Here we go again. Its been about sixteen months since the last outbreak, but papal condom-mania has resurfaced. This time, however, its taken a slightly different form. During the last brouhaha over the Catholic Churchs teaching on the use of condoms to combat the spread of AIDS, apoplectic gay-rights activists and their media mouthpieces lit into Pope Benedict XVI for a fleeting comment he made to a reporter on his way to Cameroon in March 2009. When asked by a French reporter whether the Churchs approach to AIDS prevention which focuses primarily on sexual responsibility and rejects condom campaigns was unrealistic and ineffective, the Pope replied, One cannot overcome the problem [of AIDS] with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.
The Holy Father was accused of being ignorant of basic health facts, contributing to the suffering and death of millions its always millions in the Third World, and being generally out of touch with the realities of the twenty-first century. But Benedicts brief comment was merely a statement of evidenced fact. Western family-planning organizations have long been distributing condoms to millions throughout African nations. Even so, condoms have not been working to stem the AIDS epidemic on the continent. In fact, the opposite is true: Condoms have been a significant factor contributing to the spread of the disease for the simple reason that condoms are, at most hopeful estimates, only ninety-percent effective against the transmission of the HIV virus. Bottom line: Condoms, when distributed indiscriminately, tend to promote promiscuity and worsen the crisis. Only abstinence and fidelity can provide a long-term solution to ending the AIDS pandemic. (See our May 2009 New Oxford Note Condom Worshipers & their Perennial Bogeymen for an analysis of this issue.)
This time around its a few sentences from Light of the World, Pope Benedicts new book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, published by Ignatius Press, that has whipped the media into a frenzy and turned the heads of AIDS campaigners. The least knowledgeable and knee-jerking among them quickly conjectured that the pontiff had made a U-turn on Catholic teaching against contraception, even though using condoms to prevent the spread of infection has nothing to do with contraception (homosexuals who engage in sex acts, for example, have nothing to contracept).
The formerly apoplectic gay-rights activists are now rubbing their hands together gleefully in the apparent belief that the Holy Fathers comments represent a dramatic shift in Church teaching. In other words, they believe that Pope Benedict XVI is now their advocate an old coot who has finally realized that the gay-activist crowd has been right all along. They actually seem to think that Pope Benedict is now approving and promoting the use of condoms to combat the spread of HIV.
If that sounds dubious, youre right it is!
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