MANILA, Philippines - Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral calls "realistic" Pope Benedict XVI's statement, which justifies condom use in certain cases.
"I'm glad that the Pope turned around and agreed with me, finally," Cabral said on ANC's "Headstart" on Tuesday.
In the book "Light of the World," in answer to German Catholic journalist Peter Seewald's question on the church's statement the condom would not be helpful in preventing AIDS, the Pope was quoted as saying:
"There may be basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps, when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way to recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do what one wants."
"She (the church) of course does not regard use of condoms as a real or moral solution but, in this case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more human way of living sexuality," the Pope said.
The 219-page book, made up of Benedict's responses to Seewald's questions over a month of meetings at the papal summer residence is set to be published on Tuesday.
No room for misinterpretation
Cabral said the Pope leaves no room for misinterpretation in saying that condoms help prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases (STD), a position that runs contrary to the previous stand of the Catholic Church.
"It was a comment on reproductive health, because prevention of STD is part of reproductive health. He accepts that prostitutes are high-risk population acquiring sexually-transmitted infections, and in those cases, it is the duty of that person to protect himself, others, his clients from getting STD ,and the way to do this would be by the correct and consistent use of condoms," she said.
"The Pope was very clear in his statement that, in certain instances, condoms can be used, in particular, reference to prevention on sexually-transmitted infections. He never said anything about condoms being used for purposes of contraception," Cabral said.
A good start
Cabral believes the Pontiff's remark, which acknowledges the reality of prostitution and its risks, is a step in the right direction.
"It's a good start that the Pope said we can use condoms to prevent infection, and I hope that in the near future, he's also going to change his mind about the use of artificial means of contraception for family planning," she said.
"The Pope is more convinced that it is better to use condoms than to infect people with sexually-transmittable infections, and second, that condoms are effective in doing this because some people in the church hierarchy and their followers were saying, don't use condoms because they are not effective anyway for preventing HIV-AIDS."
Under the Arroyo administration, Cabral had taken the flak for distributing condoms as a preventive measure for STDs and for promoting artificial family-planning methods.
"At the moment, that (condom) is the only way to prevent STDs, including HIV, outside of abstinence," she said.
"That is one of the components of the preventive program we have for HIV-AIDS, and I felt we needed to do. We advise people that abstinence and being faithful are better than using condoms, but if they cannot abstain or be faithful, they have to use condoms to protect themselves and their loved ones or their other sexual partner."
Cabral said Catholics who subscribe to condom-use will also welcome the Pope's statement.
"I know many Catholics who listen to the Pope and to the church hierarchy who will feel better, more at ease following their conscience because the Pope supports them now."
While the Pope's statement may suggest a Church that's seemingly open to modern options to help avert sexually-transmitted diseases, today, it may also add a new dimension to the raging debate on the reproductive health bill, a debate where the sticky issue of contraception remains only pregnant with possibilities.