Since the 1960’s, the Catholic Churches official position has been that it is always intrinsically wrong to use contraception to because it prevents new human beings from coming into existence, and therefore defies the will of God. However, this is beginning to change.
Pope Benedict XVI (yes, the same guy who was criticized of inaction during the sex abuse scandal) took a historic stance this week when he said condom use might sometimes be OK when it is used to prevent the spread of HIV:
Benedict said condoms were not "a real or moral solution" to the AIDS epidemic, adding, "that can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality." But he also said that "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."(NYT)
By "humanization of sexuality," I assume he means heterosexual intercourse between nice married catholic people.
I commend Benedict for taking this stance, even if it is many years overdue for the Catholic Church to recognize the importance of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV/ADS. This shows that the church is waking up to the realities of modern times. This isn’t to say that the Pope is anything close to being in favor of condom use overall:
It would be wrong to say, ‘Pope Approves Condoms,’ " Father Fessio said. "He’s saying it’s immoral but in an individual case, the use of a condom could be an awakening to someone that he’s got to be more conscious of his actions.
Sure. For now, that is a step in the right direction. Never mind that all over the world young people are facing a crisis of unplanned pregnancies and STI’s, all easily prevented by the cheap solution of consistent condom use. The Catholic Church is a very large and very powerful organization, a pro-condom campaign would have the potential to reach enormous amounts of people and save lives. While this is still a long ways away, it is not naïve to say such a future exists. Nick Kristof wrote about how the Catholic Church has not always been a conservative, hierarchical, male-dominated organization, and how today the Church does some amazing things:
The first-century church was inclusive and democratic, even including a proto-feminist wing and texts. The Gospel of Philip, a Gnostic text from the third century, declares of Mary Magdalene: "She is the one the Savior loved more than all the disciples." Likewise, the Gospel of Mary (from the early second century) suggests that Jesus entrusted Mary Magdalene to instruct the disciples on his religious teachings.
This is the church of the nuns and priests in Congo, toiling in obscurity to feed and educate children. This is the church of the Brazilian priest fighting AIDS who told me that if he were pope, he would build a condom factory in the Vatican to save lives.
I hope that the church goes in the direction becoming more and more open, of using the power of the Church to be a force for good in the world. Pope Benedict’s statement on condom use, however small, is a step in the right direction.
Dan Jubelirer is a 2010 Netroots Youth Fellow at Amplify, a youth-driven community dedicated to promoting sexual health and reproductive justice.