by John-Henry Westen and Hilary White

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2006 ( – The uproar caused last week as a highly placed Vatican Cardinal announced the Pope had asked for a study on the use of condoms and AIDS prevention, on the heels of statements in support of condoms in the context of AIDS by another notable Cardinal, has put a smile on the faces of anti-Catholic groups.Â

The notorious ‘Catholics for a Free Choice’, who have been condemned as an anti-Catholic, pro-abortion group, responded to the news saying, “As we mark the one year anniversary of Benedict XVI’s papacy, the Vatican has floated a welcome trial balloon suggesting that it will revisit its ban on condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.”

Such comments from a group claiming affiliation with the Catholic Church has opened the gates for speculation by reporters. The CBC, notoriously eager to distort or misrepresent Catholic teaching, led the pack with a report today headlined, “Vatican Reconsiders Condom Ban.” The BBC followed the story with, “Vatican ‘May Relax Condom Rules’”

Cardinal Carlo Martini’s comments (coverage: have led to much confusion but were responded to at least indirectly by the Vatican. ( Those comments were followed immediately by an unexpected announcement that the Pope had commissioned a study on the subject.Â

Speaking on AIDS and condom use, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán the head of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, told the Italian media “It’s a very difficult and delicate theme that requires prudence . . . My council is studying this attentively with scientists and theologians expressly charged with preparing a document on the subject, which will be made public soon.” He added, “It was Pope Benedict who asked us to make a study on this particular aspect of the use of condoms by those with AIDS and other infectious diseases.”

Frances Kissling, president of ‘Catholics for a Free Choice’ said her group, “welcomed the news that another prominent cardinal (Martini) had . . . joined a growing chorus of voices within the church suggesting that for couples where one partner has HIV/AIDS, the use of condoms is ‘a lesser evil.’”Â

Kissling added, “Now we hear that the pope himself has commissioned the Council on Health Care to study this issue in the interest in changing it long-contentious stand against the use of condoms, even to prevent the spread of disease.”

The announcement of a “study” of the issue, far from signalling a change, however, is a normal Vatican procedure when a teaching of the Church is persistently publicly questioned, or when confusion seems to be prevalent even within the ranks of clergy.

Such confusion, for example, was rampant in the period leading up to the publication of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, clarifying and strengthening the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception.

A clarification obtained by the Catholic News Agency, however, dispelled rumours of a change in the Vatican’s “policy”. Msgr. Antonio Soto Guerrero, personal secretary of Cardinal Lozano Barragán, and member of the Pontifical Council for Health, told CNA that “the Doctrine of the Church remains firmly within the principles of Catholic moral. Facing AIDS, there is abstinence; we cannot forget that the issue has to do in large parts to a moral disorder facing the seventh commandment.”Â

Allowing the use of condoms as a specific HIV/AIDS prevention measure would not be a part of Catholic teaching since according to the Church, sexual intercourse can only be moral in the context of marriage and open to the possibility of conception. Suggesting condoms for prevention of disease, therefore, would be the equivalent of an anti-smoking group suggesting smokers switch to low-tar cigarettes: the problem is the activity itself, not reducing the risk.
“The moral principle of the Church is the same,” he stressed, “but the situations we have to face changed. It’s rather about applying the doctrine of the Church to always new situations such as AIDS,” said Msgr. Soto.

Read related coverage:
  Pope Benedict Praised Cardinal Martini Weeks Before Abortion-IVF Betrayal

See CNS clarification:

Read CBC coverage:


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