Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pope and Condoms

Q - What are your views on this rebuke of the Pope's stance on condoms?

A - Thanks for the question. My view is the same as the Pope's view. I also believe the author is naive' about the Pope being naive'. His metaphors are also lousy.

But, let me break down his article:

And frankly, Pope Benedict clearly shows he doesn't get it.

What we need today are our church leaders preaching, teaching and imploring their members not to go to bed with anyone and everyone. We also need church leaders who are willing to stand up and tell folks that if they do choose to sin -- that's what the church and other faith leaders consider sex outside of marriage -- then you had better take the necessary precautions to protect yourself.

Folks, there is nothing in the Bible about wearing a seat belt. But it would be foolish of any pastor not to tell his or her members to use the safety device when driving. Churches all across the country trust and love their fellow members, but you can bet that an accountant is employed by many churches to ensure that no one is stealing the tithes and offerings.

Pope Benedict surely loves God and sees him as his protector and provider, but he goes nowhere without armed bodyguards. The pope has to know that murder is against God's will. He has to believe that every person has the choice to be a moral and upstanding person. Yet not everyone abides by those religious views, and his security is there to prevent him from being harmed.

So how are condoms any different?

Here is a better metaphor. If my kid was going to go shoot the Pope, would I give him a gun? If a student was going to steal money, then would I encourage them to do it in a way that would protect them from getting caught and suffering the consequences?

Christians cannot say that sin is bad, on the one hand, and then say that you ought to be "responsible" if you are going to do it any way, on the other. It is just plain wrong to do so. Sin is sin. Christians need to preach the fullness of the Gospel, not a truncated rendition that humans can't control themselves and thus we need to give everyone a condom.

While Catholicism expands on the continent of Africa, we are seeing the expansion of HIV/AIDS as well. Sub-Saharan Africa has 22 million people infected with HIV.

The refusal of the Catholic Church and other religious denominations to accept the reality of the situation on the ground is doing nothing for the issue. If the church used its powerful voice -- while continuing to speak out against sex outside of marriage -- to also implore people to practice safe sex, it could have a major impact on slowing the spread of the disease.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Sexual immorality gave us AIDS and putting a condom on doesn't solve the problem. In fact, the ONLY place in Africa where AIDS prevention has shown to be truly effective is Uganda - where abstinence and monogamy were the backbone of the effort to prevent the spread of AIDS. But, the results of even that success have been recently attacked in order to push condoms over and above abstinence and monogamy. To put a condom on and have sex is denying God access to the sexual act. Try to find any place in the Bible where fertility is seen as a curse. Never. The Bible regards infertility as a curse and fertility as a blessing - in every instance.

Then we have this reality:

Edward Green is director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. He wrote Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning From Successes in Developing Countries and reported that, between 1989 and 2001, the average number of condoms per male ages 15 to 49 in African countries skyrocketed. So did the number of those infected with HIV. South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe had the world’s highest levels of condom availability per man. They also had the world’s highest HIV rates.

Condom distribution in Africa - to fight AIDS - is a disaster, not a cure. Criticism of the Catholic Church in this area is merely a distraction.

The cure will be found in John Paul II's theology of the body. This is the full Gospel explanation of what our lives and sexuality are created for. The full flowering of our sexual embrace as married couples that become an icon of God's interior life - all the while bringing the spouses together in a free gift of selves while being open to life. This is the place where we will dig out the roots of the AIDS problem, and almost every other issue in society today.

Come to Christopher West's presentation tonight to hear more.

UPDATE - Here is a GREAT video on this issue. Tip O' The Hat to Patrick Madrid. The Catholic woman (Joanna) is clearly on the right side of the issue and the "moderator" is in no way unbiased. He says such things as "condoms clearly work" and the Pope is "condemning millions to death".

If you want to read some of the facts that Joanna was unable to talk about, then you can go to her blog here.

UPDATE 2 - Here are the Pope's comments in full about condoms, AIDS and Africa.
Lest it be taken out of context, here is the exchange that took place on the pope's plane. The question's premise was "The Catholic Church's position on the way to fight against AIDS is often considered unrealistic and ineffective," and the pope responded:

"I would say the opposite. I think that the reality that is most effective, the most present and the strongest in the fight against AIDS, is precisely that of the Catholic Church, with its programs and its diversity. I think of the Sant'Egidio Community, which does so much visibly and invisibly in the fight against AIDS ... and of all the sisters at the service of the sick.

"I would say that one cannot overcome this problem of AIDS only with money -- which is important, but if there is no soul, no people who know how to use it, (money) doesn't help.

"One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.

"The solution can only be a double one: first, a humanization of sexuality, that is, a spiritual human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another; second, a true friendship even and especially with those who suffer, and a willingness to make personal sacrifices and to be with the suffering. And these are factors that help and that result in real and visible progress.

"Therefore I would say this is our double strength -- to renew the human being from the inside, to give him spiritual human strength for proper behavior regarding one's own body and toward the other person, and the capacity to suffer with the suffering. ... I think this is the proper response and the church is doing this, and so it offers a great and important contribution. I thank all those who are doing this."


John said...

Thanks for this articulate treatment of a very difficult, emotionally fraught topic. The negative reactions to the Pope's words about condoms and the AIDS epidemic remind me of a Chesterton quote: "The modern mind will accept nothing on authority, but will accept anything on no authority. Say that the Bible or the Pope says so and it will be dismissed without further examination. But preface your remark with "I think I heard somewhere," or, try but fail to remember the name of some professor who might have said such-and-such, and it will be immediately accepted as an unshakable fact."

Emotions can obscure facts. Condoms will save lives! say the pro-birth control crowd, and we can practice Christian charity in assuming that their hearts are in the right place. Nonetheless, what must be annoying to those with an anti-Catholic bias is the fact that if the Church's teaching on sexual morality (sex is sacred in the context of a committed, sacramental relationship between a man and a woman) were followed, then that alone would solve the AIDS crisis. Assuming that Africans (or anyone, for that matter) simply "can't control" themselves and therefore must have access to unlimited access to condoms is to degrade the dignity of the human person.

I'm an editorial assistant for the N. Catholic Register, and though I'm biased I think Tom Hoopes' "electrical wire" analogy is very apropos of this conversation. Condoms aren't like "seat belts," they're like rubber gloves to put on when playing with a downed electrical line. Should we distribute more rubber gloves or educate people about the dangers of electrical wires and how it might be better to stay away from them?

Foxie said...

as far as I know, the infertility IS mentioned in the Bible as a sort of a curse - when mentioning the end of the world, when it will be so bad that the mothers would be rather if they were infertile... I remember reading something like that. But even there it implies that the infertility is not good.