though it sounds like something from The Daily Show), Benedict’s comments might also suggest that condoms are ok between heterosexual couples if they’re trying to prevent transmission of an STD from one to the other.
I feel strange saying this, but Pope Benedict’s comments actually do seem like a small step in the right direction. Acknowledging that condoms are effective at preventing the spread of HIV is inarguably a good thing, even if the admission is way overdue. On the other hand, I don’t really understand why it could be morally acceptable to prevent babies being born to HIV-infected individuals when it’s not morally acceptable to prevent pregnancy if the individuals suffer from other afflictions: stupidity, immaturity, drug addictions, other diseases, etc. I’m having trouble untangling the moral code that says that as long as you aren’t using condoms for the primary purpose of contraception, it’s fine that you’re using something that still has the effect of preventing pregnancy.
Maybe next, the pope can give his blessing to birth control pills that are used for acne?