Pope Promotes Punctured Prophylactics
The Vatican is about to launch its own range of condoms - with the blessing of the Pope. But the aim is to prevent disease, not babies, said a spokesman for the Holy See.
Every condom will come complete with a hole in the tip so that the faithful can protect themselves against infection while obeying the church's ruling on contraception. It's believed that the Pope is hoping to change the Roman Catholic church's image when it comes to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
"We still say that AIDS is divine retribution for those who have been led astray by the devil," said one Cardinal who requested to remain anonymous. "But our previous strategy of spreading lies about condoms has backfired. People are dying and it makes it look as though we're killing them. Which we sort of are."
There will be two products in the new range - the extra-sensitive Rapture and the heavy duty Holy Shroud.
The move is a sign that the church is trying to repair its reputation and show that it still has relevance, claimed the Cardinal.
"We can't stop people having sex," he said. "Hell, we can't even stop our own priests doing it. But we want them to be safe, even if they are going to go to hell eventually."
He refused to comment on criticisms that the hole will mean that the condoms remain relatively useless in the fight against AIDS and other diseases.
The condoms will be available only in selected churches and the first batches will be distributed directly to priests for their own use. When production ramps up, they will be made available to the public, accompanied by a marketing campaign with the slogan:
"They're holy because they're hole-y"
Early prototypes had holes created by nuns who were blindfolded to protect their virtue, the Cardinal explained. "But we just had too many accidents," he added. "And some of the condoms were slipping through unpunctured. So the holes are now made by a carefully selected group of priests who, for one reason or another, can't return to their parishes for the time being."
One Vatican-watching pundit, William H Carpenter of the Carpenter Ecumenical Foundation, says this puts a new light on the recent spat between the Vatican and the British Government over a leaked memo. The UK Foreign Office email made a number of suggestions for the Pope's planned visit to Britain, including some ideas that senior Roman Catholics apparently found insulting and disrespectful. The Vatican expressed displeasure at the idea that the Pope might open an abortion clinic or launch a new range of condoms.
"It now seems that the anger over the condom idea expressed in the memo had nothing to do with theology or ethics," says Carpenter. "According to my sources, the Vatican was more worried about protecting its brand and the possibility that marketing plans had been leaked."
A Roman Catholic cardinal, speaking through a Vatican media relations agency, has claimed that Pope Benedict XVI is about to make Adolf Hitler a saint.
"It's in recognition of Herr Hitler's dedication to making the world a more Christian place," claimed the cardinal. He said he was providing the information, on condition of anonymity, in order to put an end to a long-running debate. "The Catholic church is often accused of not having done enough in the Second World War to help purify Europe," he said. "Some say the Vatican stayed on the sidelines, but it's time to put the record straight and show how we did our utmost to increase the proportion of Christians in countries throughout the continent."
The cardinal claims the beatification of the erstwhile Nazi dictator has already begun, "though we need someone to take the part of Devil's Advocate," he said. "You know, someone we can trust. That's proving difficult."
Pope Benedict is believed by some to be smiling on the project. A Bavarian previously known as Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict is a former member of the Hitler Youth and later served in a German anti-aircraft unit during World War 2. While a Cardinal in charge of the Inquisition, he was given a number of nicknames by other members of the church, including 'the enforcer', 'God’s rottweiler' and 'the panzer cardinal'.
The cardinal admits that the elevation to sainthood of one of history's most notorious mass murderers might come as a surprise to some. "One has to admire, though, his clearly evident and frequently professed piety," he said. "He was, after all, born and raised a Catholic and, in spite of a few disagreements, generally maintained warm relations with the Vatican throughout the war. That's why we were so keen to help leading Nazis escape the terror of Protestant- and atheist-inspired so-called 'justice' when the war ended. Oh, and there was the Jew thing."
Some revisionist historians have tried to portray Hitler as an atheist himself, pointing to the Nazis' sporadic actions against churches and alleged 'private' statements against Christianity recorded in the infamous 'Table Talk' publications. "However, the Nazis made great efforts to create and support a unified church," explained the cardinal. "And all that 'Table Talk' nonsense is just a misunderstanding as a result of poor translations. That's something we know all about in the Christian church."
He added: "All you have to do is look at what Hitler actually said."
Hitler's faith was expressed early. In 1921, he announced: "My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior ... I am fighting for the work of the Lord." He often mentioned the "treasures of the living Christ" and when some visiting deaconesses asked him from where he drew the strength to change the Reich, he replied "From God's word".
Hitler saw non-belief as a threat. Over dinner, he would tell people "We don't want to educate anyone in atheism". In public, he declaimed: "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such a school has no religious instruction and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith. From our point of view as representatives of the state, we need believing people."
He also gained a great deal of support from Christians. "If anyone can lay claim to God's help, then it is Hitler, for without God's benevolent fatherly hand, without his blessing, the nation would not be where it stands today," said evangelical education minister Bernhard Rust, in a speech to a mass meeting of German Christians in 1933. "It is an unbelievable miracle that God has bestowed on our people."
Catholic Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich, after visiting Hitler at his mountain retreat, said: "Without doubt the chancellor lives in faith in God. He recognizes Christianity as the foundation of Western culture."
Pope Pius XII, a month after becoming Pontiff in 1939, instructed Archbishop Orsenigo to throw a birthday party for Hitler's 50th birthday and never forgot to send "warmest congratulations" every year on the same occasion.
The move is not universally welcome, however. One of the most outspoken critics of the beatification is a Nigerian priest, Father Blimey O'Reilly. "He went a bit far sometimes," said O'Reilly. "Killing all those poor mentally retarded people, for one thing. And in these more enlightened times, the Roman Catholic church absolutely condemns the act of sending homosexuals to concentration camps. They can be cured now."
However, even O'Reilly admits some grudging respect. "There's no doubt that Hitler performed numerous miracles," he said. "The saving of the German economy, the building of the autobahns and making the Beetle a popular car."