Pope to rule on condoms

The Pontifical Council for Health Care has submitted its 200-page report on pastoral aspects of the treatment of infectious diseases to Pope Benedict who is now expected to rule as to whether the use of condoms to prevent AIDS is permissible for Catholics.

"In keeping with the Holy Father's wish, we have carried out a careful study on the use of condoms, both from the scientific as well as the moral point of view, and we have submitted it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan told a press conference, Deutsche Presse Agentur reports.

"Let's hope that the Holy Father says what is most convenient on this subject," Cardinal Barragan added.

Vatican experts say the study entitled Pastoral Aspects of the Treatment of Infectious Diseases is seen as a potential opening towards the use of condoms as protection against AIDS.

Luigi Accattoli, a Vatican expert for Corriere della Sera, says the church could decide to allow the use of prophylactics by married couples when one partner is HIV-positive, and in areas affected by the pandemic.

A number of cardinals have suggested that condoms may represent "the lesser evil" in such extreme cases.

"In some situations, the use of a condom may constitute the lesser evil," Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini told the Italian weekly L'Espresso last April.

"Then there's the particular situation in which one of a married couple is infected with AIDS. That person has an obligation to protect the other partner, who also has the right to self-protection."

Deutsche Presse Agentur says that Benedict is believed to be extremely concerned about the spread of AIDS, which is estimated to kill 8,000 people a day around the world.

The UN released its annual report on the spread of the disease on Tuesday. It said AIDS is spreading with worrisome signs of resurgence in some countries that were trumpeted as successes in combating it. But the prevalence of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, among young people has declined in eight African countries, showing that prevention efforts can work.

US Jesuit university announces new natural family planning methods

Meanwhile, PressZoom reports that a paper in the November issue of the Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health, researchers from Georgetown University's Institute for Reproductive Health says that new highly effective, easy-to-use natural family planning methods are a good fit for the holistic healthcare approach practised by nurse-midwives.

The two new natural family planning methods are the Standard Days Method and the Two Day Method, which are 95% and 98% effective respectively - both more reliable than the diaphragm or condom, researchers claim.

The Standard Days Method is a simple, natural option that uses a visual tool called CycleBeads. These colour-coded beads help a woman keep track of her cycle, know on which days she can get pregnant, and monitor the length of her menstrual cycle.

The other method - the Two Day Method - relies on the presence or absence of cervical secretions but does not require the analysis and charting of older natural methods.

The paper backs the new methods as part of a "nurse-midwifery" model known for its holistic approach to the care of women, especially during labour and birth.

Offering natural family planning methods, also known as fertility awareness-based methods, to their clients fits well with the philosophy of nurse-midwives and the needs of the women they serve according to Victoria Jennings, a senior author of the paper.

"These new methods are effective as well as easy to teach, learn and use. They fit well into busy midwifery practices and are truly a viable family planning option," said Dr Jennings, an anthropologist who studies reproductive health behaviour.

Pope considers allowing use of condoms (Sydney Morning Herald)

Pope May Review Catholic Church Ban on Contraception (Update1) (Bloomberg, 22/11/06)

New natural family planning options are a natural fit for nurse-midwives (Press Zoom, 21/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Pontifical Council for Health Care
Institute for Reproductive Health
Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan (Catholic-Hierarchy)
XXI International Conference, The Pastoral Aspects of the Treatment of Infectious Diseases, 23 - 25 November 2006

Jesuit says Vatican condom concession would be nothing new (CathNews, 4/5/06)
Vatican set to OK condoms for disease prevention (CathNews, 26/4/06)
PNG bishops argue condoms OK for some (CathNews, 30/3/06)
Archbishop OKs condoms for HIV couples (CathNews, 14/4/05)
Papal theologian weighs condom use against AIDS (CathNews, 2/2/05)
Ugandan president calls church to back condom use (CathNews, 16/1/05)

23 Nov 2006