Married couples and condoms

I’m wondering about what Rome would say in this hypothetical situation. A couple is married within the church, but for one reason or another one of the partners has an STD (medical mishap, past drug use/infidelity, received from their mother in birth, whatever.) Would it still be a sin to use condoms, even if the intent was to prevent the spread of disease rather than contraception?

you’ll find Rome is rather unbending on issues such as this- in all likelihood, you’re going to see a lot of “deal with it through XXXX method, but condoms are a ticket to hell.” XXXX will probably be abstinence in this case.

There are two types of “uncurable” STDs.

Those that are annoying - herpes for example

Those that are death - HIV/AIDs

Going to assume you mean a deadly disease.

I had the flu last week. I would not hug my child or sleep in the same room as my husband because I love them and did not want them to get the flu.

If I had something deadly, the last thing I would do is trust my husband’s life to a bit of rubber - even if it WERE moral to use a condom.

If you run a chance of killing your spouse via sex then a loving spouse would not have sex. Marriage is so much more than sex.

My wife and I were just discussing this hypothetical situation after Church this morning. I disagree with above post about leaving a life to a bit of rubber–studies involving tens of thousands of couples where one partner has HIV and the other does not show condoms, when properly used, are 100% effective at preventing transmission. While I think condoms are sinful, I also think we ought not to misstate the evidence out there. Saying condoms don’t work when they clearly do has caused many people to leave the Church.

However, her general gist is spot-on. Condom use is a mortal sin. That much is clear, if you follow the Church. Mortal sins are far worse for our immortal souls than even the worst infections, or really, death. We may shy away from the idea, but as Francis de Sales said, we should rather die than commit a mortal sin. Or, if you don’t want to become infected with a terrible disease, just don’t have sex. Either way is a far better than to commit a mortal sin.

This is really the only way to CURE the epidemic of sexual immorality pervading our world. Sex MUST become only within marriage and with no barriers. To ignore this is the very way that someone catches HIV or other STIs (sexually transmitted infections) in the first place. And for those who get HIV from blood transfusions or the (very rare) needle stick? It is a cross for them to bear, to not get to have sex, just as it is for a homosexual. This is the only way of looking at this issue which is consistent with the Church’s clear and infallible teachings on the subject.

I agree with kage-ar. If I were HIV positive, I would not trust my DH’s life to a condom.

The success rate of preventing pregnancy with a condom is about 85-90 percent, all while the woman is only fertile for a few days a month. The HIV virus is significantly smaller than a sperm cell. I don’t think it is worth the risk.

On the HLI website is an excellent study on the true effectiveness of condoms.

We’re on the same side, so I don’t really want to argue this, but as I noted above, we do much harm by perpetuating false information,

The success rate of condom use at preventing HIV, when the users have been educated and use them correctly, is 100%, even when used in anal sex, which transmits HIV much, much more efficiently than vaginal sex. This has been shown in a number of studies, including one involving gay and straight serodiscordant partners (where one is positive, and another is not). After over a decade of using condoms for sex, and tens of thousands of instances of sexual intercourse, not a single new person had became HIV+. There are hundreds of thousands of serodiscordant gay couples who consistently use condoms for sex, and do not spread the infection.

Anyone discussing the “size” of the HIV virus is clearly missing the point. When a virus is transmitted, it is transmitted as part of a cell–such as mucus, semen or blood cells. The “size” of the transmitting agent is the same in pregnancy as it is in HIV transmission.

Really, though, this is an extremely misguided discussion. If condoms are wrong because they involve risks, then a better condom is less morally problematic (although, in reality, condoms have reached 100% effectiveness). CONDOMS ARE NOT WRONG BECAUSE THEY FAIL. They are wrong because a barrier between a man and a woman denies the unity of husband and wife, and is a mortal sin. Any other discussion is misguided at best and very harmful at worst. I know several people who have abandoned the Catholic teaching on sexual morality BECAUSE this exact kind of misinformation. Please, please, please stop perpetuating it.

I was referring to this study. Please read.

The answer to your question is “no.” A couple in this situation could not use a condom.

I have read those and a number of other studies. Notice that I said, when used properly, the only cause of condom failure is improper use. Citing studies that show that condoms fail, when very few people know how to use condoms properly, is not a good argument. In fact, given the state of our society’s knowledge about how to actually use a condom, its remarkably they fail so rarely.

FURTHER, these studies can easily overestimate the failure of condom use, because they are all self-reported. People, especially when a pregnancy or STI results, can be too embarrassed to admit they didn’t use a condom. In the studies I cited involving tens of thousands of instances of intercourse, there is no chance that anyone affected the results by lying, because the researchers actually tested each person, and every person who came in HIV negative was still negative. The only way the subjects could have affected the study by lying is by saying that they had sex for a decade, when in fact they abstained completely. Not likely. (I haven’t researched this in several years, and I can’t immediately find the studies I’m referring to, but it and others with similar results are often discussed in the HIV+ community).

