German Churchmen Oppose Pope on Condoms

Fri Mar 20, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Hilary White

ROME, March 20, 2009 ( - German churchmen are backpedalling away from Pope Benedict’s assertion that condoms are likely to make the problem of AIDS worse. Hamburg Catholic bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke has written an article saying that the Pope is wrong to oppose the use of condoms to halt the spread of AIDS in Africa.

"The church is not in a dark anti-condom-corner from which they want to intimidate people," Jaschke wrote in the weekly newspaper, Die Zeit.

While Pope Benedict’s opposition to using condoms for AIDS prevention in Africa has garnered the thanks of local African activists, it continues to generate anger from the international groups who reject sexual continence as a solution to the epidemic.

But Bishop Jaschke wrote that although condoms will not solve the AIDS crisis, their use cannot be ruled out. "Anyone who has AIDS and is sexually active, who seeks ever-changing partners, must protect others and themselves," he wrote. If an infected husband has sex with his wife, he said, "protection is required."

Bishop Jaschke also referred to the leadership of the Catholic Church in the fight against AIDS, pointing out that half the world’s institutions dealing with the disease were run by the Church.
The bishop’s assertion on condoms is in line with that of the "liberal" faction among Catholic bishops, as exemplified by Belgian cardinal, Godfried Danneels, who in 2004 said on Belgian radio, "When someone is seropositive and his partner says: I want to have sexual relations with you—he doesn’t have to do that, if you ask me—but when he does, he has to use a condom."

Another member of the extreme left end of the Catholic episcopate, Bishop Martinus Muskens of the diocese of Breda in the Netherlands, told Radio Netherlands in 2006, that, "It is permissible to opt for the lesser evil of condom use to prevent the greater evil of AIDS."

Jaschke’s opinion, however, clashes not only with the teaching of the Church from the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, that unequivocally condemned the use of artificial contraceptives, but with a statement from the Vatican yesterday. The Holy See Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said that the pope in his remarks was "reiterating the position of the Catholic Church and the basic lines of her commitment to combat the terrible scourge of HIV/AIDS."

It also contrasted sharply with a brief defence of the Pope’s statement from Britain’s Cormac Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, published in the letters section of today’s London Times. The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster wrote that it "would be wiser for people to look at the issues that [Pope Benedict] was raising in his remarks."

"It is certainly true that the widespread distribution of condoms can run the risk of greater promiscuity and that the best way to combat the Aids epidemic is by healthcare, education and fidelity in married life."

Bishop Jaschke’s assertion was supported by his countryman, Fr. Eberhard von Gemmingen, the head of the German Section of Vatican Radio in Rome, who said, "Pope Benedict XVI has not strictly forbidden condoms, as is shown." He told Deutsche Welle, "The Pope has just said that the condom is not a ‘solution’. That’s one thing I hope we all agree."

Read related coverage:

Contrary to Catholic Teaching Belgian Cardinal Advocates Use of Condoms to Fight AIDS

Dutch Bishop Pushes Condoms Undermining Uganda’s AIDS Abstinence Success Story

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