That Dude Is Dangerous

I had a few days away from home with my family, which was lovely.  My children are now old enough to be hearty travelers, and although we still tote quite a lot of luggage, it’s not nearly as much as we took along when they were smaller. I think we got to do everything that they wanted to do- which is what spring break should be like, I think. The grown-ups got to eat at grown up restaurants, and the kids ordered off the grown-up menu. I was at one point told that they don’t NEED the kids menu anymore. You have no idea (or maybe you do), that after literally years of chicken nuggets and fries, I was just delighted to see them eating shrimp and fettucine with vegetables that they couldn’t necessarily identify straight away. I’m not a huge fan of theme parks (just for myself), but we do brave the crowds and go once every few years… and we all had fun. This part of the vacation was awesome.

One of the mornings though, I was waking up and my kids flipped on the TV… to the news. I guess the pope is visiting Africa right now. Apparently he had a few things to say about the spread of HIV and the use of condoms… I’ll just quote straight from The Guardian:

The pontiff said condoms were not the answer to the continent’s fight against HIV and Aids and could make the problem worse.

I literally wanted to vomit into the trash can in the hotel room. Some 22 million people, yes that’s right folks- human beings, men, women and CHILDREN, are infected with HIV in Africa.  HIV has driven the epidemic of Tuberculosis… rates of TB infection have something like doubled or tripled since the 1990s… and we are talking about babies here… And this in a part of this world that is extremely poor, and totally and utterly unable to fight this rising burden and win. Yes, uh huh, right here in the good old US of A a single person gets on a plane with MDR TB and it dominates the headlines for DAYS (remember that??)- while in Africa the HIV, ( and TB) crisis is deepening by the instant… and this mouthpiece gets up on the stage and poo-bahs one of the very few, relatively inexpensive, public health tools we have to slow the spread of this massive problem… that for all you public health beginners out there… will almost certainly NOT STAY confined to Africa.

Some people (especially those with huge audiences) should keep their personal opinions, not based on science but based on their own opinion and beliefs, to THEMSELVES.  Those of you that belong to this church- if you care about the health and welfare of your fellow human being, and about the children left parentless, homeless in Africa by this crisis, I urge you to put personal beliefs aside and donate the money that you might give in collection basket in church today- instead to a worthy organizations like UNICEF that works to fight HIV and TB in these nations that need our help. Better yet, find an organization that purchases and distributes condoms in Africa, and give them your $$.  (I don’t know much about this organization, but a quick google search brought up this one)


19 thoughts on “That Dude Is Dangerous

  1. The pope is a hate-filled spewbag. Every month he goes after a different group and calls it religion.

    Glad you had a nice vacation. You will soon wish they stayed on the chicken nuggets. Adult menu sirloins are pretty expensive for kids.

  2. I find it gratifying when I speak to Catholics who are turned off by their own disgusting pope. Hey, if he contributes to the disintegration of the church through his idiotic vitriol, then that’s fine by me.

  3. I thought it was ironic that the guy who said that condoms promote promiscuity is also the guy who wouldn’t even know what to do with one. Apparently abstinence, monogamy and Catholicism are the answer to the AIDS epidemic. Utterly ridiculous situation.

  4. CE, PiT, PhizzleDizzle, and JC- I’ll never understand, no matter how hard I try, how people can belong to such an organization that uses its power for such obviously wrongheaded purposes. And, change it from the inside… I’ll believe that one when I see it. I’ve got no faith that changing things from the ‘inside’ is even remotely possible.

    and JC- We are there (adult entrees), but I am so dying to eat in a few locations that wouldn’t know what a kids menu looks like, that I don’t really care about the $$ that much. The girls are becoming more adventurous food-wise, and that allows us more flexibility- and I love that. We can now eat Chinese food, Indian food, and Thai… and hopefully that list will only grow longer!

