The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Benedict has approved a historic shift to allow condoms to avoid AIDS - while carefully painting it as no change at all, said a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
In a typical Vatican clarification that left both conservatives and progressives convinced they were correct, a spokesman said the Pope did mean to say that someone with AIDS should use condoms to prevent infection, regardless of gender.
But Father Federico Lombardi said the Pope's ''reasoning certainly cannot be defined as a revolutionary shift'', that he still taught abstinence and fidelity as better than condoms, which were ''not a real or moral solution''.
The stunning U-turn on condoms - traditional Catholic teaching says it is always sinful to use condoms within marriage because it blocks the transmission of life - emerged in interviews with a German journalist published in a book this week.
But because Pope Benedict used the example of a male prostitute, conservative Catholics denied that it applied outside homosexual sex. However, in Italian the example was of a female prostitute.
Father Lombardi said because of the confusion he asked the Pope to clarify. The Pope told him the critical point was for someone with AIDS to take ''into consideration the life of another with whom you have a relationship''.
He said several moral theologians had held similar positions, ''however it is true that until now we had not heard them expressed with such clarity from the mouth of a pope''.
On Monday, the Bishop of Paramatta, Anthony Fisher, a bioethics specialist, released a statement saying ''despite some misinterpretation in the international media, the Pope has not deviated from or altered in any way Catholic teaching on the wrongness of contraception''. The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, also released a statement endorsing Bishop Fisher.
Neither was available for comment yesterday, the report said.
Condoms can be used to stop AIDS, says Pope, but church leaders still split (Sydney Morning Herald)