Catherine Pepinster: Benedict's revision gives hope to those involved in the reality of tackling Aids

Share
Related Topics

When Pope Benedict called cardinals from all over the world to Rome to meet for talks at the weekend and the appointment of new "red hats", nobody would have foreseen that this gathering – called a consistory – would be overshadowed by rival headlines about the Pope himself.

But in the middle of the consistory came revelations of a new book-cum-interview with Benedict XVI in which he indicated a change in thinking on the use of condoms to combat the spread of the HIV. In Peter Seewald's volume The Light of The World, to be published this week, Pope Benedict has indicated that he sees the possibility of it being acceptable for a male prostitute to use a condom to prevent infection.

He's not chucking overboard the Catholic Church's traditional stance against artificial birth control; rather, he is suggesting the prophylactic is used to prevent harm. Catholic teaching says sexual intercourse should be open to the creation of life – that is a good – but various Catholic theologians and cardinals have said for some time that condoms could be used to help halt the evil of the spread of disease and death.

The Pope's throwing of a chink of light on this issue, while still remaining consistent with church teaching, will come as a relief to many Catholics in the West, troubled by what they saw as their church's intransigence. It will also give hope to Catholic aid workers, particularly in Africa, where they play a substantial role nursing Aids victims and caring for orphaned children.

While the church has always advocated chastity as the best way of stopping the spread of HIV, and that will remain its ideal, pragmatic aid workers know you have to start where people are – and some of those people will ignore encouragement to abstain from risky sex. That is where condoms can play their part.

While the Pope talks about the example of a male prostitute, many Catholics will now want to hear his words of compassion for women such as those in Africa whose husbands travel for work, sleep around, and then infect them with HIV.

On Saturday night in Rome, I dined with several cardinals who were in town for the consistory. Some expressed approval at what Benedict was saying about Aids and condoms, and one said to me: "It is women who are really suffering; we must think about them."

Through the scandal of sex abuse the Church has lost a great deal of credibility on sexual morality. Pope Benedict's comments suggest he has been listening compassionately to what is being said about Aids and condoms. He may also have helped repair the Catholic Church's damaged reputation.

Catherine Pepinster is editor of the Catholic weekly 'The Tablet'

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before