Vatican backtracks on Pope’s remarks

On Benedict’s condom comment


The concept of papal infallibility has always required a certain suspension of disbelief. But Pope Benedict XVI has pushed the principle to its breaking point with his claim during a trip to Africa that condom distribution is aggravating the scourge of AIDS. Yesterday, the Vatican backtracked on the remarks, and tried to soften their impact by publishing an edited text, in which His Holiness allegedly said condoms “risk” worsening the problem. Uh uh, say reporters and others who heard the statement. Factor in Benedict’s controversial remarks about Islam, his attempt to restore an ex-communicated bishop who doesn’t believe in the Holocaust and a variety of ill-advised remarks about gender roles and homosexuality and we have what may go down as the most gaffe-prone pontiffs of the modern era.

The Times

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Vatican backtracks on Pope’s remarks

  1. I wonder if Benedict is suffering from senile dementia.

    • Nope, he’s just mouthing what that insane institutuion believes in. Why anyone would contribute money to it or pay it the slightest attention, escapes me. Cheers.

  2. What really bugs me is that the fact that nobody is calling bull on the effectiveness of condom distribution alone as a social policy against AIDS. The simple fact of the matter is that the places that strongly pushed condoms without any regard to community stability or abstinence education have the highest rate of AIDS infection. The available statistics show that countries with a large Catholic percentage population, show significantly lower rates of HIV/AIDS infections than countries with mostly non-Catholic populations.

    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.

    Norman Hearst is a family physician and epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

    UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, asked Hearst to do a scientific review to see if condom promotions had reversed HIV/AIDS epidemics. His review found the contrary was true. Countries with the most condoms per man tended to have the highest HIV rates. UNAIDS refused to publish Hearst’s findings.

    “Condom promotion in Africa has been a disaster,” Hearst said.

    Nearly every country on the continent has vigorously promoted condoms to stem the tide of the AIDS epidemic there. But the epidemic has only grown larger.

    Uganda, on the other hand, has experienced the greatest decline in HIV prevalence of any country in the world, according to the Heritage Foundation. The Ugandan public education campaign against AIDS mentioned condoms, but emphasized abstinence.

    Studies show that from 1991 to 2001 HIV infection rates in Uganda declined from about 15% to 5%

    Forgive my cutting and pasting. While there is nothing wrong with how condoms work, there is a problem with people using them ineffectively. You can’t change human behavior to stomp out having casual sex, but that also includes the fact that you can’t rely on people to use condoms the way they should. However, if you have a stable lifestyle and a stable community so that you don’t engage in casual sex you probably don’t need condoms.

    The facts speak for themselves that Catholics in Africa have a lower percentage of people dying from AIDS, and countries with large Catholic populations generally have lower percentages of people dying from AIDS.

  3. Um, the head of Harvard’s AIDS Prevention Research has just gone on record agreeing with Benedict XVI based on the data. I wish you artsy types would learn how to check the numbers before mouthing off.

      • Yes Mitchell, I really do. Substituting your own personal bigotry toward Catholicism for hard data may feel nice and fuzzy but it’s not likely to get you anywhere productive.

        However, I see that Terry has already addressed my reference in greater detail above. Nice, but somehow I doubt you and your ilk will be swayed by facts.

        • Oh, right, all those Catholic countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Gee, there’s a lot of those, eh?

          Personal bigotry towards Catholicism! Jesus, you’re out to lunch.

          • There are about 40% as many Catholics in Africa as there are in Europe, and countries where the Catholic faith is the majority or possesses the same percentage of the population as we have here in North America. In both the countries where Catholicism is influential, and among Catholic populations themselves, the numbers of patients suffering from aids is lower than their fellow Africans.

            The numbers are in. Simply focusing on condom distribution has been a disaster, and the African countries who relied on it have seen their numbers of those infected by HIV/Aids balloon. The Ugandan model of ABC, focusing on Abstinence and Faithfulness first has proven to be the most effective model, and was effective even before they introduced promotion of condoms as part of the program. So while one could disagree with the Catholic Church on condoms with reason, the people who have the real blood on their hands are the true believers of the sexual revolution and various UN agencies cannot admit that they could have something to learn from the supposedly decrepit and superstitious institution of the Catholic Church. The problem of just assuming that you are “progressive” and thus at the forefront of mankind’s thought.

          • The problem, my dear Terry, is that many Catholics (including, apparently, yourself and Gaunilon) assume that anybody who disagrees with Catholic doctrine (on condom use or anything else) does so on the basis of bigotry. Spare us the self-pity.

            Who would deny that a more stable family life is a good way to stop STD’s? The problem is that it can’t be imposed on a population. And since the goal of social policy is to save as many potential AIDS victims in the next two generations as possible, and a stable family life cannot be imposed in so short a time, condom use is obviously key. It’s fantasy to think that you could do away with it and not send AIDS rates skyrocketing in the vulnerable sub-Saharan countries.

            May I observe that, in the face of millions dying of AIDS in Africa, crowing about how “if they were all Catholic, there wouldn’t be a problem” is in the very worst possible taste? May I say that that smacks of exactly the kind of smugness that makes mainstream Catholicism so off-putting?

            There is also, I should add, the question of whether “a stable family life” at the expense of sex is a moral thing or not. The Romans would not agree with you on that score, and neither would most North American teenagers. But that is not the issue at hand.

          • Terry: “he Ugandan model of ABC, focusing on Abstinence and Faithfulness first has proven to be the most effective model”

            This is so sick, but I absolve you on grounds of ignorance. The reason the Ugandan AIDS rate has been dropping steadily is that the people with AIDS have been dying. The infection rate was as high as 40% (!!) a decade ago, and without any treatment that is about how long it takes AIDS to kill you. So here you are celebrating abstinence when the supposedly heroic Catholics have actually been dropping dead. Get some facts.

