Pope Benedict XVI says that condom use is acceptable "in certain cases," notably to reduce the risk of HIV infection, in a book due out Tuesday, apparently softening his once hardline stance.... To illustrate his apparent shift in position, Benedict offered the example of a male prostitute using a condom.
"There may be justified individual cases, for example when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be ... a first bit of responsibility, to re-develop the understanding that not everything is permitted and that one may not do everything one wishes," Benedict was quoted as saying.
So... condoms are okay when they're being used to protect men who see male prostitutes. They're not okay when they're being used to protect a woman—a woman who might already have more kids than she can possibly feed—from an unwanted pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection. That's when condoms are not okay. But condoms are totally cool if men are using them to protect themselves from any diseases that a gay hooker might have. I think we understand each other, Benedict. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, pray no more, pray no more.
The new thing here is that the Church has stumbled backward into acknowledging that gay men exist, that within our lives as gay men, there are constant gradations of moral choices; and so Catholic teaching must apply to us in the gray areas of moral and sexual choices and nuances. Until now, no such guidance was really provided except general prohibition: y'all be celibate, and if you're miserable and alone, so was Jesus on the cross. Now, by conceding one small gradation of moral life, that between a rubbered prostitute and a bareback prostitute, the Pope has moved from his arid abstractions to real morality that might be able to guide real people.
Of course, in a magnificently perverse way, this teaching privileges homosexuals. It's okay for a gay prostitute to wear a condom because he was never going to procreate anyway. But for a poor straight couple in Africa, where the husband is HIV-positive and the wife HIV-negative, nothing must come in the way of being open to procreation ... even if that means the infection of someone you love with a terminal disease.
It's then you realize that the Vatican's problem is not just homophobia. It's heterophobia as well.