The Church’s Infallible and Immutable Doctrine on Contraception Stands Amid Growing Opposition

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The Church’s Infallible and Immutable Doctrine on Contraception Stands Amid Growing OppositionRecent statements by Cardinals George Cottier and Javier Lozano Barragán that condom use is legitimate in certain circumstances to prevent the spread of AIDS1 are creating confusion among Catholics worldwide and causing enormous scandal.

Unfortunately, these high-ranking prelates, both holding important posts in the Roman Curia, have joined a growing number of prominent Church figures around the world who affirm publicly that use of condoms is sometimes permissible.2

Such statements are particularly unfortunate in the context of an eroticized society where sexual obsession imbues the whole culture and a powerful and active homosexual movement seeks to impose its ideology on every nation.3

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It is with great consternation that we find ourselves obliged to oppose the public statements of such eminent cardinals. However, we cannot ignore the continuous infallible teachings of the Supreme Magisterium of the Church in such a delicate matter as the use of contraceptive devices in conjugal relations.

Part of the Global Effort Against AIDS?

The scandal and confusion actually began on January 18, 2005, with statements by Father Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, S.J., spokesman and secretary-general of the Spanish Bishops Conference.

Upon leaving a meeting with Spanish Health Minister Elena Salgado, the spokesman said the Spanish Bishops Conference had pronounced itself in favor of the use of condoms, since, together with abstinence and fidelity, these “have their context in a full and global prevention of AIDS.”4 Father Martínez Camino insisted that the Church envisions use of condoms by people “who do not abstain, or are incapable (of achieving sexual abstinence), or cannot be faithful in a sexual relationship with a stable partner.”5 World media quickly picked up on Father Martínez Camino’s statements.

A press release posted the following day on the Spanish Bishops Conference’s website contradicted the spokesman, stating that “it is not true that the doctrine of the Church on condoms has changed.”6

The bishops’ clarification did not stop the confusion from spreading.

Cardinal Lozano Barragán Uses the Right to “Self-defense” Argument

Addressing Father Martínez Camino’s statements in a January 20, 2005 interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, affirmed that “one cannot accept the use of condoms to avoid contagion with AIDS.”

The Vatican cardinal added, however, that a condom could be used where one spouse has AIDS: “In this case I consider that there is a right to ask [the husband] to use the condom.”7 He explains this “right” at greater length in a subsequent February 4, 2005 interview with Zenit:

…[H]ow can we, from this dicastery, address the pastoral care of AIDS?

The answer is with the Commandments. In particular, this challenge affects two specific Commandments: one is the fifth, “Thou shalt not kill”…[t]he other is the sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

By the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” we are obliged not to kill anyone but at the same time, not to let ourselves be killed, that is, to protect our life. So much so, that it is a traditional doctrine of the Church, which has never changed, that to defend one’s own innocent life, one can even kill an aggressor. If the aggressor has the Ebola virus, flu, or AIDS and wants to kill me, I must defend myself. If he wants to kill me with AIDS, I must defend myself from AIDS. How do I defend myself? With the most appropriate means. I must decide. If it is a club, with a club. If it is a pistol, with a pistol. And with a condom? Yes, if it is effective in defending me, in this case of unjust aggression.8

Cardinal Lozano Barragán’s declarations clearly refer to condom use only in conjugal relations.9

Cardinal Cottier Stresses the Importance of Defending Life

On January 29, 2005, during an interview with Italian news agency APCom, Cardinal George Cottier, Pro-Theologian of the Pontifical Household, weighed in, saying that “in some specific circumstances (but only some) the use [of a condom] is licit.”

According to Cardinal Cottier, the situations that justify condom use include “where there is much drug use, much promiscuity, where promiscuity is compounded with great misery, such as regions of Africa or Asia, where people are prisoners of this condition.”

The cardinal argues that condom use is licit for two reasons. First because it is difficult in these situations to rely on the normal means of containing the AIDS epidemic, which would be “educating people on the sacrality of the human body.”

Secondly, because “the virus is transmitted through a sexual act; and thus there is a risk of transmitting death along with life. And it is at this point that the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ becomes applicable. Above all, one should respect the defense of life.”

The Swiss cardinal concludes: “Only in this case can the use of this method be morally justified, because it protects life. Clearly, what is being encouraged in this context is not sexual permissiveness, rather one tends to preserve life from death.”10

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Cardinal Cottier did say that his position – based on the “protection of life” – is accepted by some but not all theologians. This reservation does not diminish the scope and gravity of his words, since, besides being a cardinal, he is popularly known as “the Pope’s theologian.”

