On his trip to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI commented that condoms do not help decrease the spread of AIDS, but rather, increases the spread. He has come under a lot of fire for that comment. Let’s look at what he said…
“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms…On the contrary, it increases the problem.”
The basic argument against the Holy Father is that how can you possibly say that something that is scientifically proven to slow or stop the spread of AIDS increases the problem? Fair question.
The pope was not making a scientific statement about the efficacy of condoms. His role in the world is not to comment on the scientific validity of anything. His job is to comment and teach in matters related to faith and morals. Almost everything thing that comes out of his mouth must be understood in that context, so when the pope says that condoms do not help the AIDS epidemic and that they in fact make it worse, you need to understand that comment in the context of a teaching on faith and morals.
The Catholic Church has always taught the contraception (contra-conception) is always wrong. (For the purposes of this post, I am going focus this comment on Africa, rather than attempting to take on the whole spectrum of contraception and relationships.) The sexual act is a sacred and special thing. It is a union that brings forth life and it must be given the same respect as life itself. To think that you can stop the spread of AIDS without recognizing the gravity and fundamental nature of the sexual act that spreads AIDS is delusional.
It is like giving people guns and telling them to be careful. Then, after someone is shot and dies you give everyone body armor.
Distribution more condoms will not stop the spread of AIDS. It will send the message the behavior that spreads AIDS is acceptable. ‘Don’t worry! We’ve got your back! Go nuts!’. Notice I say ‘spreads’ AIDS. A monogamous relationship will not spread AIDS any further than that relationship. And a relationship that is monogamous from the start and is exclusive between the couple will never introduce an infection because of the life giving act.
It is very unfortunate that the first reaction to a message that people do not agree with is to make derogatory statements about both the person and the message. Most everyone would accrue much more respect and understanding if they simply stopped, for however brief a moment, and consider the entirety of what is said.
The most interesting thing about this controversy is the fact that it is very difficult to put your hands on the entire quote. After much digging, I finally found it. Here it is:
“It is my belief that the most effective presence on the front in the battle against HIV/AIDS is precisely the Catholic Church and her institutions. I think of the Community of Sant’ Egidio, which does so much, visibly and invisibly to fight AIDS, of the Camillians, of all the nuns that are at the service of the sick.
“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.
“Therefore, I would say that our double effort is to renew the human person internally, to give spiritual and human strength to a way of behaving that is just towards our own body and the other person’s body; and this capacity of suffering with those who suffer, to remain present in trying situations.
“I believe that this is the first response [to AIDS] and that this is what the Church does, and thus, she offers a great and important contribution. And we are grateful to those that do this.”
Now do you see what I mean by context? Was this a scientific statement, or a moral statement?
What the statement is saying is that if people do not help each other overcome the AIDS epidemic, then passing out condoms will not do any good. In fact, if you make condom distribution the front line, you are going to make the problem worse because you are not teaching people to act in a way that shows love.
Please remember this post the next time you feel the need to react without thought and research.
And so it goes.