The Vatican's strict opposition to condoms is well known. So opponents of the Roman Catholic Church's position on artificial contraception were heartened by comments from Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, the progressive retired Archbishop of Milan, who said condoms could be a "lesser evil" when used in the context of marriage to prevent the spread of HIV. Then Javier Lozano Cardinal Barragán, who heads a Vatican health committee, said his panel was preparing a document that would "reconsider" the church's stance.
Not so fast. Vatican sources say the church's position has not changed--and will not change soon. Officials flatly dismiss reports that the Vatican is about to publish a document that will condone any condom use--even when one spouse has HIV. And Barragán backtracked, saying his office was producing only an internal "study" of the issue. "This is something that has been studied for years," a well-placed Vatican source told TIME. "But there's no sign at all that a document is set to come out." The official didn't rule out a possible policy tweak, but any change will be "years away."
This episode seems mostly to reflect wishful thinking by church progressives. "Let's not forget that Martini's camp was essentially the loser in last year's conclave," a Vatican official says. The conservatives won, and contraception does not seem to be high on Pope Benedict XVI's agenda. In late November, he listed several ways to combat the spread of HIV, including chastity, fidelity in marriage and antipoverty efforts. He did not mention condoms.