December 27, 2010

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict’s recent comments on condom use in AIDS prevention do not signify a change in the Church’s moral teaching or its pastoral practice, a note from the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation said.

The note, released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Dec. 21, said the pope’s remarks do not represent a break with the Church’s doctrine on birth control, and cannot be construed to legitimize the use of condoms to prevent pregnancy.

It said that when Pope Benedict said condom use to reduce the risk of infection might be a first step toward moral awakening, he was referring specifically to prostitution, which is already considered gravely immoral by the Church.

In that situation, it said, use of a condom is not a “solution” because it does not address the mistaken behaviour that is the root cause of the problem.

However, it added, “it cannot be denied that anyone who uses a condom in order to diminish the risk posed to another person is intending to reduce the evil connected with his or her immoral activity.”

The note was published following widespread discussion of Pope Benedict’s comments in a book-length interview, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.


The doctrinal congregation said the pope’s words had in some cases been misunderstood, erroneously interpreted and manipulated to make it seem that his statement represented a break with the Church’s teaching against contraception.

The note said it should be clear the pope “was talking neither about conjugal morality nor about the moral norm concerning contraception.”

“The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought,” it said.