Vatican criticizes Rome school's condom machine plan

Rome, Italy - The decision by a Rome high school to install condom vending machines has set off a storm in Italy, with the Catholic Church charging the move will encourage young people to have sex and Rome's mayor saying it sends the wrong message.

But the Keplero high school vowed Thursday to go ahead with its experiment, billed as the first in the capital. While it's a relative novelty for Italy, schools in several other European countries have installed the machines in hopes of curbing teen pregnancy and HIV.

"This is not about stimulating the use of condoms or intercourse," Antonio Panaccione, the school headmaster, told the Associated Press. "On the contrary, it's about prevention and education."

The school plans to install six vending machines as part of educating students about sexuality and HIV protection. The price: $2.70 for a pack of three, lower than market prices.

Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the pope's vicar for Rome, said the decision trivialized sex. He said it "cannot be approved by Rome's ecclesiastical community or by Christian families who are seriously concerned with the education of their children."

The newspaper of the Italian Bishops' Conference said Thursday that sex was being reduced to "mere physical exercise."