What did Pope Benedict really say on the airplane?

There is some debate about what Pope Benedict really said during the 17 March presser on the airplane bound for Africa. 

His Holiness responded to a question from a French reporter about AIDS.

People are saying that the Holy See changed the transcript.  They say the Holy See’s website now has not what the Pope really said but rather a corrected version, what the Holy Father’s handlers wished Pope Benedict said.

What did the Pope really say?

Let’s watch and listen.  Here is a transcript so you can follow more easily.

"Direi che non si può superare questo problema dell’Aids solo con soldi. Sono necessari, ma se non c’è l’anima che li sappia applicare, non aiutano, non si può superare con la distribuzione di preservativi: al contrario, aumentano il problema."

"I would say that one cannot overcome this problem of AIDS only with money. It’s necessary, but if there isn’t the heart/soul which knows how to apply it, it doesn’t help, one cannot overcome it with the distribution of condoms: on the contrary, they increase the problem."

That is what the Pope really said.

This is what the Holy See put on its website. My emphases.

"Direi che non si può superare questo problema dell’Aids solo con slogan pubblicitari. Se non c’è l’anima, se gli africani non si aiutano, non si può risolvere il flagello con la distribuzione di preservativi: al contrario, il rischio è di aumentare il problema."

"I would say that one cannot overcome this problem of AIDS only with publicity slogans. If there is no heart/soul, if Africans do not help themselves, one cannot resolve the scourge with the distribution of condoms: on the contrary, the risk is to increase the problem."

In case you cannot access that page for some reason, here is a screen shot with the text in question blocked.  You can click it for a larger version.

What did the papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, say about this?

"    Regarding the reaction provoked by words of the pope on the problem of AIDS, the director of the Vatican press office, Father Federico Lombardi, clarifies that the Holy Father has reaffirmed the position of the Catholic Church and the essential elements of its commitment in combatting [sic] the terrible scourge of AIDS: first, with education in personal responsibility in the use of sexuality and with reaffirmation of the essential role of marriage and the family; second, with research and implementation of effective treatment of AIDS and making it available to the greatest number of sick people through many health initiatives and institutions; third, with human and spiritual assistance for those with AIDS as for all the suffering, who have always been in the heart of the church.

    These are the directions in which the church concentrates its commitment. It does not believe that focusing primarily on a wider distribution of condoms is in reality the best, most far-sighted and effective way to oppose the scourge of AIDS and protect human life."

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29 Responses to What did Pope Benedict really say on the airplane?

  1. Papabile says:

    Typical. Absolutely typical of the curial types.

  2. Fr. Charles says:

    It hurts me to say something against the Holy See, but this seems like a mistake. Changing the text will “increase the problem” of the world’s misunderstanding the Holy Father’s bold preaching,and further distract us all from how we can help to heal the African continent and repent of our sins against her people.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    I thought nothing was really “official” until its publication in Acta Apostolicae Sedis. I seem to recall papal encyclicals being corrected here and there and the version to appear in the AAS to be the “official” and “final” version. Would remarks like this not count?

  4. Garrett says:

    How strange. And disrespectful in the extreme to the Supreme Pontiff.

    Father, I’d like to ask you (or anyone else who has information to offer). Although of course I believe using condoms is always morally wrong, I was wondering if anyone could offer an explanation about how the use of condoms increases the problem of AIDS. Can someone explain that? It is enough for me to believe that, as we know from Catholic theology, the ends never justifies the means, so it really doesn’t matter even if condom use DOES help to curb the spread of AIDS, but since it has been asserted that they hinder, I would like to understand why.

  5. jamgreg says:

    “These are the directions in which the church concentrates its commitment. It does not believe that focusing primarily on a wider distribution of condoms is in reality the best, most far-sighted and effective way to oppose the scourge of AIDS and protect human life.”

    It seems to me that Fr. Federico is saying something quite different here than the Pope?

