Catholics and condoms. In an interview with journalist Peter Seewald, Pope Benedict XVI said that condom use may be acceptable under “exceptional circumstances” such as use by a male prostitute in order to prevent the spread of HIV/ AIDS. Interpretation of the pope’s pronouncement has varied. Many insist that the church’s teaching, which bans birth control, has not changed, but others see the pope’s statement as opening the door to a broader conversation about human sexuality in the modern world. What are the implications of Pope Benedict’s statement on condoms in terms of AIDS policy, the church’s teaching on sex and its view of women?
Here’s an excerpt from my response:
The vast tragedy is the blind insistence that simply encouraging abstinence would somehow work. According to UNAIDS, there are more than 7000 new HIV infections each day. Many of those infected could have been reached by the Catholic Church, and by other Christian organizations that do outreach to people with HIV or AIDS, but who won’t encourage basic sexual responsibility. It’s this denial of Eros outside of rigidly defined roles, this romanticized struggle against the physical passions, that continues to be a massive failing of many strains of the dominant monotheisms. Our modern world is still so afraid of our sexual selves, still so wrapped in taboos and superstitions, that it is willing to turn this ongoing tragedy into a statistic, a talking point, a moral lesson, instead of seeing the industry of ignorance, suffering, and death in which it is engaged. We keep feeding the poor, but won’t ask why they are hungry.