The Pope’s “New” Way of Thinking
March 21, 2009
Here is a story from the New York Times and the Associated Press about Pope Benedict and his trip to Africa.
March 18, 2009
Pope, in Africa, Says Condoms Aren’t the Way to Fight H.I.V.
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon (AP) — Condoms are not the answer to Africa’s fight against H.I.V., Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday as he began a weeklong trip to the continent. It was the pope’s first explicit statement on an issue that has divided even clergy working with AIDS patients.
Benedict arrived in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, on Tuesday afternoon, greeted by a crowd of people waving flags and snapping cameras. The visit is his first pilgrimage to Africa as pope.
In his four years as pope, Benedict had never directly addressed condom use, although his position is not new. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, often said that sexual abstinence, not condoms, was the best way to prevent the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.
Benedict also said the Roman Catholic Church was at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.
“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the plane heading to Yaoundé. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”
The pope said a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease.
The Roman Catholic Church rejects the use of condoms as part of its overall teaching against artificial contraception. Senior Vatican officials have advocated fidelity in marriage and abstinence from premarital sex as crucial weapons in the fight against AIDS.
About 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with H.I.V., according to Unaids, a United Nations agency. In 2007, three-quarters of all AIDS deaths worldwide were in the region, as well as two-thirds of all people living with H.I.V.
Rebecca Hodes of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa said that if the pope were serious about preventing H.I.V. infections, then he would focus on promoting wide access to condoms and spreading information on how best to use them.
“Instead, his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans,” said Ms. Hodes, the campaign’s director of policy, communication and research.
Africa is the fastest-growing region for the Catholic Church, though Catholicism competes with Islam and evangelical churches.
I must say that although Pope Benedict has received some criticism for these remarks that I found them to be refreshing and stimulating. This is probably because I have had similar thoughts for a long time now.
For example, I have been convinced for years now that the whole gig with bicycle helmets is really counterproductive. By having kids and others [even I wear one now] wear such helmets, we are only encouraging reckless and dangerous bike riding. I know that since I have started wearing a helmet that I have been known to take chances that I never would have taken when I did not wear a helmet and this despite the fact that I am considerably older than I use to be. Moreover, there are figures indicating that the number of bicycle accidents have gone up since people started wearing helmets, which might surprise you but does not surprise me. I predicted this dire result from the outset of the bicycle helmet craze! Although for fear of being seen as “politically incorrect” I did make my children, when they were young, to wear helmets. This is what happens to people in the midst of irrational mass movements like that toward wearing bicycle helmets. It is a phenomenon that even the Founding Fathers noticed and took steps to offset. Apparently, though, they needed to do more.
Also, I have thought the same things with regard to seat belts and airbags in cars. These two items just encourage reckless and dangerous driving, thereby undermining a responsible and moral attitude toward driving. Furthermore, those “free” cab rides that many colleges and universities offer to students who have been drinking off campus also contribute to reckless and irresponsible drinking habits, which undercut a responsible and moral attitude toward drinking as well as offsetting the almost heroic efforts of liquor companies to encourage responsible drinking with their ads to that effect. And, of course, if you combine the availability of condoms [and the idea that using such things is OK and even praiseworthy] with this irresponsible drinking by young people, it does not take much imagination to realize that this is like combining nitro and glycerin. A night of irresponsible drinking fostered by free rides combined with young people who tend to seek sex and the availability and respectability of condoms – well I cannot think of anything more likely to undercut responsible and moral attitudes toward sex! What are we thinking?
As stated, I have had these and similar thoughts for years now but, because Pope Benedict has spoken in similar terms, I finally feel like I can “come out,” as it were. Thank you, Pope Benedict, for expressing thoughts that a lot of people, maybe even a “silent majority,” have had but have been afraid to express because they would be deemed to be “politically incorrect.” And now, I must say, I feel better; I even feel liberated. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”