The Catholic Bishops and Condoms: Statements and Actions Supporting Condom Use as Part of an HIV Prevention Strategy

MARCH 2013
Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach, Barcelona, Spain

Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach, archbishop of Barcelona, remarked shortly after participating in the conclave that elected Pope Francis that one of the issues that the pope would have to address would be “the use of condoms.”

La Vanguardia (Spain), “El cardenal Sistach: la Iglesia tendrá que estudiar el uso de preservativos,” March 20, 2013.

MARCH 2013
Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria

In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, conclave candidate Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, said, “I am one of those who believe that with a discordant couple [a couple in which one spouse is HIV-positive and the other isn’t], who have not only the right but in some circumstances even a sort of duty for sexual activity, if a condom will protect the spouse, I see no problem with it.”

He continued, “It hasn’t been settled, and that’s why this is my own position. I believe this situation is different than the reason for which Humanae Vitae condemned artificial contraception. To cite Humanae Vitae in this case, I think, is inappropriate.”

John L. Allen, Jr., “New African Cardinal Talks Voting Blocs, Secret Meetings, His Vote,” National Catholic Reporter, March 5, 2013.

Fr. Enda McDonagh, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

A prominent Irish theologian endorsed the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. Fr. Enda McDonagh, a retired professor of theology at the National University of Ireland at Maynooth, said that he was “willing to say what needs to be said without fear” and that many Catholic aid agencies working in HIV & AIDS prevention also view condoms as a method to combat the epidemic.Tablet, “Theologian Says Condoms Should Be Used to Fight HIV,” December 8, 2012.

Fr. Michael J. Kelly, former HIV/AIDS humanitarian worker in Zambia

Jesuit Fr. Michael J. Kelly, who worked for years on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in Zambia, said, “The moral question about condom use is quite clear and that their [condoms’] use to prevent HIV transmission is morally acceptable.”National Catholic Reporter, “Priest Says Condoms Can Only Be Part of Larger Strategy in Africa,” September 4, 2012

Antonio Celso de Queirós, bishop emeritus of Catanduva, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Writing for the Latin American Theological Commission, Antonio Celso de Queirós, bishop emeritus of Catanduva, Sao Paulo, Brazil, reflected on the similarities between the atmosphere in the church prior to Vatican II and the possibilities for reform within the current environment. Enumerating issues that needed clarifying, he referred to the “‘quiet’ dissent” on a number of topics, including “the use of condoms as a means of preventing AIDS.”Antonio Celso de Queirós, “Time of New Hope, Time for a New Council?” 50 Years since Vatican II Seen from Latin America, Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians, September-December 2011.

MAY 2011
Msgr. Kevin Dowling, Rustenburg, South Africa

Monsignor Kevin Dowling, bishop of Rustenburg, South Africa, said in an e-mail that condoms are in line with Catholic teachings “in certain circumstances, [when] the use of a condom is allowable not as a contraceptive but to prevent disease.” He said of the HIV ministry program he administers, “We do not give out condoms, but people are fully informed about prevention methods and helped to make informed decisions about how they can protect themselves and, if they themselves are HIV positive, how they can avoid infecting someone else.”
Huffington Post, “Vatican invites AIDS experts to talk prevention,” May 27, 2011.

Archbishop Bernard Longley, Birmingham, England

Bernard Longley, archbishop of Birmingham, said that Pope Benedict XVI’s provisional support of condoms was “recognizing that within any individual’s life there is always the possibility of stepping from one position to a position that is closer to truth and goodness. That is how I read and understood what he was saying about the use of a condom in those particular circumstances that he outlined and that one could see how conscience works within an individual…. ”
The Tablet, “Treading a fine line,” December 10, 2010.

