Tuesday, December 2, 2008

world AIDS week: the pope says "just say no to condoms"

I have plenty of beef with the Catholic Church (as long time readers already know), but my biggest beef is the fact that the Pope refuses to acknowledge that condoms prevent the spread of HIV and will NOT condone the use of condoms by Catholics for this purpose.

This image pretty much sums up my argument nicely:
Catholics and condoms

Way to sentence the Faithful to death, Pope.

However, there are some sensible Catholics out there (sensible = knowledgeable yet questioning) who do not live and breathe by the Pope's edicts. The non-profit Catholics for Choice is an excellent example. In conjunction with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, they created a series of Spanish-language radio ads to encourage Latino Catholics to use condoms and to let them know that it is not wrong/immoral to use condoms to protect yourself against HIV.

This first ad is a grandmother talking about her gay grandson. Despite the Church's teachings, she encourages him to use condoms. She tells her grandson, "I took care of you because I love you and if you love that man, you'll take care of him, too."

In this ad, a couple uses Catholic rhetoric, describing sex as sacred but then they conclude, "We are Catholics and people of faith and we know sex is sacred and that we need to take care of each other. And this means using a condom every time we have sex."

These radio ads will be featured on NYC radio for the month of December. But the message is so incredibly groundbreaking, I wish Catholics for Choice had funding to air these abroad. There are many people, especially those in Latin American countries, who attempt to live and breathe the Pope's edicts regarding what good Catholics do and do not do. The HIV infection rate in these countries is steadily increasing and the Church's teachings that condoms are bad/don't work certainly do NOTHING to curb the spread of HIV.

According to the Vatican, condoms are wrong. According to Catholic bishops worldwide, condoms:

  • are "contaminated with HIV in order to finish quickly the African people.” Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, Maputo, Mozambique
  • encourage “inappropriate sexual activity.” Cardinal Edward M Egan, New York in a statement denouncing NYC's plan to distribute millions of free condoms to fight the spread of HIV
  • "turn life into a life without responsibility” and "the use of the condom encourages people to have inconsequential and irresponsible sex.” Cardinal Geraldo Majella Angelo, Brazil, right before Pope Benedict visited the country
  • make "promiscuity increase since a majority of our people end up engaging in casual sex.” Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki, Nairobi during the opening of the national religious leaders’ conference on stigma, denial and discrimination in Kenya

The funny thing is that one of the earliest teachings I remember from Catholic school is that God gave us all Free Will. Apparently, the Church thinks that a little piece of latex is so damn powerful that we give up our Free Will when we use them and, instead, give in to our bodily urges. So according to the Church, condoms are a Catholic's kryptonite.

According to Science (oh yes, that unGodly source of information and knowlege), condoms help prevent the transmission of HIV (and other STIs). This wouldn't be the first time that the Catholic Church has ignored Science and then was proven wrong (remember that time when they thought the world was flat?). And if this anti-condom stance is about a no-sex-outside-of-marriage thing, then I can show you a number of faithful, married women who have tested positive for HIV thanks to their unfaithful husbands.

So, how about it, Pope? How about you let the Church come into the 21st century (and be relevant) and allow Catholics to use condoms?

Heck, the sensible Catholics already do.

source for above quotes: catholicsforchoice.org


Juliet said...

I don't use condoms (or more to the point, my husband doesn't and I don't ask him to), so I guess I am not a sensible Catholic. :P

anOCgirl said...

juliet: you're married and i'm assuming you and your husband are faithful. you don't need condoms. you do know condoms prevent HIV, right?

Juliet said...

Yes, I do, thanks. I'm not questioning that. I made my comment because you seemed to suggest that condoms could prevent the transmission of HIV to women who are faithful to their unfaithful husbands. Who is supposed to be using condoms here, the women or their husbands (who, okay, should be using condoms if they're going to cheat on their wives, but maybe the bigger problem is that they're cheating on their wives in the first place?)?

More to the point: My husband and I are married and we're faithful. This is THE kind of sex the church accepts, and renders condoms unnecessary (except as an option for birth control, but that's not the point here). So your "sensible Catholics" who use condoms are, presumably, those who are already disregarding the church's teachings on sex. So...you're arguing for the church to change its mind about more than just condoms, aren't you?

Juliet said...

