Good news everybody! The Pope has approved condoms! Wait a minute. The Pope has approved condoms? Are you kidding me? Since when does the Pontiff have a say in whether or not you use condoms? Well, if you’re Catholic, apparently he gets to decide about not just religious matters, but your sex life too. This is coming from a guy who’s not married; has no children (theoretically); and it’s questionable as to whether or not he’s ever been on a date right? We know, however, that he was a member of the Hitler Youth during WWII, so perhaps old habits are hard to die after all. Ok, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s look at what the Pope really said about condom use.
Pope Benedict XVI said on November 20, 2010 that the use of condoms in certain cases was permissible, such as by prostitutes with HIV. However, it was still a “sin” in the eyes of the Church. While some saw the announcement as a step closer to everyday reality regarding human sexuality, Pope Benedict really wasn’t saying anything new; just saying in a different way. The Church forbids the use of condoms as form of birth control. It is the Catholic Church’s official line that anything short of abstinence was in conflict with Church policy as a violation of “God’s laws”, even when lives were at stake, such as in the case of AIDS, STDs, and unwanted pregnancies. Although similar statements have been made by Vatican officials in the past, the fact that this statement was made by the head of the 1.166 billion member Catholic Church gave it more authority.
The comment by Pope Benedict is but one in an upcoming book by German journalist Peter Seewald entitled “Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and the Signs of the Times”. The book came about as the result of a series of conversations with the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Seewald. The 83 year old “Panzer Cardinal” as he was formerly known, served as the hard-line doctorial watchdog for the popular John Paul II before becoming Pope in April of 2005. As youth, he served in the Hitler Youth from 1941 through 1945 (though he and his family were opponents to Nazism; believing that it counter to the teachings of the Catholic Church). Other topics covered in the book are the Pope’s opposition to ordination of women as being against the teachings of Jesus; mandatory celibacy of priests (I presume this includes child molestation too); as well as a prohibition on the teachings of Liberation Theology.
On the subject of condom use, the Pontiff said “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility” (in the Italian edition, “male sex worker” is changed to “female sex worker”). On the issue of AIDS in Africa, which has been rampant for decades, the Pope rejected not just the use of condoms, but stated that the use of condoms would “increase the problem”.
There is an estimated 22.5 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa infected with HIV and AIDS while North Africa and the Middle East has just over 460,000. South America currently has 1.4 million people infected. Asia has an estimated 4.5 million infected. In 2009 alone, some 1.6 million people became infected (mostly in Africa), of which 370,000 were children. The disease, which thus far has no known cure, left 1.8 million dead just in 2009 alone, and 16.6 million AIDS related orphans (http://www.avert.org/worlstatinfo.htm and http://www.avert.org/aids-impact-africa.htm).
On the issue of pregnancies, an estimated 38% were unwanted or unplanned. Worldwide, that’s some 80 million pregnancies and 42 million induced abortions a year. The cost of providing some form of contraceptive to the approximately 201 million worldwide at risk is believed to be around US $3.9 billion dollars per year. While a steep number, it would reduce the costs of unwanted pregnancies by $52 million dollars; prevent 1.5 maternal and child deaths annually; cut abortions by 64%; and reduce pregnancy related illnesses by 27 million lives at cost of $144 per individual (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unintended_pregnancy, http://www.idosi.org/wasj/wasj9(2)/12.pdf and http://www.populationalert.org/).
You should know that I’m not Catholic. I did attend a Catholic undergraduate and graduate school. I am very familiar with Catholic dogma, and I have many close friends who are Catholic. Now, with that said, here's my take on the Pontiff's remarks cocerning condom usage.
In 2009, treatment of AIDS costs approximate $25 billion annually worldwide (http://www.avert.org/universal-access.htm) and costs of providing some form of contraceptive to be nearing 17 billion dollars annually (http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/1937516/global_contraceptives_market_is_projected_to_reach_us172_billion_by/). That’s just the dollars. The “sense” part is no less as high. It’s the cost of a human life. In poor countries with little medical treatment available, it’s a death sentence. It effects education; food production; infrastructure; and creates social and economic stability in nations which are known for their inept and corrupt governments. The costs of unwanted pregnancies be it from unplanned pregnancies or from rape, in the United States alone is some $7 billions dollars. Globally, that figure reaches an estimated $21 billion dollars. Aside from the financial costs, additional “costs” include added stress on the social infrastructure as women (mostly teenage girls with little or nor education or job skills) turn to taxpayer assistance programs (if they even exist) such as taxpayer based healthcare, resulting in increased taxes; potential increases in crimes rates; an increase of poorly educated women into low paying jobs; an increase in the overall poverty rate; increases in the number of teenage suicides; increases in the number of abortions (either clinical or self-induced, which can maim or cause unintended death).
This, in my option, is what the Pope is espousing by denying the use of contraceptives. That an institution whose leadership is made up of older unmarried males, who has no practical concept of spousal love or family has magnanimously agreed to permit the use of condoms among prostitutes of all people is absurd to the point of ignorance; perhaps even criminal. It is unconceivable that a religious leader would condemn his flock to misery, poverty and almost certain death. Yes, abstinence is the best option to avoid HIVS, AIDS, the spread of STDS, and unwanted pregnancies, but it overlooks human nature. We are sexual animals. God gave us sex, not just for procreation, but as a physical and emotional expression of connecting with another human being, be it for love or enjoyment and that, my friends, is no sin.
New Radio Show!
Hey folks, Michael Lewis, the Kentucky President of Independent (Kentuckyhttp://independentkentucky.com/) and I will be hosting our own internet radio show starting December 5, 2010 starting at 2:00 PM EST. Our show will be called “Issues First”. We will be examining some of the issues affecting average working folks like you and I from a non-partisan perspective. You can tune in at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/independent-kentucky/2010/12/05/issues-first. I hope you’ll join us, and of course, we’d love to hear from you too!