Pope Benedict says "Condoms can increase the problem of Aids"
"HIV/Aids is a tragedy that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem." This was Pope Benedict's message to Africa at the beginning of his papal visit to the continent. 22 million people are infected with the Aids virus in sub-saharan Africa, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of infections worldwide. But Pope Benedict believes condoms can exacerbate the problem by encouraging promiscuity.
This is not the first time the Vatican has questioned the effectiveness of condom distribution as a strategy for combating HIV, but the pope's decision to make this statement while visiting the continent most devastated by the Aids pandemic is sure raise yet another worldwide debate about his judgement. At the very least, many will question his understanding of PR implications of an analysis that flies in the face of the consensus view within medical science. At worst, he will face accusations of moral irresponsibility given the weight of influence his words carry in Africa, where 17 per cent of the population is Catholic.
The Times religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill has already fired a salvo in his direction: "Pope Benedict XVI has re-opened a running sore in the side of the Church and Africa with another scientifically illiterate attempt to justify a policy that is unjustifiable even by faith."
Ruth ends her piece with a defensive coda: "And before any more readers come out and accuse me of yet another 'Paisleyite' attack on the Church, I haven't got it in for the Roman Catholic Church. This latest episode is proof that the Church has got it in for itself."