Magazine article Conscience

More Bishops Favor Condom Use

Magazine article Conscience

More Bishops Favor Condom Use

Article excerpt

A NUMBER OF BISHOPS and senior clerics have spoken out in support of the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, revealing how divided the hierarchy is on this matter. While there has never been an infallible statement on the ban, many statements over the years supported the view that the Vatican unconditionally opposed their use.

The latest round of debate was sparked off in January by the secretary-general of the Spanish bishops' conference, Fr. Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, who told reporters in Madrid that condoms "are part of the integral and global prevention of AID S." He spoke after a meeting on combating AIDS with the Spanish health minister, Elena Salgado. Speculative hopes in some media that the initial comments represented a sea change in Vatican policy were dashed when his comments were quickly "clarified" by the Spanish bishops. This happened after the direct intervention of Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who personally contacted Fr. Camino to discuss how to word the retraction. The turnaround was bemoaned by many, including the Catalan newspaper El Periodico, which said in an editorial, "The surprise and hope felt by many lasted only a few hours.... What is truly immoral is the church's rejection of a method that saves human lives."

However, several other senior clergy took the opportunity to speak out in favor of condom use. Mexican bishop Felipe Arizmendi of Chiapas said that condoms could be tolerated as "a lesser evil," a position many support, including two senior Vatican theologians, Father Brian Johnstone of the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome and Cardinal Georges Cottier, theologian of the Papal Household, or the pope's "in-house" adviser on theological matters. Cottier said there was moral justification for condom use to prevent "the transmission of death" to a sexual partner. …

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