AIDS activists across the world are applauding the pope’s new position on condom use. The Catholic Church opposes contraception and, therefore, condoms. But recent statements from Pope Benedict XVI indicate a shift when it comes to AIDS prevention. However, some say the pope’s words have been misinterpreted.
The Vatican has long been a target of criticism for opposition to condom use, especially in countries where AIDS is prevalent. So when an interview published this week signaled a change in the church’s teachings on the issue, it made headline news. Not everyone is happy with that.
In the published interview, the pope used a male prostitute as an example of someone who could use a condom as an act of responsibility toward another. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said the pope’s comments mean that could be the first step toward salvation of that individual.
“What the pope is looking at here is not the potential effectiveness of the condom but the potential conversion of this person out of his love and concern for the other person,” Haas explained.
Haas disagrees with statements later made by a church spokesman who said the same logic could be used with women and transgender people. He said the only form of contraception the church endorses is abstinence.
But AIDS activists say the pope’s apparent sanction could save lives, especially in areas of the world where AIDS is prevalent and the church teachings are influential.
Katie Krauss, founder of the AIDS Policy Project, said activists have been frustrated with the Vatican’s position on condom use.
“You have to decide are you going to put life first or not,” said Krauss. “And if you’re going to put life first, that’s when we need access to AIDS prevention mechanisms like condoms.”
Krauss anticipates the pope’s statements will have an impact on policy.