The clarification has been clarified even further:

The Pope’s landmark acknowledgement that the use of condoms is sometimes morally justifiable to stop Aids is valid not only for gay male prostitutes, but also for heterosexuals, according to the Vatican.

The clarification, the latest step in what is already seen as a significant shift in the Catholic Church policy, came at a news conference presenting the pope’s new book: “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times”.

In the book, a long interview with German Catholic journalist Peter Seewald, the Pope used the example that a male prostitute would be justified using a condom to avoid transmitting the killer disease.

The clarification was necessary because the German, English and French versions of the book used the male article when referring to a prostitute but the Italian version used the female article.

Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said he asked the pope directly about it to clarify his thinking.

“I asked the Pope personally if there was a serious distinction in the choice of male instead of female and he said ‘no’,” he said.

“That is, the point is it (the use of a condom) should be a first step towards responsibility in being aware of the risk of the life of the other person one has relations with,” Lombardi said.

“If it is a man, a woman or a transsexual who does it, we are always at the same point, which is the first step in responsibly avoiding passing on a grave risk to the other.”

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Some analysis, meantime, from Fr. James Martin:

The Catholic Church has not changed its teaching on the use of condoms as a means of birth control. Nor has the church “officially” changed its teaching on the use of condoms: an interview is not the same as an encyclical or a document from a Vatican congregation. But the previously out-of-bounds discussion about whether condoms can be used as a means to prevent the spread of disease is now in-bounds. That is change, by any definition. And that change is a good one, for if it stands, it will mean the prevention of death. As such, it may be seen as a pro-life move.

Change is to be welcomed, not feared. As Blessed John Henry Newman said, “To grow is to change. To be perfect is to have changed often.” That would be the same John Henry Newman beatified by Pope Benedict XVI.

UPDATE: And then there’s this, from Michael Gerson:

African Catholic leaders of my acquaintance have long understood that a complete prohibition of condom use is unrealistic. Among discordant couples – one HIV-positive, one negative – the use of condoms is a requirement…

As usual, the pope locates his statement within a sophisticated theological argument. He seems to be saying that there is a moral aspect even to acts the church considers immoral. The use of a condom, in this case by a prostitute, can be an early, incremental sign of ethical awakening, showing concern for the welfare of another human being. Such personal responsibility in sexual relationships is not sufficient, but it is preferable and important. Without conceding the moral ideal, the pope is accommodating human failures for the sake of human life, in the hope of further moral transformation.

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