Pope Benedict XVI

In a book-length interview with a German journalist, Peter Seewald, Pope Benedict XVI said, “where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, [condom use] can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality.”
Agence France Presse, “Pope Says Condoms Acceptable ‘In Certain Cases’,” November 21, 2010

Rev. Federico Lombardi

The Vatican’s spokesperson, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said: “I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine. He told me no. The problem is this … It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship. This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point.”
Nick Squires, “Women and men can use condoms to protect themselves from Aids, Vatican says,” Daily Telegraph (UK), November 23, 2010

Bishop Anthony Fisher, Sydney, Australia

Bishop Anthony Fisher supported Pope Benedict’s remarks on condoms in a statement that left room for condom use by gay couples: “Pastors have long recognized that in cases such as homosexual intercourse, conception and marital acts are not at issue. Using a condom in this situation is clearly not contraception. It is clear that even here the goal must be to move the individual to living a truly ‘humane,’ that is a chaste and loving, sexual life.”

Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, “Statement by Bishop Anthony Fisher OP,” November 22, 2010.

APRIL 2010
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster

In an interview with BBC radio, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster presented an alternative view of the hierarchy’s usual teachings on condom use. “I think when it comes to Third World poverty, and the great pressure under which many women are put by men, I can see the arguments why, in the short-term, (the) means that give women protection are attractive,” the archbishop said. “The use of condoms doesn’t lack for champions – there are plenty of champions around, giving and distributing condoms.”
Martha Linden, “Catholic Leader: Third World Contraception Ideas ‘Attractive,'” Press Association, April 1, 2010.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Cape Coast, Ghana

Cardinal Peter Turkson spoke at a press conference held by the Synod of Bishops for Africa in Rome. He accepted that condoms could be appropriate for married couples: “The use of [the] condom, it becomes effective only in families where they resolve also to be faithful.” Many of the concerns he expressed about condom use were related to the poor quality condoms available in Africa.
National Catholic Reporter, “African cardinal on condoms and AIDS,” October 5, 2009.

APRIL 2009
Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Montreal, Canada

Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal remarked to the Canadian daily Le Devoir that “condoms are not by themselves the perfect solution,” but that they are morally imperative for someone who is HIV+. “When someone has AIDS,” he said, “it is his duty to protect the people with whom he has relations.”

Catholic World News, “Montreal cardinal challenges Church teaching on abortion, condoms,” April 15, 2009.

MARCH 2009
Bishop Manuel Clemente, Porto, Portugal

In response to Pope Benedict’s statement condemning the use of condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV, Bishop Clemente of Portugal denounced the pope’s remarks stating that in the case of HIV, condoms are “not only recommended, they can be ethically obligatory.” He went on to say that “the great solution to the AIDS problem, like any other problem, has to be behavioral,” but those living with HIV/AIDS “have a moral obligation to prevent and not provoke the illness.” Finally, he added that the pope’s advisors “should be more learned.”
“Bishop Says Condoms Sometimes Needed.” Associated Press, March 29, 2009.

MARCH 2009
Bishop Januário Torgal Ferreira, Portugal

In response to Pope Benedict’s comments denouncing condom use as a means to prevent the transmission of HIV, the bishop of the armed forces of Portgual, Januário Torgal Ferreira, stated that “from a medical point of view, I have no doubt that there are obviously circumstances where prohibiting condoms is to consent to the death of many people.” He went on to note that “the people who are advising the pope should be more cultured.”
Mario de Queiroz, ” Africa: Pope on Condoms – Out in the Cold.” IPS, March 24, 2009.

MARCH 2009
Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke, Hamburg, Germany

Pope Benedict’s deplorable comments, on a flight to Cameroon, opposing condom use to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS rightfully sparked a lot of opposition, including some from within the church hierarchy itself. Hans-Jochen Jaschke, a Catholic auxiliary bishop of Hamburg, Germany, spoke of the need for “no taboo on the condom issue.” He wisely declared that “anyone who has AIDS and is sexually active, anyone who seeks multiple partners, must protect others and themselves.”
Philip Pullella, “Vatican Defends Pope Condoms Stand, Criticism Mounts.” Reuters, March 18, 2009.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Cape Coast, Ghana

Cardinal Peter Turkson of the Cape Coast in Ghana has advocated that priests take on more of a counseling role in discussing condom use with married couples in which one of the partners is HIV positive. Acknowledging the hierarchy’s teachings on conscience, he suggested “help[ing] the client to take the decision which [he or she] will be at peace with.” According to Turkson, the issue is being seriously debated by bishops’ conferences in Africa, but he has been slow to publicly support condom use from the pulpit, indicating that he “will only speak in person-to-person counseling, allowing those who can, to choose for love of their partner to abstain, and those who also for love of their partner may want to use this way [condoms].”

