Publisher yanks book implying Vatican OKs condoms

Vatican City - An Italian publisher has yanked copies of a book on Catholic Church teaching after a translation error implied the Vatican approved of contraception, officials said Tuesday.

The book "YouCat," a Catholic catechism book for young people, is to be presented officially Wednesday at a Vatican press conference.

But on the eve of the presentation, officials confirmed that Nuova Citta, the Italian publisher of "YouCat," had pulled the Italian copies to fix the error, which concerned whether married couples could plan the size of their families.

The Vatican opposes artificial contraception, holding that life begins at conception. The church does, however, condone Natural Family Planning, in which married couples chart the changes in a woman's menstrual cycle to determine when she might, or might not, conceive.

It's the second time in a year that translation problems have muddied church teaching on contraception. In November, the Vatican's own publishing house mistranslated the pope's comments about condoms and AIDS, implying that condom use for prostitutes was justified in some cases.

The mistake made headlines since it indicated the church had softened its firm opposition to artificial contraception.

But the Vatican insisted Pope Benedict XVI was doing no such thing and was merely saying that a prostitute who uses a condom may be taking a first step in a more moral, responsible sexuality because he or she is looking out for the welfare of another.

"YouCat" makes clear that the Catholic Church still opposes condoms, the pill and other forms of artificial contraception.

But in the Italian copy of the book, which is set out as a series of questions and answers with commentary, the initial question is mistranslated. In the original German, the question concerns whether married couples can "regulate conception."

The answer says yes, then goes onto explain that the church promotes Natural Family Planning.

In the Italian however, the original question wasn't translated as "regulate conception" but rather whether married couples could "use contraceptive methods." The answer remained the same, an affirmative yes, implying that the Church was sanctioning contraception.

"It's an embarrassment," but not a change in church teaching, said the Rev. Joseph Fessio, head of Ignatius Press, YouCat's English-language publisher.

He told The Associated Press that Nuova Citta had printed 45,000 Italian copies, 15,000-16,000 of which were already physically sold.

"The rest they're going to have to pull them all," he said.