Again, Cardinal Cottier is clearly referring to heterosexual acts when he says, “there is a risk of transmitting death along with life.” Only heterosexual acts can transmit life.

Summarizing the Arguments of Cardinals Lozano Barragán and Cottier

In short, these cardinals argue as follows:

1)  Since what is directly intended is not to prevent procreation but to avoid contagion, one may apply the principles of double effect and the lesser evil:

a.  Double effect: although the condom is a contraceptive, it also serves to avoid AIDS contagion; therefore, it is legitimate to use the condom for the latter, though it causes contraception, a necessary but not directly sought effect.

b.  Lesser evil: placed between two evils, the use of a contraceptive device condemned by natural and revealed morals, and the deadly risk of contagion with AIDS, an incurable and lethal illness, it is licit to choose the first evil (condom use) to avoid the second and greater evil (death).

2)  To knowingly infect someone with HIV is tantamount to murder, prohibited in the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Hence, the infected person has an obligation to use the condom to avoid committing murder.

3)  According to natural law there is a right to legitimate self-defense, which allows one to defend himself with adequate means from an aggressor. The adequate means to defend oneself from AIDS contagion is condom use; therefore, the spouse in danger of becoming infected has the right to demand use of the condom.

This argumentation is flawed and contradicts the constant and infallible moral teaching of the Catholic Church, as will be seen.

Double Effect and Lesser Evil Do Not Apply to Condom Use

Moralists present a series of conditions that justify the use of these two principles, but the general rule is that one may never desire an evil end or use an illicit, morally condemnable means to achieve a good. In the former case, one would be choosing evil for evil, and in the latter, one would be accepting that the end justifies the means. In both cases one would be violating the fundamental principle of natural law, “Good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.”11

Moreover, one would be rejecting the explicit teaching of Revelation that one may not do evil in order to draw some good from it. Saint Paul teaches: “And why not say – as we are accused and as some claim we say – that we should do evil that good may come of it? Their penalty is what they deserve” (Rom. 3:8).

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Choosing an action as the lesser of two evils is not licit if it means choosing between two moral evils, two sins. In the case of physical evils, one may opt for the lesser.12

Thus, the principles of double effect and lesser evil do not apply to the use of condoms, such use being “intrinsically evil.”13

No Contradiction Between the Fifth and Sixth Commandments

Moreover, one cannot view earthly life as the supreme value or attach a kind of preeminence to the defense of life over virtue as is implied in the cardinals’ statements.

There is no superiority of the Fifth Commandment over the Sixth and Ninth permitting one to violate the law on sexual morality without sin in situations where there is risk to one’s life or that of others. Such preeminence makes no sense since the Commandments form a “coherent whole” leading to the practice of the essence of God’s law: to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves.14 The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

The Decalogue forms a coherent whole. Each “word” refers to each of the others and to all of them; they reciprocally condition one another. The two tables shed light on one another; they form an organic unity. To transgress one commandment is to infringe all the others (cf. Jas 2:10-11). One cannot honor another person without blessing God his Creator. One cannot adore God without loving all men, his creatures. The Decalogue brings man’s religious and social life into unity.15

Condom Use Is Not Legitimate Self-defense

The argument of legitimate self-defense likewise does not apply to condom use. Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church and Prince of Catholic Moralists, says the following regarding legitimate self-defense in sexual matters:

In case of physical aggression, it is lawful to kill the aggressor of someone’s chastity (pudicitiae). . . . When, however, the woman consents, or at least does not resist in a positive manner, it is not licit to kill the assailant, for that would not be countering the use of force with force.16

The Example of Saint Maria Goretti

Saint Maria Goretti (1890-1902) stands out among the legions of martyrs who gave their lives in defense of purity. Forced by her assailant to choose between submitting to him or dying, she heroically chose death. Her example, and not a search for ways of sinning without health risks, should be proposed to all.

The Church, Faithful Guardian of Natural and Revealed Morals

The Church has often been pressured to forsake a point of Her doctrine on faith or morals. Through the ages, millions of Catholics have been martyred for refusing to deny the immutable doctrine of Christ. Many others have had to face the cruel if bloodless persecution of ridicule and scorn by the “wise” of this world for the same reason.

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Particularly over the last decades, the Church’s teaching on sexual morals – based on natural law and divine revelation – has been the object of direct attacks, incomprehension, and indifference.

