Has the Pope gone soft on condoms?

A FLURRY of reports at the weekend suggest that a welcome chink may have opened up in the Vatican’s armoury of opposition to condoms, but these have been quashed by the Vatican’s chief spokesman.

The Rev Federico Lombardi said in a statement yesterday that the Pope is neither “reforming or changing” the Church’s teaching, which forbids use of condoms and other contraceptives, and he cautioned that there is nothing “revolutionary” in Ratzinger saying that condom use can be an act of responsibility in exceptional situations.

He was reacting to the Vatican’s publication of excerpts of a book about the posturing old ninny. Ratzinger said in an interview in the book that in certain cases, such as for a male prostitute, condom use could be a first step toward assuming responsibility.

Lombardi stressed that the church doesn’t consider condoms the “moral solution” to the AIDS problem.

Meanwhile, according to this report, male escorts said that Ratzinger “blessing” of condom use in their line of work comes “too little, too late” — and that most prostitutes pay no mind to the pontiff’s preachings anyway.

In a book due out tomorrow, “Light of the World,” Pope Benedict XVI offers justification for condom use among male prostitutes as “a first step in the direction of a moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility,” noting conception isn’t an issue between men.

Said “James,” a sensual massage therapist who advertises online in the Boston area:

The Pope is behind the times. It’s too little, too late. Condom use should go without saying. HIV and AIDS came out in the 80s. Where was [the then] the Pope with his message then? That’s when he should have said it was OK.

“Antonio,” who is listed as an escort online, added:

It’s about time. Condoms are important because of the STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) out there. He should have said yes to them a long time ago, especially to the Catholics. But it’s a message for all the population. People are having kids they can’t afford to feed. Why won’t he say something about that?

But another escort, “Markus,” believes Benedict’s statement will do some good.

He will definitely persuade people to use condoms more for whatever sexual activities they are involved in.

The New York Times regards Ratzinger’s statement as:

Something of a milestone for the church and a significant change for Benedict, who faced intense criticism last year when, en route to AIDS-plagued Africa, he said condom use did not help prevent the spread of AIDS, only abstinence and fidelity did.

Although Ratzinger, 83, took pains to explain his most controversial decisions to the book’s author, Peter Seewald, a German journalist, he did not veer from them. That included his defence of Pope Pius XII, whose tenure during World War II has been criticised by Jewish groups who say he could have done more to help Jews escape the Nazis.

Benedict also suggested several times that he was a victim of overly zealous critics, including those who criticised him for revoking the excommunication of a bishop who denied the scope of the Holocaust.

The Pope did, however, acknowledge the church’s failings during the years that children were being abused.

The deeds themselves were hushed up and kept secret for decades. That is a declaration of bankruptcy for an institution that has love written on its banner.

The book, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, comes from a series of interviews conducted in July by Seewald.

Hat tip: Marcus