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Sunday 27th May 2018

Pope accused of distorting science

30th March 2009

Pope Benedict XVI, who said during a trip to Africa earlier this month that distributing condoms was  not the answer to HIV/AIDS, is distorting science, a top medical journal said in an editorial.


The Lancet said in an unusually harshly worded editorial that the Pope's recent comments that condoms exacerbated the problem were wildly inaccurate and could have devastating consequences.

The Pope's point was that HIV/AIDS, which he called a "cruel" epidemic, should be tackled through sexual abstinence and fidelity.

HIV/AIDS, the Pope said during his first ever visit to Africa, was a tragedy that neither money nor the distribution of condoms could solve. Distributing condoms, he said, "can even increase the problem".

He said the only reliable way to prevent the spread of HIV was to follow the traditional teachings of the Church.

The Catholic Church generally argues that giving out condoms does not prevent promiscuity, and may even encourage it.

But according to the London-based journal, the Pope had "publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue".

Male latex condoms were the single most efficient way to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS, it added.

It was unclear whether the Pope's error was due to ignorance or to a deliberate attempt to "manipulate science to support Catholic ideology", the journal said.

It called on the Vatican to retract the comment, which has been slightly modified in Vatican transcripts, but which still stands.

It said the public record should be corrected if a highly influential person made a statement which was scientifically false.

The results could be devastating to the health of millions of people, The Lancet said.

Failure to issue a retraction would be doing an immense disservice to the public and health advocates, including many thousands of Catholics, who work tirelessly to try and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide.

Attempts by the Pope to justify the official Vatican position on condom use appear to have backfired.


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