Pope’s condom comments not a change of tack: Vatican official

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

VATICAN CITY - Remarks on the possible use of condoms to combat HIV/AIDS made by Pope Benedict XVI in a new book should not be taken out of context - and do not represent a change in Catholic teaching against contraception - a top Vatican official cautioned Tuesday.

Monsignor Rino Fisichella said to reduce six-hours of interviews with the pontiff to a hypothetical example of uses for condoms was “an insult to the pope’s intelligence and a gratuitous manipulation of his words”.

Fisischella, the head of a Holy See department tasked with reviving the faith in traditional Catholic nations, was speaking at the Vatican launch of German author Peter Seewald’s book “Light of the World”.

Subtitled “The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times”, the book consists of six hours of interviews conducted by Seewald with the pope in July.

“We are presented with a pope who does not try to avoid any questions, who desires to clarify by using simple language - but because of this not less profound - and who with benevolence accepts the provocation that many of the questions contain,” Fisichella said of the book.

“Reducing however, an entire interview to a phrase extrapolated from its context and from the entirety of Benedict XVI’ thought would constitute an insult to the pope’s intelligence and a gratuitous manipulation of his words,” Fisichella added.

He was apparently referring to the clamour triggered by the pontiff’s remarks on condoms as contained in excerpts from the book first published over the weekend by the Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano.

In one chapter, Benedict laments how his march 2009 trip to Africa was overshadowed by reaction to remarks he made on the plane taking him to the continent.

In them, the pontiff appeared to suggest that condoms far from helping combat HIV/AIDs could actually contribute to its spread.

But in “Light of the World”, Benedict cites, without condemning the act, the example of a male prostitute using a condom to prevent infecting his clients. The Vatican has since said the pope did not mean to be specific about the gender of the hypothetical prostitute.

The Catholic church does not regard the use of condoms “as a real or moral solution” (to the AIDS problem), Benedict was quoted as saying in the book.

“But in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality,” the pontiff added.

Many observers have interpreted the remarks as a first step by the pope in allowing the faithful to use condoms, and possibly contraception in general.

Fisichella, however, reiterated how Catholic teaching views sexual intercourse as an act aimed at procreation within marriage “and not outside of it”.

“Various types of contraception represent an evil because they hinder the development of sexuality as an act of love within matrimony,” he said.

Written in the 83-year-old pontiff’s German mother-tongue, “Light of the World” goes on sale worldwide Wednesday, according to the publishers of the English language edition US-based Ignatius press.

The book has also been translated in eight languages, including Spanish and Italian.

Filed under: Religion

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