How far can one brief statement by a Pope go? If the Pope has no authority or influence in the world as many claim, then why all the fuss by the secular media and the Protestants on this one ambiguous statement made by the Pope on condom use? Read about the varying opinions here. There will certainly have to be some sort of clarification made on the interview by the Church. Peter Seewald's new book which contains the interview with the Holy Father on this issue will be released this week.
A couple of things to keep in mind while wading through all of the media's opinions on the interview. First, this book is the text of a private interview that the Pope had with Peter Seewald, so it is not an official dogmatic pronouncement. Second, he does not really go into any detail regarding the issue. So before we go off the deep end, lets look at this for what it is. Finally, although I am not sure what the Holy Father was getting at, I do not understand how his comments are going to benefit the Church in these tumultuous times.
Here is an extended excerpt from the interview, with what looks like the Holy Father's entire answer concerning the use of condoms, which is not what the media is making it out to be.
I have updated the post with the full official statement from the Vatican which tells us that nothing has changed regarding Church teaching regarding the use of contraceptives.
Peter Seewald: On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican's policy on Aids once again became the target of media criticism. Twenty-five percent of all Aids victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church's traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church's own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.
Pope Benedict: The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on Aids. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim.
Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many Aids victims, especially children with Aids.
I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering.
In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.
As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work.
This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man's being.
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.
Peter Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?
Pope Benedict: 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.
UPDATE 11-23-10 Vatican Statement
From the Zenit link above..
At the end of chapter 10 of the book "Light of the World" the Pope responds to two questions about the battle against AIDS and the use of condoms, questions that reconnect with the discussion that followed some statements that the Pope made on the theme during the course of his trip to Africa in 2009.
The Pope again clearly stresses that at that time he had not intended to take a position on the problem of condoms in general, but wanted to affirm with force that the problem of AIDS cannot be solved simply by distributing condoms, because much more needs to be done: prevention, education, help, counsel, being with people both to keep them from getting sick and in the case that they do get sick.
The Pope observes that even in the non-ecclesial context an analogous awareness has developed, as is apparent in the so-called ABC theory (Abstinence -- Be Faithful -- Condom), in which the first two elements (abstinence and fidelity) are more decisive and basic in the battle against AIDS, while condoms appear in the last place as a way out, when the other two are not there. It should thus be clear that condoms are not the solution to the problem.
The Pope then broadens the perspective and insists on the fact that focusing only on condoms is equivalent to banalizing sexuality, which loses its meaning as an expression of love between persons and becomes a "drug." Fighting against banalization of sexuality is "part of the great effort to help sexuality be valued positively and have a positive effect on man in his totality."
In the light of this broad and profound vision of human sexuality and the contemporary discussion of it, the Pope reaffirms that "naturally the Church does not consider condoms as the authentic and moral solution" to the problem of AIDS.
In this the Pope does not reform or change the Church's teaching, but reaffirms it, placing it in the perspective of the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of responsible love.
At the same time the Pope considers an exceptional circumstance in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real threat for the life of another. In that case, the Pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality but maintains that the use of a condom to reduce the danger of infection may be "a first act of responsibility," "a first step on the road toward a more human sexuality," rather than not using it and exposing the other to risking his life.
In this, the reasoning of the Pope certainly cannot be defined as a revolutionary change. Numerous moral theologians and authoritative ecclesiastical figures have supported and support analogous positions; it is nevertheless true that we have not heard this with such clarity from the mouth of the Pope, even if it is in a informal and not magisterial form.
With courage Benedict XVI thus offers us an important contribution of clarification and reflection on a question that has long been debated. It is an original contribution, because on one hand it maintains fidelity to moral principles and demonstrates lucidity in refuting an illusory path like that of the "confidence is condoms"; on the other hand, however, it manifests a comprehensive and far-seeing vision, attentive to uncovering the small steps -- even if only initial and still confused -- of an often spiritually and culturally impoverished humanity, toward a more human and responsible exercise of sexuality.
[Translation from Italian original by Joseph G. Trabbic]