Yesterday in a conversation with the press, the Pope was widely cited as having said that the distribution of condoms would "increase the problem" of AIDS. This has met with expected backlash, agencies ranging from the World Health Organization and the New York Times to the French government criticizing the notion that condom use would somehow increase sexual promiscuity or in some other way increase the spread of AIDS in Africa.
And yet, examination of the actual interchange suggests the Pope’s point in this instance was not promiscuity or even condoms per se, but the need for a broader human understanding in approaching the AIDS crisis. The entire interchange can be found here. Below is the passage in question:
I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness - even through personal sacrifice - to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.
Certainly on other occasions the Church has spoken out in a way similar to the current press coverage. But in this instance, it would seem an important message is getting lost.