Eyes and ears of people throughout the world were on the Vatican last weekend. Attention came to the consistory at the Vatican during which Pope Benedict XVI created 24 new cardinals from 13 countries for the Church, two of whom are Americans.

Much media glare came to a new book-length interview with Pope Benedict, published officially this week but excerpts of which appeared in the Vatican newspaper last weekend. The book presents the Pope’s candid responses to a reporter’s questions covering a variety of topics. {{more}}

Many media outlets grabbed a specific comment by the Pope on the use of condoms, ripped it out of his intended context and concluded that he said it is OK for people to use condoms. That is not exactly what he said.

As our cover story this week analyzes, Pope Benedict commented on condom use in certain narrow cases and for a specific goal. He hardly reversed Church teaching. In fact he supported the teaching of the Church that the only place for human sexuality exists within the marriage of one man and one woman, and marital acts are to be open to new life, not barred by artificial means such as condoms.

What went underreported was the overwhelming pastoral and clinical care the Church provides for people suffering with HIV and AIDS especially in Africa. That compassionate care for suffering people bears the benefit of experience to know that wide distribution of condoms often encourages more reckless and sinful behavior, leading to wider spread of HIV.

Pope Benedict pointed to the specific case of male prostitutes using condoms as a means to prevent the spread of disease. Their use of condoms even in immoral acts might spur in them the recognition of their emerging moral conscience. The Pope condoned neither prostitutes nor condoms. Somehow, that nuance eluded most media accounts.

The book covers that topic and others, including the clergy sexual abuse scandal and the effects of climate change. In the context of that topic he offered a wise observation that ties together all the book’s themes: The Church can “bring the question about God back into the center,” he said. “The important thing today is to see that God exists, that God matters to us and that He answers us.”

That is a message desperately needed in today’s world. The Church, with all the gifts at its disposal and despite its many challenges, stands as a beacon for society, drawing all things and all people to Jesus Christ her Lord.