The Vatican's new insights on condoms for H.I.V. prevention
Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau of the Pontifical Council for the Family recently published “Prophylactics or Family Values? Stopping the Spread of HIV/AIDS” in the weekly edition of L’Osservatore Romano (4/19). Here we find important signals of what many have suspected all along: that while individual bishops and archbishops have occasionally repudiated local H.I.V. prevention programs that include the distribution of prophylactics (more commonly referred to as condoms), the Roman curia is more tolerant on the matter.
Monsignor Suaudeau reports that the Catholic Church has been accused of “lacking a sense of reality and of being irresponsible about the H.I.V.-AIDS epidemic in Africa because of its position regarding the use of prophylactics to prevent sexual contamination.” In response, Suaudeau introduces a distinction between prevention (attacking a problem at its roots) and containment (interventions to lessen the impact of a problem). Against malaria, for instance, containment efforts have been of limited success because truly preventive efforts (such as eliminating all mosquito larvae) are so difficult. In contrast, in the case of typhoid fever, prevention was achieved because public health officials aimed to correct the mistaken attitude that care did not need to be taken about sources of drinking water.
With that distinction in mind, Suaudeau advances his thesis regarding prevention: “Family values guarantee true human victory. Wherever there is true education in the values of the family, of fidelity, of marital chastity, the true meaning of the mutual gift of self...man will achieve a human victory, even over this terrible phenomenon.” He adds: “If people really want to prevent AIDS, they must be convinced to change their sexual behavior, which is the principal cause of the infection’s spread. Until a real effort is made in this regard, no true prevention will be achieved. The prophylactic is one...