From an AP article:
Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau, an expert on the Vatican's bioethics advisory board, said the pope was articulating the theological idea that there are degrees of evil.
"Contraception is not the worst evil. The church does not see it as good, but the church does not see it as the worst," he told the AP. "Abortion is far worse. Passing on HIV is criminal. That is absolute irresponsibility."
He said the pope broached the topic because questions about condoms and AIDS persisted, and the church's teaching hadn't been clear. There is no official Vatican policy about condoms and HIV, and Vatican officials in the past have insisted that condoms not only don't help fight HIV transmission but make it worse because it gives users a false sense of security.
"This pope gave this interview. He was not foolish. It was intentional," Suaudeau said. "He thought that this was a way of bringing up many questions. Why? Because it's true that the church sometimes has not been too clear."
Lombardi said the pope didn't use the technical terminology "lesser evil" in his comments because he wanted his words to be understood by the general public. Vatican officials, however, said that was what he meant.
"The contribution the pope wanted to give is not a technical discussion with scientific language on moral problems," Lombardi said. "This is not the job of a book of this type."