The Pope has approved using condoms even if they mean avoiding a possible pregnancy, providing they stop the transmission of HIV to a partner.
The Vatican on Tuesday said the was condom a lesser evil in such a case, signalling a seismic shift in papal teaching as it further explained the pope’s comments.
The Holy See has long been criticised for its patent opposition to condom use, particularly in Africa where Aids is rampant.
But the latest interpretation of the Pope’s comments about condoms and HIV essentially means the Roman Catholic Church is acknowledging that its long-held, anti-birth control stance against condoms does not justify putting someone’s life at risk.
“This is a game-changer,” said the Reverend Jim Martin, a Jesuit editor and writer.
The Pope said in a book that condom use by people such as male prostitutes was a lesser evil since it indicated they were moving toward a more moral and responsible sexuality by aiming to protect their partner from a deadly infection.
His comments implied that he was referring primarily to homosexual sex, when condoms are not being used as a form of contraception.
Questions arose immediately about the his intent because the Italian translation of the book used the feminine for prostitute, whereas the original German used the masculine.
Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, said that he asked the Pope whether he intended his comments to only apply to male prostitutes. He replied that it really did not matter, that the important thing was the person in question took into consideration the life of the other.