Asked about this by reporters, Father Lombardi said that it makes no difference whether Pope Benedict was referring to a male or female prostitute.
“I asked the Pope personally if there was a serious or important problem in the choice of the masculine gender rather than the feminine, and he said no,” Father Lombardi said.
The Pope’s main point, he added, was that condom use by prostitutes might represent “the first step of responsibility in taking into account the risk to the life of another person with whom one has relations.”
“Whether a man or a woman or a transsexual does this, we’re at the same point,” Fr. Lombardi said. “The point is the first step toward responsibility, to avoid posing a grave risk to another person.”
Media reaction to Fr. Lombardi’s remarks was swift, with nearly every major news agency reporting that the Pope believes that condom use – even in heterosexual relations – is a lesser evil than transmitting HIV to one's partner.
This confusion on a fundamental matter of Church moral teaching is hardly helpful, Dr. Haas told CNA.
Haas, head of the National Center for Catholic Bioethics and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said the Pope should issue comments of his own on the situation.
Haas said people need to keep in mind that Seewald's book “is not a formal teaching document – it's an interview with a journalist.”
The book, he said, “has no magisterial weight whatsoever.”
However, Haas was troubled by Fr. Lombardi's remarks, which he said seem to misrepresent what the Pope is trying to argue in the book.
“The gender of the prostitute is indeed relevant to the point the Pope wanted to make with regard to the use of condoms,” Haas said.
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Referring to the Pope’s specific example of a male prostitute, Haas said, the “presumption is that the male prostitute has AIDS. His decision to use a condom perhaps might mean some expression of concern and regard for the other person.”
“Even in the midst of an act of prostitution and an act of sodomy, the man still has concern for the 'other,'” Haas said, explaining the Pope’s point.
Further, this concern “might actually lead eventually to a life of chastity out of love for the other.”
Haas said Pope's remarks reflect his "profound optimism about human nature." But he questioned the exact meaning of Fr. Lombardi's comments, as they have been reported in the international media.
Haas pointed out that female prostitutes do not use condoms. If a female prostitute does use condoms, he said, that act would likely reflect a selfish concern – to protect herself from disease.
"She would want to protect herself from being infected and in no way would be expressing the concern for the 'other' that the Pope said might be the first step toward 'moralization' if it were being done by a male prostitute."