“Birth control” has long been used as a pretext to pressure the Church to change Her doctrine on the purpose of the sexual act. The AIDS epidemic is now used in a similar fashion. It is said that the Church should accept a separation between the sexual act and its natural effect – procreation – and thus admit as morally licit the use of artificial means to prevent the act’s fecundity, at least in some circumstances.

Forsaking a Single Moral Teaching Would Destroy Morality

However, the truth about the procreative purpose of the sexual act was established not by the Church but by the Author of nature Himself. Thus, the Church has no authority to change this teaching, since She is the guardian and interpreter of natural law, not its author. John Paul II emphasizes this in his document on the Christian family in the modern world:

The Church is in no way the author or the arbiter of this norm. In obedience to the truth which is Christ, whose image is reflected in the nature and dignity of the human person, the Church interprets the moral norm and proposes it to all people of good will, without concealing its demands of radicalness and perfection.17

Furthermore, were the Church to abandon even one principle of the natural or revealed law, She would be rejecting the very foundation of moral law, which is the authority of the legislator, in this case, God, of whose wisdom and will every law is but a reflection, be it through nature or through Revelation. “All laws, in so far as they partake of right reason, are derived from the eternal law,”18 explains Saint Thomas Aquinas. “The eternal law is nothing else than the type of Divine Wisdom, as directing all actions and movements.”19

The Church Never Accepted Any Form of Contraception

Thus, the Church never accepted, and can never accept, contraception even for prophylactic or therapeutic purposes. Such a possibility has always been rejected by the Magisterium, and the most recent popes, from Pius XI (1922-1939) to John Paul II, have insistently reaffirmed this teaching amid growing opposition. (See Appendices I and II.)

These popes teach that, according to the natural law established by God when He created man and woman, the primary purpose of the sexual act is procreation. Accordingly, any attempt to detach the sexual act from its natural effect – procreation – violates nature itself and constitutes a grave sin. One cannot separate the unitive aspect of the conjugal act – love between the spouses – from its procreative nature.20

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The popes have always condemned the use of contraceptives – both chemical (e.g. oral contraceptives) and mechanical (e.g. the condom) – as gravely illicit whether the intention is specifically to avoid offspring or to avoid the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.21 (See Appendix I.)

Some argue that condom use is licit in a sterile marriage, as a protection against AIDS, since the couple would not be preventing a fertilization that is not going to happen anyway.22 This subtle argument is without merit, since sterility – temporary or permanent – is an accident that does not alter the nature of the conjugal act, which remains potentially fertile. Because of this, the Church and natural law recognize that sterile individuals have a right to marriage, and with it the right to the conjugal act. On the contrary, condom use interferes in the natural course of the conjugal act, rendering it sterile not accidentally, but in the very manner in which it is carried out. In other words, condom use is illicit because it robs the conjugal act of its potential fertility, thus going against the very nature of the act.

The Church’s Condemnation of Contraception Is Unchangeable and Infallible

Liberal Catholics argue that the Church should change its position on contraception. This is not possible. As Bishop Glennon P. Flavin, then bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, explained in his pastoral letter In Obedience to Christ: A Pastoral Letter to Catholic Couples and Physicians on the Issue of Contraception,

The ban on contraception is not a disciplinary law of the Church, like abstinence of Friday, which the Church can enact and which the Church can dispense for good reasons. Rather, it is a divine law which the Church cannot change any more than it can change the law of God forbidding murder…. Because contraception is intrinsically evil, it may never be practiced for any reason.23

This teaching of the Church condemning contraception is infallible through the ordinary pontifical Magisterium of the Church, that is to say, the common and constant teaching of the Popes.24

Had the Church taught a false doctrine over the centuries, She would not be infallible. Neither would She be an adequate instrument for salvation, since She would have led the faithful to sin, to the non-observance of the natural and revealed moral law.25

As for the condemnation of contraception by Pope Paul VI in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968), some theologians state that it is infallible not only by the continuity of the ordinary Magisterium but also by papal infallibility itself.26

The Condom’s Effectiveness Is Contested

Were condom use a guarantee against the spread of AIDS, it would still be illicit, because the end does not justify the means. However, its effectiveness is contested in scientific circles, rendering the cardinals’ statements all the more incomprehensible. (See Appendix III.)

From a scientific standpoint, the surest means to avoid the spread of all sexually transmitted diseases – including AIDS – are sexual abstinence and fidelity in marriage.

