Perhaps for most it seemed as if the Pope was merely repeating himself when he went to Africa and urged people not to use condoms because they are an inefficient way of controlling aids infection.
But read closer.
The Catholic church’s objection to contraception is not that it doesn’t work. It is that it enables people to have sex exclusively for pleasure.
He might as well ban the hand.
That objection would stand if condoms were perfect.
When he attacks the inefficacy of condoms in preventing infection, the Pope is not speaking out of a theological understanding.
If Benedict had been consistent with church teaching, he would have landed in Africa and announced that people should stop using condoms because it is God’s will that every act of congress between a male and a female should have the prospect of generating new life.
Maybe he now thinks it is better to get people to do the right thing for the wrong reason than not at all.
It is as if Peter Robinson had said that he stands four square behind the Union with Britain because it facilitates cheap ferry travel to Scotland and enables his electorate to go to football matches.
It is as if Cardinal Brady, facing the education committtee last week, had told them that the Catholic church needs to retain control over its schools because it might be able to sell them one day and make loads of money.
It is as if Mervyyn Storey had said we need a museum of creation because children are entitled to fairy stories and shouldn’t have to study too hard.
It is as if Martin McGuinness had said we should have a united Ireland to cut down on dole fraud and cross border shopping, and not because it is somehow right in itself, however costly, which is what the signatories of the proclamation of 1916 thought.
It is as if the Real IRA said they wanted to go on with the Troubles because a man gets more respect if people know he has killed someone.
These would be masking an the actual conviction with another excuse for coming to the same conclusion.
And those who argue practical points from coy principled positions are always going to exaggerate the merits of their case, but worse still, sometimes, are those who stick to principles when all practical reason is against them.
Like those we call dissident republicans; in reality the last of the traditionalist republicans, who still believe Patrick Pearse called a republic into existence.
Like creationists who imagine God made the world in six days then threw in a few fossils to confuse us.
Like language campaigners who want street signs that would only lead to more people getting lost.
Like ghetto minded students who think Belfast can still have No-go areas.
Which is not to say that the Pope and others should stick to practical arguments alone. But when they shift that way, they are making cases that can be contradicted. That’s what we call politics.