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Uproar In Spain Over Condoms

The Spanish Roman Catholic Church denies that Tuesday's statements by its bishop's council general secretary are tantamount to the church condoning condom use, according to the Agence France Press, which quoted a new statement by the Spanish bishops.

"Contrary to what some have said, it is not true that the Church has changed its position on condoms," the Spanish bishops' conference said in a statement.

The text reasserted that, according to Catholic doctrine, "the use of a condom implies immoral sexual behavior."

"It is not possible to advise people to use condoms, if it goes against their private morality," read the statement, issued in response to comments by the bishops' conference general secretary, Reverend Juan Antonio Martinez Camino.

Martinez Camino told reporters Tuesday that on the one hand the bishops "do not accept the use of condoms," but then that "condoms have their place in the integral and global prevention of AIDS." While the statement, which is being applauded by the Church's traditional antagonists on the left and among homosexual activists, has left Catholic observers puzzled and alarmed.

Martinez Camino met the health minister as a representative of the church, though it was unclear whether he was expressing the official view of the church.

While some news wires carried the headline, "Spain's Catholic Church backs condoms to fight AIDS," the more cautious Spanish media said that the Spanish bishops are "softening their rejection of condoms."

"The only conduct to advise is the responsible exercise of sexuality, in line with the moral norm," added the statement, which repeated the official Vatican position that sexual abstinence and fidelity are the best weapons against HIV/AIDS.

The apparent change in view was welcomed by the Spanish Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals.

"I think it was absolutely inevitable that the Church would change its stance," said federation president Beatriz Gimeno.

The United Left parliamentary coalition had described the change in stance as "a historic advance."

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