  5. I feel your revulsion DrDrA. What does it take in a human being to be faced with a humanitarian disaster on the scale of HIV and not want to do everything physically possible to mitigate it? But worse than that, what does it take for a human to not just do nothing, but to actively preach against one of the few things, maybe the only practical thing, we have that is known to provide some protection from this hideous disease. This stuff is madness, it makes me sick to my stomach too. I really wish the pathetic congregations in the Catholic church would stand up and cease to tolerate this garbage. I’m afraid it tells us all a lot about them that they do not. This is a moral emergency but they won’t do something about this grotesque position. Not good enough for me.

  6. I know that I am opening myself up to some serious flaming, but I feel the need to provide some balance to this post. I may be the only practicing Catholic who is a scientist, which is an entirely other conversation, but here goes.

    The institution of the Catholic church has taken the position that the only morally acceptable way to avoid HIV/AIDS is to abstain from sex outside of marriage, as clearly stated by the Pope.

    In reality, there is no ONE Catholic position on using condoms to prevent the transmission of AIDS. Some church leaders have interpreted church teachings on contraception as prohibiting the use of condoms, even in the case of AIDS. Other leaders have looked to other church teachings, such as the importance of preserving life, preventing evil and honoring the conscience of individuals as permitting the use of condoms. Catholics are are free to choose which of these interpretations is most moral in our circumstances and to do what our consciences tell us is correct. The Catholic church teaches that God gave each of us a conscience and no one should be forced to act against his or her conscience. If one carefully and prayerfully examines his conscience and decides that to use condoms is the most moral way to act, then he is not committing a sin. To save a life is not a sin.

    It saddens me that this is the “sound-bite” that gets heard round the world..and really I don’t blame anyone for being disgusted by it.

    Yes, the church is out of touch with reality in the world today. Yes, people are leaving in drones. Yes, his message could have been finer tuned. (I haven’t actually found a quote that condoms could “make matters worse”–but surely it was implicated). The Pope is allowed to take the highest moral ground…its up to the Catholic faithful to decide how to follow it. For example, there are a number of Catholic organizations IN AFRICA handing out condoms, and I doubt they stopped because of what the Pope said.

  7. Me, personally, I hope this guy stays around for as long as he can…. I do believe that each time he opens his mouth there are some who have been calling themselves “believers” who start doubting, and that is only good…

  8. Absolutely agreed Massimo.

    The official position of the Catholic Church is that, quite to the contrary of what it professes, it has contempt for life and decency.

    Kristin, I’m sorry you feel you can dismiss this as a sound bite. The point about this position is that the pope is not taking the highest moral ground, he is taking the lowest ground possible because he is as CPP says.

  9. krisitin- There won’t be any flaming by me. I’ve got no trouble with people believing what they want to believe. I respect your choice as a person, but that does not mean that I have to respect the teachings of organized religion, many of which I strongly disagree with.

    For me it’s a terrible day when the ‘The Pope is allowed to take the highest moral ground’… and that simple act has devastating implications for millions of African lives, many of them children, and that simple act will have further global implications. For me, this life is not an exercise in who can be the most ‘moral’ by a certain set of rules- this has an effect on real people, real kids, now growing up without parents and raising their younger siblings. And remember these are largely under-educated very low socio-economic status populations (to put it mildly), they don’t always have the luxury of prayerful acts of conscience.

    Furthermore- those HIV infected kids born to HIV infected moms- who cares what was in their mother’s ‘conscience’ or ‘morals’ at the time that child was conceived. There is a good chance that situation could have been avoided by the simple use of a condom.

  10. I’m also not one to flame the beliefs of others but in response to Kristin’s statements that “there is no ONE Catholic position on using condoms to prevent the transmission of AIDS” and “Catholics are are free to choose which of these interpretations is most moral in our circumstances and to do what our consciences tell us is correct” I would ask the following questions …

    Isn’t the Pope the head of the Roman Catholic church?
    As the head of the Catholic church, isn’t the Pope responsible for directing the church’s official position on moral issues?
    Interpretation of the church’s teachings is one thing but how is it possible to interpret the Pope’s recent statements in any other way other than “condoms are evil”?
    At what point does individual interpretation become a direct contravention of the church’s official position and teaching?