Two further points develop here. First, even if condoms fail, as they have been shown to, proponents of condom use can always (and rightly) claim this was due to misuse–partly due to abstinence-only education which the Catholic Church advocates. (Again, I am NOT going against the Church here, I’m just trying to debunk the myth of condom use).

Second, even if condom use was imperfect, then a better condom down the road–say, one that cannot break even with misuse–will defeat your point. What if I invent a condom that never fails? Does that make them ok? No! So we should not base ANY of our arguments on the idea that condoms fail. If we teach kids to avoid condoms because they fail, then when the world develops the perfect condom, what are we left to argue?

People whose lives depend on the effectiveness of condoms, namely the millions of serodiscordant couples out there, strongly trust them. Their very lives are testaments that condoms WORK when properly used. Not only is it ignorant for us to claim otherwise, but it severely detracts from our credibility to talk about anything at all, because we so blatantly ignore the truth.

I’m not sure whether we should teach how to use a condom–probably not. But we shouldn’t waste any time, effort or credibility teaching kids that condoms don’t work, when we should be spending all of our time teaching them what a terrible sin condoms are.

Here is one of the studies I was referring to:
Romero J et al. Evaluating the risk of HIV transmission through unprotected orogential sex. AIDS 16:9:1269-97, 2002

The study was mainly about transmission through oral sex, but to eliminate variables, the researches instructed the participants to always use condoms for intercourse. Over 10 years, with 135 different couples, and tens of thousands of instances of different kinds of sex, not one new infection was found. These participants used condoms correctly (in wanting to avoid contracting HIV, they had a strong motive to learn how) and the condoms worked perfectly.

Again, my point is not that condoms are good–I think they are one of the most sinful objects of the last millennium–but attacking their reliability is a terrible argument, and its time we as Catholics gave it up.

I hope I would love my spouse enough to completely eliminate the risk of disease. Just reducing the risk is not enough.

Anyone who believes that condoms are 100% successful in preventing HIV transmission, IMHO, is naive. Condoms clearly fail; they tear, they have holes, there are manufacturing defects, etc. While these is a rare occurance, the barrier is not fail-safe.

Not all exposures to HIV will result in successful transmission of the virus, as well. It may be that certain individuals posess better resistance to infection than others.

So what we have, rather than a 100% success rate, is an appearance of 100% success. Such studies are very limited when compared to the number of sex-acts in the general poplulation. Tens of thousands of acts of intercourse occur in this country alone daily.

So, yes, let’s not be led astray by perpetuating false information. While it may be extremely unlikely to pass on HIV with proper condom use, it still can happen. To say that condoms are 100% effective in preventing HIV transmission when used properly is denying that it could ever happen…and let’s face it, a torn or leaky condom is like no condom at all, no?

The operative question, as has been posted, is would you take that chance of killing your spouse/significant other? I look at is similarly to giving a loaded gun to a young child; it’s extremely unlikely that they could pull the trigger, or that the gun would go off if they dropped it. But is it worth the risk?

Serodiscordant couples who consistently and correctly use condoms can count on never spreading the infection. OK, 100% may be a bit high–people can get hit by asteroids, 100 year olds could get pregnant, etc–but for practical purposes, proper condom use means NO NEW INFECTION. You talk about “tens of thousands of acts of intercourse” in this country daily; the number is more like millions of acts. And there are millions of serodiscordant couples. We can tell from their experience that if they properly use a condom (which includes immediately withdrawing if a condom breaks) they can count on not contracting HIV.

Look at it this way: the most up to date research indicates that HIV transmission in unprotected sex, from male to female, occurs something like once out of every 500 to 1,000 acts, and from female to male something like once out of every 3,000 acts. So, lets say that with a condom failure, when used properly, results in an infection in 1 out of ever 1,000 acts (and there are many serodiscordant couples who use condoms for a for their whole lives without experiencing a failure). Then take the high end risk of 1/500 risk of transmission, plus the 1/1,000 risk of breakage, and the risk is something like 1 in 500,000. That means that condoms are 99.9998% effective at preventing HIV transmission. So, I rounded to 100. (And that’s using the high estimates in the most dangerous scenario. With an HIV+ female, the number is more like 99.999998%).

Maybe we are nitpicking, but I wanted to explain my position which is supported by epidemiology and is *not *naive. I suppose it is a reasonably fair statement to say that “While it may be extremely unlikely to pass on HIV with proper condom use, it still can happen.” (It is, after all, the same position the CDC takes, which is notoriously conservative in terms of HIV transmission). And if this was line from Catholics, I would be happy with it.

