Vatican Clarifies Its Condom-AIDS Study

For Internal Dialogue, Explains Cardinal Lozano Barragán

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See is preparing a "study" for internal dialogue, not a "document," on condoms and AIDS, says the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.



Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, clarifying information published recently in the media, told ZENIT that this "profound study," requested by Benedict XVI, takes into account "both the scientific and technical aspects linked to the condom, as well as the moral implications in all their amplitude."

The Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers does not have the "competency to present a document to the Church. It is the Holy Father who has the competency or whoever he entrusts" with the task, the cardinal explained.

"In the last analysis this Vatican dicastery is not a doctrinal dicastery; this dicastery does not produce documents," he continued. "Herein lies the error of some information. We are a pastoral dicastery to carry out the Church's presence with the sick, in particular, those who suffer from the AIDS virus.

"Within this competency, we have our medical, technical and theological consultors and we are doing this study with them."

"We are in the first stage," the 73-year-old cardinal said. "This study is promoting a dialogue only at the level of the Holy See and it is not finished yet. Once it's finished, will there be a document? There might or might not be. To issue a document is not proper to this dicastery. That it is or is not issued by another dicastery depends on the Holy Father."

'04 foundation

The question the study addresses in particular is that of couples united in sacramental marriage, in which one of the spouses suffers from AIDS.

The discussion as to whether in such cases it would be licit to use a condom to save a life arose with the idea of the establishment of the Good Samaritan Foundation in September 2004. The Vatican-headquartered group aims to financially support the neediest sick, in particular those suffering from AIDS.

"In that process the discussion arose over the action of condoms in cases of married couples with AIDS," Cardinal Lozano Barragán said. "This discussion took place in John Paul II's last months of life, but John Paul II was very, very conscious of these problems. I know it through personal experience, because I had access to him in this respect."

"When the Holy Father Benedict XVI did me the favor of granting me an audience he told me that it would be appropriate to talk about this subject" among competent persons of the Holy See, the cardinal said. "It is a question of examining scientifically and morally how things are."

The study responds first to the question: What guarantee exists to prevent infection with AIDS through a condom? A second question is: Is it morally licit to use a "technical" condom?

To respond to these two questions, the cardinal explained, "there are two important principles, which are the Sixth Commandment that says, 'You will not commit impure acts,' and the Fifth, which must always be taken into account: 'You shall not kill.'"

General principles

"Both commandments must be taken into account," he said. "But these are very general principles. The study is being done reflecting on the different opinions of experts on the application of both principles to the concrete case of the condom in these specific circumstances.

"The theologians give their opinions. We, as a council, cannot say, 'I adopt this opinion.' We contribute the existing opinions to the dialogue that, on the other hand, are known."

Cardinal Lozano Barragán added: "The Holy Father will see the results of this dialogue and with the help he has from the Holy Spirit must tell us, if he wishes, where we must go. He might also think that it isn't the appropriate moment to pronounce himself.

"I repeat: What I think and my commitment is simply to be an echo of what the Pope says. I don't have a personal opinion as head of this dicastery. My official opinion is to reproduce exactly to the letter what the Pope says."