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Conversely, researchers have found that the easy availability of condoms statistically increases promiscuity and the risk of HIV contagion. In fact, many studies claim that the promotion of the “safe-sex” message has increased the numbers of multiple partners.

Called to a Supreme Fidelity

At Baptism, God adopted us as His children. Through the officiating priest, the Church urged us to keep alive the flame of faith in our souls and to preserve our baptismal innocence until called to judgment.

At Confirmation, we were made soldiers of Christ, armed with special gifts and graces from the Holy Spirit to confront the enemies of our salvation.

We are called to battle for the Faith. In this battle, sometimes we must face scandal and confusion. It was such painful encounters that the Apostle Paul had in mind when he taught

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preaches to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema. (Galatians 1:8-9)

In these tempestuous times, as always, we are called to a supreme fidelity to Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Church. May the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the United States, help us to stand firm in the storm.


Appendix I
Texts from the Church’s Magisterium on the
Intrinsic Evil of Contraception

Pius XI: Contraception is “shameful and intrinsically vicious”

But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good.>Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.…

Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.27

Pius XII: “This precept is in full force today, as it was in the past, and so it will be in the future also, and always”

In his Encyclical Casti Connubii of December 31, 1930, our predecessor, Pius XI, of happy memory, solemnly restated the basic law of the conjugal act and conjugal relations. “Every attempt on the part of the married couple during the conjugal act or during the development of its natural consequences, to deprive it of its inherent power and to hinder the procreation of a new life is immoral. No ‘indication’ or need can change an action that is intrinsically immoral into an action that is moral and lawful!” (AAS, vol. 22, pp. 559 seq.)

This prescription holds good today just as much as it did yesterday. It will hold tomorrow and always, for it is not a mere precept of human right but the expression of a natural and Divine law….

But it will be objected that such abstinence is impossible, that such heroism cannot be attained…. In order to convince yourself of this, invert the steps of the argument. God does not oblige people to do the impossible. But God obliges married people to abstain, if their union cannot be fulfilled according to the laws of nature. Therefore, in this case abstinence is possible. In confirmation of this argument we have the Council of Trent which…teaches us that as St. Augustine said, “God does not command impossible things, but when He commands He warns us to do what can be done and to ask what cannot and gives you help so that you can.”28

Paul VI: The sexual act is intrinsically linked to procreation

The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.29

Paul VI: Law of lesser evil does not apply to contraception

Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (Rom 3: 8) — in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general.30

Paul VI: Contraception is illicit both as an end and as a means

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.31

Paul VI: Contraception is illicit even when reasons for it may seem upright

The Church…condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious.32

John Paul II: Intrinsically evil acts remain irremediably evil

If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it. They remain “irremediably” evil acts; per se and in themselves they are not capable of being ordered to God and to the good of the person. “As for acts which are themselves sins (cum iam opera ipsa peccata sunt), Saint Augustine writes, like theft, fornication, blasphemy, who would dare affirm that, by doing them for good motives (causis bonis), they would no longer be sins, or, what is even more absurd, that they would be sins that are justified?”33

John Paul II: “Real-life difficulties” do not justify contraception

It is true that in many cases contraception and even abortion are practiced under the pressure of real-life difficulties, which nonetheless can never exonerate from striving to observe God’s law fully.34

Pontifical Council for the Family: “The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception”

The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity; it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life.35

Appendix II
John Paul II Reaffirms Traditional Church
Doctrine Amid the Confusion

Just days after the condom statements by the Spanish bishops’ spokesman, Fr. Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed Church doctrine. Commentators interpreted his statement as an intervention in the debate that had begun in Spain. Upon receiving the new Dutch ambassador to the Holy See, Monique Patricia Antoinette Frank, the Pontiff said, referring to AIDS:

The Holy See…considers that it is necessary above all to combat this disease in a responsible way by increasing prevention, notably through education about respect of the sacred value of life and formation about the correct practice of sexuality, which presupposes chastity and fidelity.36

More recently, in a message read by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán himself as papal envoy to the 13th World Day of the Sick, celebrated in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on February 11, 2005, Pope John Paul II exhorted:

As for the drama of AIDS, I have had the opportunity in other circumstances to stress that it is also symptomatic of a “pathology of the spirit.”

To fight it responsibly, it is necessary to increase its prevention by teaching respect for the sacred value of life and the correct approach to sexuality.

