In my Pastor's Desk of Palm Sunday, I wrote that I would print the actual words of Pope Benedict regarding two issues for which he was unfairly criticized. He was accused of worsening the AIDS crisis by promoting abstinence. Also, some labeled him an anti-Semite for his lifting the excommunication of an errant bishop who doubted the Holocaust.
Regarding his comments on the use of condoms, here is Vatican Information Service’s release of the exchange between the Pope and the reporter:
Answering a question on the Catholic Church’s approach to HIV/ AIDS, considered by some as unrealistic and ineffective, the Pope said: "It is my belief that the most effective presence on the front in the battle against HIV/ AIDS is in fact the Catholic Church and her institutions. . . . The problem of HIV/ AIDS cannot be overcome with mere 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 toward one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with the suffering, a readiness — even through personal sacrifice — to stand by those who suffer."
Rev. George Pitcher, an Anglican who ministers to the journalists of Fleet Street, had this to say: "So let me stick up for Benedict. He declares that the Church’s historic teaching that chastity outside marriage and fidelity within it would prevent the spread of killer diseases such as AIDS. Whatever your views on the subject, that simple statement is undoubtedly true. And Benedict is in the truth business."
Personally, I do not understand why some get upset about the Pope's words. He is merely stating the truth. He is not forcing it on any one. Jesus Christ did not make any one believe; the people had to accept freely his teachings. Pope Benedict is doing the same. May we all listen open-mindedly with charity.
Next week, this column will have his words about the negative criticism that he received when he lifted the excommunication of Bishop Williamson and three other bishops of the Society of St. Pius X which is not fully united with the Catholic Church.