ST. PAUL (WCCO) — A new book by Pope Benedict XVI is on shelves in Europe, and Roman Catholics around the world are trying to decide whether his comments about condom use answers a very narrow question, or signals a major change in Catholic doctrine.
Even before it was published, Pope Benedict’s book raised eyebrows because of comments about an HIV-infected male prostitute using a condom to protect others.
Some felt he was approving condoms in certain circumstances — welcome news to the people at the Minnesota AIDS Project.
“Anything we can do that is proven effective to reduce cases of HIV or AIDS is a great step, so it was hopeful in that sense,” said Dave Folkens.
But is it a change in church doctrine? A spokesman from the archdiocese said they are waiting for more word from the Vatican.
Bob Kennedy is a professor of Catholic studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
“Taken out of context, it’s easy to misunderstand the comment,” he said.
Kennedy cautions that the quote is narrow, dealing only with the male prostitute, not policy.
“It would be unwise to assume that the pope is going to announce a significant change in doctrine by giving an interview to a journalist,” he explained.
Still, the statement definitely jump-started the conversation about HIV and AIDS.
“I hope that it does remind people that HIV is out there. And it’s an issue in the U.S., internationally, globally, everywhere,” said .
At the same time, U.N. officials announced Tuesday that new HIV cases are dropping dramatically worldwide, and a study showed that a daily pill already used to treat HIV could help prevent new infections in gay men.