Blowing white smoke

On March 13, 2013, in family planning, religion, by Karen Grepin

Although I was raised Protestant, through marriage I have recently become a practicing Catholic, and despite the fact that I clearly have divergent views on certain issues – contraception to name a big one – I remain loyal to my new religion. So, like many others, I was gripped to CNN the past few days waiting to see white smoke out of the Sistene Chapel. A few hours ago the white smoke blew and Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina has been named the new Pope of the Catholic Church.

So what do we know about the new Pope’s view on contraception and public health? In this new piece, I learned that the new Pope believes that condoms are “permissible” to prevent the spread of infection. There has been confusion about exactly where the Church stands on the use of condoms and in which cases it is permissible or not. If the condom is used to prevent infection and inadvertently prevents conception, is that permissible?

Conincidentally, I also learned today on Humanosphere, that in the most recent round of their grant program, the Gates Foundation has recently launched a new “Grand Challenges Exploration” challenge to design the next generation condom in order to increase the use of condoms globally. Among the criteria for acceptable grant applications includes:

Application of knowledge from other fields (e.g. neurobiology, vascular biology) to new strategies for improving condom desirability.

So if by other fields they mean Theology, and by strategies they might include clarifying where the Church stands on the issue, then perhaps the new Pope might be in the running for the 100,000 prize! Welcome to the world of Global Health Pope Francis.

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