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Letters and Op-Eds - 2010

Washington Post

The Vatican's first step toward the realities of sexuality

Jon O'Brien

26 November 2010

To the Editor:

Michael Gerson's Nov. 23 column, "A dose of realism at the Vatican," was spot-on. The pope's admission that condom use to prevent the transmission of HIV is "a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human sexuality" is the Catholic hierarchy's own first step in addressing the realities of sex and sexuality.

However, it is worth remembering that many Catholic clerics, including Italian Cardinal Carlo Martini and Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, have been well ahead of the pope on the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. Bishop Dowling's flock includes those living in shantytowns in South Africa, where the rates of those with HIV or AIDS are among the highest in the world. The pope has never censured him, and he has now adopted what Bishop Dowling and other experts on HIV and AIDS have been saying on condoms.

While this is a game-changing statement, we acknowledge that there is still a long way to go before the Vatican's teachings on condoms meet the needs of Catholics around the world - for contraception as well as for HIV and AIDS prevention.

Jon O’Brien
President, Catholics for Choice

This letter originally appeared in the Washington Post.