Indeed, if there are many contagious infections passed on through the blood especially during pregnancy – infections that must be combated with every possible means – those contracted through sexual intercourse are by far the most numerous and can only be avoided by responsible conduct and the observance of the virtue of chastity….

I encourage international organizations to promote initiatives in this field that are inspired by wisdom and solidarity, and always to strive to defend human dignity and to protect the inviolable right to life.37


Appendix III
Effectiveness of Condom Campaigns
Is Scientifically Contested

For twenty years, government efforts against AIDS have focused primarily on the widespread promotion of condoms. During this same period, the sexual abstinence and conjugal fidelity promoted by the Church have been ridiculed as “unachievable.”

Today, the scientific verdict is clear: sexual abstinence and conjugal fidelity, not condoms, are the surest ways to stop the AIDS epidemic.

Catholic Medical Association: Condom education is ineffective

In its masterful paper Homosexuality and Hope, the Catholic Medical Association mentions several studies on the ineffectiveness of condoms in preventing AIDS transmission:

Teachers in Catholic institutions…should continue to resist pressure to include condom education in the curriculum to accommodate homosexually active adolescents. Numerous studies have found that such education is ineffective at preventing disease transmission in the at-risk population. (Stall 1988a[129]; Calabrese 1987 [130]; Hoover 1991[131]).38

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection”

Though favorable to condom use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions against seeing it as an absolute protection against AIDS:

The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases is to abstain from sexual intercourse, or to be in a long term mutually monogamous relationship.… No protective method is 100 percent effective, and condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection against any STD. The more sex partners you have, the greater your chances are of getting HIV or other diseases passed through sex.39

Condom Campaigns Have Not Stopped the AIDS Pandemic

On January 8, 2004, world-renowned AIDS researchers Edward C. Green, Rand Stoneburner and Norman Hearst discussed the effectiveness of AIDS prevention strategies in a briefing at the Department of State for Randall Tobias, Global AIDS Coordinator. Based on the presentations, the Medical Institute for Sexual Health published the study Evidence that Demands Action: Comparing Risk Avoidance and Risk Reduction Strategies for HIV Prevention.40

While the three world-renowned AIDS experts continue to recommend the use of condoms – thus clashing with Church teaching – their converging testimony highlights the lack of results for AIDS prevention strategies based on the promotion of condoms. In the words of Dr. Hearst:

Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence to show that all this condom promotion we’ve been doing all these years in African countries with generalized epidemics has made any difference.…

We have to admit that, to date, there are no clear examples of a country that has turned back a generalized epidemic primarily through condom promotion.41

Dr. Greene concurred with Dr. Hearst and cited another study:

A similar conclusion was reached in a 2003 USAID-supported study – no decline in national HIV infection rates has been achieved through condoms alone.42

Misinformation and Misconceptions on Condom Effectiveness

Those who believe that condom use eliminates the risk of AIDS infection are grossly mistaken, as Dr. Greene points out:

The premise that condoms have “close to 100% effectiveness” was discredited by a 2000 NIH work group which concluded that consistent condom use decreases the risk of HIV transmission by 85%….

Moreover, a recent meta-analysis of condom effectiveness suggests that when condoms are used consistently, they reduce HIV infection rates by only 80% not 98% or 99%, as is widely believed and often cited.43

In other words, these studies suggest that there is a 15 to 20 percent risk of HIV infection.

Dr. Greene also notes with concern that condom campaigns in Africa may actually “backfire,” resulting in the creation of a false sense of security that leads people to engage in higher risk sexual behavior than they otherwise would.44

Sexual Abstinence and Conjugal Fidelity Are the Answer

Dr. Greene points out that, contrary to the majority of AIDS prevention strategies in the U.S. and around the world, government efforts in Uganda emphasized risk avoidance, not risk reduction. In other words, the main focus of the campaign was sexual abstinence and conjugal fidelity, not condom distribution and use.

The results in Uganda were dramatic and rewarding. Most encouragingly, the best results were obtained among the youth.45

Uganda’s experience is a twofold lesson for the rest of the world. First, it shows how right the Church is to insist on sexual abstinence and conjugal fidelity. Second, it shows that sexual abstinence and conjugal fidelity are indeed possible, whatever the disbelief and opposition of the “wise” in our secularized world.

Dr. Greene explains:

Contrary to what most western experts believed until recently, people can change their sexual behavior….

