"The Vatican felt the heat from an unprecedented amount of international condemnation last week after Pope Benedict XVI made an outrageous and wildly inaccurate statement about HIV/AIDS," a Lancet editorial says.
It adds that the Roman Catholic Church's "ethical opposition to birth control and support of marital fidelity and abstinence in HIV prevention is well known. But, by saying that condoms exacerbate the problem of HIV/AIDS, the Pope has publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue."
The editorial says, "Whether the Pope's error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology is unclear." It adds, "But the comment still stands, and the Vatican's attempts to tweak the pope's words, further tampering with the truth, is not the way forward."
According to the editorial, when "any influential person, be it a religious or political leader, makes a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people, they should retract or correct the public record." It concludes, "Anything less from Pope Benedict would be 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" (Lancet, 3/28).