As Archbishop Rowan Williams points out, the Church is the only organization big enough to take care of Aids education in Africa.
(Canon Gideon Byamugisha, mentioned in the first of these broadcasts, has been awarded the prestigious Niwano Peace Prize by Rissho Koseikai this year. see http://allafrica.com/stories/200902200880.html.)
But it seems that African bishops are to the fore in discouraging the use of condoms. Their attitude, according to all health authorities, is wrong, lethally wrong. The cost could be thousands of needless deaths.
Here are the Congolese bishops: Condom use is ‘not only an ethical disorder but above all the proof of the trivialization of sexuality in our society. Instead of preventing the spread of the disease, and without even guaranteeing complete security, it heightens human selfishness, worsens the problem, and encourages people to let themselves be driven by their sexual instincts and divests sexuality of its religious and symbolic functions.’ The bishop of Tshumbe summarizes: ‘We say no to condoms!’
Will neocaths spring to the defense of these bishops?:
Here is a Nigerian bishop: ‘What reduces infections is less casual sex, not more condoms. That is the truth. Those accusing the pope of being unrealistic, that young people will have sex anyway, have no respect for the young people, the archbishop said. When they are given true orientation, young people freely respond with far greater sexual responsibility than the armchair social experts can ever imagine.’
“One report showed that between 2000 and 2005, the average number of condoms distributed in Nigeria by donors was 5.9 per man, per year. A study in 2002 found that 75 percent of health service facilities that had been visited did not have any condoms or contraceptive supplies. The number of female condoms sold in Nigeria has significantly increased, which indicates a greater awareness of sexual health issues... The female condom can potentially help in reducing the spread of HIV, as it does not rely upon the willingness of the man to use a condom himself... Restrictions on condom promotion have hampered HIV prevention efforts. In 2001, a radio advertisement was suspended by the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) for promoting messages suggesting that it is acceptable to engage in premarital sex as long as a condom is used. In 2006 APCON also started to enforce stricter regulations on condom advertisements that might encourage ‘indecency’.”
For older examples of a phobic attitude to condoms among African bishops see:
Sanity prevails, however, among South Africa’s bishops:
A few years ago they were condeming the use of condoms: http://www.aegis.com/news/irin/2001/IR010812.html. The thoroughly obnoxious Cardinal Newman Society are now targeting Bishop Dowling, claiming that his support of condom use has been condemned by his fellow bishops and the papal nuncio in SA:
Dowling is the voice of sweet reason and common sense, and authentic compassion, pleading with the Vatican to show humility in face of the epidemic that has killed millions:
More recently the Church has been getting priests to disinfect their hands before distributing communion, suppressing the handshake of peace, communion in the mouth, and holy water, with a view to curbing the Swine Flu epidemic; contrast this with their criminal negligence in Africa: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-13255.html
Rome Fiddles, World Burns
This blog entry contains links to many articles, from both sides of the debate, that are vulgar, childish, impetuous, and ill-reasoned. I have censored none of the voices that came my way. The picture that emerges is rather farcical. But I suspect that Death is having the biggest laugh of all.
I begin with my reply to Dr. Vincent Twomey in The Irish Times April 1:
My esteemed codiocesan Dr James Good also replied (not published):
‘Dr. Vincent Twomey, S.V.D., rightly praises Irish Franciscan missionary Sr. Miriam Duggan for her inspirational work in AIDS prevention and care in Uganda. I have seen the work at first hand in Kampala and it is certainly inspirational.
‘Dr. Twomey notes correctly that Uganda’s policy reduced the incidence of casual sex by 60% with a consequent major reduction in the spread of AIDS. This is not denied.
‘However, Dr. Twomey does not give the full picture. The Uganda programme is based on the first three letters of the alphabet – A, B and C: Abstain, Be faithful (to one partner) and Condom (where necessary). Fr. Twomey gives only A and B, significantly omitting C – an omission which effectively demolishes his argument. The success of the Ugandan Policy stems from the acceptance of all three platforms of that policy.’