The main advantage is that [in Uganda] abstinence and faithfulness are in accord with prevailing cultural and religious norms and ethics.46

Many, however, refuse to accept Uganda’s lesson. At the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok on July 12, 2004, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was criticized for stressing the need for abstinence over condom use. “I look at condoms as an improvisation, not a solution,” he said. And he went on to call for a true solution: “optimal relationships based on love and trust instead of institutionalized mistrust, which is what the condom is all about.”47


  1. Cf. “Papal theologian weighs condom use against AIDS,” at; “Catholic Church in Turmoil Over Communion for Gay Activists, Condoms and Women Priests,”, Feb. 1, 2005 at
  2. Belgian Cardinal Godfried Daneels had previously declared to Dutch Catholic radio RKK that “when someone is HIV positive and his partner says, ‘I want to have sexual relations with you,’ he doesn’t have to do that. . . . But if he does, he has to use a condom.… This comes down to protecting yourself in a preventive manner against disease or death, it cannot be entirely judged in the same manner as a pure method of birth control.” (Daniel Williams, “Spanish Bishops Rebut Spokesman’s Support of Condoms,” Washington Post, Jan. 20, 2005 at British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor went further and “characterized the use of condoms as a ‘moral obligation’ in certain circumstances.” Stacy Meichtry, “AIDS, condoms and grass-roots reality,” National Catholic Reporter, Feb. 25, 2005. See also Luigi Accattoli, “Aids, profilattico legittimo in casi estremi,” Corriere della Sera, Jan. 31, 2005; Teresa Malcolm, “African bishops reject condoms to counter AIDS,” National Catholic Reporter, Aug. 10, 2001 at; John L. Allen, Jr. “Condom Debate Frustrates” in “The Word From Rome,” Oct. 1, 2004, at; “Il preservativo non è più una virtù: timide aperture della gerarchia ecclesiastica” in Adista Notizie, Feb. 12, 2005, no. 11 at
  3. Cf. TFP Committee on American Issues, Defending a Higher Law: Why We Must Resist Same-Sex ”Marriage” and the Homosexual Movement, Part I: The Homosexual Revolution, pp. 7-64, at The cardinal’s statements are getting widespread publicity from homosexual organizations. The Italian internet journal GayNews devoted substantial coverage to this issue. A January 31 story could not contain its excitement with headlines that read “Condom: The Vatican’s First Yes But Only in Exceptional Cases.” The article itself states: “Unexpected and unheard-of opening to condoms on the part of the Vatican. After the signs of the last few days with statements (which were quickly denied) by the spokesman for the Spanish bishops, it is now the turn of Cardinal George Cottier – considered the theologian with the greatest influence with the Pope – to speak about the condom’s ‘legitimate’ use.” At (Our translation.)
  4. “La Iglesia española, a favor del preservativo para prevenir el sida – Complemento a la abstinencia y la fidelidad,” at (Our translation.)
  5. “La Iglesia acepta el condón como última opción para los que no pueden ser fieles a su pareja o mantener la abstinencia,” at (Our translation.)
  6. “Nota de Prensa sobre el Sida y el Preservativo,” at (Our translation.) Cf. José Manuel Vidal, “La Iglesia rectifica a su portavoz y dice que el uso del preservativo es contrario a la moral,” at (Emphasis in the original.)
  7. IBLNEWS, “El Vaticano ‘no acepta’ el uso del preservativo para protegerse del sida,” Jan. 20, 2005. In the Feb. 1, 2005 issue of ABC, an important Madrid daily, one reads: “Two weeks ago, in view of the confusion created in Spain, Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, once again confirmed that ‘in the legitimate defense of one’s own life one can even kill an assailant. In the case of a husband sick with AIDS, his wife has a right to have her spouse use the condom.’” Juan Vicente Boo, “El teólogo de Juan Pablo II accepta el uso de preservativos ‘en casos extremos,’”ABC, Feb. 1, 2005 at
  8., see Feb. 4, 2005 archive, “Cardinal Expands Debate on Condom Use.” (Emphasis in the original.)
  9. See footnote 8.
  10. There is always the possibility that the Cardinal’s words were not reproduced faithfully. Our translation is from APCom’s Italian text posted at the Italian homosexual web site Nuova Proposta Uomini e Donne Omosessualli Credenti in Roma: “Card.Cottier: uso del condom in taluni casi e’ legittimo,” at
