The Catholic Church is on the brink of a historic change of approach over condoms which could bring hope to millions in Africa and other parts of the developing world devastated by Aids.
"We are conducting a very profound scientific, technical and moral study," said the head of the Vatican Council for Health Pastoral Care. The church is expected to give a guarded, provisional blessing to the use of condoms by married couples when one of them suffers from Aids, as a way of protecting the health of the other partner. It is only a technical concession, based on two ancient principles, but, against the background of the stolid refusal by church authorities to countenance even the slightest deviation for more than a generation, it amounts to a revolution.
Pope Benedict XVI, who has just completed one year in office, is an unlikely reformer. For decades he was known as his predecessor's hardline "enforcer of the faith". But some Vatican insiders believe the main obstacle to change was John Paul II. Now many believe that Benedict, as a doctrinal purist, is well placed to bring the church's approach fractionally closer to the practice of believers. And to give some very belated support to Catholic healthcare workers in regions where Aids is rampant.
Let’s be honest here. Benedict will never allow this to happen. Most likely, people got whiff of this and are conducting a media campaign to try and sway the mind of the Catholic leader. I… don’t really see anything swaying Benedict to relax on the rigid rules and interpretations of the Church, even if many lives are at stake.
If I was in Africa dealing with this situation, I would give up on the Catholic faith. Any religion that isn’t worried about the lives of people, first and foremost, is not a religion that I should be a member of. Sometimes human life is more important than anything, even your religious beliefs.