By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The AIDS Prevention Issue & Condoms

Here are the Pope's words from the recently published book interview:


As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.
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, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.
Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?
She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.
The Pope has since clarified that his remarks were not limited to the actions of a male prostitute only, but also referred to anyone of any gender.
Here is a related essay by an Opus Dei priest, Fr. Martin Rhonheimer, who is a moral theologian teaching in Rome. The essay was published in 2004 and thus predates the Pope's just published book interview. (Thanks to a Rhode Island reader for reminding me of this essay.)
Here are some other related discussions from 2006 that also predate the just published papal book interview. Here is a 2006 essay by Prof. Janet Smith at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary on issues raised by Fr. Rhonheimer.