James Roberts, “African church leader advocates pastoral approach on condom use.” The Tablet, October 20, 2007.

APRIL 2007
Bishop Kevin Dowling, South Africa

Bishop Dowling, in an interview about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in South Africa said, “Abstinence before marriage and faithfulness in a marriage is beyond the realm of possibility here. The issue is to protect life. That must be our fundamental goal.” Drawing attention to the especially difficult plight of women in the traditionally male-dominated societies of his diocese he continued, “My passion is for the women. I’m in that corner.” About the African people, he says, “They must use condoms,” maintaining his stance despite the Vatican’s continued opposition to such a policy.

“Bishop promotes condoms use; In South Africa town, issue is protecting life, not preventing pregnancy,” Grand Rapid Press (Michigan), April 15, 2007.

Archbishop Boniface Lele, Kenya

Following the release of a report showing that among all religious people, Catholics are the most supportive of the use of condoms for contraception and preventing sexually transmitted diseases, Mombassa Archbishop Boniface Lele said, “With some counseling—and this is something we don’t tell everyone—you can ask couples to use condoms, so that the rate of reinfection goes down.”

Topi Lyambila & Agencies, “Kenyan Catholics Support Condoms More Than Other Faith Groups,” Kenya London News, August 25, 2006.

MAY 2006
Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi, Cameroon

In an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the archbishop of Douala, Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi, defended the decision to use condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS between married couples, saying, “If a partner in a marriage is infected with HIV, the use of condoms makes sense.”

“Cardinal Endorses Condoms for Married Couples,” The Tablet, May 11, 2006.

MAY 2006
Archbishop Mario Conti, Scotland

In an interview with a Scottish newspaper, Mario Conti, the Archbishop of Glasgow, pledges his support for the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers’ recent decision to conduct and release a study on condom use to fight AIDS and contends that using condoms to stop transmission of the disease from one spouse to another is “common sense.” He acknowledges that this position is not in line with church teaching, but asks, “Should we really be saying that it is in the benefit of the couple to refuse one another…and [live] as brother and sister when the whole nature of their marriage pushes them towards sacramentalising their marriage?”

Stephen McGinty, “Archbishop believes condoms are ‘commonsense’ in the war on AIDS,” The Scotsman, May 5, 2006.

APRIL 2006
Bishop Kevin Dowling, South Africa

South African Bishop Kevin Dowling addresses a forum sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights about the use of condoms in preventing the spread of AIDS. While he reiterates the important place that fidelity and abstinence before marriage can have in stopping the deadly virus, he maintains that this approach alone is not a pragmatic solution based in the realities of people’s lives around the world. He insists, “Abstinence is fine as an ideal, but it does not work in all circumstances…. We have to try a more holistic approach, a theology and possibility for people to encounter God right within their situation.”

Nora Boustany, “AIDS Crisis Shapes Bishop’s Stance,” Washington Post, April 26, 2006.

APRIL 2006
Bishop Antonio Moreira, Portugal

Speaking at a meeting of Portuguese bishops held in the town of Fatima, about 85 miles from Lisbon, Bishop Antonio Moreira, vice president of the Portuguese episcopal conference, says, “In a context of marriage where one or both are infected, the use of a condom is a clear case of a lesser evil.”
Agence France-Presse, “Portuguese Catholic bishop backs call to ease ban on condoms,” April 28, 2006.

APRIL 2006
Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Italy

In an interview with the Italian magazine L’espresso, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the retired Archbishop of Milan, says, “Certainly the use of prophylactics can, in some situations, constitute a lesser evil. There is the particular situation of spouses, one of whom is affected by AIDS. It is the obligation of this spouse to protect the other partner and they must be able to protect themselves.”
Peter Popham, “Pope John Paul II Seen by Many as Main Obstacle for Change,”Independent (UK), May 3, 2006.

