In the News 2013

The Big Debate on ‘Good Catholics Use Condoms’

Some of our readers have requested if I could make a comment on the Archbishop Peter Kairo of Nyeri’s statement on Sunday at St Cyprian Kagicha Catholic Church in Othaya that the position of the church was clearly against the use of condoms, when Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI encourages the use of it.

Although Benedict was quoted by some sections of media to have said that the use of condom in the case of prostitution was “first step” towards morality for the prostitute to use 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 church hierarchy has maintained the pope was misquoted.

The media reported that the pope pointed out that the use of a condom ‘with the intention of reducing the risk of infection, can be a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality- An action which is objectively evil, even if a lesser evil, can never be licitly willed.

The pope made in an interview with journalist Peter Seewald regarding condom use in 2010. The interview attracted attention in the media. This explanation was interpreted by many as a change of tack by the Vatican which necessitated a clarification from the Vatican that “the pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality, but maintains that the use of the condom to diminish the danger of infection may be “a first assumption of responsibility”, as opposed to not using the condom and exposing the other person to a fatal risk.”

A number of Episcopal conferences have also been quoted to have suggested that condom use may be acceptable in some circumstances to prevent Aids. One of the first Episcopal conferences to take such a stance was the French Bishops Council which asserted in 1989 that, “The whole population and especially the young should be informed of the risks.

Archbishop Kairo while reacting to an advertisement which appeared on the Sunday Nation said: “As the Catholic Church we are not promoting use of condoms. I don’t agree with the advertisements on the billboards and newspapers that say Catholics believe in sex which is sacred and that they believe in using condoms.

The advertisement was run by Catholics for Choice movement advocating for use of condoms to save life. The advert attempts to redefine church teachings on condoms, saying- “Good Catholics use condoms.” Good because they save life.

According to Kairo the stand of the church on sex was that married couples must be faithful to each other and unmarried women and girls must abstain from sexual activities until marriage.

“We as Christians should learn how to live respecting each other in the holy sacrament of marriage and I urge the youths to respect and guard themselves in our day-today as the world is not the same as the olden times,” he said.

The Archbishop stated that the Catholic Church did not comply in any way with the campaign dubbed “Good Catholics Use Condoms.” In other words-‘Bad Catholics Use Condoms’.

While the Catholic Church hierarchy argues that the Church is concerned that promotion of condom use will lead to irresponsible, risky sexual behavior (promiscuity and prostitution), those who advocate for the use of condoms argue that if used during the intercourse it will reduce the probability of pregnancy and spreading sexually transmitted diseases.

They argue that as a method of birth control, male condoms put on a man’s erect penis and physically to block ejaculated semen from entering the vagina, it has the advantage of being inexpensive, easy to use, having few side effects, and offering protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

Male condoms have been used for at least 400 years, having been one of the most popular methods of contraception in the world since the 19th century. Its disadvantage however is that, it may slip off the penis after ejaculation, break due to improper application or physical damage (such as tears caused when opening the package), or break or slip due to latex degradation (typically from usage past the expiration date, improper storage, or exposure to oils).

Some couples also find that putting on a condom interrupts sex, and therefore they can do without it during sex, and only to incorporate condom application as part of their foreplay to prolong erection and delayed ejaculation. This is because in some men use of condoms during intercourse make them loose sexual excitement.

In 1996, the Social Commission of the French Bishops’ Conference said that condom use “can be understood in the case of people for whom sexual activity is an ingrained part of their lifestyle and for whom [that activity] represents a serious risk.”

In 1993, the German Bishops Conference noted: “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.”

In April 2006, in response to a very specific question from the bioethicist Ignazio Marino, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini opined that in certain cases, the usage of condoms might be allowable stating, “The use of condoms can, in certain situations, be a lesser evil”.

Cardinal Martini, who used to be Archbishop of Milan, made the comments in an interview with the Italian weekly magazine l’Espresso. In it he says that the fight against Aids, which has caused more than three million deaths, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, must be pursued by all available means-Cardinal backs limited condom use.

This was about the time the Agence France-Presse reported that a Roman Catholic newspaper in South Africa, The Southern Cross, has threw its support behind a local bishop who believes the church should lift its ban on condom use to prevent HIV infections in Aids-ravaged sub- Saharan Africa.

Bishop Kevin Dowling said that the Aids crisis in South Africa requires the church to permit the use of condoms to stop “transmitting death.” The editorial backed Dowling’s comments, explaining that this view should be seen as an attempt to balance Catholic doctrine with the compassion the Church should how toward the most vulnerable people in society.

The editorial went on to say, “Bishop Kevin Dowling’s contribution to this debate articulates what many Catholics, including moral theologians, have been reasoning for a long time.”

Zenit gives the statement by the Vatican reacting on pope’s remarks on condoms. The statement was released on November 21, 2010 by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office. “STATEMENT ON PONTIFF’S WORDS REGARDING CONDOMS – “The Pope Does Not Reform or Change the Church’s Teaching“.

This piece was originally published by Jaluo.

Catholics for Choice