One more look at AIDS, condoms, and the pope

If you can stand to revisit the "condoms make the problem worse" imbroglio one more time, Fr. Tom Reese has a valuable analysis up at the Newsweek/Washington Post/Georgetown(?) "On Faith" site. (I can't keep track of who's running that store.) He makes some helpful distinctions that were generally lost in the rush to take sides after the pope's airplane press-conference:

The condom controversy once again shows that the pope and the Vatican do not know how to deal with the media. Anyone with any experience with Western media knew that a condom quote would dominate the headlines. The need to revise the response made matters worse.All of this controversy over condoms hides a fact that both the Vatican and the media do not want to acknowledge: What the pope says about condoms will have little impact on whether men will use them in Africa or anywhere else. If a man is sleeping with multiple partners and thus violating the Sixth Commandment, do you really think he is going to say to his partners, "Sorry, I can't use a condom because the pope won't let me"? Get real. Cultural factors limit the use of condoms, not papal pronouncements.

Clarifying all that allows him to move the conversation forward, to proposing what the Vatican could do to help the situation. Worth a read.

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

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