  6. Adam says:

    This is very very sad, that Fr Lombardi has INSERTED the new word ‘il rischio’ (risk) that the Holy Father did NOT say in that sentence. The insertion changes the whole meaning of what the Pope has stated on the plane.
    This is, dare I say, duplicitous, by Fr Lombardi and is so evidently NOT what the Pope said. If this had been the press officer of the President of the US or a Prime Minister, a resignation would have been demanded, indeed shouted from the media immediately.
    I have to agree with Fr Charles that this is really a horrific mistake and is, yes, a lie by the Jesuit priest. No wonder people ask if the truth is coming out and in this it is SO OBVIOUS a change to the text. You have to ask if this happens so openly, what happens behind the scenes with texts, reports, discussions, opinions etc.
    But I feel for the Holy Father now, since his spokesperson has made this horrific blunder trying to correct by a lie.I keep thinking of a line from ST Thomas More on this matter.
    But the vatican needs to revamp its whole approach to the media, from its website to the public engagement in promoting the Holy See in the world today.
    Sadly Benedict is no John Paul II who was the consumate public actor, charismatic and confident leader on the world stage. Benedict deserves much better from those around him. Lombardi’s statement has only created deception, doubt and embarrassment for the Holy Father.
    Adam

  7. Jason says:

    Although of course I believe using condoms is always morally wrong, I was wondering if anyone could offer an explanation about how the use of condoms increases the problem of AIDS.

    Obviously I do not speak for the Holy Father, but the way I interpreted his words when they were first reported, was not about the effectiveness of condoms. I thought he was saying that the “problem” with AIDS is promiscuity, lack of self-control, etc. That is the real root of the AIDS crisis, and condoms cannot solve it, but only makes it worse, because condoms encourage that kind of behavior. But, as I said, I do not speak for the Holy Father, that was just my interpretation.

  8. Luigi says:

    Fr. Charles: It hurts me to say something against the Holy See, but this seems like a mistake. Changing the text will “increase the problem” of the world’s misunderstanding the Holy Father’s bold preaching,and further distract us all from how we can help to heal the African continent and repent of our sins against her people.

    I wouldn’t characterize your observations as “saying something against the Holy See” per se; they are legitimate criticism of the actions of certain individuals who are priviledged to serve there.

    I hate to say it, but I think we’re going to get used to seeing glimpses of a curia actively, albeit at times subtly, working against the pope.

    I’ve been thinking about this “open season” on the pope as Fr. Z calls it… It really does bring the enemies into the daylight. Not all bad. Satan, however, is all about lurking in the shadows. He’s the Master Deceiver. With this in mind, subtle twists and sleight of hand manuevers like this are to be expected…

  9. Sarsfield says:

    Jason, I think your interpretation is right on. That’s what the Holy Father meant. And he is correct. The “problem” is not the Pope. The problem is a world gone mad that cannot imagine even the possibility of any sort of sexual restraint. Thus, anyone suggesting such restraint must be a lunatic or, as we’re now hearing in comments about the Pope, a murderer. The other problem is the continued presence in the Vatican of “spokespeople” who forget how it was that the original Pontiff ended his days, though they walk past the site of his martyrdom every day.

  10. Pseudomodo says:

    Garret,

    Use of a condom always has a risk of pregnancy as any condom manufacturer (and the World Health Organization) will admit. Pregnancy means that seminal fluid has contacted an egg and fertilized it.

    A womans fertility cycle is such that there is a relativly small window of opportunity to become pregnant. This means that a condom failure OUTSIDE of this window of opportunity will not result in a pregnancy even though seminal fluid contacts her body. The relativly small condom failure rate (failure meaning pregnancy) is an illusion. The reality is that actual condom failures (breaks, slips, etc.) can occur much more frequently without resulting in a pregnancy.

    The bottom line is that in her 4 week fertility cycle, her pregnancy window may only be 4 days long, but her infection window can be 6 times as long!

  11. William Tighe says:

    Stop Presses: Pope Right as Originally Quoted?

    From Saint Peter’s Square to Harvard Square
    Media coverage of papal comments on AIDS in Africa is March madness.

    By Kathryn Jean Lopez

    ‘We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower
    HIV-infection rates, which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be
    seeing if this intervention was working.”

    So notes Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research
    Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies,
    in response to papal press comments en route to Africa this week.