  11. “Hence this is the first precept of law, that ‘good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.’ All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this.” Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 94, a. 2.
  12. There are, however, occasions when civil authority sees itself obliged to tolerate (not promote), in practice, a moral evil whose eradication, due to very special circumstances, could produce a much greater evil such as social instability or civil war. Cf. Msgr. Giuseppe Graneris, s.v. “Effect, Double,” p. 448; Fr. Ludovico Bender, O.P., s.v. “Lesser Evil, Choice of,” p. 705; and Msgr. Pietro Palazzini, s.v. “Tolerance,” pp. 1236-1238, all in Francesco Card. Roberti and Msgr. Pietro Palazzini, Dictionary of Moral Theology (Westminster, Md.: The Newman Press, 1962); Antonio Lanza and Pietro Palazzini, Principios de Teologia Moral (Madrid: Ediciones Rialp, S.A., 1958), vol. I, pp. 152-153.
  13. Moralists characterize the use of contraceptives, particularly the condom, as a form of onanism. Therefore, they present such use as a most grievous sin against nature. The use of contraceptives (a) contradicts the primary ends of marriage and conjugal love, (b) goes against the common good of society, causing most grave consequences, (c) is qualified as a “detestable thing” in Scripture, having been punished in a most exemplar way by God (cf. Gen. 38:9-10), and (d) has been continuously condemned by the Magisterium of the Church, which qualifies it as “intrinsically evil” (cf. Casti Conubii, Nos. 54-55). Cf. Aertnys-Damen, C.SS.R, Theologia Moralis Secundum Doctrinam S. Alfonsi de Ligorio doct. Ecclesiae (Turin, Italy: Marietti, 1950), vol. II, p. 655; Fr. Antonio M. Arregui, S.J., Summarium Theologiae Moralis (Bilbao: El Mensajero del Corazón de Jesús, 1925), p. 534; E.F. Regatillo and M. Zalba, S.J., Theologiae Moralis Summa (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1954), vol. III, p. 853; H. Noldin, S.J., and A. Schmitt, S.J., Summa Theologiae Moralis – De Sexto Praecepto et de Usu Matrimonii (Barcelona: Herder, 1945) pp. 74-83.
  14. Cf. Mark 12:29-31.
  15. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2069.
  16. S. Alphonsi de Ligorio, Theologia Moralis (Malines: P.J. Hanico, Typographus, 1852), vol. III, p. 119, no. 591. (Our translation and emphasis.)
  17. John Paul II, “Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio,” in The Pope Speaks, vol. 27, No. 1, p. 28; cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Humanae Vitae, No. 4.
  18. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 93, a. 3.
  19. Ibid., a. 1.
  20. Besides procreation, the conjugal act has the purposes of increasing love between the spouses and subduing concupiscence. These two purposes have an authentic value, and nature justifies them. Either suffices to justify the conjugal act, provided the latter’s procreative purpose is not violated.
  21. The contraceptive pill can also have a medical, curative effect, e.g. to regulate a woman’s cycle. Therefore, it can be prescribed as medicine to correct a health problem. In such circumstances and when there is no intention of preventing children, the contraceptive pill can be used. This corresponds to a proper application of the principle of double effect. Cf. Humanae Vitae, no. 15; Pius XII, “To the VII Congress of International Society of Hematology,” Sept. 12, 1958, in Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di Sua Santità Pio XII, (Typographia Poliglota Vaticana, 1959), p. 346. The same does not apply to the condom. It is only truly prophylactic in the measure that it blocks the normal fecundity of the sexual act. Consequently, it is impossible to separate the intended good (prophylactic protection) from the unintended bad effect (contraception).
  22. For example Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa. In 2001, he argued that to prevent AIDS a married couple could use a condom during the wife’s naturally infertile period: “This is one possibility during which the condom could be used in a morally responsible situation.” Teresa Malcolm, “African bishops reject condoms to counter AIDS.”
  23. Bishop Glennon P. Flavin, In Obedience to Christ: A Pastoral Letter to Catholic Couples and Physicians on the Issue of Contraception, at
