The pope’s comments about condoms

Pope Benedict XVI is in the news for comments he made about condoms in Peter Seewald’s forthcoming book, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.

In the book, the Holy Father answers many direct questions about controversial issues, the Church’s problems, and his own life. Seewald asked the pontiff about the Church’s stand on condom use in African as a way to fight HIV/AIDS, and the Holy Father’s response made some people think he was changing the Church’s stance.

But Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi has said the pope’s comments do not indicate a reform or change in Church teaching, but a re-affirmation of it, “putting it in the perspective of the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of love and responsibility.”

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While I haven’t read the book yet, the excerpts are clear. The pope explicitly says that condom use is not “a real or moral solution” to the problem of AIDS:

According to Fr. Lombardi, his treatment of the topic considers an “exceptional situation” in which a sexual act presents a true risk for another’s life.

In a short passage at the end of the tenth chapter of Seewald’s book, the Pope discusses the “banalization of sexuality” which treats sexuality as a drug. The pontiff uses the example of a prostitute.

“In such a case, the Pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality,” the spokesman explained. Rather, the use of the condom to lessen the danger of contagion may be “a first act of responsibility” and “a first step on the path toward a more human sexuality” rather than acting to put another’s life at risk.

“In this, the reasoning of the Pope certainly cannot be defined as a revolutionary turning point,” Fr. Lombardi said.

Nevertheless, do you think the news media and others will get this? Of course not. As far as they’re concerned, the pope now thinks “safe sex” is okay to prevent AIDS. That’s a further indication of how the Internet and our 24-hour news cycle makes real conversation impossible — there’s no room for subtleties, context, or distinctions. Everything must now be bite-size, black and white, and geared to a six year old’s understanding.


  • Zoe Romanowsky

    Zoe Romanowsky is writer, consultant, and coach. Her articles have appeared in “Catholic Digest,” “Faith & Family,” “National Catholic Register,” “Our Sunday Visitor,” “Urbanite,” “Baltimore Eats,” and Zo

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