Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a very prominent Catholic Cardinal and retired archbishop of Milan, commented Friday that condoms were the “lesser evil” combating the spread of AIDS. He believes the Roman Catholic Church should soften their ideas on using condoms.

“We must do everything to fight AIDS,” said Cardinal Martini, in Italy’s L’Espresso newsweekly. “Certainly, the use of condoms can constitute in certain situations a lesser evil.”

The remarks from Cardinal Martini conflict with traditional Roman Catholic teaching which ban the use of condoms because they are a form of contraception.

“There is the particular situation of married couples in which one of the spouses is affected by AIDS. This person has an obligation to protect the other partner and the other partner also has to protect themselves,” said the 79-year-old Martini.

Other Cardinals considered to be progressive by Catholic standards, include Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels and Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico. Barragan has voiced that there should be exception in certain cases, such as when a woman cannot refuse the sexual advances of her HIV-positive husband.

Cardinal Martini also raises the possibility of single mothers adopting abandoned children and voiced his thoughts on the ethics surrounding assisted fertility. He said that in-vitro seems allowable because in the zygote stage – which occurs around 18 to 24 hours after fertilization – “there are still no signs of singularly definable human life.”

“Where there is a conflict of values, it would seem to me ethically more significant to be inclined toward those solutions that allow a life to grow than to allow it to die,” Martini said. “But I understand that not everyone shares this opinion.”

Martini repeated church teachings that are opposed to research on embryonic stem cells and also reiterated church opposition to abortion and euthanasia. However, he acknowledged that in abortion, there were certain cases when the life of the mother was at risk where abortion might also be considered a “lesser evil.”

“In such cases, it seems that moral theology has always supported the principle of the legitimate defense and the lesser evil, even if it concerns a reality that shows the dramatic and fragility of the human condition,” he said.

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini’s comments are seen by Vatican experts as being frighteningly liberal. The church condemns all forms of experimentation on human embryos and teaches that in-vitro fertilization is morally wrong.

Last June, Pope Benedict XVI informed African bishops that abstinence was the only “fail-safe” way to prevent the spread of AIDS.

To date, the Vatican does not have a definite, recognized policy on using condoms to protect against AIDS.

By Jennifer Medvin

© Jennifer Medvin, All Rights Reserved

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