MARCH 2006
Bishop Gilles Cote, Papua New Guinea

In recognition of a growing AIDS problem in Papua New Guinea, Bishop Gilles Cote, the head of the Daru-Kiunga Diocese in Western Province, conceded that it may be wise for the government to provide condoms. Speaking to the Vatican’s ban on contraception, he argued, “We also have a law—you should not kill…so there is a moral responsibility that [those with a partner who is infected] are protected.”

Lloyd Jones, “PNG: Facing AIDS epidemic, bishop says condoms okay for some,” AAP Newsfeed, March 29, 2006.

Bishop Kevin Dowling, South Africa

Bishop Kevin Dowling, in an interview in the Chicago Tribune, returns to the issue of condoms. While he says he has “no problem” with abstinence and faithfulness in marriage as the church’s answer to the AIDS epidemic, he considers using condoms to be “a pro-life option in the widest sense.” “For me, the issue is simply this: How do you preserve and protect life?” In a diocese like his, he says, “The only solution we have at the moment is condoms.” He believes that in much of AIDS-afflicted Africa the primary effect of using condoms would not be contraception but “to stop transmission of a death-dealing virus.” Under church doctrine, that is “not only allowable, it’s a moral imperative,” he says. “The principle is to protect life. I’m fighting for the principle here.” He concludes that he would like to see a “humble attitude” from the Vatican and a recognition that “we have to develop a theology for the HIV-AIDS pandemic that [recognizes] the poor and the suffering and the marginalized and the vulnerable” and is based on an ethic of “human dignity and justice and human rights instead of just on an ethic of sexuality.”

Laurie Goering, “A two-front fight: AIDS, the church; South African bishop bucks the Vatican, argues condoms are pro-life in HIV battle,” Chicago Tribune, November 4, 2005.

MAY 2005
Bishop Franz Kamphaus, Germany

In an address given on May 6, 2005, in Limburg, Germany, Franz Kamphaus, Bishop of Limburg, discusses German Catholic relief agencies’ comprehensive and integrative approach to AIDS. He claims that “today, Catholic institutions usually provide information on all paths of infection and possible ways of protection. It is up to individuals to decide whether they use condoms or not. Not referring to condoms would be withholding information.”

Franz Kamphaus, “The church’s response to AIDS,” Furrow (Ireland), July/August 2005.

APRIL 2005
Bishop Kevin Dowling, South Africa

In an interview with the New York Times, South African bishop Kevin Dowling says: “I believe condoms need to be debated, and I believe theologically their use can be justified, to prevent the transmission of a death-dealing virus…. I see these young women and their babies, and the desperation and the suffering, and I think, ‘What would Jesus want?’ There’s no way he could condemn someone like this.”

Elisabeth Rosenthal, “New debate is sought on use of condoms to fight AIDS,” New York Times, April 22, 2005.

APRIL 2005
Bishop Kevin Dowling, South Africa

Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenberg, South Africa, tells Agence France-Presse: “I’m not going to follow the Church’s stance on this. In the end, I have to be faithful in the sense of being full of faith and faithful to the God of the poor and suffering and desperate and fearful and hopeless people that I encounter every day in the AIDS pandemic. Their lives are precious to me and precious to God and that’s the only thing that concerns me.” [1]

In a subsequent AFP report, following the election of Pope Benedict XVI, Dowling says that the church’s “official stance [on condoms] is totally irrelevant” to the “crucifying experiences” of young women and babies dying of AIDS in the settlements where he works. [2]

  1. Carole Landry, “South African bishop calls on new pope to face ‘crucifying’ AIDS” Agence France Presse, April 20, 2005.
  2. Agence France-Presse, “Bishops urges Pope to talk AIDS,” April 22, 2005.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, Mexico

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, a Mexican who heads the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, says that while he opposes the distribution of condoms,because he believes it institutionalizes promiscuity, he finds the use of condoms acceptable when abstinence is not an option. “If an infected husband wants to have sex with his wife who isn’t infected, then she must defend herself by whatever means necessary,” he says. This position, Barragán said, is consistent with the tenets of Catholic moral theology, which teaches that acts of self-defense can extend to killing in order to not be killed. “If a wife can defend herself from having sex by whatever means necessary, why not with a condom?”

