Vatican clarifies pope’s reference to ‘male prostitute’ in condoms comment

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Benedict commented in a new book that using condoms to reduce the risk of disease could, in some circumstances, be a step toward moral responsibility, he used the example of a male prostitute.

That raised the question: Was the pope deliberately limiting his observations to this particular group?

The answer is no, according to Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, who presented the pope’s book today at the Vatican press office.

Father Lombardi acknowledged confusion over the gender question. He said the Italian version of the book, which translated the pope’s example as “prostitute” using the feminine gender, was an error. The original German used the masculine noun for prostitute, but there was debate over whether the word was being used generically or specifically.

So Father Lombardi took the question to the pope.

“I asked the pope personally if there was a serious or important problem in the choice of the masculine gender rather than the feminine, and he said no, that is, the main point — and this is why I didn’t refer to masculine or feminine in (my earlier) communiqué — is the first step of responsibility in taking into account the risk to the life of another person with whom one has relations,” Father Lombardi said.

“Whether a man or a woman or a transsexual does this, we’re at the same point. The point is the first step toward responsibility, to avoid posing a grave risk to another person,” Father Lombardi said.

For his part, Peter Seewald, the German journalist who posed the questions in the book, said at the press conference today that “there is no difference between male prostitute and female prostitute” in the pope’s remarks, despite all the controversy over the translations. He added: “The pope indicates that, in addition to the case he cited, there may be other cases in which one may imagine that use of a condom could be a step toward responsible sexuality in this area, and to prevent further infection.”

Here once again is the key passage on the subject in the book, “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” when Seewald asks the pope whether it was “madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.”

Pope Benedict: As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

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 discovering 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.

Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

Pope Benedict: 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 toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

11 Responses

  1. Looking at the outrageous media reports and general confusion among the faithful, maybe it would have been a better idea to just leave the issue of condoms alone.

  2. Where can I find the original transcript of what the Holy father spoke, in German?

  3. Thanks for this. Can you point me to any other reports that give Lombardi’s comments? The VIS account of the press conference just has the prepared speeches, nothing on Zenit.

  4. It really does seem that at times, the church’s (radical) teaching on morality, as in this case, either makes her appear irrelevant or lands her in a tight corner, and at worst a contradiction! In Casti Connubii, Pope Pius XI taught that in any case whatever of marriage, there must be no impairment of its natural capacity to procreate human life; a teaching which Pope Paul VI held (in the Humanae Vitae no 12) to be based on the inseparable connection established by God between the unitive significance and procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act. This, I think, explicitly and implicitly, condemns the use of condoms. But the case of allowing /forbidding a high risk population from using condom, sets her on the one hand against relevance and on the other hand against herself (contradiction) if she intends to prove to be relevant.
    This is the tension inherent in Benedict’s (now) controversial statement.
    However, BXVI has shown to be a great intellectual, realist and one who is not, afterall, alienated from the human plight and yet, prepared to confront the challenges of the truth. He is a great man and I love him. I wish that one day I’ll be privileged to see him and kiss his ring. He’s my idol.

  5. Yeah but typically it’s males who use condoms, not females. (Yes, there is a female condom, or was several years ago, but I haven’t heard a peep about it in at least a decade.)

  6. However, the vatican would have been spared this tension, if she had earlier clarified this. she must learn from history that it is better to prevent a controversy than to resolve it

  7. Pope Benedict, was clear in his communication. Really people should stop force what they want to hear. I personally have been following these reports but as we Catholics should cling to the THRUTH, because JESUS IS THE WAY TRUTH AND LIFE. Then we have the support who is the ALPHA and OMEGA. May the Holy Spirit power his Wisdom to our perception of the writings.

  8. The use of condoms is in no way a moral solution to the plethora of bigger questions regarding sex. However, the use of condoms can morally be a step in the right direction when used to prevent the transmission of STD’s. We are not talking about the use of condoms to prevent birth in a married relationship. There is a Bright Line of Distinction here. The use of condoms when trying to prevent the transmission of an STD is distinctly different from the use of condoms when trying to prevent pregnancy.

    In a circumstance where abstinence has not worked, is moral responsibility abandoned? The Pope’s comments must be properly contextualized. Where abstinence has failed should the Church not continue to be a source of guidance? Where the guidelines for fornication have been broken should the Church abandon the sinner to further depths of sin? Certainly not!

    Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If you were to find Him here today, in the flesh, walking among us, he would be found in night clubs, brothels, gay bars, crack houses, and in the middle of real life domestic disputes. The only controversy here is for those who are looking for it. Stop being so legalistic and be more practical in the application of your faith. Leave legalities to the lawyers and practice what our faith commands us to do. That being, to live a life full of mercy, compassion, understanding and love.

  9. I am very impressed with the pope’s courage to challenge modern Catholics to change with the times. As a young Catholic, it can become difficult to understand that the Church, which is so compassionate and loving, can be so crude as to ban condom use in every situation. Pope Benedict’s stance is a huge step forward in the relationship between sexual health and the Church. It is wonderful to see the Church respond to current situations in such a rational way without compromising on morality.

    In terms of who the pope is referring to—whether only male prostitutes or others—he has amazed me in how well he has handled what could be (and in some ways is) a publicity nightmare. He could have backtracked and said only people in the sex trade should use condoms, but he expanded it further. Also, he gave a moral justification that it is sexually active peoples’ responsibility to protect others. We are still called, however, to a higher standard when possible, and condom use will not solve any long term problems by themselves. The concern over the exact words used by the pope is missing the point entirely that the goal is to be practical and not let the rules endanger others.

    I say, touché, Pope Benedict. Well played. I agree with Joe McBride that people need to step out of the legalistic interpretation of every world and embrace the message of love and compassion that the Church teaches us to espouse.

  10. Pope Benedict is an idiot. The only message he should of delivered is one of abstinence.

    What a weak position.

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