Pope on Condoms, Male Prostitutes

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com November 20 2010 5:55 PM ET

In surprising comments in a new book, Pope Benedict XVI departs from the Catholic Church’s zero-tolerance policy toward condoms and suggests that they may be justified in some instances, such as for male prostitutes to prevent the spread of HIV, where contraception is not a concern.

The Associated Press reported on the groundbreaking remarks made to a German journalist in a book-length interview, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, to be released Tuesday. The Vatican newspaper ran excerpts Saturday.

“Benedict called it ‘a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way of living sexuality,'" the AP reported.

“He used as an example male prostitutes, for whom contraception is not an issue, as opposed to married couples where one spouse is infected. The Vatican has come under pressure from even some church officials in Africa to condone condom use for monogamous married couples to protect the uninfected spouse from getting infected.”

Previously, Benedict has been criticized for suggesting that condoms contribute to the increase in HIV infections. Journalist Peter Seewald asked him about that position in the interview.

"There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility," said Benedict, the AP reported.

However, the pope emphasized his view that abstinence is the surest way to prevent HIV. Vatican observers said it would be wrong to interpret his comments as a change in church teaching.

Gay conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan suggested that the remarks from the pope open a "Pandora's box" for church teaching about homosexuality.

"And so Pandora's box opens," wrote Sullivan. "If it represents a 'moralization' when a male prostitute wears a condom, would it be another step in his moralization to give up prostitution for a non-mercenary sexual and emotional relationship? In such a relationship, would it be more moral for such a man to disclose his HIV status or not? If he does, would it not be more moral for him to wear a condom in sex than not?"