VATICAN CITY—Pope Benedict XVI says in a new book that the use of condoms can be justified in some cases, such as for male prostitutes seeking to prevent the spread of HIV.
The pontiff made the comments to a German journalist in a book-length interview, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times. The Vatican newspaper ran excerpts of the book Saturday.
Church teaching has long opposed condoms since they’re a form of artificial contraception. The Vatican has been harshly criticized for its position given the AIDS crisis.
Benedict said that for male prostitutes — for whom contraception isn’t a central issue — condoms are not a moral solution. But he said they could be justified “in the intention of reducing the risk of infection.”
Benedict drew unprecedented criticism from European governments, international organizations and scientists in March 2009 when he told reporters while flying to Africa that condoms would not resolve the AIDS problem there but, on the contrary, increase it. The statement was condemned by France, Germany and the U.N. agency charged with fighting AIDS as irresponsible and dangerous.
While opposition to condoms is a long-standing church position, the Vatican felt constrained to step in and say Benedict wanted to stress that a reliance on condoms distracted from the need for proper education in sexual conduct.
The pope also says in the new book that if a pope is physically, psychologically or spiritually capable” of doing his job, then he has the “right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.”