Pope Benedict XVI has finally joined the 21st century and come out in favor of using condoms to prevent HIV, suggesting that in fact, hell may have frozen over. The Pope thinks that using a condom is a lesser evil than transmitting HIV, even if that means preventing pregnancy. Why it took the Church so long to discover it's better to prevent a pregnancy than potentially pass on HIV to a mother and a child is beyond me, but the new interpretation does dramatically depart from the Church's total opposition to contraception. The Pope now joins the side of UN HIV/AIDS officials, who announced this week that the number of new HIV infections fell, thanks partly to condoms.
In his book released today, the Pope cited male prostitutes as an example, explaining that it was more moral and responsible for them to use condoms to protect their partners from HIV, and today the Vatican clarified that this also applies to "a woman, a man, or a transsexual."
The Catholic Church's new position will surely boost condom promotion in Africa and other places with an at-risk population. And since the Church provides tons of social services in developing countries, maybe this means it will soon help make condoms available. Yet, the Pope still opposes contraception simply to prevent pregnancy. The new statement might signal more change to come, but it doesn't really matter, at least in America — Catholic women are more likely to use the pill than the general population anyway.