WE refer to the article “AIDS & condoms” which was published in the Dec 21 and 28 issue of CN. We are concerned that it may have caused some confusion amongst Catholics as it appeared to give the impression that there is no consensus by the Magisterium on the subject.
Contrary to what is stated in the article, the Holy Father and senior Church officials have publicly stated on innumerable occasions their objections to the use of condom as a means to prevent the transmission of AIDS.
At the 12th Asian Federation of Catholic Medical Associations Congress held in 2000, Msgr Javier Lozano Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers publicly admonished one of the speakers for suggesting that the use of condoms by prostitutes or couples where one of the spouses is HIV positive may be permissible.
He stated that the condom as a means to prevent disease transmission has never been acceptable to the Church. He further added “in Brazil at the Bishops’ Conference there was a call for allowing the use of the condom. I was instructed at once from the Vatican that the position of the Church is that the condom cannot be allowed. This is the official (stand).”
IF ONE examines the issue closely, the rejection of the use of barrier methods to prevent transmission of diseases is not only based on Church teachings on the purpose of the sexual act (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC 2370) but is also medically sound.
The efficacy of the condom in preventing transmission of sexual diseases has been refuted by both medical research and epidemiological studies. Even the manufacturers of the condom state that the condom is not foolproof. Is it an act of love for a HIV infected spouse to expose the unaffected partner to a potentially fatal disease?
Even if the condom was 100% effective in preventing transmission of diseases, its use would be morally wrong even in the context of married couples.
To understand this we have to be aware of the Church’s teaching on the meaning of the sexual act or conjugal union i.e. it must be both unitive and procreative.
The Catechism teaches us, “The spouses’ union achieves the two ends of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves, and the transmission of life. The two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated. The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.” (CCC 2363)
In other words, the conjugal act must not just unite the husband and wife in an act of mutual selfgiving, but must also through that mutual self-giving, be open to the creative action of God, remain open to the possibility of new life. The unitive and procreative aspects of the sexual union cannot be separated from each other (cf Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, 12) What we have discussed above will now help us understand the Church’s consistent teachings on why contraception (including the use of condom for that purpose) is morally wrong: it mars and destroys the image of God (who is both love-giving and life- giving) that is supposed to be shown in the conjugal union between man and wife.
The Church’s teaching on the true meaning of sexuality has been clear and consistent. When we understand the beauty of the gift of human sexuality as ordained by God, we shall see the Church’s teaching on sexual morality not as an oppressive set of rules, but as the foundation of a liberating ethos.
We shall see it as a call to rediscover the original meaning of sexuality, a call to once again reflect the image of our Creator God in our lives, as individuals and in a special way as husbands and wives.
We hope that this clarifies any confusion or misconception that may have arisen as a result of one theologian’s reported opinion. The teachings of the Church have not been based on the personal opinions of any theologian, but on the clear and constant teaching of the Magisterium.
Rev Fr James Yeo and Dr John Lee
Chairman and Co-chairman Archdiocesan Bioethics Committee