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Pope’s Statement on Condoms Is a Victory for Common Sense and Reason

November 21, 2010


Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, issued the following statement after Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged that condoms have a role to play in preventing the transmission of HIV:

“We are delighted that the pope has acknowledged that condoms can help reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections including HIV. It is a marvelous victory for common sense and reason and a major step forward towards recognizing that condom use can play a vital role in reducing the future impact of the HIV pandemic.

“The pope said that condom use to prevent the transmission of HIV is ‘a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more humane sexuality.’ This admission is the Catholic hierarchy’s own first step in addressing the realities about sex and sexuality. However, while this is a game-changing statement, we acknowledge that there is still a long way to go before the Vatican’s teachings on condoms meet the needs of Catholics around the world—for contraception as well as for HIV and AIDS prevention.

“While we naturally agree that condoms should be available for male sex workers, we and millions of Catholics also think they should be available to everyone at risk of contracting or transmitting HIV—women as well as men.

“Those of us who have been praying and campaigning about these issues for the past two and half decades are very heartened by this move.

“Pope Benedict is the leader of a church that receives hundreds of millions of dollars every year for HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention. We hope that this statement is only the first step on the path to making sure that people who need condoms and education about how to use them effectively can get the services they need. It will be especially significant for the many, many people who work for Catholic aid agencies and have been secretly handing out condoms while fearing that they will lose their jobs. It is also a suitable moment to recognize that taxpayer money that goes to Catholic agencies may now be used to fund comprehensive prevention programs—something that has been a concern for some time. For example, read our special report on this issue, “Seeing Is Believing.”

“At the very least, all those who work in Catholic healthcare delivery now understand that condoms play a critical role in preventing the spread of HIV. Education about and distribution of condoms should become the norm, not the exception. We call on governments and other donors who fund the Catholic church’s healthcare and HIV and AIDS programs to ensure that they do just that.”

Catholics for Choice initiated the Condoms4Life campaign, an unprecedented worldwide public education effort to raise public awareness about the devastating effect of the bishops’ ban on condoms. The campaign was launched on World AIDS Day 2001 with the display of billboards and ads in subways and newspapers saying, “Banning Condoms Kills.”  Read more at the campaign website,

[According to news reports, the pope made his comments in a book-length interview with a German journalist, Peter Seewald. The book comes out next week and is titled, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.” In the interview, the pope denies that condoms are “a real and moral solution,” but in some cases, such as male prostitutes, he states that “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.”]