    Benedict XVI said, in response to a French reporter’s question asking
    him to defend the Church’s position on fighting the spread of AIDS,
    characterized by the reporter as “frequently considered unrealistic
    and ineffective”: I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with
    advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help
    one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms;
    quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can
    only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of
    sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new
    way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship,
    above all with those who are suffering, a readiness — even through
    personal sacrifice — to be present with those who suffer. And these
    are the factors that help and bring visible progress.

    “The pope is correct,” Green told National Review Online Wednesday,
    “or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s
    comments. He stresses that “condoms have been proven to not be
    effective at the ‘level of population.’” “There is,” Green adds, “a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’
    between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower)
    HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as
    risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction
    ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction
    in risk) by ‘compensating’ or taking greater chances than one would
    take without the risk-reduction technology.”

    Green added: “I also noticed that the pope said ‘monogamy’ was the
    best single answer to African AIDS, rather than ‘abstinence.’ The best
    and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple
    and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior
    change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates (the other
    major factor is male circumcision).”

    And while, as Travis Kavulla writes from Kenya today, the
    international media will ignore all sorts of fascinating new stories
    about church and civilizational growth in favor of a sexier, albeit
    way-too-familiar storyline, Green has some encouraging news: The pope
    is not alone. “More and more AIDS experts are coming to accept the
    above. The two countries with the worst HIV epidemics, Swaziland and
    Botswana, have both launched campaigns to discourage multiple and
    concurrent partners, and to encourage fidelity.”

    The pope added during that Q&A, “I would say that our double effort is
    to renew the human person internally, to give spiritual and human
    strength to a way of behaving that is just towards our own body and
    the other person’s body; and this capacity of suffering with those who
    suffer, to remain present in trying situations.”

    We need to, in other words, treat people as people. Reason with them
    and show them there is a better way to live, respectful of themselves
    and others. It’s a common-sense message that isn’t madness whether
    you’re in Africa or dealing with hormonal American teenagers. It’s a
    hard message to hear over the same-old silly debates, parodies, and
    dismissals. But it’s one that based on real life—and acknowledged not
    just in Saint Peter’s Square but in Harvard Square.

  12. teresa says:

    The Websit http://www.kath.net has got it right, what the Holy Father really said.

    And the FSSPX has come to help the Pope, pasting a well informed article with data analysis, showing that the Pope is right: while the use of condom is well propagandized in Thailand, the rate of HIV-infection in much higher there than in the catholic Philippine, where the use of condom is not so well promoted.

    For people who read German:
    http://www.fsspx.info/news/news.php?show=5364

    And the SSPX pointed also out that today is the Name’s Day of Our Holy Father (the Day of St. Josef), asking people to pray for the Pope.

  13. Fr. Z,

    This is a disgrace. But I’m surprised that this is new to you. [How on earth can you assume that?!? New to me?] This is of course not the first time something like this has happened to Benedict. Lombardi has done this before. Remember, for example, the episode on the plane to Mexico–the same thing happened!
    http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0702642.htm

  14. C.L. says:

    I was wondering if anyone could offer an explanation about how the use of condoms increases the problem of AIDS. Can someone explain that?

    The Pope’s critics are in the grip of dogma.

    Researchers at the Harvard AIDS Prevention Research Project recently reminded us that in every African country in which HIV infections have declined, this decline has been associated with a decrease in multiple partners and often premarital sex as well. This is not true of use of condoms.

    Many countries that have seen marked increases in condom use have not seen any decline in HIV prevalence, whereas in every country in which HIV has declined there have been increased levels of faithfulness and usually abstinence as well. Moreover, it was found, according to the Journal of International Development, that “the promotion of condoms at an early stage proved to be counter-productive in Botswana, whereas the lack of condom promotion during the 1980s and early 1990s contributed to the relative success of behaviour change strategies in Uganda”. Two leading experts (neither in principle opposed to condom usage) had this to say, writing in the journal Science, of the extraordinary changes in Uganda: “the government communicated a clear warning and prevention recommendation: AIDS or ‘slim’ was fatal and required immediate population responses based on…faithfulness to one partner. Condoms were a minor component of the original strategy.”

