Vatican to Publish Document on Condom Use to Prevent HIV/AIDS, Official Says; Retired Cardinal Calls Condom Use "Lesser Evil"

Pope Benedict XVI has asked the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care and other scientists and theologians to study condom use as a means of HIV prevention, and the Vatican will release a document on the subject soon, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head of the council, said in an interview published on Sunday in Rome's La Repubblica, Reuters reports (Reuters, 4/23). The pope "asked us for a study on this particular aspect of using a condom by those afflicted with AIDS and by those with infectious diseases," Barragan said (Ireland On-line, 4/24). Although some Catholic clergy have suggested that the use of condoms to curb HIV transmission would be the "lesser of two evils," the pope in a June 2005 speech to African bishops said that contraception is one of many trends contributing to a "breakdown of sexual morality." He added that abstinence and fidelity are the only "fail-safe" ways to prevent the spread of HIV (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/1/05). Cardinal Carol Maria Martini, retired archbishop of Milan, Italy, in comments published on Saturday in Italy's L'Espresso, said, "Certainly, the use of condoms can constitute in certain situations a lesser evil." Martini, who was responding to questions from Ignazio Marino -- head of the transplant center at Jefferson Medical College -- also said, "There's ... the unique situation of a married couple, one of whom is afflicted with AIDS. That one is obliged to protect the other, and the other must be able to protect him or herself" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 4/22). He added, "Therefore, using a condom would be considered a minor sin and in particular in the case of married couple where the use of a prophylactic would protect the partner and ultimately themselves" (Laidlaw, Toronto Star, 4/22). Martini said that although condoning condom use in certain circumstances would be a "lesser evil," it would be a completely different situation for the Vatican to promote condom use (AP/Baltimore Sun, 4/22). Barragan said he did not want to comment on Martini's statements, adding, "It is a very difficult and delicate subject which warrants prudence" (Ireland On-Line, 4/24). The Vatican has made no official comment about the potential document, BBC News reports (BBC News, 4/24).

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