  24. In his study on the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, Fr. M.R. Gagnebet, O.P., summarizes the continuity of the supreme Magisterium of the Church on this matter: “Obviously the Pope intended to resolve a controversy which questions the time-honoured teaching of theologians approved by the Magisterium. On the same topic, Pius XII specifically stated, in the Encyclical Humani Generis (D. Sch. 3885), ‘this question is no longer open to the free discussion of theologians.’ Furthermore, Paul VI is not innovating in this matter. Without wishing to go further back into history, from the time of Pius VI the teaching of the Holy See has never varied in this matter. In a particularly solemn manner, Pius XI propounded it in the Encyclical Casti Connubii; Pius XII, as well as John XXIII, taught it consistently. The council [Vatican II] did not touch this question set aside for the Sovereign Pontiff, but affirmed its underlying principle: ‘…sons of the Church may not undertake methods of regulating procreation which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law’ (Gaudium et Spes, No. 51). Finally, the document in which the Pope expounds his teaching is an Encyclical; it is an authentic interpretation of the natural law which declares the use of marriage which is conformable to the law and that which is not.” “The Authority of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae,” at
  25. Cf. Fr. John Hardon, S.J., “Contraception: Fatal to the Faith,” at
  26. Cf. Fr. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., review of Humanae Vitae e Infallibilità: il Concilio, Paolo VI e Giovanni Paolo II, by Ermenegildo Lio, O.F.M. (Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, l986), at; Fr. Joseph H. Ryder, S.J., “Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae Vitae as an Infallible Definition of Doctrine,” Social Justice Review, at
  27. Pius XI, “Encyclical Casti Connubii,” The Papal Encyclicals 1903-1939, Claudia Carlen, I.H.M., ed. (Raleigh, N.C.: McGrath Publishing Co., 1981), pp. 399-400, nos. 54 and 56.
  28. Pope Pius XII, “Allocution to Midwives,” The Major Addresses of Pope Pius XII, Vincent Yzermans, ed. (St. Paul: North Central Publishing Co., 1961) pp. 167, 170.
  29. Pope Paul VI, “Encyclical Humanae Vitae,” The Papal Encyclicals 1958-1981, Carlen, ed., p. 226, no. 11.
  30. Ibid., p. 227, no. 14. (Emphasis added.) This teaching is reaffirmed by John Paul II in the Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, no. 80.
  31. Humanae Vitae, p. 227, no. 14, fn. 16. See Council of Trent Roman Catechism, Part II, ch. 8; Pius XI, Encyclical Casti Connubii: AAS 22 (1930), 559-561; Pius XII, “Address to Midwives:” AAS 43 (1951), 843; to the Society of Hematology: AAS 50 (1958), 734-735 [TPS VI, 394-395]; John XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 447 [TPS VII, 331].
  32. Humanae Vitae, p. 227, no. 16.
  33. Veritatis Splendor, no. 81, at
  34. John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, no. 13, at
  35. Pontifical Council for the Family, Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life, Feb. 12, 1997, no. 4, at
  36. Associated Press, “Pope Advocates Education to Prevent AIDS,” (Our emphasis.)
  37. Message of His Holiness John Paul II for the 13th World Day of the Sick, nos. 3-4, at (Our emphasis.)
  38. Homosexuality and Hope at
  39. “HIV and AIDS: Are you at risk?” at
  40. Patricia Thickstun and Kate Hendricks, eds., Evidence that Demands Action: Comparing Risk Avoidance and Risk Reduction Strategies for HIV Prevention (Austin, Tex.: The Medical Institute for Sexual Health, 2004).
  41. Norman Hearst and Sanny Chen, “Condom Promotion for AIDS Prevention in the Developing World: Is it Working?” in Thickstun and Hendricks, eds. Evidence that Demands Action, p. 37. (Emphasis in the original.)
  42. Edward C. Green, “Moving Toward Evidence-Based AIDS Prevention,” in Thickstun and Hendricks, eds., Evidence that Demands Action, p. 11.
  43. Ibid., pp. 11-12, fn. 5: Workshop Summary: Scientific Evidence on Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Prevention. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services. July 20, 2001. Available at; and fn. 9: Weller S, Davis K. Condom Effectiveness in reducing heterosexual HIV transmission. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003; 1: CD03255.
  44. Ibid., p. 18.
  45. Ibid. In his testimony before the African subcommittee in the U.S. Senate on May 19, 2003, Dr. Green observed: “We know that prevalence decline and changes in sexual behavior were most pronounced in youth age 15-19. These findings took many of us by surprise, since we believed that teenagers are driven by ‘raging hormones,’ therefore abstinence is an unrealistic or impossible objective.” At
    GreenTestimony030519.pdf+Edward+C.+Green+PhD+Testimony+U.S.+Senate&hl=en. (Our emphasis.)
  46. Ibid.
  47. Darren Schuettler, “Abstinence, condom controversy erupts at AIDS meet,” Reuters, July 12, 2004, at

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