This morning I e-mailed some questions to Father Matin Rhonheimer in Rome and received his kind reply a few minutes ago.

I asked him if Pope Benedict were aware of his controversial position on church teaching and the use of condoms in 2004's Tablet. He responds: "I published my article in The Tablet in Summer 2004 when Cardinal Ratzinger was still the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. As such, he has certainly come to know about my article. Subsequently, I have published several articles on this issue in specialized journals. I suppose that in Rome my publications and the connected discussions have been followed."

Why has the pope decided now to address this issue: "About how the Holy Father came to address this topic and why he did it only now, I do not know. But as has been plausibly argued, the reactions to his remarks on AIDS and condoms during his last Africa trip might have convinced him that things must be clarified, that is, that the Church’s teaching on contraception does not imply a 'prohibition' of condom use by people engaged in immoral and high-risk life styles—as e.g. prostitutes—but that such a use might be at least a sign of some responsibility."

Does this repositioning on the use of condoms suggest any new thinking on contraception: "I think what the Pope said is clear and nothing can deduced from it which goes in the direction of weakening Paul VI.’s teaching, in 'Humanae vitae,' concerning contraception, or in the direction of advocating the systematic use of condoms as a means for fighting against the AIDS epidemic."

Comments

Joseph O'Leary | 11/24/2010 - 4:34am
John Paul II's speech-writer, who is now the Cardinal Archbishop of Bologna, did say that the wife of a HIV+ man should continue to have sexual relations with him (fulfilling her marital duty) but should not use condoms; rather she should trust in Providence. Benedict seems to have put an end to this nonsense (40 years too late, of course).
Michael Barberi | 11/23/2010 - 5:52pm
Rhonheimer fails to consider the paradox that as the Church says that condom use is licit for male prostitues to prevent the spead of infection, it is illicit for a spouse who has AIDS to use a condom to prevent the spread of infection to the other spouse. The boundaries of prudent responsibility are contradictory. The moral species or specification of this external action (use of condom) in both cases is to prevent the spead of a disease to another person....which is a good and higher common good.  I will not go into detail about other philosophical arguments that point to the narrowness of thought in Humane Vitae, but the pope has opened a wide door for once again challenging this doctrine.