A policy centered exclusively on condoms would of course be mypoic; see http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/-/2558/525956/-/view/printVersion/-/8jl790z/-/index.html.
Dr. Good made a truly prophetic remark on Irish radio on that fateful day in July 1968 when Humanae Vitae was issued by Paul VI: ‘This is a major tragedy for the Catholic Church.’ His prophetic powers did not stretch so far as to see that it would also be a major tragedy for humanity, and that Catholic obstructionism to enlightened health policies would cause unknown numbers of deaths in Africa.
What the Church Authorities are saying
The famous words intrinsice inhonestum of Paul VI in Humanae Vitae are being applied with a vengeance to the use of condoms, even to the point of a quasi-Manichean view of these friendly implements as being the very embodiment of Evil.
The Vatican considers condoms to be so evil that they cannot be used even to save the millions of lives threatened by Aids. Moreover, the Vatican also claims that condoms are not effective against Aids but actually worsen the problem.
There are, however, sane bishops who support the use of condoms:
Cardinal Pell has been the loudest champion of the lethal condom ban:
Cardinal Pell’s comparison of Thailand and the Philippines seems, like the false claims about Uganda, to be debunkable:
Cardinal Pell spoke up again on Easter Sunday:
http://www.smh.com.au/world/pell-backs-pope-in-saying-condoms-worsen-aids-spread-20090410-a2u0.html. This drew a powerful denunciation from David Marr: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/pell-rides-papal-bandwagon-of-death-20090410-a2sf.html. The Cardinal has a convoluted counter-attack: http://www.zenit.org/article-25680?l=english. For a skewering of Pell’s ‘broken kettle’ arguments see: http://themichaelduffyfiles.blogspot.com/2009/04/rich-pickings-this-weekend-but-no-sign.html.
The new Archbishop of New York puts the anti-condom teaching into practice:
A French bishop keeps the debate on the reliability of condoms going:
The Broken Kettle
The ‘broken kettle’ argument is frequently referred to by psychoanalysts, and it goes something like this:
‘The kettle I lent you was broken when you gave it back.’ ‘No, it was in perfect condition when I returned it; you never lent me a kettle anyway; and it was already broken when you lent it to me.’
Reading Catholic defenses of the Vatican stance on condoms, I discern the same revealing paralogism:
‘Your teaching is causing mass deaths in Africa.’ ‘No, our teaching is the only teaching that is effective against Aids; even if condoms are more effective, they cannot be tolerated in any case because we see them as intrinsically evil; no one is dying because of our teaching, because it has no influence; and anyway the Pope is only recommending chastity, not condemning condoms – that’s a media distortion; those who promote condoms are imperialists who think African culture does not set a high value on fidelity and abstinence; condoms do not work anyway, because Africans do not accept such regulation of their sexual behavior, it is alien to their culture.’
Popular Protest against the Vatican Stance
Defenders of the intransigent Vatican stand cite the Philippines as a country where abstinence has worked in curbing Aids. But this Filipino voice suggests that this may be an ideological idealization:
A petition may be sent to the Vatican: http://www.avaaz.org/en/pope_benedict_petition/98.php?cl_taf_sign=7141c1859f7afd4ccda82fa4a08f01be
Rebukes from Governments and Politicians
Warnings from Health Agencies
(an important critique of the much touted remarks of Edward C. Green – hat tip to Michael Bayly. I note that Green actually supports the distribution of condoms, though finding it unsuccessful in Africa because of specific, contingent features of African sexual culture. See:
Comments of US Bloggers
Comments from Europe
Defending the Supreme Pontiff
The most clamorous defenses of the Pontiff come from an insane fringe. For example:
A writer in Avvenire, a review associated with the Italian bishops, sees the attacks on the Pope as due to a massive concerted plan in which ‘the little hand of international Freemasonry’ is to be found. And this plot is directed not against the Pope’s views on condoms but against the teaching on social justice that he proclaimed in Africa. This comes from Massimo Introvigne, a controversial student of cults, who claims that modern scriptural exegesis is the work of Satan. http://www.imgpress.it/notizia.asp?idnotizia=41146&idsezione=4
Benedict has more to fear from friends like these than from principled theological critics.
