Tuesday March 31, 2009

Portuguese Bishop Defies Pope Benedict on Condoms

By Hilary White

ROME, March 31, 2009 ( – Pope Benedict continues to be attacked from within and without the Catholic Church for his reiteration of the Church’s opposition to condoms as a means of preventing HIV infection. Most recently, a Portuguese Catholic bishop issued a statement to the media this weekend saying that in some cases using condoms is a moral requirement.

In a pastoral note, published on the website of the diocese, Ilidio Leandro, the Bishop of Viseu said that he does not agree with Pope Benedict’s strictures against condoms for AIDS patients. In the case of a person in a sexual relationship “there is a moral obligation to prevent and not to cause disease in another person,” Bishop Leandro said.

In such a case, “the condom is not only advisable as it may be ethically required.”

The bishop told local media that he was not afraid to be controversial. The Church, he said, must remain “updated to the society of our time, providing answers to current problems.” He said, “The Pope, when speaking of AIDS or other aspects of human life, cannot make into doctrine individual situations and cases.”

Speaking Monday at a conference on domestic violence, Bishop Leandro also broke with Catholic teaching by expressing support for divorce, saying that in cases of domestic violence the only solution is the dissolution of marriage.

In a brief message to journalists at the conference, Bishop Leandro said he was surprised by the reaction to his comments on condoms. He called journalists “very friendly” but said that his statement had been “quite clear” and that he had nothing to add.

On Sunday, Fr. Frederico Lombardi SJ, the Vatican spokesman responded, saying, “The matter is very delicate, so the comments will be made by the competent authorities, at a more correct, and appropriate place.”

Meanwhile, a group of about 100 African seminarians and priests attended this weekend’s Papal Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, in support of Pope Benedict. The priests and seminarians held signs saying “Condom is not the solution” and “Africa Loves the Pope” and called for abstinence in the fight against AIDS.

Nigerian Catholic Benedict Ahamiogie told Voice of America News reporter Sabina Castelfranco, “The condom promotes promiscuity, and also gives a kind of illusive assurance to those who use condoms, in the sense that ‘Oh, I am using condoms. So I am keeping myself safe from AIDS’. It is not absolutely true.”

An African Catholic priest, Father Dennis Isizo, said that despite the hostility of the media, the pope’s message was well received in Africa. “In Africa,” Father Isizo said, “we did not criticize the Holy Father, we received the message.”

“Criticism, that is maybe for Europe or any other place, but for Africa we are happy for the visit, we thank him for his visit, we thank him for his message.”

Read related coverage:

Prominent Ugandan AIDS Activist Thanks Pope for Opposition to Condoms


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