The Vatican has yet again been forced to revise statements made by Pope Benedict XVI as he embarked on a foreign trip. En route to Cameroon on March 17, the pope claimed that condom use would “aggravate the problem” of HIV.
A transcript of the pope’s comments on the Vatican’s Web site altered the comment to suggest that condoms “risked” aggravating the problem.
Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, welcomed the change as a sign that the pope is not infallible on this issue and is willing to acknowledge his mistakes.
“The pope has admitted that he is unsure whether condoms can help alleviate the spread of HIV. Where there is doubt there is freedom and Catholics can make up their own minds whether they use condoms or not. Indeed, the vast majority of Catholics has already made this call and use condoms to protect themselves and their partners against STIs, including HIV.
“We call on the pope to revisit the teaching on condoms with a view to lifting the ban at the earliest possible moment. In his review, he should include experts who are unequivocal that condoms can help prevent the spread of HIV, like UNAIDS, the World Health Organization and HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations around the world.
“Papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi noted that the pontiff was merely continuing the line taken by his predecessors. In 1990, Pope John Paul II said using condoms was a sin in any circumstances.
“It took the church hierarchy 359 years to stop continuing the line taken by their predecessors on Galileo. We hope that this error does not take so long to change.”
Note to editors: This is not the first time that the pope has had to backtrack after making controversial comments on a plane. During a May 2007 flight to Brazil, Benedict was asked if he supported the excommunication of Catholic politicians who had voted to change the law in Mexico City to permit abortion. After the pope stated that the excommunication was final, his spokesman initially suggested that he meant that the politicians had excommunicated themselves. However, the final transcript was altered to change the meaning completely, making it appear as if the comments were more general and did not refer to any specific incident, removing “Yes, this,” so that the sentence began, “Excommunication is…”
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