National Catholic Reporter. “AIDS, condoms and grass-roots reality: Cardinal’s words may indicate moral trickle-up from health workers,” February 25, 2005.

Cardinal Georges Cottier, Pontifical Household

Senior Vatican official Cardinal Georges Cottier, theologian of the pontifical household, tells news agency Apcom that while condoms cannot be condoned as a contraceptive, “The use of condoms in some situations can be considered morally legitimate” to prevent the spread of HIV. Cardinal Cottier explains that because “the virus is transmitted during a sexual act; so at the same time as (bringing) life there is also a risk of transmitting death. And that is where the commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’ is valid.”

Sophie Arie, “Cardinal says condoms could help to stop AIDS,” Guardian (UK), February 1, 2005.

Bishop Boniface Lele, Kenya

Bishop Boniface Lele of the Kitui Diocese in Kenya says that he maintains the Catholic church’s teaching on condoms. “However, emerging circumstances in the life of the living church confront our conscience every time members of our church are under threat,” he says. “Faced with the sad prospect of families being wiped out in circumstances where one infected couple infects and/or re-infects the other, and without sanctioning separations of properly constituted matrimonies, the use of condoms to prolong life may seem a useful tool in the long run.”

Catholic Information Service for Africa, “Catholic bishop clarifies stand on condoms,” All Africa News, January 26, 2004.

Bishop Felipe Arizmendi, Mexico

Mexican Bishop Felipe Arizmendi says that condom use to prevent HIV may be a “lesser evil.” Arguing that condoms may be appropriate for those who cannot abstain, the bishop says, “They should use whatever is necessary in order not to infect others and not to infect themselves. There is no other alternative.”

Iliff Laurence, “Mexican bishop backs condom use to prevent HIV infection,” Dallas Morning News, January 21, 2005.

Monsignor Fabian Marulanda and the Colombian Bishops Conference

The Colombian Catholic church announces that, in light of recent statements made by Bishop Martínez Camino of Spain, it would review its position on condom use at the next Episcopal Conference. Monsignor Fabian Marulanda, secretary general of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, says, “If science has not been able to find a method to defeat this disease (AIDS), then one should think that the condom is one recourse.”

Agence France-Presse, “Colombian Catholic church to review position on condoms,” January 19, 2005.

Father Eric de Beukelaer, Belgium

The Belgian Bishops Conference spokesman, Father Eric de Beukelaer, says that while the church would never condone sex outside of marriage, if it were to happen, “Better that (wearing a condom) than spreading AIDS.”

Daily Mail (UK), “Bishops snub the Vatican by backing condoms to fight AIDS,” January 20, 2005.

Monsignor Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, Spain

After meeting with Spanish Health Minister Elena Salgado, spokesman Monsignor Juan Antonio Martínez Camino of Spain’s conference of bishops says that there is significant scientific evidence that condoms can be used to prevent the spread of HIV. Martínez Camino says that the Catholic church is concerned about the spread of HIV and that “the time has come… for a joint strategy in the prevention of such a tragic pandemic as AIDS, and contraception has a place in a global approach to tackling AIDS.” [1]

However, the next day the Spanish conference, in an apparent reversal, states Martínez Camino’s comments were taken out of context and that Martínez Camino was referring to abstinence and fidelity as part of the ABC world strategy to combat AIDS. The conference argues that, in accordance with Catholic principles, “it is not possible to recommend the use of condoms, as it is contrary to a person’s morals.” [2]

In response to the Spanish Bishops Conference’s initial indication of condoning the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, the Catholic church of England issues a statement asserting, “Condoms have a place in the global prevention of AIDS.”

In response to the Spanish and British bishops’ statements recognizing a place for condoms in HIV/AIDS prevention, an official in Rome states: “The Vatican has always expressed its opposition to the use of condoms. The Vatican believes that the spread of AIDS is due to a breakdown in moral values.” [3]

  1. Daniel Flynn, “Spain’s Catholic church backs condoms to fight AIDS,” Reuters, January 18, 2005.
  2. Associated Press, “Spain’s Catholic church reverses statement in support of condom use to prevent AIDS,” January 20, 2005.
  3. Daily Mail (UK), “Bishops snub the Vatican by backing condoms to fight AIDS,” January 20, 2005.

