Pope Benedict XVI has condoned the use of condoms in exceptional cases in a move described as an historic shift for the Roman Catholic Church.
In a new book – excerpts of which appeared in the Vatican newspaper – he says condoms are not a moral solution, but can sometimes be justified to stop the spread of infection.
The book is based on a series of interviews the Pope gave earlier this year.
“It’s amazing on the part of a Pope with a conservative reputation to make such an open-minded shift in matters of sexuality,” says Odon Vallet, a French expert on the history of religions. “But in view of the gravity of the accusations against paedophile priests, perhaps he said to himself – or his entourage said to him – that to put on a condom to avoid getting AIDS was perhaps less serious than having sexual relations with a child.”
The Pope says male prostitutes could use condoms as a “first step towards moralisation”. But he adds they are “not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.”
His comments have been welcomed by health campaigners, who have long criticised the Vatican’s hardline stance on contraception.