Let me just clarify something: I think you're criticizing two separate things: 1. the spread of outright misinformation about the efficacy of condoms (which is a fair argument, although you only have one quote of a statement about condoms that is scientifically disprovable--I mean, in general, condoms probably do encourage people to have promiscuous, inconsequential sex--certainly they do nothing to discourage it, and that too is responsible for other deep social problems besides AIDS) and 2. the prohibition on condoms itself. My point is that 2. is directly connected to the Church's teachings on sexuality, which, if followed, would render condoms unnecessary except in very limited circumstances. I don't want the Church to spread misinformation about condoms. But if someone who is properly informed is already disregarding the Church's teachings about sex, why are they paying any attention to the Church's teachings on condoms? Maybe something besides/in addition to the Church is responsible for taboos in Africa, the Latino community, etc. about condoms, and if you really want to solve the problem you should probe a little deeper into the source.

(By the way, the jabs at the Church being anti-science are gratuitous and misdirected. When did the Catholic Church teach the world was flat? I would take your argument more seriously if it weren't so clearly tendentious.)

anOCgirl said...

juliet: actually the prevention of HIV transmission among married women is a complicated issue and one that condoms alone cannot resolve. faithful, married women who have tested positive due to their unfaithful partners often don't know of their parnter's infidelity or they do know but don't feel empowered to demand condom use due to cultural/societal norms (as I'm saying this, I'm thinking of Latino culture, most African tribes, Muslims, etc.). this is why i'm all for the creation of a microbicide so that women can protect themselves against HIV w/o having to notify their partner. however, this is a WHOLE other post.

my comment regarding faithful married women getting HIV is more due to the fact that, yes, the Church teaches that sex should only be within the confines of marriage and anyone who is married should be faithful to their partner. this is great in theory. but our divorce rate suggests that this is not always the case in practice, right? i'd rather keep your relationship out of this blog post b/c it is not about you or catholics like you. it's about all the other catholics i know who engage in premarital sex or are/were in relationships where one partner was unfaithful. and it's even about a lot of the catholics i don't know. how else would you explain the high rates of HIV infection in latin american countries whose policies are so entrenched in catholic doctrine? in theory, if all these catholics faithfully lived according to church doctrine, there'd be no STDs or HIV in most of Latin America. but again, we know that's not the case.

the fact is that condom use will NEVER fit in with church doctrine. but HIV didn't exist in Jesus' time. it exists now. and science has constantly proven that abstinence only sex ed doesn't work for either pregnancy prevention and prevention of STD infection. so either the church can accept that science has proven her wrong in creating a proper christian AIDS prevention strategy rooted in the reality that not everyone is abstinent until married or maybe it should just stay mum because she is clearly not an authority on the subject.

whenever the pope says something, it carries a lot of weight. when he's saying condoms are not the answer, and abstinence and fidelity are, i'm not hearing a plan C. Plan A is abstinence. Plan B is fidelity. when both of those fail (as they often do b/c HIV is rampant), what does the church say the other option is?

in no way am i suggesting condoms alone are the answer. the AIDS epidemic worldwide is a complicated issue. there's stigma and machismo and sexism and homophobia and all sorts of problems that the AIDS issue emcompasses. what is the church's stances on those issues? condoms are a cheap, easy way to prevent HIV. but tackling the epidemic worldwide is going to need more than just condoms. at least they are a good start.

re: the church's anti-science stance, see Galileo.

Juliet said...

I probably won't get to the rest of your response for a while, because I have a lot to do (I do understand more where you're coming from now that you've clarified some things), but I want to point out that the debate between Galileo and the Catholic Church was a debate between heliocentrism and geocentrism (which are both wrong, by the way, although heliocentrism is closer to being right), not a debate about whether the earth is flat, which no educated person in the western world has believed since the ancient Greeks. Besides, that's one example from 350 years ago. I see it flogged to death whenever this debate comes up, which makes me think the side that believes the Church is anti-science hasn't got much else to work with.

instatick said...

I really enjoyed those quotes and was humoured by the thought by Catholic bishops that condoms are "irresponsible." I guess at the end of the day I don't really get what the big deal is about sex, so long as it's safe sex. People are going to do it whether it's condoned by the Pope and God or not, with condoms or without and the way I see it, admitting that condoms help prevent the spread of HIV and other STIs is just good karma :)