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Condoms not a 'lesser evil,' Vatican insists

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Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leaves a vespers service with Rome university students in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Responding to the media sensation created by Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks on condoms in a recent book-length interview, the Vatican’s doctrinal office has released a statement insisting that the pope has not softened the church’s traditional ban on contraception, and that condoms cannot be viewed as a morally justified “lesser evil,” even in the context of HIV/AIDS.

That said, the statement concedes that in some instances, such as prostitution, the use of a condom with the intent of reducing the risk of infection may represent “the first step in respecting the life of another.”

Indicating the level of concern in the Vatican about possible over-interpretation of the pope’s words, today’s 1,000-word statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was released simultaneously in six languages: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese.

In the book, titled Light of the World, Benedict XVI says that in certain cases, such as a prostitute, the use of condom “can be a first step in the direction of moralization,” reflecting concern for the life and health of the other party.

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