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Cardinal says condoms ‘lesser evil’

He notes condoning use not same as promoting use of them



VATICAN CITY – Despite the Vatican’s opposition to condoms, a senior cardinal said in comments published yesterday that condoms were the “lesser evil” when considering the scourge of AIDS.

“We must do everything to fight AIDS,” said Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the retired archbishop of Milan, in Italy’s L’Espresso newsweekly. “Certainly, the use of condoms can constitute in certain situations a lesser evil.”

While there is no specific, authoritative Vatican policy on using condoms to protect against AIDS, the Vatican opposes condoms because they are a form of artificial contraception. Pope Benedict XVI repeated the Vatican’s position last June, when he told African bishops abstinence was the only “fail-safe” way to prevent the spread of HIV.

The 79-year-old Martini was considered a liberal alternative to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 conclave that elected Ratzinger, now Benedict, pope. Martini is one of the most prominent church leaders who have spoken publicly about condoms being a “lesser evil” in the fight against AIDS.

Others include Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels and Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, who has said condoms could sometimes be condoned, such as when a woman cannot refuse the sexual advances of her HIV-positive husband.

Martini was responding to questions from the Italian scientist and bioethicist Ignazio Marino, who heads the transplant center at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

Martini agreed with the questioner that condoms were a “lesser evil” than the risk of transmitting the disease.

However, Martini noted that it’s one thing to condone the lesser evil, and quite another for the church to promote condom use.

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