This is all, of course, beside the point. It clearly would be a very grave sin to use a condom, even in this situation. As I can see it, the only options are to either abstain forever, or risk transmission. Really, it is not clearly a sin to infect another with HIV, assuming the other person understands and accepts that risk. It may, on the other hand, be a sin to refuse forever the marriage act to your spouse. I’m not very familiar with this area, but it seems to me, these are the questions that need to be asked. The only clear answer is that condoms are never acceptable.

Let’s also not forget that condoms interfere with the gift of one spouse to another in the one flesh union to the point that condomistic sex is not a marital act at all.

Camerong, I hear where you are coming from but the truth is that most people don’t know how to use a condom correctly, don’t want to bother to learn, or perhaps just think they know what they are doing. Not to mention, condoms break (quite frequently I might add), come off, etc. and it is not always noticeable when it does come off. I know because when I was younger and ignorant, I used condoms unfortunately. Now, I probably didn’t know what I was doing, just like millions of others. I have not used a condom in a long time now as I now know how evil they are. So I do think it is very valid to say that condoms are not as effective as people claim and I do think that condoms give people a false sense of security.

The problem with you saying that condoms aren’t effective because people use them improperly is that (the supporters of contraception will reply that) WE are one of the main reasons condoms aren’t used properly. If the conservatives and Catholics supported sex education in schools which taught how to use a condom, and that condoms when used properly will protect you from HIV, then condoms would work (and with enough effort and condom dispersal, this would end the HIV epidemic in this country among non-IV drug users). Its rather like arguing that Toyotas are ******, because I drove mine off a cliff and now it doesn’t work.

I’m not going to argue again the effectiveness of condoms when used properly, that has been beaten to death. The evidence is sufficiently clear, and any secular epidemiologist would wholly agree with me. The problem is our response to this. We now say: Yeah, but you could still get pregnant or get HIV, you shouldn’t risk your life on a piece of rubber. We should say: Yes, condoms work. And if you’re careful, you won’t get pregnant or HIV. But even if you’re careful, you will be severely damaging your eternal soul, and will be distancing yourself from God.

That is a far more convincing argument than the current party line, which, whether you wish to or not, are perpetuating by saying “condoms give a false sense of security.”

I agree with this 100%. My church body generally takes the same position with regard to condom use (at least among teenagers and unmarried couples) by arguing a negative case against a condom’s effectiveness rather than making a positive case for the wonderful, God-given gift of sex in the proper context of marriage.

Condoms do work, but they don’t address the fundamental problem. But to be honest, I don’t think things have to be so black and white. If you scare people out of condom use, they’re still going to have sex, the only difference is that they will do so unprotected, furthering both disease and ‘unwanted’ pregnancy. The last thing we need is more HIV and abortion.

Teaching someone about the effectiveness of condom use is NOT the same of approving of it, anymore than teaching your children about Islam or Hinduism would somehow mean you approved of those faiths. Information is power.

I’m not going to spend effort arguing between my view and yours. Ok, tell people they can count on becoming HIV+, but only if they have sex at least 50,000 times. Then the risk turns from theoretical to real. Until you have sex something like that many times, the risk is more akin to being hit by an asteroid. (Could you theoretically contract HIV on the first instance? Sure, but the chances against it are literally a million to one. Not until you have sex tens or hundreds of thousands of times does the compounded chance make it so that your total sex life has even an appreciable chance of infecting you with HIV.)

I think this point is now sufficiently well addressed by all involved. As I said, I’m willing to concede to your “highly unlikely” language, though I think it still greatly overstates the risk. The conflict now is not between us, but between those who perpetuate the myth that condoms are physically (as opposed to only morally) dangerous.

I never really meant to discuss the hypothetical between husband and wife, except to say that condoms are clearly not an option. And I said that it is NOT clearly a sin to infect a willing spouse with HIV. HIV is manageable, and for many or most of those infected, it is not a death sentence. Expressing love in the marital act has benefits for our immortal soul that may outweigh the shortened life expectancy. But that is an intensely personal decision for those involved, and it is not clear that either option, abstaining or having sex and risking it, is sinful.

And NOW the conversation advances :slight_smile:

Obviously, I agree about the importance of being truthful as to the efficacy of condoms. However, it DOES need to be so black and white. You say that people having illicit sex is inevitable, but I disagree.

Here, it is useful to look at other cultures. In Africa, every country has extremely high rates of HIV… except those with Muslim majorities. For whatever reason, Muslims are able to actually limit sex outside of marriage. If they were not, HIV would be rampant there. Mauritania has a lower rate of HIV than the US. And to my knowledge, no on is being killed for premarital sex. It is simply the case that their culture is more effective at limiting sex to marriage.

Thus, it can be done, we just are not doing a good enough job. I would argue it is the other way around–it is not that people must have sex, so we should be ok with condoms and the pill; it is that we are ok with condoms and the pill, so people have sex. Before the sexual liberation in the 60s, did people still have sex outside of marriage? Sure, but not nearly at the rate we see it today.

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