Did he or didn’t he?

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When the pope, ah, misspeaks, the Vatican press office will adjust his remarks to express what it was that he really “said”–a move facilitated by the fact that it’s often possible to claim that the translation from whatever language he happens to be speaking at the time was not quite right. Such an adjustment was made in Benedict’s incendiary remarks about Islam at Regensburg in 2006. Likewise, as the estimable Religious Connections blog notes, regarding his 2007 suggestion that Mexican officials who supported legalization of abortion had been excommunicated. And it appears that it happened again last week after he created a firestorm by (being quoted as) saying that condom distribution could not help solve the AIDS crisis in Africa.

At least, that’s what the London Times reported Thursday, under the headline, “Vatican backtracks over Pope’s condom stance.” According to the Times, the text of the pope’s answer in Italian to a reporter’s question on the plane to Cameroon was changed from identifying AIDS as a “tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be
overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the
problems” to “…which risks aggravating the problems.” In a word, not no but maybe.

If that happened–and why should we doubt the London Times, at least in this instance?–the pope has now backtracked on the backtrack. Here’s the straightforward Italian text as it appears on the Vatican website today: “…non si può superarlo
con la distribuzione di preservativi: al contrario, aumentano il
–which is to say, “[AIDS] cannot be defeated with the distribution of condoms; on the contrary, they increase the problem.” No beating around the bush there. Let the outrage recommence. 

  • Rob Winslow

    Contradicting facts is endemic to the Church–remember Gallileo?