Indian Catholic Bishops Conference

The Indian Catholic Bishops Conference develops a policy on condoms through its Commission on Health that permits comprehensive HIV prevention education and information. “The church will not be promoting or propagating the use of condoms. We will, however, provide all information about it. In case a couple wants to use it, we would suggest they speak to their pastor and then take a decision based on what their conscience says.”

Ayswaria Venugopal, “A, B, & silent C of church AIDS war,” Telegraph of Calcutta, November 23, 2004.

JULY 2004
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, England

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster, England, says that he agrees with Archbishop Danneels’ position on the use of condoms. “While we can say that, objectively, the use of condoms is wrong, there are places where it might be licit, or allowable, as when there’s a danger of intercourse leading to death. It would be wrong to take a special case and make it a universal law.”

John Walsh, “More tea, Cardinal?” Independent (UK), July 26, 2004.

MARCH 2004
Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, Mexico

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán of Mexico tells the Associated Press that condoms can be condoned in certain cases, such as when a woman cannot refuse her HIV-positive husband. Bishop Barragán says that since preserving one’s own life is paramount, “You can defend yourself with any means.”

Nicole Winfield, “Just what is the Vatican position on condoms to fight AIDS? Depends on who’s talking and where,” Associated Press, March 16, 2004.

Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Belgium

Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium says on Dutch public television that he accepts the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS. Cardinal Danneels says, “When an HIV-positive person says to his partner, ‘I want to have sexual relations,’ he must use a condom. Morally, it cannot be judged on the same level as when a condom is used to reduce the number of births.”

Agence France-Presse, “Belgian cardinal, pope hopeful, accepts condom use in AIDS-related cases,” January 12, 2004.

Archbishop Mario Conti, Scotland

Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, Scotland, sanctions the use of condoms for married couples where one of the partners is infected with HIV or AIDS. He says that condoms can be used for hygienic reasons, but not as birth control. In an interview, Archbishop Conti says, “It is legitimate to ask whether there are any circumstances in which, not for contraceptive but for hygienic purposes, condoms may be used to prevent the spread of AIDS.”

Graham Grant, “Anger as Conti backs condoms,” Daily Mail (UK), January 16, 2003.

JULY 2001
Bishop Kevin Dowling, South Africa

Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenberg, South Africa, condones the use of condoms: “When people for whatever reason choose not to follow the values we promote as church—within and outside of our community—then the bottom line is the real possibility that a person could transmit a death-dealing virus to another through a sexual encounter. Such people, who are living with the virus, must be invited and challenged to take responsibility for their actions and their effect on others. They should use a condom in order to prevent the transmission of potential death to another.”

Anthony Stoppard, “Catholic church to rethink stance on AIDS,” Inter Press Service, July 16, 2001.

Bishop Eugenio Rixen and Brazilian Bishops

Brazilian Catholic bishops suggest that the use of condoms might help check the spread of AIDS. Bishop Eugenio Rixen of Goias, president of the Brazilian church’s AIDS commission, says, “‘We are reflecting whether the use of condoms is more serious, morally speaking, than getting infected or infecting other people with the AIDS virus.” While Bishop Rixen maintains that “the ideal is to abstain from sex and have a chaste life,” he says those who do not agree with church teaching or could not abstain should have the freedom to choose the “lesser of the two evils.”

Catholic New Times, “Condoms are lesser evil, Brazilian church commission says,” September 10, 2000.

APRIL 2000
Father Jacques Suaudeau, Pontifical Council for the Family

Father Jacques Suaudeau of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family writes in L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, that “the use of prophylactics” in some circumstances “is actually a lesser evil but it cannot be proposed as a model of humanization and development.”

L’Osservatore Romano, 19 April 2000.

Bishop Martinus Muskens, The Netherlands

Martinus Muskens, Bishop of Breda, The Netherlands, tells Dutch TV that condoms are acceptable. “If, day in day out, month in month out, you watch so many people dying in your arms of AIDS, then you cannot find it in your heart not to give out condoms,” Bishop Muskens says.