    The author is Anthony McCarthy, Research Fellow at the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, London and Oxford. read the whole thing.

  15. C.L. says:

    I was wondering if anyone could offer an explanation about how the use of condoms increases the problem of AIDS. Can someone explain that?

    The Pope’s critics are in the grip of dogma.

    Researchers at the Harvard AIDS Prevention Research Project recently reminded us that in every African country in which HIV infections have declined, this decline has been associated with a decrease in multiple partners and often premarital sex as well. This is not true of use of condoms.

    Many countries that have seen marked increases in condom use have not seen any decline in HIV prevalence, whereas in every country in which HIV has declined there have been increased levels of faithfulness and usually abstinence as well. Moreover, it was found, according to the Journal of International Development, that “the promotion of condoms at an early stage proved to be counter-productive in Botswana, whereas the lack of condom promotion during the 1980s and early 1990s contributed to the relative success of behaviour change strategies in Uganda”. Two leading experts (neither in principle opposed to condom usage) had this to say, writing in the journal Science, of the extraordinary changes in Uganda: “the government communicated a clear warning and prevention recommendation: AIDS or ‘slim’ was fatal and required immediate population responses based on…faithfulness to one partner. Condoms were a minor component of the original strategy.”

    The author is Anthony McCarthy, Research Fellow at the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, London and Oxford. read the whole thing.

  16. C.L. says:

    Also see Edward C. Green and Allison Herling Ruark in the April 2008 number of First Things:

    AIDS and the Churches: Getting the Story Right.

  17. Amy P. says:

    Father, I’d like to ask you (or anyone else who has information to offer). Although of course I believe using condoms is always morally wrong, I was wondering if anyone could offer an explanation about how the use of condoms increases the problem of AIDS. Can someone explain that? It is enough for me to believe that, as we know from Catholic theology, the ends never justifies the means, so it really doesn’t matter even if condom use DOES help to curb the spread of AIDS, but since it has been asserted that they hinder, I would like to understand why.

    I think it’s because condoms not only violate human dignity and deny life, but because they encourage promiscuity (which was the Pope’s point) and are NOT 100% failsafe (they are somewhere between 80 & 90% effective, I believe) when it comes to preventing the spread of AIDS. Encouraging promiscuity would, statisically, increase the chances that someone would contract AIDS. Additionally, there is no guarantee that when you hand someone condoms that they will either use them or use them properly. Condoms break, aren’t put on properly, etc.

    We see that areas, like Washington DC, where condom programs were instituted, still see high numbers of HIV/AIDS cases.

    So while the motive behind the Pope’s comments are rooted in faith, they also have a very practical side.

  18. Aine says:

    March 18th, 2009 7:53 pm

    Score One For The Pope

    I’m not a Catholic—and I’m pretty sure I’ll never become one—but I’ve read a fair amount of the writings of Pope Benedict XVI and it’s clear to me the man is a theological genius. I find it amazing that the Vatican could have followed a genuine hero like John Paul II with a mighty mind like Benedict’s. He is the Last European, the last man to truly understand the ideas that formed the foundation of Europe’s greatness. When he leaves, they may have to turn off the lights of the continent.
    contin:
    http://pajamasmedia.com/andrewklavan/2009/03/18/score-one-for-the-pope/

  19. ALL: Did you notice that the real topic of this entry is the that changes were made to the Holy Father’s comments?

    Did you notice that this is not an entry about the use of condoms in Africa or anywhere else for any reason?

  20. denise says:

    The Holy Father knows he will have to answer to a higher authority, therefore the secular media, unbelievers, and those with an agenda are not the first groups he thinks about when he makes his comments on any subject.

  21. Steve K. says:

    When is the Holy See going to exercise discipline over its employees? We are seeing revolts by clergy now in many places, but this is within the Holy Father’s own household – deliberate sabotage of His activity by people entrusted to help him. This is really an intolerable situation and the passivity in the face of all this baffles me. I just don’t get it. Why not move against the traitors?

