Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Vicar of Christ needs a Mulligan

Despite my theological disagreements, I have much respect for Catholicism and the Pope. Generally speaking, I love reading about the Pope, his decrees, and his actions around the world. And, of course, I want my own pope-mobile.

With that said, yesterday's statement by the Pope on condoms and AIDS was absolutely ludicrous:
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 Alitalia plane heading to Yaounde. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

For the life of me, I can't figure this out. Of course, the first part of his statement rings true. Condoms alone can't prevent the spread of AIDS, and those wearing condoms are not immune from catching the disease; condoms break, etc. In this mindset, it seems like air-tight logic to conclude that condoms decrease the spread of AIDS. But, according to the Pope, condom's increase the spread of the disease!?! The NYT has a good editorial questioning the sanity of this statement. Money quote:

From a national perspective, condom promotion has been effective in slowing epidemics in several countries among high-risk groups, such as sex workers and their customers, but less effective in slowing epidemics that have spread into the general population, as in much of sub-Saharan Africa. That is probably because far too few people use condoms consistently and correctly.

Even so, health authorities consider condoms a valuable component of any well-rounded program to prevent the spread of AIDS. It seems irresponsible to blame condoms for making the epidemic worse.


Kent H said...

Agreement or disagreement aside, the vicar's statement is not as horrendous as you propose when taken in light of theology of the whole person.
If asked, I would say Benedict's proclamation had to do with the problems that arise from the culture that prefers condom distribution and then commitmentless sex over one that promotes marital sex, responsibility, etc.
His view would say that once you promote a view that holds sex is safe with condoms so "go at it (an untrue statement to start with)," you are promoting a culture that thinks guiltless sex first and responsibility second. So sex wins before responsibility and often outside of responsibility.
This rings true in your second quote as well. Those in the sex industry do not look at their vocations as a way to get sex. It's a job. So with them, responsibility can come first. So condoms have had a greater benefit than they have in pedestrian culture.

Just my take,

CWPNRG? said...

Good thing he wasn't speaking ex cathedra...

Although Kent is right, if you hold to Humanae Vitae, then Benedict's statement makes sense.
Quoting from the encyclical: "Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law."

So, because condoms remove a hurdle to keeping the moral law, their use is immoral.

I'm not saying I completely agree with the conclusion, but the premise is valid, I think.

PS: Drew, if you can, can you enable the blockquote HTML tag?

CWPNRG? said...

That's from Section 17 of Humanae Vitae, BTW.

Drew said...

Kent and CWPNRG?,

I really want to comment on your comments because I agree with a lot of what you are saying, and I might have been unclear. So, I will get back to you both in a bit.

I looked into setting the blockquote tags as you suggest, but i can't seem to find them. Can you tell me how to do that, either here or in an email (on frontpage now, at your request)? Its a good idea and will make all of our lives easier when choosing to leave a quote in our comments.

CWPNRG? said...

Drew: I actually have no idea, I was hoping that Blogger had it as an option that you could just check or uncheck. I'm sure there's a way to do, I just have no idea what it is...

Drew said...

Kent and CWPNRG?,

I understand that the use of condoms is forbidden in Catholic theology, and I apologize for not putting that in the post. And CWPNRG, I think you nailed the logic behind it ... logic that Kent was alluding to. But like you, I am not sure the validity of the claim. There is something unsettling about blaming our moral laxity on condoms, whether they increase the likelihood of sexual promiscuity or not. Let's discuss a culture of instant gratification, the desire for immediate sexual gratification being a derivative concern, but let's not blame condoms. While we can have a good and legitimate debate about this, that wasn't my problem with the quote.

The issue, I think is the statement that condoms actually increase the spread of AIDS. People are going to have sex, with or without condoms. Let's not blame the use of condoms, especially since we know that, when used correctly, condoms drastically decrease the likelihood of spreading sexually transmitted diseases. We know this, and I would find it hard to argue against that fact. So, I don't know how he could argue that condoms actually increase the spread of AIDS.

I guess, the question comes down to would their be a culture of instant (sexual) gratification without the existence of condoms. Obviously the moral claim made by Catholicism and the Pope would say "no," as condoms chip away barriers to moral law. While just a meaningless thought-exercise, I would say "yes," and therefore condoms decrease the spread of STDs. Teens will be teens, young adults will be young adults. Everyone likes sex.


p.s. Good stuff. I think this is the first time there was a concerted commentatorship by the conservatives. Keep it up and keep us honest ... like you are doing here.

Drew said...


unfortunately I cant find any blockquote function in the blog settings. I don't think blogspot is that sophisticated.