The Italian Almanac

Cardinal Martini

Italian News - April 22

In spite of the Catholic Church's opposition to the use of condoms, they may sometimes offer an acceptable way of fighting AIDS, according to a highly respected Italian cardinal. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former archbishop of Milan, said that in specific circumstances condoms could be seen as a "lesser evil" because they could help stop transmission of the HIV virus.

The Vatican has long been criticised for its continued opposition to the use of condoms, even in areas of the world such as Africa, where about 3 million people are infected with AIDS every year. The Roman Catholic Church opposes artificial contraception, including condoms, which it says promote promiscuity. But Cardinal Martini, who is an influential figure in the Catholic hierarchy, said that in a marriage where one partner was infected, protecting the other was a duty.

Martini, 79, is considered an intellectual heavyweight and a leading voice for the Church's progressive wing. He moved to Jerusalem after leaving Milan in 2002 and slipped out of the public eye. But he still gathered a number of votes in the early stages of the conclave which elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Vatican analysts pointed out that the Catholic Church has yet to develop a definitive line on certain questions because the speed of scientific progress has left "grey areas" in doctrine. On most of the issues he discussed, Cardinal Martini expressed a completely orthodox line, rejecting for example scientific research on embryo stem cells and euthanasia.

There was no immediate reaction to Martini's statements from the Vatican.