Pope clarifies position on condom usage

by Kirsty Tobin

Pope pictured during March papal visit to Africa

The Vatican has clarified comments regarding condom usage in the fight against AIDS.

Controversy and confusion arose after the pope made comments which were subject to varying translations from the original German. The English translation referred to condoms being a responsible choice for male prostitutes, while the Italian translation used language which implied that their usage was also permitted for female prostitutes.

The pope’s spokesperson, Fr Federico Lombardi, has clarified the issue, stating: “if it is a man, a woman or a transsexual who does it, we are always at the same point, which is the first step in responsibly avoiding passing on a grave risk to the other.”

On Sunday, Fr Federico Lombardi released a statement explaining that the comment neither indicates a reform in the teachings of the Catholic Church nor does it indicate that condom usage is now permissible without restrictions. It explains that condoms should only be used in extreme circumstances: “abstinence and fidelity are much more decisive and fundamental in the struggle against AIDS, while the condom appears as a last resort when the other two are lacking.”

“The pope takes into consideration an exceptional situation in which the exercise of sexuality may represent a real risk to the life of another person,” he continues.

The initial quote came under fire after an extract from ‘Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and the Signs of the Times’ was leaked this weekend. The book, set to be released this coming week, contains a series of interviews with the pope carried out by Peter Seewald.

In the interview in question, the pope reacts to remarks he made during a papal visit to Africa in March of this year. These remarks alluded to a continuation of the church’s staunch opposition to birth control, intimating that use of condoms was wrong in every circumstance.

When the subject is broached by Seewald, the pope further clarifies his position. His response generated the quote which caused so much controversy: ‘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 on the way in the direction of a moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility.”

The announcement has garnered approval from AIDS/HIV organisations. UNAIDS called the comments a “significant and positive step forward.”