The Pope’s confusing condom comments

Joshua Keating

For the record, Pope Benedict XVI did not justify use of condoms, as some headlines have suggested, even in limited circumstances. Here’s the quote he gave to a German journalist, which was reprinted in the Italian media this weekend: 

"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." 

I don’t read this as arguing that male prostitutes are justified in using protection, but rather that it could be a stepping-stone toward giving up their behavior. (For their part, male sex workers in the Boston area are apparently not impressed.) As the pope’s spokesman later put it, he believes that he believes that "the use of condoms to reduce the risk of infection is a ‘first step on the road to a more human sexuality." This seems a bit like arguing that a drug addict who switches from injecting heroin to snorting it is making progress.

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