When Pope Benedict XVI was flying to Cameroon on March 17, he responded to a reporter who asked him to address -- in French -- the argument that the Catholic vision for fighting AIDS "is often considered unrealistic and ineffective."
The pope's answer was both charitable and candid, reflecting the Catholic view that sex outside of marriage and artificial birth control are always wrong.
It is worth noting, incidentally, that to the degree a society lives by these principles -- even if only for practical reasons -- venereal disease diminishes.
So, what did the pope say?
According to an English-language transcript posted by the Vatican, the pope first mentioned certain Catholic institutions that care for AIDS patients, and then said: "I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome merely with money, necessary though it is. If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help (by responsible behavior), the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics. On the contrary, they increase it. The solution must have two elements: firstly, bringing out the human dimension of sexuality -- that is to say a spiritual and human renewal that would bring with it a new way of behaving toward others -- and secondly, true friendship offered above all to those who are suffering, a willingness to make sacrifices and to practice self-denial, to be alongside the suffering."
The Associated Press instantly issued a report datelined "Aboard the Papal Plane."
"Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday that the distribution of condoms is not the answer in the fight against AIDS in Africa," reported AP. "'You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms,' the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde, Cameroon. 'On the contrary, it increases the problem.'"
Almost as instantly, the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual-rights group, responded through Harry Knox, director of its Religion and Faith Program.
Now, Knox could have simply stated his contrary belief that condoms are indeed the answer to AIDS. But, instead, he issued an ad hominem attack, accusing the pope of "hurting people in the name of Jesus" and "morally reprehensible" behavior.