US Catholics question the validity of new condom ruling
The Vatican's new ruling on condom use is being questioned by conservative elements of the Catholic church.
Prominent Catholics in the US are rejecting its own explanation of what the Pope said. And several said they would only accept a more formal papal pronouncement.
Others insisted that journalists were purposely misrepresenting the Pope's comments. Some questioned whether the papal spokesman, Rev Federico Lombardi, accurately quoted the Pope.
Bishops and the experts who advise them were trying to make sense of the news.
"It's a mess," said John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Centre in Philadelphia, which advises church leaders, hospitals and Vatican offices. "I'm not ready to say that the Pope said what Lombardi said."
The uproar is over comments the Pope made in the new book, 'Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times'. In an exchange with the author about Aids in Africa, he said that for some people, such as male prostitutes, using condoms could be a step in assuming moral responsibility because the intent was to "reduce the risk of infection".
At a news conference yesterday in Rome, Mr Lombardi said the Pope knew his comments would provoke intense debate, and that he meant his remarks to apply not just to male prostitutes, but also "if you're a man, a woman, or a transsexual".
The Pope did not suggest using condoms as birth control, which is banned by the Roman Catholic Church, and said condoms were not a "real or moral solution" to the Aids crisis.
However, his remarks were a watershed in the long debate among theologians and church officials over the morality of using condoms for disease prevention.
Jenn Giroux, executive director of Human Life International America, which promotes Catholic teaching on contraception and abortion, said more clarification from the Vatican was needed.
"I am watching very carefully . . . before making a final pronouncement," said Mrs Giroux. "As always, we look to church doctrine."
Mr Haas said he fielded calls all yesterday from bishops confused by what Mr Lombardi had said. The Pope's comments come at a time when bishops in the US are intensely focused on upholding Catholic orthodoxy on marriage and sexuality.