By Rocca, Francis X.
The Christian Century , Vol. 128, No. 2
According to the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI's comments published late last year about condoms do not mark a change in "Catholic moral teaching" or "pastoral practice" on AIDS prevention or contraception.
The statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the Catholic Church's highest doctrinal body, represents a rare official clarification of a pope's words from a Vatican agency. It came in response to widespread controversy and confusion over Benedict's remarks about condoms in "Light of the World," a lengthy interview with the pope published in November and prompting a clarification before Christmas.
Some commentators had interpreted Benedict's words as constituting a reversal of the church's longstanding opposition to condom use for disease prevention and even a possible shift in Catholic teaching against contraception more generally.
While insisting that condoms are not a "real or moral solution" to the AIDS epidemic, Benedict had said "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, oi living sexuality."
The pope had offered the hypothetical example of a male prostitute, whose condom use could "be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility" in not spreading a disease to his partner. (Benedict later added through a spokesman that his statement would apply equally well to the case of a female prostitute.)
On December 21, the Vatican insisted that nothing had changed. "The thought of the pope has been repeatedly manipulated for ends and interests which are entirely foreign to the meaning of his words," said the statement. …