Mike Corder, “Controversial Dutch bishop backs use of condoms to stem AIDS,” Associated Press, February 8, 1999.

German Bishops Conference

The German Bishops Conference notes, “HIV/AIDS is mainly transmitted sexually, this is why the questions of a responsible shaping of sexuality cannot be eluded. We must make people understand that sexual intercourse has its legitimate place within the space of lasting partnership that is protected by faithfulness and confidence. According to Catholic understanding this is marriage. However this conviction must not lead to condemning people…in the face of the effective life threat that results from HIV/AIDS, everything needs to be done to avoid an infection. Prevention has clear precedence and must be responsibly shaped. The principles of Catholic ethics need to be taken into consideration in doing so. Only when the medical, psychological, social and ethical aspects of AIDS prevention are approached can the problem of awareness of the ways of transmission and infection risks grow. General principle is that education must be comprehensive and truthful, but measured.”

German Bishops Conference, “Die Immunschwäche AIDS Eine pastorale Aufgabe der Kirche,” 1997. (on file, translated from German by Elfriede Harth)

APRIL 1996
Archbishop Christoph Schönborn, Austria

Archbishop Christoph Schönborn of Vienna (a main writer of the Catechism of the Catholic Church), speaking on behalf of Austrian bishops, says that the use of condoms to fight AIDS is morally acceptable. Archbishop Schönborn says it is “solid Catholic doctrine [to use] the lesser evil” when there is the danger of death. The archbishop adds that “love can never bring death.”

Irish Catholic, “Top archbishop permits condom use against AIDS,” April 11, 1996.

MARCH 1996
Bishop Augusto Beuzeville, Peruvian Bishops Health Commission

Peruvian bishop Augusto Beuzeville, president of the Bishops Health Commission, says that the Peruvian church “is not against condoms per se,” but adds that the only truly effective AIDS prevention campaigns are ones that promote abstinence and monogamy.

National Catholic Reporter, “Church leaders mix condoms and caveats,” March 15, 1996.

MARCH 1996
Cardinal Adrianus Simonis, Holland

Cardinal Adrianus Simonis in Holland states that condom use within marriage is licit when one person is infected with HIV. In an interview, the cardinal says, “In these precise circumstances, and only in the situation of a marriage and not in other situations, the condom can be viewed as a form of self-defense.” However, Cardinal Simonis does not go so far as to say condom use is totally licit.

National Catholic Reporter,
“Church leaders mix condoms and caveats,” March 15, 1996.

MARCH 1996
Father Victor Feytor Pinto, Bishops Health Care Secretariat, Portugal

Father Victor Feytor Pinto, director of the Bishops Health Care Secretariat in Portugal and of the bishops’ prolife agency, makes a distinction between sexual behavior and condom use in an interview with a Portuguese news agency. Bishop Feytor says the use of condoms is up to one’s conscience and “not the priest, the doctor or the nurse.”

National Catholic Reporter, “Church leaders mix condoms and caveats,” March 15, 1996.

MARCH 1996
Bishop Antonio Monteiro, Portugal

Bishop Antonio Monteiro of Viseu, president of the doctrinal commission of the Portuguese Bishops Conference, says that condom use is morally bad. However, the bishop is also quoted in a Lisbon Catholic weekly saying, “If an infected person will de facto have sexual relations, it is recommended that the person use condoms.”

National Catholic Reporter, “Church leaders mix condoms and caveats,” March 15, 1996.

MARCH 1996
Auxilliary Bishop Victor Guazelli, England

Auxiliary bishop Victor Guazzelli of Westminster states that HI- infected people should use condoms to curtail the spread of the disease. Bishop Guazzelli says, “It seems to me that if people are set on intercourse, they at least have the obligation of not passing on the disease and death. Even if the only means possible to them is the use of condoms, this seems to be common sense.”

National Catholic Reporter, “Church leaders mix condoms and caveats,” March 15, 1996.

