VATICAN, November 24, 2010 ( – Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court has affirmed that nothing in the Pope’s comments in the new book “Light of the World” has changed Catholic teaching against condoms.  In an interview with National Catholic Register, Cardinal Burke was asked, “What is the Pope saying here? Is he saying that in some cases condoms can be permitted?”  The Cardinal replied, “No, he’s not. I don’t see any change in the Church’s teaching.”

Burke added:

What he’s commenting on – in fact, he makes the statement very clearly that the Church does not regard the use of condoms as a real or a moral solution – but what he’s talking about in the point he makes about the male prostitute is about a certain conversion process taking place in an individual’s life. He’s simply making the comment that if a person who is given to prostitution at least considers using a condom to prevent giving the disease to another person – even though the effectiveness of this is very questionable – this could be a sign of someone who is having a certain moral awakening. But in no way does it mean that prostitution is morally acceptable, nor does it mean that the use of condoms is morally acceptable. The point the Pope is making is about a certain growth in freedom, an overcoming of an enslavement to a sexual activity that is morally repugnant [unacceptable] so that this concern to use a condom in order not to infect a sexual partner could at least be a sign of some moral awakening in the individual, which one hopes would lead the individual to understand that his activity is a trivialization of human sexuality and needs to be changed.

See the full interview with Burke here .

The mainstream media around the world have misinterpreted the Pope’s suggestion that the use of a condom in certain extreme circumstances (such as that of a male prostitute) may indicate a movement towards the assumption of moral responsibility, with outright approval. The controversy was sparked when key passages from the pope’s new book were leaked by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano Saturday.

Australia’s The Age: Pope Lifts Ban on Condoms
Canada’s Toronto Star: Pope says condoms OK to use in some cases
The UK Guardian: Pope Benedict edges away from total ban on use of condom
The Philippine Star: Vatican: Condom use less evil than spreading HIV

Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi ignited the mainstream media spin cycle once again yesterday when he said the Pope had broadened his example beyond male prostitutes.

“I asked the pope personally if there was a serious or important problem in the choice of the masculine gender rather than the feminine, and he said no, that is, the main point … is the first step of responsibility in taking into account the risk to the life of another person with whom one has relations,” Father Lombardi said.

“Whether a man or a woman or a transsexual does this, we’re at the same point. The point is the first step toward responsibility, to avoid posing a grave risk to another person,” Father Lombardi added.

The remarks resulted in another round of international misrepresentation:

The UK Daily Mail: Women as well as men can use condoms, declares Vatican as it clarifies Pope’s comments
The New York Times: After Condom Remarks, Vatican Confirms Shift
The Washington Times: Vatican: Both gay and straight can use condoms to prevent HIV
Canada’s National Post: Condom use to stop AIDS applies to all, Vatican says

The controversy has achieved such a fever pitch that Catholic Church leaders have taken to reminding the media that the Pope cannot change Church teaching.  “The Pope didn’t say, ‘Oh good, you should use a condom,’” said New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan in an interview with the New York Times. “You get the impression that the Holy See or the Pope is like Congress and every once in a while says, ‘Oh, let’s change this law,’” he said. “We can’t.”

At the same time, one top U.S. theologian has openly questioned the accuracy of the Vatican spokesman in representing the thoughts of the Pope.  Dr. John Haas, the President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center which advises the Bishops of the United States on bioethical issues, told Catholic News Agency, “we ought to let the Pope speak for himself.”