The Pope's Comments on Condoms in Africa

Yesterday in a conversation with the press, the Pope was widely cited as having said that the distribution of condoms would "increase the problem" of AIDS.   This has met with expected backlash, agencies ranging from the World Health Organization and the New York Times to the French government criticizing the notion that condom use would somehow increase sexual promiscuity or in some other way increase the spread of AIDS in Africa.  

And yet, examination of the actual interchange suggests the Pope’s point in this instance was not promiscuity or even condoms per se, but the need for a broader human understanding in approaching the AIDS crisis.  The entire interchange can be found here.  Below is the passage in question: 


I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness - even through personal sacrifice - to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress. 

Certainly on other occasions the Church has spoken out in a way similar to the current press coverage. But in this instance, it would seem an important message is getting lost.  


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10 years ago
There are two reasons that the message gets lost. One is that there is an actual prohibition against the distribution of condoms by organizations connected to the Catholic Church. The second is that every "parishioner in the street" knows that the Catholic Church considers condom use a mortal sin. Church teaching put into practice is resulting in death sentences for innocent people. So, while the pope expresses a lovely sentiment, the Church's actions speak louder than his words. And, since it is entirely possible to experience a humanized sexuality and true friendship while using condoms, but not possible to have either if the individuals partners both die of AIDS, the above quoted paragraph is virtually meaningless.
10 years ago
It would be good if the Pope and his current crop of “yes men” would take the time and listen to South Africa’s Bishop Kevin Dowling about condoms. In a nutshell, he would most likely tell them: “I would say that, like him (the pope), I believe in the ideals of abstaining from sex before marriage and remaining faithful to your partner within a stable marriage relationship. My problem is that in the desperate situations where I work, the promotion of these ideals does not meet the need. We, instead, need a more realistic approach, to be consistently pro-life from conception to death. I’ve sat with vulnerable women for years in their shacks, have seen them and the babies in their arms dying of AIDS. Their hopelessness has seared my heart and spirit. I believe Jesus’s injunction to the Pharisees applies to me. He said that they are the ones who put impossible burdens on the shoulders of their people but will they lift a finger to help them carry them? Not they. I want to be the one who lifts a finger.”
10 years ago
There is also the economic situation, which does not offer young people marriage with peers and prosperity. Neither traditional African society, where women are chattel, or modern economic society where marriage before 25 is an economic nightmare meet our evolutionary need to reproduce in adolescence. Perhaps what is needed is economic and social empowerment of the young - starting with education, but certainly not ending there.


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