Church Tests The Water On Condoms

It is not a ”real or moral” solution, Pope Benedict XVI says in a book to be released on Tuesday, but it is acceptable in that there is no possible procreation to be stifled.

Vatican watchers said the statements could mark the start of more open views on condom use and the Pope was trying to repair his image after saying condoms could worsen the AIDS crisis.

”This is the way the church changes its teaching,” said Peter Norden, a former priest and vice-chancellor’s fellow at the University of Melbourne. ”It puts its toe in the water.”

Catholic leaders were quick to clarify the views of the pontiff. The highest ranked Catholic in Australia, George Pell, called for ”consistent, Catholic light into this grey and vexed area”. The Vatican’s press office noted the ”sympathetic and far-sighted vision” of the Pope’s ”colloquial” views but said they did not change the church’s fundamental stance.

Dr Janet Smith, a consultant to the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, said the Pope was not speaking about the morality of condoms but the state of people using them. ”If someone was going to rob a bank and was determined to use a gun, it would better for that person to use a gun that had no bullets in it.”

The Pope said there were cases where a condom ”can be a first step in the direction of a moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility on the way towards recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants.”

What was important about the Pope’s example, said the Bishop of Parramatta, Anthony Fisher, was that a condom used by gay men did not affect conception. ”They’re trying at least to improve the situation and they are making moral progress.” The Sydney Morning Herald