Monday, December 13, 2010

Bishop Blair: "Facts Rather Than Fiction" Regarding Pope's Condom Comments

Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair writes in the December 12, 2010 issue of The Catholic Chronicle:
Facts rather than fiction

Written by Bishop Leonard P. Blair
Saturday, 11 December 2010

... As I considered what to write for the December Chronicle, the recent controversy regarding Pope Benedict’s remarks about condoms immediately came to mind. I had to ask myself whether this was really an appropriate topic just before Christmas. However, today we cannot afford to look at Christmas in an overly sentimentalized way, stripping it of its power to change the world through the conversion of human hearts to the truth and love made flesh in Jesus Christ. What Christmas teaches us about life and love embraces every aspect of human existence, including sexuality and the crisis of AIDS, which is a moral crisis as much as a medical one.

In 2009 Pope Benedict made the claim that condom distribution is not helping, and may actually be worsening, the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Now in 2010, he reaffirmed this claim in a recent book interview in which he repeats what he has said in the past, namely, that condoms are not the answer morally or otherwise to the scourge of AIDS.

In the interview the pope also said that the use of a condom by a prostitute with AIDS might represent a first step toward his or her moral awakening, toward a realization that the other person matters. In the context of all that the pope has said and continues to say about AIDS and condoms, there is no basis for asserting that either the pope or the church has changed Catholic teaching. All the pope did was to express a hope that maybe in the hypothetical situation he describes the use of a condom might be the first stirring of a conscience on the long road to conversion.

Let us look at the whole issue of condoms on the basis of facts. After Pope Benedict was roundly condemned, ridiculed and censored for what he said in 2009, the Washington Post published an op-ed piece by Professor Edward Green of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard University and author of a monumental study on the AIDS situation in Uganda. His op-ed piece, titled “The Pope May Be Right,” provided the following information:

“In 2003, Norman Hearst and Sanny Chen of the University of California conducted a condom effectiveness study for the United Nations’ AIDS program and found no evidence of condoms working as a primary HIV-prevention measure in Africa. UNAIDS quietly disowned the study. (The authors eventually managed to publish their findings in the quarterly Studies in Family Planning.) Since then, major articles in other peer-reviewed journals such as the Lancet, Science and BMJ have confirmed that condoms have not worked as a primary intervention in the population-wide epidemics of Africa. In a 2008 article in Science called ‘Reassessing HIV Prevention,’ 10 AIDS experts concluded that ‘consistent condom use has not reached a sufficiently high level, even after many years of widespread and often aggressive promotion, to produce a measurable slowing of new infections in the generalized epidemics of Sub-Saharan Africa.’ ”


As I indicated in a previous article, it is estimated that one in four of the 33 million AIDS patients worldwide is being cared for by the Catholic Church, including almost half of the total treatment efforts in Africa, where two-thirds of those afflicted with AIDS live. In Africa the Catholic Church is tremendously active in the fields of education, medicine and relief efforts. To the cries of those who call out for help in the face of AIDS, the church speaks and acts on the basis of moral and medical truths, not ideologyand fiction.

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