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The Vatican has always had a rather clear stance on birth control and reproductive issues. Artificial birth control has long been considered unacceptable by Catholic theologians, and only periodic abstinence (Natural Family Planning) is allowed, in serious circumstances that would make a pregnancy undesirable at certain times. Yet Pope Benedict XVI made a statement to a German journalist in which he said that condom use might be acceptable in some circumstances. What's the deal with that?

Only a short year ago, the pope declared that condom use could be making the AIDS crisis worse. Yet now, in an interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, Benedict XVI conceded that for some people, such as male prostitutes, using a condom could be a first step towards assuming moral responsibility, and that they could be employed "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection". Isn't that interesting?

Though the Pope soon added that he takes personal responsibility for his remarks and that they do not represent official Catholic teachings, the first thing that strikes me is that the comments appeared in the context of male prostitution. The Catholic Church, as far as I know, condemns prostitution, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and artificial birth control. Would not the best step to prevent infection and assume moral responsibility be not engaging in male prostitution? Or is the Vatican's concern about condoms not related to the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases, but to the fact that they prevent pregnancy?

Many discussions have taken place since the Pope's controversial comments in the Vatican and the blogosphere alike. I can see how the Vatican might condone condom use in cases where one married partner is HIV positive, and wants to prevent infecting his or her spouse. But the male prostitute thing truly baffled me. How about you? What are your opinions? For more Catholic topics, take a look at our article about ectopic pregnancies and the Catholic Church.

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