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Pope’s condom comments garner Alle-Kiski Valley support

While Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks about condoms have stirred international confusion, some local Catholics say they support the pope’s words.

This weekend marked the first Sunday Mass since the pope was quoted as saying condoms are the lesser of two evils when used to curb the spread of AIDS, even if their use prevents a pregnancy.

“Even an old institution such as the Church can modify its opinions and beliefs about everyday life,” Terry Hartford of Allegheny Township said yesterday as light streamed through the stained glass windows at St. Margaret Mary Church in Lower Burrell. He has attended the church for more than 50 years.

The Vatican maintains that condom use is immoral and that church doctrine forbidding artificial birth control remains unchanged.

The pope was quoted in the book “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times” as saying that condom use by people such as male prostitutes was a lesser evil because it showed they were moving toward a more moral and responsible sexuality by protecting their partner from a deadly infection. His comments implied that he was referring primarily to homosexual sex, when condoms aren’t being used as a form of contraception.

But one translation of his words used the feminine for prostitute and another used the masculine.

A Vatican spokesman said it didn’t really matter who the comments were intended for; the important thing, he said, was that a person took into consideration the life of another.

Joseph Krzeminski of Harrison, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, said he agrees with what the pope said about preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

Chris Valchar of Harrison also agreed.

“If it can prevent disease, I guess it’s good,” Valchar said. “He’s the boss.”

Larry Barkowski, a lifelong Catholic from Harrison, doesn’t believe the comments constitute anything new.

“The popes have always promulgated responsible parenthood and responsible sexuality, and this is just a continuation of that. This is really nothing new other than the fact that he addressed the actual use of the condom, which has been something of a taboo,” Barkowski said.

Many church officials worldwide have been silent. The U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops has not issued a statement and referred questions to the Vatican.

Monsignor James Gaston of St. Margaret Mary Church said he’d have to do his homework on the subject before commenting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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