22nd November, 2010
Pope Benedict XVI has said the use of condoms is acceptable in exceptionalÂ circumstances, according to a new book.
He said condoms could reduce the risk of HIV infection, such as for a maleÂ prostitute, in a series of interviews given to a German journalist.
But he said a more humane attitude to sexuality, and not condom use, was the properÂ way to combat HIV infection.
The comments were made in a new book, which the Vatican newspaper ran excerpts of inÂ its Saturday edition.
The Churchâ€™s hardline stance over contraception has led to the Vatican being heavilyÂ criticised for its position in the context of the AIDS crisis.
The book – Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times – isÂ based on a series of interview the Pope gave the German Catholic journalist, PeterÂ Seewald, earlier this year.
When asked whether the Catholic Church was not opposed in principle to the use ofÂ condoms, the Pope replied: â€œShe of course does not regard it as a real or moralÂ solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention ofÂ reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, aÂ more human way, of living sexuality.â€
The Pope gives the example of the use of condoms by male prostitutes as â€œa firstÂ step towards moralisation,â€ even though condoms are â€œnot really the way to deal withÂ the evil of HIV infection.â€
He says that the â€œsheer fixation on the condom implies a banalisation of sexualityâ€Â where sexuality is no longer an expression of love, â€œbut only a sort of drug thatÂ people administer to themselves.â€
Catholic commentator, Austen Ivereigh said that although this was the first time theÂ Pope had voiced such an opinion, it was in line with what Catholic moral theologiansÂ have been saying for many years.
â€œThe Churchâ€™s teaching on contraception predates the discovery of AIDS,â€ Mr.Â Ivereigh told the BBC news website.
â€œThe prevalence of HIV raised the question of whether condoms could be used toÂ prevent the transmission of the virus.â€œIf the intention is to prevent transmissionÂ of the virus, rather than prevent contraception, moral theologians would say thatÂ was of a different moral order.â€
UNAIDS, the United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS, welcomed the Popeâ€™s comments.
â€œThis is a significant and positive step forward taken by the Vatican,â€ said UNAIDSÂ Executive Director, Michel Sidibe.
â€œThis move recognizes that responsible sexual behaviour and the use of condoms haveÂ important roles in HIV prevention.â€
On a visit to Cameroon last year, the Pope said the use of condoms could endangerÂ public health and increase the problem of HIV/AIDS, rather than help to contain theÂ virus. This drew criticism from several EU states.
Campaigners say condoms are one of the few methods proven to stop the spread of HIV.
Light of the World is to be published in English by the Catholic Truth Society onÂ Tuesday.