In a move indicating a possible significant policy change, the Vatican is reviewing its stance on condom usage in hopes of stopping the spread of AIDS between married couples.
According to Bill Ryan, spokesman for the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Vatican is considering allowing the use of condoms, but only between married couples and in the interest of stopping the spread of AIDS.
Currently, the Vatican is opposed to all forms of artificial contraception.
"The official church policy is against contraceptives because they close the possibility of conception between a married couple," Ryan said.
The issue amounts to the Catholic church hierarchy choosing between the lesser of what it considers to be two evils, according to William Thorn, associate professor of journalism and former employee at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications at the Vatican.
"I suspect they will change their (current) policy to a more moderate one," Thorn said.
The pressure to review the policy most likely came from clergy dealing with married couples, he said.
"This pressure is coming out of the reality of married couples with AIDS," Thorn said. "These married couples want to know what to do and the clergy do not know what to tell them."
This type of debate is not new, Thorn said, adding that about six to eight years ago the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops examined the issue of homosexuals using condoms to stop the contraction of AIDS.
"The Executive Committee of U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops debated the use of condoms with homosexuals," Thorn said. "They were reminded by (retired Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland) that contraception did not apply to homosexuals because their is no transfer of life."
Weakland was archbishop of Milwaukee from 1977 to 2002.
The Vatican's Council for the Family under Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo of Colombia would be the one gathering information and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which had been lead by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI, would be the one to review the information.
Ryan added that occasionally there has been discussion about whether the policy should be reviewed, but he could not remember any specific previous debates.
Kathleen Hohl, communications director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, declined to comment on the issue, saying the Archdiocese will wait until the Vatican releases a document to respond.