CULTURE DIGEST: Divorce touted on popular website; Pope's comments cause confusion; ...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The topic of divorce has gained new prominence on a popular website, now perched among homepage tabs for health, arts, books, religion and other newsworthy options at The Huffington Post.

With the tagline "Marriage comes and goes but divorce is forever," the liberal Internet news/opinion website launched a new section that carries headlines such as "Divorce comfort foods," "Dealing with sentimental jewelry post-split" and "5 tips for negotiating your divorce."

"I've always thought that, as a country, we do a lousy job of addressing how we can do divorce differently -- and better," Arianna Huffington, cofounder of the website, wrote in an introduction to the new section.

"... Our goal is to produce a fast, fearless, highly interactive guide to the profound changes divorce brings to families, friendships, careers, and finances -- to say nothing of the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of those going through it. We'll bring you all the latest divorce news, plus fresh takes from our Divorce group bloggers.

"So whether you are divorced, divorcing, or just curious about how others manage the complexities of divorce, check out HuffPost Divorce. Breaking up is hard to do ... but reading about it isn't," Huffington, who is divorced, wrote.

Author Nora Ephron, famous for such films as "Sleepless in Seattle" and "When Harry Met Sally," is collaborating with Huffington on the section.

"People who are divorced have endless problems," Ephron, also divorced, said, according to The New York Times. "There are financial needs and legal difficulties. Grooming is an issue, because they're constantly having to remake themselves. So there's an enormous service area."

The conservative Culture and Media Institute, in its critique of the Divorce section, said the "disheartening reality of divorce is trivialized all over the site," and the project comes across "as a depressing, left-wing agenda push for a society in which divorce is celebrated as an exercise of personal freedom."

In addition to HuffPost Divorce, the Culture and Media Institute noted that mainstream media outlets have made light of the devastating effects of divorce.

An example, the institute said, is The Wall Street Journal's characterization of the separation of Al and Tipper Gore as "a new normal that began with their generation." NPR interviewed a professor who "prefers to see the Gores' separation not as a failure of marriage but as a celebration of life."

And recently NBC's Today Show asked in a segment, "Is monogamy realistic?" and Time magazine's cover story asked, "Who needs marriage?"

"Since Arianna Huffington herself admits divorce changes everything and admittedly had a negative effect on her own children, the question must be asked: Why not dedicate a section to preventing divorce and supporting marriage?" the Culture and Media Institute said Nov. 17.

POPE'S CONDOM COMMENTS CREATE CONFUSION -- Pope Benedict XVI caused a stir when he made some casual comments about condoms in an interview with a German journalist, leading some to question whether the Vatican has altered its stance on birth control.

The remarks were published in a book of interviews, and they include Benedict saying condoms are not "a real or moral solution" to the AIDS epidemic and that the solution "can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality."

He added that "there may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility," according to The New York Times.

AIDS activists lauded the pope's comments as a breakthrough and a Vatican spokesman called the remarks unprecedented but clarified that they had been offered "colloquially," not as part of official church teaching, The Times said.

Whatever the weight or implications of his comments, The Times said "confining the example to homosexual sex appeared intended to strengthen the Vatican argument that the pope had not changed his view on contraception."

Sandro Magister, a veteran Vatican reporter, said what is impressive about the pope's new book, "Light of the World," is that it portrays him as more in tune with the practical realities of daily life than he sometimes is characterized as being.

"He puts himself in this space, which is the real space of people's lives," Magister said, according to The Times. "A book like this is worth more than a lot of homilies."

'RUBBER REVOLUTION' CALLED RECKLESS -- The Washington, D.C., Department of Health is taking some heat for a new condom promotion campaign called "Rubber Revolution," which will target all residents of the nation's capital for the next year.

"It definitely minimizes any risks associated with casual sex and it sends the message that having sex with any number of partners at any time is OK as long as you use a condom," Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, told FoxNews.com. "It's a not-too-subtle message."

Upon a brief review of RubberRevolutionDC.com, Huber said she found "nothing that informs" but did find a message that could be misinterpreted, particularly by youth. The campaign, which includes a quiz asking, "What kind of condom are you?" is especially troubling to Huber because the District of Columbia recently denied federal funding for abstinence education.

"It's not responsible public health," Huber said. "It's just, 'Sex is fun and let's make a game out of it.' There's a much better way to use $200,000, particularly in an area of high need and high risk."

Washington has the highest rate of people living with HIV/AIDS in the nation, FoxNews.com reported. The rate there is 3 percent, compared to 0.45 percent nationwide.

"We've looked at ways people have done strategies to engage people in an affirming way," Michael Kharfen, the D.C. health department's community outreach bureau chief, said. "Some of what we've seen in research is that condoms can be stigmatizing. We're trying to change the conversation."


Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.