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Elizabeth wrote:

Hi, guys —

I know that the Holy Father, when he speaks as the Vicar of Christ, is infallible.

  • When he is quoted in an interview, which is now in a book, "The Light of the World", for example, is he still infallible?

I would find this very hard to believe, because, even though condoms would not be used to prevent conception, when used between two males, they are very dangerous, because AIDS is very easily spread even when condoms are used.  As far as spreading disease, it appears he is mistaken.

  • He does not have to be infallible from a medical standpoint, does he?

If you have anything to add, please let me know, because I have boycotted stores, including gas stations, where condoms were sold.

Thank you for your help.

May God bless you and yours always,

In Jesus through Mary, with Joseph,

+ A.M.D.G.

  { Is the Holy Father mistaken on this condom issue? I'm confused! }

John replied:


To answer your question, in this instance ,the Holy Father is speculating. If you read the entire context of his statement he is pretty much throwing out proposals for discussion. Remember, infallibility is not inspiration. The Holy Father goes through a process, including researching Church teaching before he pronounces a decree as binding on a matter of faith and morals.
No matter what he said in this context, it is a theological speculation or opinion and not an infallible statement.

That said, the media has been incorrectly reporting what the Pope said. We have a posting up already that addresses this.

Here is the deal.

For the record this is what the Holy Father said in context. I've highlighted the controversial area in blue:

From Chapter 11, "The Journeys of a Shepherd," pages 117-119:

The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on AIDs. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many AIDs victims, especially children with AIDs.

I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man's being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

  • Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

I believe this is a translation from Italian which came from German.

Let me decipher what he's saying for you. The Pope is saying that if a homosexual prostitute uses a condom in order to prevent aids, this could be a sign that his conscience may be awakening. That is he is beginning to realize that he can't submit to unbridled lust without responsibility.

This is a first step in the recovery of a conscience which seeks to do the will of God, or recovery of a conscience which seeks to follow the natural law. Notice he said first step.

No where does the Pope say that condom use is ever acceptable in some circumstances.

For a more detailed explanation read this blog.


Mike replied:

Hi, Elizabeth —

You said:

  • When he is quoted in an interview, which is now in a book, "The Light of the World", for example, is he still infallible?
  • He does not have to be infallible from a medical standpoint, does he?

To briefly answer both your questions:

  • No, he is not infallible when he writes a book or gives an interview.
  • From a medical standpoint, he is as infallible, as I am in predicting when the Boston Red Sox will win their next World Series. : )

We have elaborated on your initial questions in our January 2011 posting. I also found two other related postings.

Hope this helps,


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