There has, predictably enough, been no shortage of press coverage of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s recent remarks about condom distribution in Africa.
Part of his press briefing is reasonable enough: AIDS, he said, ‘is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms…’. However, he went on to add ‘… which even aggravates the problems’ – and that’s the aspect which is leading to accusations that he is flying in the face of reason.
His argument, if third party commentators are to be believed, runs like this:
– condoms increase promiscuity;
– promiscuity increases the spread of AIDS;
– promiscuity and AIDS are best reduced through strong social institutions, particularly marriage and fidelity…
There are three fatal problems with this analysis:
1 – the prevailing scientific view, rationally enough, is that promiscuity with barrier contraception such as condoms does not contribute to the spread of AIDS;
2 – in the African context in which His Holiness was speaking, marriage and fidelity are not reinforced by the other strong social institutions the Pope seems to feel he can rely on in his reasoning;
3 – Only 17% of the Pope’s African audience is Catholic. Leaving aside whether his statements represent the best pastoral care for them, is His Holiness really entitled to advocate policies which put the other 83% at greater risk?
Here are a couple of articles which give more background and links:
Archbishops ‘dismayed’ at Pope’s message.
And here is the Avaaz petition urging Pope Benedict to reconsider.