Saturday, 27 November 2010

CAFOD and condoms

CAFOD have issued a statement entitled: CAFOD welcomes Pope Benedict's comments on the possible use of condoms.
CAFOD welcomes Pope Benedict’s comments on the challenges for people posed by HIV and the possible use of condoms as one aspect of preventing infection.

They resonate with the real challenges that CAFOD has faced in discussion with our partners on the ground for many years and which we know Cardinals, Bishops and moral theologians have also wrestled with; the Pope’s comments will surely prove helpful in moving these discussions forward.
Given that Pope Benedict clearly stated that condom use was not a real or moral way to resolve the spread of HIV/AIDS, it is a bit difficult to work out exactly what it is that CAFOD are welcoming. Some will inevitably read just the "headline" as saying that CAFOD welcome a possible change in the Church's teaching, though the statement itself is worded very cautiously. Pope Benedict's remarks might have acknowledged a form of responsibility on the part of someone who uses a condom with the intention that by doing so the transmission of HIV will be prevented; but he certainly did not teach that such use is morally just and should therefore be advocated.

This is entirely consistent with CAFOD's own statement (January 2005) about condom use:
.... CAFOD neither funds nor advocates the supply, distribution or promotion of condoms. In this CAFOD seeks to exercise a role consistent with its Catholic character.

In the fourth paragraph of their statement, CAFOD refer to a range of economic and social conditions that make people vulnerable to HIV infection. In regions of the world such as Africa, questions of gender inequality and migration have a cultural context that is very different than that in a developed, Western country such as the United Kingdom. CAFOD are quite right to include the addressing of this cultural context within their work on HIV/AIDS, but we should take care reading their statement to recognise that the questions of gender inequality, for example, that are at stake are not the same questions as might be raised under that same heading in a European country.

CAFOD's 2005 statement on HIV prevention and condoms, which can be downloaded from this page on their website, is a helpful statement of CAFOD's position. It is instructive, I think, to re-read this statement alongside Pope Benedict's comments.

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