Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why doesn't he just stay home?

Jotman and the Pope have one thing -- perhaps only one thing -- in common. This week we are both in Africa.

The other day I had a conversation with an aid worker who had been working for a secular NGO in Angola. Janice was telling me the Angolan women were stuck with raising the kids.

"The father just supplies the seed," Janice said.

As the Pope was speaking in Anglola that day, I asked Janice how the people at her NGO had reacted to news of the impending visit of the Pontiff.

"'Why doesn't he just stay home!?' was the reaction of my colleague in the family planning department. My colleague said that the Pope was about to undo years and years of hard work trying to convince Africans to practice birth control."

Due to decades of civil war, until 2003 Angola was pretty much cut off from the outside world. One positive effect of this hellish history is that this has meant less frequent contact with foreigners, reducing the spread of AIDS (though accurate statistics on this would presumably be hard to come by, as even the actual population of Angola remains something of a mystery). Nevertheless, it would seem self-evident that the last thing war-ravaged Angola needs is more mouths to feed.

Picking up a Capetown paper today, I saw that that NGO workers' worst fears had been realized. In a speech yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI had declared:

"You can't resolve it [Aids] with the distribution of condoms," the pope said. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

According to one news source, this statement marked the first time this Pope had come out flatly against condom use. For the Pope to be against the use of condoms by impoverished Africans is bad enough, but to have claimed that condom use "increases the problem" seems simply outrageous.

It is not condoms, but busybody priests who have increased Africa's problems. The Pope should have stayed home.


  1. Well, in one respect he is right. If people with AIDS don't have sex, the chances of them spreading the disease are very small. Abstinence practiced right is much more successful than condoms used right.

    What bugs me is that the Vatican never seems to take the next step. If they were serious about their views on contraception, they would have boots on the ground coming alongside communities, teaching them the lifestyle of abstinence. It's a generational effort to change the values of a community, and one that the Vatican seems unwilling to engage upon. It's tragically ironic that the Pope only seems able to pontificate.

    You were in Africa? Do you have any pics for us?

  2. Thanks for your comment J-P.

    Only recently having arrived, hope to have posted pictures before long.

  3. This is what the pope said:

    “If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved just by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. [or possibly, we make the problem worse.] 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.”

    Furthermore, "Between 1991 and 2004—according to Edward C. Green writing in the Weekly Standard—Uganda reduced its HIV infection rate from 15 percent to 4 percent by means of a public information campaign called ABC. The A was for Abstinence, the B for Be Faithful and the C for condoms, only as a last resort."

    Sounds like the change in relationships the Pope was advocating actually worked in an African country. That's why he doesn't just stay home.

  4. ...ironic that the Pope only seems able to pontificate.

    He's the pontiff.
    That's his job.
    Haven't heard any word from Rome yet about NY City's e-Condom Facebook initiative.

  5. Dave,

    I'm confused by your comment. In the quotation referring to Edward C. Green, are you still quoting what the Pope actually said in Africa?

    Did the Pope actually say, "C for condoms, only as a last resort?"


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