A response to Pope Benedict's statement on condom use:
As the pope traveled to Africa, he chose this moment to make what appears to be his first unequivocal statement opposing condom use. In an interview on the papal plane to Cameroon,the pope acknowledged the HIV/AIDS crisis but claimed that thedistribution of condoms would not resolve the problem. In fact, hesaid, condom use 'increases the problem.
The pope will find that few Catholics and even fewer medical personnel agree with his stance. Several bishops in Africa, including especially Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg in South Africa,have been outspoken in their support of the use of condoms. Anecdotalevidence also suggests that many people who work with Catholic reliefagencies distribute condoms to those at risk of infection.
Whilecondoms are not a panacea for the problem, they are a critical part ofthe campaign to reduce the impact of the virus. Medical experts agreethat the condom is a life-saving device: it is highly effective inpreventing HIV transmission if used correctly and consistently, and isthe best current method of HIV prevention for those who are sexuallyactive and at risk.
For the Catholic hierarchy to deny the rolethat condoms play in preventing the further spread of HIV isirresponsible and dangerous. Not only that, the Catholic hierarchy haslobbied governments in the global north against the inclusion offunding for condoms in development aid programs.
Catholics theworld over unequivocally state that using condoms is prolife anddisagree with the Vatican's ban on condoms. Now is not the time for thepope to be dismissing the importance of condom use. As he travels to Africa,he will face the realities of the epidemic. Let us hope and pray thathe reconsiders and reverses his position, and in doing so, adopts thetruly prolife position that ordinary Catholics have already embraced:using condoms saves lives.