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Published November 23 2010

Aquila clarifies pope’s take on condoms

Fargo Catholic Diocese Bishop Samuel Aquila says the pope’s recent comments related to condom use do not indicate a shift away from the church’s general teaching against the use of condoms or contraceptives.

Pope Benedict XVI “is not condoning the use of condoms but making an observation regarding the awakening of a sense of responsibility in the people who are caught up in the habitual sin of prostitution,” Aquila said in a written statement Monday.

Comments made by the pope in excerpts from the book-length interview “Light of the World” had been interpreted by some as justifying the use of condoms in some cases.

In “Light of the World,” which is to be released today, Pope Benedict says, “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, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.”

The interviewer, then, replied, “Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?”

Pope Benedict, in turn, said, “She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”

In Monday’s statement, Aquila said the pontiff did “not offer a new moral evaluation of the use of condoms, neither in principle nor practically in this circumstance, but is merely describing a psychological development as one, even in the grip of sin, can begin to acknowledge the safety and human dignity of another.”

Fargo Diocese Chancellor Luke Meyer said Pope Benedict’s comments did not change church teaching on sexuality or contraceptives, nor did they foreshadow any such changes.

“In no way does it signal that,” Meyer said.

Meyer and Aquila’s comments are in line with a statement from the Holy See’s chief spokesman, who stressed that the pope’s comment neither “reforms nor changes” church teaching.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734