Monday, November 22, 2010

Vatican caves in on condoms -- sort of

This one, I'm having a hard time figuring out.

It's no secret that Pope Paul VI (real name Giovanni Montini) wanted to face the reality, even in the 1960s, that Catholics were using contraceptives.    He was prepared in fact to cave in and permit the practice.   But he faced a backlash from his senior advisors, one of them the Bishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyła (who of course later became Pope John Paul II).   In 1967, Montini's hand was forced and he issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae (actually ghostwritten by Wojtyła) which outright "banned" contraceptives -- not that Catholics, especially those outside the "10-40 window" were going to obey.

Just last year, the ex-"Rottweiler" of the Vatican, Joe Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) on a trip to Africa said that condoms only "worsened" the problem of AIDS, not improved it.   But this past weekend, he had a sudden if only partial change of heart.   Ratzinger said that it's actually okay for prostitutes to use condoms to help prevent the spread of AIDS and other blood-borne diseases.    Using the kind of logic similar to that used by the rationalist St. Thomas Aquinas, he said it's the lesser of two evils.

Well, duh.  No doubt some of the conservatives are going to try to rip this one apart, but at least someone's willing to chip the ice if not smash it all together.    Abstinence-only simply doesn't cut it -- people are too prepared to give into temptation, and every journey begins with a first step.    It's a welcome one, however tentative it may be.

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