Use of condoms can limit AIDS - Belgian cardinal

A leading Belgian cardinal touted as a possible successor to Pope John Paul has said he could reluctantly accept the use of condoms as a means to halt the spread of AIDS.

The remark by Brussels Cardinal Godfried Danneels is at odds with official Roman Catholic Church teaching, which bans the use of condoms because they are a form of contraceptive.

The outspoken 70-year-old cardinal told the Kruispunt programme of Dutch Catholic broadcaster RKK on Sunday evening that someone who was HIV positive might need to use a condom to protect life.

"When someone is seropositive and his partner says: I want to have sexual relations with you -- he doesn't have to do that, if you ask me -- but when he does, he has to use a condom...," Danneels said.

The Catholic Church teaches that abstinence -- including among married couples if necessary -- is the best way to stop the spread of AIDS.

The Vatican has not issued a definitive statement on the use of condoms in limited cases to stop AIDS but most Vatican officials who have spoken out on the issue are against campaigns promoting their use.

This made Danneels' comment all the more significant because he appeared to be saying that the Church should sometimes consider the use of condoms to prevent AIDS the lesser of two evils.

"This (the use of condoms) comes down to protecting yourself in a preventive manner against a disease or death, (it) cannot be entirely morally judged in the same manner as a pure way of birth limitation," he said.

Danneels, who has been outspoken on a number of issues, last year criticised a fellow cardinal for saying the use of condoms did not prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS.