L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semi-official newspaper, spurred a flurry of media activity Saturday when it published several excerpts from the book-interview with the Pope.
At the end of the tenth chapter of the book, released today by Ignatius Press, the writer, German journalist Peter Seewald, asked the Pontiff two questions on the fight against AIDS and the use of condoms. Seewald referenced the Holy Father's comments on this topic while aboard the papal plane on the way to Cameroon and Angola in March, 2009.
To the charge that it's "madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms," Benedict XVI replied: "There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality."
Seewald then asked the Pontiff, "Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?"
The Holy Father replied, "She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, 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."
A press release from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales affirmed today that the Pontiff is saying "that the fundamental response of the Church is and should be to guide, to support and to accompany those who have contracted HIV."
It pointed out that "over 25% of all AIDS care worldwide is provided by Catholic organizations."
Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, affirmed that "HIV/AIDS is wreaking havoc in Africa, where the Catholic Church is heavily involved in the care of those infected and their surviving family members."
He noted that Benedict XVI, in the book-interview, underlined "the basic Christian and Catholic teaching
on sexual activity."
The archbishop endorsed a statement from Bishop Anthony Fisher of Parramatta, Australia, who said, "Despite some misinterpretation in the international media, the Pope has not deviated from or altered in any way Catholic teaching on the intrinsic wrongness of contraception or on reserving sexual intercourse ('the marital act') to marriage, that is of a man and a woman."
"Pastors have long recognized that in cases such as homosexual intercourse, conception and marital acts are not at issue," Bishop Fisher said.
He continued: "Using a condom in this situation is clearly not contraception. It is clear that even here the goal must be to move the individual to living a truly 'humane,' that is a chaste and loving, sexual life."
From the Philippines, the head of the Manila Archdiocese's Commission on Family Life, Father Joel Jason, noted that "the Pontiff's words were clearly taken out of context" by the media.
The priest noted that the Holy Father's response "was not even a direct commentary on the possible moral justification of condom use, clearly not for contraception."
He continued: "And so headlines claiming, 'Pope changes teaching on Condoms, Contraception and HIV,' or 'Pope: Condoms OK in fight Against AIDS' are totally way out of line."
Father Jason asserted, "Nowhere in the text of the Pope Benedict's response can we find summary justification of condom use."
Despite the media focus on these themes, the bishops of England and Wales noted that overall the book "gives a fascinating insight into the humanity of the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide."
"Throughout the interview, Pope Benedict returns to what it is to be human and what that understanding entails," the conference affirmed.
It added, "What comes across so clearly throughout the book is the warmth of his humanity, his deep faith in God and his profound understanding of the serious issues facing society and the Church, and the vital role of religious belief in dialogue with human reason."
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver affirmed that "no serving Bishop of Rome has ever spoken so openly and disarmingly as Benedict XVI does" in this book.
"And yet," he added, "one comes away from this text with a mix of exhilaration and sympathy."
The prelate explained, "The exhilaration springs from meeting in Benedict an extraordinary Christian intellect, articulate and unfiltered; a man prudent, generous, and penetrating in his judgment, candid in his self-criticism, brilliant but accessible in his thinking, and unshakeable in his faith."
"The sympathy flows from knowing that, in the current media climate, almost anything Benedict says may be hijacked to serve other agendas," he continued. "And exactly this happened even before the book's formal release."
The archbishop acknowledged that "intense controversy -- at least in Europe and the United States -- has always surrounded the Catholic rejection of condom use in AIDS prevention."
"The Church holds that condom use is morally flawed by its nature, and that, equally important, condom use does not prevent AIDS and can actually enable its spread by creating a false sense of security," he affirmed.
Archbishop Chaput concluded: "Don't let confusion in the secular press deter you from buying, reading for yourself, and then sharing this extraordinary text. It's an astonishing portrait of an astonishing man."
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