  22. Christopher says:

    The Australian has picked up on this story. They are calling it “backing away slightly”. But there is no evidence HH intends to back away from anything, just that whoever prepared this entry for the Vatican website thinks they know better than the Pope himself. The rest of the press will probably pick this up too, and interpret it the same way “Pope backs down [when we bully him!]”. I don’t mind saying I think these minions in the Holy See, whoever they are, deserve a smack down for this (and that isn’t criticising the Holy See, just some individuals within its organisational structure) if for no other reason than the confusion it will cause.

  23. Joe says:

    Let the Pope speak for himself!

  24. Giuseppe says:

    Here’s my take:

    The Pope apparently was asked a question in French & he responded in French & then Italian.

    see:
    http://my.telegraph.co.uk/pastoremeritus/blog/2009/03/19/pope_did_not_ssay_condom_increases_aids

    also see the comment on the French response (3rd from last on page4) by “Donanobispacem” at:
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/damian_thompson/blog/2009/03/18/it_looks_like_some_idiot_in_the_vatican_press_office_tampered_with_the_popes_quotes_time_for_sackings?com_num=20&com_pg=4

    So could some one *also* put up the video of the French-language response and its transcript?

    It appears the the Pope answered in French and also answered in Italian, but quite naturally was paraphrasing himself slightly in the process (e.g. “money: vs “publicity slogans”)
    (after all – he’s wasn’t there to be a perfect “translator” – he was reformulating his thoughts first in one language & then another)

    Perhaps the Holy See’s website was attempting to reconcile the Pope’s French-language response and his Italian-language response & put his “overall” response into Italian.

    (sorry for the long URLs)

  25. Neil says:

    I don’t believe that being seen to “correct” this statement will do anything other than harm. The media are “making” the stories and are drunk with the sense they have “influence”. The more often a “media storm” appears to result in “concessions” or “backdowns” the more ofthn there will be a “media storm”.

    The Pope is right.
    God save our Holy Pope and bless him for having the courage to defend the culture of life.

  26. LPD says:

    Does anyone seriously believe that if the Holy Father ever advocated the use of condoms, then people would listen to him? They seem to ignore him on questions such as monogamy and sex outside marriage.

  27. robk says:

    I see stories of this papacy being a disaster. I see this pope and his message as nothing but absolutely wonderful. The way he said it was the right way. He has spoken the truth here and in Regensburg, and with the Summorum Pontificum, and with the lifting of excommunication, and with correcting Pelosi and other pro-aborts, and in his Apostolic visits here and elsewhere.

    The media, and perhaps with help of some dissidents in the Vatican, seek to undermine him. The forces of the Devil are lining up to keep the truth from being heard. God has blessed the world with Pope Benedict, but the world and those in the Church infected by the world do not want to listen.

  28. trespinos says:

    Fr. Lombardi has been frequently blamed in the preceeding comments, on the assumption that it was he or his operatives that changed the wording. But I believe he has now stated that it was the Secretariat of State that was responsible for the deed. If so, it’s Cdl. Bertone who needs to get his act together. The Holy Father should tell him, “Basta! Don’t go making changes in my statements without my authorization. Vergogna!”

  29. saint says:

    I posted the transcript of the particular Q&A from this transcript on another blog. I usually check the Vatican transcripts as I haven’t been enamoured of many translations in the press. At that time, the transcript read:

    Se non c’è l’anima, se gli africani non si aiutano, non si può risolvere il flagello con la distribuzione di profilattici: al contrario, il rischio è di aumentare il problema.

    If I am to believe susbequent reports, the Vatican press office even got the transcript wrong, substituting “profilattici” for “preservativi” (the latter a perfectly acceptable colloquial Italian term for condom), and adding “it risks” (il rischio è).

    And as at today,(20/3 in Oz) the transcript reads:

    Se non c’è l’anima, se gli africani non si aiutano, non si può risolvere il flagello con la distribuzione di preservativi: al contrario, il rischio è di aumentare il problema.

    Which suggested to me that the transcript was right but for substituting a more formal rather than colloquial term.

    Now I come here and find that, no, one can’t trust the Vatican site either.

    Great. Just. Great.