          • Actually you’re right about my bigotry comment; that should have been directed at Wayne Moores, not you. Sorry.

            The other point stands however: the data supports what the Pope said. From Ed Green, Director, AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies:

            “The pope is correct, or to put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments.”

            “There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates.”

            Now, you can argue all you want that you think this shouldn’t be true, or couldn’t be true, but the fact is that HIV infection rates go up with greater emphasis on condoms and down with greater emphasis on abstinence. The data says that Benedict is right. Stop blathering about it when you are obviously judging from preconceptions rather than hard data.

          • This is one odd Pope, his foot spends more time in his mouth than out of it. He comes from a generation of Gernans that are hardly known for their…progressive views. I’m not simply labelling him a fascist either, he remnds me a little of my German inlaws, very moral and sincerely devote people, but holding some views i’d rather not question too closely. But what the hey, my mother’s English, and she’s looks at the world rather differently than i do!

          • Gaunilon — “the fact is that HIV infection rates go up with greater emphasis on condoms and down with greater emphasis on abstinence.”

            Why is there an opposition between the two? If a country has 20% AIDS infection, why not chant “Abstain, abstain, abstain” while also saying, “If you do, use a condom”? It seems to me that the Pope (or his advisors) is cynically using AIDS in Africa as a way of promoting the opposition between the two, in order to propagandise for abstinence. What disease prevention has to do with the morality or immorality of abstinence is anybody’s guess; unless the implication, which one recoils from, is that AIDS is a plague visited upon Africans for their irreligious promiscuity. It’s neither logical, nor scientific, nor even remotely polite to imply that.

          • Again, apart from whether condoms and abstinence are opposed, or what the Church’s motives are, the data is clear: “There is a consistent association … between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates.” – Ed Green, Director, AIDS Prevention Research Project, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.

            Got that? More condoms = more AIDS.

            Benedict is right. You can just admit it; no one will think less of you.

          • Well, since you have all the facts at your fingertips, what’s the link to Ed Green’s study showing the correlation?

          • You could start here: http://www.measuredhs.com/hivdata/data/start.cfm?survey_type_id=&survey_pop_based=&action=new_table&userid=63050&usertabid=71757&CFID=588255&CFTOKEN=98276251

            …if you’re really that determined to question the expert’s conclusions (I wonder why?) These studies have the data by country and by approaches used, as well as measures of the extent to which populations absorbed what they were taught so that bad teaching does not skew the stats.

            Again, you should begin by checking the facts and then comment on the Pope’s accuracy, not suggest that he’s demented first and then look into the facts.

          • I do think the Pope may well be suffering from senile dementia. If he were determined to send the message that the Church was embracing the Dark Ages, he couldn’t have a better strategy than this, regardless of what may or may not be the situation in Africa with AIDS. It makes him look like a crazy old man.

            Anyway, I’ll check out the link. Unlike yourself, I have no eager desire to bow to “experts” when they assert implausible things; but I’m willing to keep an open mind. What, if anything, this has to do with Catholic doctrine on abstinence is another question, of course.

          • @Jack – Yeah, people died off, but the point is that a smaller percentage of the population is now infected than there was 10 or 20 years ago, while the percentage of people dying of AIDS in other places that stressed condom use have continued or increased their infection rate. In other words the disease is infecting less of a new generation. AIDS is a terminal disease without access to proper medications. Now, if you want to complain about there not being money distributed for AIDS medications in Africa, I’ll agree that is a humanitarian crisis.

            Secondly, Jack you talk about how you can’t change human behavior about extra-marital sex, but then you expect to change human behavior about condoms. The fact is if you are working in an area away from your family and visiting prostitutes, you are probably not using condoms properly. There is nothing wrong with the condoms, but a culture of sexual exploitation and drug use is generally going to cause aids. This is especially true if you simply distribute condoms without education or introducing (and enforcing) laws to control/regulate sex trafficking.

          • Labeling someone demented because they state an opinion you dislike is hardly “keeping an open mind”, particularly when their opinion is supported by data and yours is not. I suppose it’s a step in the right direction that you are willing to look into it, although you’ve already drawn your conclusions.

            The study is not “Ed Green’s”. It’s one of many done by DHS as part of a federal effort by USAID. Ed Green just happens to be the director of the research on HIV demographics at Harvard. That’s an expert, not an “expert”. It’s easy for you to question the data and credentials of those who contradict your opinions, especially when you have no data or credentials in these matters yourself.

            And where I come from, making unpopular statements based on data is called “honest”, not “crazy”. You ought to be commending the Pope for knowing exactly what he’s talking about, not questioning his sanity.

  4. Oh, as for the anti-Catholicism, I’ll excuse Macleans if they ever report a story on the Catholic Church that didn’t first come from a British newspaper, and isn’t a “hah gotcha” story. You complain about us not coming up with a theological response in favour of evolution for example because the editorial staff of Macleans isn’t interested in reporting on the Church except in cases where they can paint it in the worst possible light.

    I remember the “new seven deadly sins” farce for example, which is funny because the Church doesn’t even recognize the first seven as doctrine. They also don’t know the difference between Cardinal being interviewed in L’Obbservatore Romano, and the various means in which the church makes declarations on matters of faith and doctrine. Plus, the interview itself never said that these were “7 new deadly sins” that was just something made up by the Times, which unsurprisingly is their source for this story as well.

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