Vatican will host AIDS conference to clarify condom stand

The conference comes in response to the confusion created by the press coverage of Pope Benedict’s comments on condoms for AIDS prevention
Thu Feb 3, 2011 - 5:44 pm EST

ROME, February 3, 2011 ( – The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry announced today that it will be hosting a one-day international conference on the care of AIDS patients May 28. It will also publish a handbook of pastoral guidelines for Catholic health care workers on AIDS care and prevention, an official of the council said.

Msgr. Jean-Marie Mpendawatu, the council’s undersecretary, said that the decision had come in response to the confusion created by the international press coverage of Pope Benedict’s comments on condoms for AIDS prevention.

An international media feeding frenzy was touched off in November when L’Osservatore Romano published selected excerpts from the new interview book with the pope by German journalist Peter Seewald.

“There is a problem of comprehension, of explaining things well and what the pope really said,” Msgr. Mpendawatu said. “What did the pope say, really, authentically? What is the thinking of the pope?”

The conference will take a broad approach to the care of people with AIDS, he said, but the Church’s stand on the use of condoms will be clarified.

In the Seewald interview, the pope said that in some circumstances, such as that of an HIV infected prostitute, the use of a condom could indicate “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.”

In his comments, the pope made clear that using condoms is “not a moral solution” to the spread of AIDS.

The media, however, produced thousands of reports claiming that the pope had “changed” Catholic teaching. Some even went so far as to claim that the Church was changing its teaching on contraception.

The furor was so overwhelming that the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a statement in December reiterating Catholic teaching on contraception.

Vatican officials believe that the confusion and uproar has blocked discussion of the real problems facing the provision of assistance to AIDS patients, especially in the developing world.

In Africa, the Catholic Church provides the lion’s share of health care for AIDS patients. At the same time, health care workers often complain of the emphasis of such groups as the World Health Organization on condoms. At the African Synod held at the Vatican in 2009, African bishops complained that these international organizations appear bent on inserting a non-African moral system into their countries, promoting promiscuity instead of safeguarding health.

One Vatican official told that many health care workers in African countries complain of great difficulties in obtaining anti-retroviral drugs to treat AIDS sufferers.

  aids, benedict xvi, condoms, pope