I am often mindful of the fact that the Magna Carta was intended to, at most, be a sop on the part of a harried Angevin king to a small group of powerful barons interested solely in their own grievances. It wasn’t intended to lead to greater overall freedom for all English subjects.
With that in mind, I think that the effect of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent decision that condom usage isn’t all bad all the time, especially for gay male prostitutes, may be not what he intends it to be — or maybe it is.
On the one hand, if he seriously thinks he’s going to score points with the medical community, particularly those involved in fighting HIV, for this apparent humanitarian gesture, he’s sadly mistaken. Worse yet, he’s going to inflame the hardcore reactionaries, as they will see this as the first step towards accepting condom use in general.
On the other hand, consider Africa. It’s the last semi-open frontier, as far as the major organized religions are concerned — the last one where a non-trivial number of the indigenous people aren’t already subscribed to one of the big faiths. (It’s one reason why the Mormons, whose faith was built to a large degree on anti-black racism, have opened the door to blacks in the priesthood.) There’s a big problem, though: The spread of HIV, particularly via heterosexual contacts with hookers, threatens to eliminate these potential converts before they can be converted.
What to do? How about preparing the ground for a tacit, if not official, acceptance of condom use among heterosexual couples by allowing it for homosexual contacts? That’s exactly what I’m guessing will result from this announcement of Pope Benedict’s.