If you want to understand the abuse scandals in Ireland and elsewhere, look no further than the blind loyalty of Humanae Vitae Catholics:
After the story had died down in the media, conservative Catholics or Neocaths were unable to let it go: http://markshea.blogspot.com/2009/04/pope-makes-common-sense-observation.html, Their defences of the Pope had little to do with the issues of Aids or sexual ethics, but everything to do with repairing damage to their own ideological investments.
Other defenders (or enablers):
Interesting comment on this from George M. Sant:
'It would be instructive to learn the source of the research that allegedly supports the Pope's contentions about condoms and HIV. It seems so contrary to research published in scientific journals. The WHO bluntly considered "These incorrect statements...are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic, which has already killed more than 20 million people". A leading editorial in The Lancet, one of the world's leading medical journals, questioned whether the Pope's "error" was "due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology", and called for a retraction. The director of the WHO's HIV department asserted "there is no scientific evidence showing that condom use spurs people to take more sexual risks....condoms are highly (effective) to prevent the transmission of HIV". Quentin Sattentau, Professor of Immunology at Oxford summarised the "large body of published evidence demonstrating that condom use reduces the risk of acquiring HIV infection, but does not lead to increased sexual activity". If there is evidence to the contrary, that is scientific, factual, objective and verifiable, as opposed to indoctrinated opinion, then it should be published so that a balanced picture can be obtained and any erroneous course corrected.'
A Sick Church
Hans Kung does not mince words. He states that John Paul II and Benedict XVI will be remembered as among the chief culprits for the spread of Aids: http://dieunousaimechretiensetgay.blogspirit.com/archive/2009/04/02/derives-et-esperance.html
This dieunousaime article also notes how the Vatican is now packing the ranks of the hierarchy worldwide with extreme reactionaries. If there is to be a reform of the Church, it is more and more clear that an overturning of many of these appointments will be necessary. Perhaps concerned Catholics should start to draw up proscription lists of obstructionist Cardinals and Bishops – Caffarra, Bagnasco, Ruini, Gouder, Fort, Castrillon Hoyos, Medina Estevez, Cañizares (http://www.kreuz.net/article.8954.html), Cardoso Sobrinho, Rouco Varela, Ranjith, Burke, Serratelli, Finn, Martino, DiNardo, Pell, Pujats, Grocholewski, Meisner, Haas, Okogie, ... the list would be very long. The laity and clergy, who have been increasingly shut out of appointment processes, should be allowed to reclaim their voice by having a say in which hierarchs have to go.
There are many calls for the resignation of Benedict XVI:
He is apparently unpopular even with those who elected him, if this report has any credibility:
Calls for Vatican III are being heard again:
But how could a Council dominated by the present right-wing majority of bishops and cardinals do anything to turn the barque of Peter in a progressive direction?
A scapegoat must be found for recent Vatican debacles, and it seems that the lot has fallen on Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ, the rather sympathetic press officer of the Pope, who holds that the controversies sparked by Benedict XVI have strengthened the papacy and spurred people to think: http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/2009/05/vatican-says-controversies-around-pope.html.
Prediction: His replacement will do a worse job of cushioning the Church against papal gaffes. For these gaffes are not gaffes at all; they represent the settled views and method of communication of Joseph Ratzinger for the last four decades. This will not change. But Jean-Louis Schlegel, writing in Esprit, quotes Msgr Louis Duchesne (1843-1922) as having said that ‘the Church progresses through howlers.’ Fr Lombardi is supposed to retire after the papal trip to Israel; in the meantime he is still diligently ‘spinning’ the gaffes, notably in an interview with Le Parisien: http://www.leparisien.fr/societe/exclusif-le-porte-parole-du-pape-se-confie-11-04-2009-476265.php