Saturday, March 21, 2009

Infallible, indeed

Did Pope Benedict XVI really tell Africans that condoms spread HIV?


Is he trying to kill them off?

There's a line between remaining true to the tenets of your faith, and being absolutely reckless in your extremism. To say this crosses that line is like saying the Grand Canyon is a divot in the soil. Words cannot begin to express the sheer lunacy.

Actually, I don't know if "lunacy" is the appropriate word. The Catholic Church has been against condoms and birth control forever, though I've rarely met a follower who didn't use them. If your religion calls for an all-male power structure and a repression of all sexual urges outside of conception, fine. Enjoy your wine and wafers and I'll go live more realistic notions. But when your answer to the massive AIDS crisis on one of the world's poorest and most populated continents is not to use protection, perhaps "evil" is a better word.

Too strong a term, you ask? No, it's not. The pope is asking disease-stricken Africans not to take protective measures against AIDS because, in the eyes of a Catholic God, condoms are a sin. And if the choice is between sinning and dying, sorry, death's gotta win. After all, you should have known better. Even if it wasn't your fault.

Is there any philosophy quite as poisonous as the one Benedict is pushing? The whole idea that people will tangle in an orgy if given access to condoms is so antiquated, I'm not sure if it ever made sense. Human libidos drive sex, not access to rubbers. Indeed, the spread of HIV in Africa seems to have done just fine without them. And while it's true that condoms alone aren't going to stop, treat or cure the epidemic, their use is a start. Africans, by and large, are a devout people, a huge chunk of whom are Catholics. The pope may be their only education in AIDS, which is what makes this cross the line from dogmatic ignorance to all but abetting death.

It's funny how people can ridicule other religions for, say, not allowing hospital visits or blood transfusions. How irresponsible, right? How many children are going to die from easily treatable maladies, right? But how many of these well-intentioned people will completely shrug off this travesty because the pope is doing the talking? Insanity is insanity.

What's needed here is perspective. Muslims are expected to strictly follow the tenets of their faith. But when circumstances are such that praying or fasting is impossible or otherwise is a threat to their lives, they are implored not to take the risk; what matters is what the believer holds in their heart. The Catholic Church should adopt that sense of perspective sometime. Hopefully before millions more men, women and children die at the hands of their unworkable, illogical dogma.

Man, does the Vatican ever need an Obama...


rhonda said...

this is why i often feel like drop-kicking privileged white people who make those ugly remarks about why we shouldn't send our tax dollars to help them, blah blah blah. i almost feel bad saying this, but to bomb these LDCs outright would actually be vastly more humane than what the church is setting them up for.

Jack said...

Do you have a link to a story quoting him? If you find it, please send it my way.

Jack said...

Ah, Hell. I looked it up myself on the BBC website. I'll give it to you.

I just watched Religulous today and I cannot help linking the two a bit.

Michael said...

Nothing he says about condoms comes under the heading of infallible doctrine--which is why you'll find that most Catholics ignore the provisions in Humanae vitae on artificial methods of birth control. Indeed, by the doctrine of the sensus fidelium (which holds that the entire body of the faithful cannot err), one could make a fairly sound argument that Humanae vitae is invalid doctrine since it does not come anywhere close to receiving the assent of all the faithful.

Ian McGibboney said...

Jack - I enjoyed Religulous too. Bill Maher can be a bit smug at times, but he's still one of my favorite (and fearless) pundits.

Michael - Thanks for the clarification. The question I have is, why is the pope infallible on some issues and not on others? Why is this distinction not more commonly discussed? Why does Benedict spend so much time speaking on an issue on which he isn't infallible? And how can that principle not be applied to anything that every Catholic doesn't agree upon?

For everything else it is these days, the church is fascinating.

Ian McGibboney said...

Rhonda - you have a good point, unfortunately.