Thursday, 19 March 2009

Pope's Prophylactic Fallibility

Well His Infallibleness Benny XVI's comments in Africa have come under much scrutiny, not least in the Vatican's own official website. While His Condomless was heard to say about AIDS in Africa:

"It is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms which even aggravates the problems."

The Vatican's website changed the word for the phrase "merely risks aggravating".

There is another subtle change and dispute in the Italian text of an interview given on the flight to Angola the colloquial term from condoms is preservati this was replaced by profilattici (which covers a wider range of measures) before being changed back. Clearly in light of the comments the Holy See felt that the use of a word from the stem to preserve life wasn't in keeping with the overall effect of the message that was clearly being portrayed.

It is all very well the church trying to teach abstinence and fidelity of those who take Holy Orders were above reproach. But the failure of Priests in sexual celibacy, even to the abuse of children shows how difficult even the Church of Rome finds it difficult to practise what it preaches.

Surely now is the time for the Pope as head of the Roman Catholic world to acknowledge the help that wearing a condom can do to the quality and hope of life in areas so heavily afflicted by AIDS. If every sperm is so precious that it should be used by procreation then sadly the teenage male population would have every available womb in the world starting to create a new life before breakfast.


  1. The position of the RC Church, so far as I understand, is that a campaign against AIDS based on promoting condoms will fail if it gives the impression that sexual infidelity is not an issue because condoms will always cover that.

    Condoms will fail because

    1) They sometimes break

    2) They sometimes slip off

    3) They don't work if they're in a packet in the back pocket

    Reason 3 is, I guess, the most common one. In the heat of the moment, the condom is forgotten.

    It is not the position of the RC Church that sexual intercourse outside marriage is any less sinful if done without a condom. Which means it isn't any more sinful if done with a condom. It is not the position of the RC Church that "every sperm is precious", that was Monty Python.

    You may disagree with the Pope's reasoning, which is fine. But along with everyone else commenting on this, you seemed to have assumed motivations and arguments for it which actually aren't there. Underneath, your position is "The RC Church is evil, therefore what it says must be motivated by evil".

    A true liberal would accept what someone else says and the reason for it, even if only to say "but I disagree with your argument". I have not seen any comments on this issue in liberal circles which reflect that true spirit of liberalism. Rather it's "lah lah lah, you're an evil person, so I'll make up my own reason as to why you said what you said and condemn you for that".

    For what it's worth, the quote in question is here:

    and it isn't actually even saying condoms can't be part of the solution.

    One can find huge numbers of things the Pope says on this website. The media is very selective in what it chooses to publicise. No mention, for example of his recent condemnation of RIRA violence, or even of his clarification on the SSPX issue which makes interesting reading:

    and is really quite a deep apology of a sort I don't think any previous Pope has ever given.

    So essentially, the press, and liberal bloggers pick out the odd thing he says, out of context, when that can be used to illustrate their anti-Catholic prejudice and ignore anything else which doesn't further that prejudice.

    I wish I didn't have to post like this, because I may not myself agree with everything the Pope says, and I know if I post people will think I do. However, if I don't out the other side, I know no-one else will. And it's part of my being a liberal that I think both sides should be heard in any argument.

  2. Matthew some points that I touched upon yesterday is that some of those who contract AIDS in Africa are women who contact it through marriage because their partner was not faithful.

    Yes any off your three reasons are a reason for failure. But when 138 million people on a continent with about 10% occurance of such a highly deadly, without affordibility of medication, desease as AIDS the Church has to address what is more important. I say that as a Liberal and a Christian.

    I'm well aware that "Every Sperm is Precious" is Monty Python that was the reason for it's use. However, sadly it is one issue that the the Catholic Church does get wrong for all manner of reasons. Population control as well as spread of AIDS.

    If it was an isolated statement on the issue of birth control from the Catholic Church I would agree with you that I'd taken an isolated comment and taken it out of context. Sadly it is not the case, indeed it was a case study in my developmental economics class as far back as the late 80s early 90s as a isue of population control in increasingly Catholic states. It is one point that I often discussed with Catholic collegues when I worked in the Northern Irish Civil Service and was one they felt there should be some laxity in. Yes even in Ireland!

    Whilst I have actually defended the rights of those of faith to practice their faith against the liberal backlash. Those who regularly read my blog will attest that I do not deny people their faith, what I do disagree with whether that is Iris Robinson or the Pontiff is when it affects people's health. The Church should be healers, provided comfort for those who are oppressed and not sentancing those afraid to question to such a potential outcome.

  3. Stephen,

    Your latest comments address neither what I said nor what the Pope said. They do, however, illustrate my pint about argument by assuming people's motivations rather than bothering to check what they really are. I may say more later, I don't have time now. Maybe you could try reading more carefully to see if you can work out what I mean.

  4. OK, as promised, further analysis.

    The words are:

    the scourge [of AIDS] cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem

    That is, it is a statement about resolving the problem not about providing a temporary patch to some of its secondary problems. It does not say, as you seem to be implying it does, "under no circumstances should a condom ever be used" or "under no circumstances will a condom ever prevent a particular case of transmission of AIDS". You may believe the Pope also holds those views, but he did not use words which implied that at the time he made those comments which led to your articles.

    He did not say at that time that a condom should not be used by a man who has AIDS when having sex with his wife. The statement was rather on the more general issue of how to deal with the scourge, and it was made as an extempore response to journalists, so one must take account of the fact that under those circumstances one may not get the exact nuances right.

    My belief is that what is being suggested here is that if we put condoms as the only way AIDS will be tackled, we risk people carrying on with sexual infidelity because they think condoms will always prevent AIDS transmission. Heavy promotion of condoms may actually give the impression that sexual infidelity is an expected practice. Given that condoms do not always work, for the three reasons I outlined, there is a risk the condoms-oriented strategy will worsen the problem by downplaying the risks in sexual infidelity even when one has some in one's back pocket.

    Now, I am not saying you or anyone else should agree to that suggestion. One might rather expect the Pope, being a Christian, to support the idea, which is held by most forms of Christianity, that sex should be limited to within marriage, at leas as an ideal. So of course he is going to suggest that as the ideal way to tackle that scourge, just as any of us who are supporters of any idea will tend to put forward that idea when it is a possible solution to some problem.

    I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest a heavily condoms-oriented anti-AIDS policy may backfire by giving the impression that sexually risky encounters aren't an issue to worry about. Saying it is not unreasonable is not the same as saying it is correct. It is just to suggest that the point is not made through malice, or a "dogmatic" belief which knows it is wrong but is pushed anyway, which is what you and others have been saying.

    That is, I am saying the abuse which you and others have given to this man is not the liberal "I hear and understand what you say, but I disagree with your conclusions" but an illiberal "I believe you are an evil man, therefore I will assume everything you say is motivated by evil, and I will not bother myself to give you the courtesy of trying to understand your point - though I shall happily publicly abuse you and make accusations against you which aren't supported by what you actually said".

  5. Ah, the "if only teachers/stepdads could marry they wouldn't kiddyfiddle" argument.