Bishop Albert Rouet, Social Commission of the French Hierarchy

The Social Commission of the French hierarchy, the highest church authority in France on social issues, releases a report responding to the growing problem of AIDS worldwide titled “AIDS: Society at Stake.” While the document neither recommends nor specifically sanctions the use of condoms, it implies that their use may be tolerated given that current medical thinking suggests condoms slow the spread of HIV. The report states, “Many competent doctors affirm that a condom of trustworthy quality is presently the only means of prevention. For this reason (the use of a condom) may be necessary.” Additionally, the report says that “condom use is understandable in the case where a pattern of sexual activity is already established and in the interest of avoiding a grave risk.”

The chairman of the commission, Bishop Albert Rouet, defends the committee’s position by noting that “the French bishops have said that for persons at risk, one should not add one evil to another evil.”

Pamela Schaeffer, “Condoms tolerated to avoid AIDS, French bishops say,” National Catholic Reporter, February 23, 1996.

Archbishop André Collini, France

The French Archbishop of Toulouse, André Collini, urges the Catholic church to re-think its ban on condoms to protect against HIV transmission. Citing the Fifth Commandment – thou shalt not kill – the archbishop says that anyone who is HIV-positive and remains sexually active “does not have the right not to use a condom” or they become “an agent of death.”

Advocate, “Condoms 2, Church 0,” July 13, 1993, and IPPF Open File, “French archbishop challenges pope’s condom ban,” October 1993.

German Bishops Conference

In a statement on population, the German bishops say that the church “has to help those, especially women, who feel their living conditions do not allow for practice of [periodic abstinence]…in the final analysis, human conscience constitutes the decisive authority in personal ethics. Consideration must be given…to the spread of AIDS. It is a moral duty to prevent such suffering, even if the underlying behavior cannot be condoned in many cases…The church…has to respect responsible decision-making by couples.”
German Bishops Conference, “Bevölkerungs-wachstum und Entwicklungsforderung” (Population Policy and Development), 1993.

Cardinal Archbishop Jean-Marie Lustiger, France

The archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, declares that love and chastity are essential values in sexual maturity, but that, if a person is “HIV-positive” and “cannot live in chastity,” such a person “should use the means that have been proposed” to prevent infecting others.

Anthony Padavano, “Contraceptives, the lesser of two evils,” Daily Nation (Kenya), August 16, 2001.

Bishop Jacques Gaillot, France

French Bishop Gaillot of Evreux tells the gay magazine Lui that failing to advise people at risk of contracting AIDS to protect themselves with condoms is tantamount to violating the biblical commandment “thou shalt not kill.” In 1995, the Vatican removes him from Evreux and gives him the meaningless title of Bishop of Partenia, an inactive diocese in Mauritania, because of his position on condoms and other leftist views.

Craig Whitney, “Thousands protest the dismissal of a leftist French bishop,” New York Times, January 23, 1995.

US Catholic Conference Administrative Board

In 1987, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops issues a statement on AIDS, “The Many Faces of AIDS: A Gospel Response.” In their statement, the bishops recognized that living in a pluralistic society, where not all agree with the teachings of the church on sexual matters, educational efforts concerning HIV/AIDS prevention that “could include accurate information about prophylactic devices . . . as potential means of preventing AIDS” can be permitted. They further state that it is possible for the church to provide factual information without necessarily promoting the use of prophylactics.

Two years later, after much debate and disagreement among the bishops, a “corrective” statement is issued. In that statement, the bishops retract their approval of providing factual information about condoms, and state that, “The use of prophylactics to prevent the spread of HIV is technically unreliable . . . [and] advocating this approach means in effect promoting behavior which is morally unacceptable.”
US Catholic Conference Administrative Board, “The Many Faces of AIDS: A Gospel Response,” Origins, December 24, 1987 and “Called to Compassion and Responsibility: A Response to the HIV/AIDS Crisis,” Origins, November 30, 1989.

Please cite as:
Condoms4Life, “The Catholic Bishops and Condoms: Statements and Actions Supporting Condom Use to Prevent the Spread of HIV,” Washington DC: Catholics for Choice, 2015.


read The Catholic Bishops and Condoms:
Statements and Actions Opposing Condom Use as Part of an HIV Prevention Strategy

Catholics for Choice