Catholic leaders in Australia have rushed to quell speculation of a sudden U-turn by the church over its policy on condoms.
Commenting on reports in a book published today that the Pope had endorsed their use against HIV, the head of the Australian Catholic Church Cardinal George Pell said that although the issue was “difficult and delicate” for the church, the pontiff had not changed his teaching.
His comments were echoed by Bishop of Parramatta Anthony Fisher, who said the Pope’s words had been misinterpreted by international media.
Reports emerged on Sunday that Benedict XVI had told a German journalist during interviews for his book Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times that condom use was acceptable “in the intention of reducing the risk of infection”. The Pope reportedly cited the example of a male prostitute using a condom to protect his client.
However, Bishop Fisher told The Australian yesterday the pontiff used the example of a male prostitute to give due credit to someone “trying to make some moral progress”. He said the Pope had made a clear distinction between homosexual acts — where contraception was not an issue — and the use of condoms for HIV prevention more widely.
“He was very clear, as in his previous statements, that he is against condoms altogether,” Bishop Fisher said.
However, AIDS activists refused to accept Bishop Fisher’s interpretation.
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