Aside from confusion, there was also a sigh of relief from many Roman Catholic reformers and groups working to combat HIV when Pope Benedict XVI stated last week: “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization.”
This caught many by surprise, as it contradicts, or at least appears to contradict the hard-line anti-birth control stance taken by the Catholic Church since Pope Paul VI stated in 1968 that “it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it.”
Allowing a male prostitute to use a condom is definitely a step in the right direction to preventing the spread of HIV, but there’s no need to congratulate the pope for modifying a stance that has long been grounded on neglect for reality.
The pope might as well have been speaking exclusively about condoms for prostitutes in Africa, as most Western European and American countries have relatively low HIV and AIDS rates and enjoy the legal distribution of condoms. Prostitution is a legal profession in Germany, the Netherlands and areas of Nevada in the United States. Since the AIDS epidemic in Africa has become increasingly prevalent, it’s about time the Catholic Church re-evaluate the effectiveness of its “condoms are evil, abstinence only” approach. Caroline Nenguke, spokeswoman for Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa’s largest grassroots organization fighting for the rights of people with HIV and AIDS, said, “This news is long overdue, and if the pope, as a church leader and leader of opinion, had said this a long time ago it would have saved lives.”
There is still confusion as to what the pope meant by his recent comments and whether anything will actually change. It was only last year that Pope Benedict XVI received unprecedented criticism from European governments and international organizations for telling reporters on his way to Africa that condoms would not resolve the AIDS problem but in fact make it worse. This, of course, directly contradicts all available evidence on the subject and further contradicts the statement the pope made last week. If the pope still believes condoms are supposedly exacerbating the HIV epidemic, how could there be instances when wearing a condom is the first step in the direction of a moralization?
There is no need to bother deciphering what exactly the pope meant by his comments last week or whether or not the Catholic Church is changing its stance on birth control. Most people, given the choice already, ignore what the pope has to say about birth control. Studies suggest that as many as 96 percent of American, Catholic women between 15-44 years of age have used some form of birth control, according to a 2002 survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. And who can blame them? Hopefully the pope’s comments encourage more distribution of condoms in Africa. However nobody needed to wait for the pope to give the green light.
Andrew Mabry is a senior political science major from Southlake.