Saturday, March 21, 2009


Remember Pope Benedict's recent statement -- just before he arrived in Africa -- that condoms aren't the solution for the HIV/AIDS and may in fact make the problem worse? It turns out the Vatican Web site -- out of embarrassment? -- ran the statement in a somewhat different form:

Looks like the Vatican is ... having trouble resisting the temptation to change Pope Benedict's words to reporters on his papal plane.

What the pope said (and what we ran in a translation from the original Italian in our story Tuesday) included this line:

"One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem."

What the Vatican published on its Web site and in its newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, was something different:

"One cannot resolve the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, there is a risk of increasing the problem."

Even allowing for translation differences, the pope didn't speak of a "risk." He said what he said....

I guess that papal-infallibility thing is a lot easier to pull off if you allow yourself do-overs to tone down your gaffes.

(The pope also said you can't solve the AIDS crisis with money; the Vatican site, bizarrely, changed this as well, replacing "money" with "advertising slogans.")

Ah, but a less skeptical information service, the Catholic News Agency, informs us that the critics missed the pope's real recommendation for solving the crisis -- the rest of have to be really, really sympathetic! Yeah, that's going to solve everything!

Although it was missed by most of the media, who focused on the Pope's solitary line about condoms, ... Pope Benedict stressed once again the need to accompany the sick and suffering, the second prong of the Church's strategy to combat AIDS.

In the presence of atrocious torment "we feel powerless and we cannot find the right words. Before a brother or sister plunged into the mystery of the Cross, a respectful and compassionate silence, a prayerful presence, a gesture of tenderness and comfort, a kind look, a smile, often achieve more than many words," he said.

That's true. However, they achieve a hell of a lot less than something that prevents disease transmission in the first place.

Oh, but if you're already sick, well ... pray a lot:

Pope Benedict invited sick people to "gaze upon the Crucified One, with faith and courage, for from Him come life, comfort, and healing," and to turn to St. Joseph, "an intercessor for bodily health ... [and] for the health of the soul."

But no condoms. God forbid. Not that.

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