    I’m not trying to be inflammatory. As an atheist, I find the idea of religion and religious politicking fascinating, albeit completely absurd.

  11. Well said, drdrA.

    Kristin, this is a public health issue and needn’t turn into a religious dispute. I agree that personal beliefs of all people should be respected and the catholic church does indeed do a lot in terms of social services for people living with HIV/AIDS but the pope’s claim that the use of condoms is not effective in preventing HIV is NOT supported by any research. It is completely false, and if it decreases the use of condoms among catholics or others, it will be deadly. Period. It may sadden you that this is the sound byte heard around the world, but I am glad people are talking about it and questioning this in public forums — I can only hope it will be enough to get Ratzinger to retract this inflammatory statement in the interest of SAVING LIVES.

  12. I’m afraid I don’t have any satisfactory answers that will satisfy the scientific mind. Organized religion is what it is, (not logical) and its up to the individual to participate or not.

    Yes, the Pope is the head, but that doesn’t mean he is always right. Its not as simple as right and wrong and that the Pope is taking notes on who believes what and sending direct messages to God. Give Catholics credit for also being thinkers AND believers, not just lame followers who don’t question or challenge. There are people within who ARE standing up and doing something about the AIDS epidemic (both here and in Africa). Maybe things aren’t happening fast enough, but they are happening.

    I’m not comfortable evangelizing and I am by no means an expert on Catholicism. I think interpretation of Catholic doctrine is up to the individual, if we believe we have committed a sin, and are sorry for it, then I think God is cool with that. If my personal beliefs go against doctrine, then I think God is cool with that too. For me, its personal.
    Maybe that makes me a “bad” or “atypical” Catholic…but I bet there are many out there (not necessarily scientists, though).

    I am very upset by what is going on in Africa, and I 100% support condoms for everyone (as well as am against abstinence-only programs in the public school). I am also upset over how the Church and the Pope are viewed by the public–and I wonder what the Catholics in Africa thought of his comments, as I can’t really find anything directly reporting that.

    This is my lame attempt to educate against the knee jerk reaction that anyone who acknowledges the Pope as the Head of the Catholic church is an asshole.

  13. “And, change it from the inside… I’ll believe that one when I see it. ”

    Too right… my Dad’s side of the family is Catholic, so I’ve known a lot of people who SAY this kind of thing, but what are they actually doing? Where have they been this week? Why does the Pope still get to stand in front of an audience of millions and spout religious doctrine as if it’s public health policy? The “working from the inside” people are either not speaking up, or not doing so effectively.

    Kristin, the problem with the abstinence approach is that it completely denies human nature. Sex is not a sin, it is a natural act, one of our most basic wants and needs, and to seek to suppress it is to doom yourself to failure. The celibate Catholic priesthood is, to put it mildly, not ideally placed to understand this issue and advise those of us who live in the real world.

  14. Kristin,
    The actual transcript reads:
    “Se non c’è l’anima, se gli africani non si aiutano, non si può risolvere il flagello con la distribuzione di preservativi: al contrario, il rischio è di aumentare il problema.”

    Which would usually be of no use to me, because I can’t speak Italian, except that in agreement with other translations, the last bit does actually appear to read “… on the contrary, it risks augmenting(?) the problem.”

    So his statement wasn’t quite as hard as the press made it out to be, but was none to helpful either. Of course, it’s pretty much the party line, so it’s not as if he has said anything particularly outrageous. Half of African Christians are conservative Catholics (I think) and subscribe to this view anyway, and the other half are protestant and simply couldn’t care less what the old geezer thinks. So it’s unlikely that he has done any damage beyond preaching to the choir.

    As the head of the Catholic church, isn’t the Pope responsible for directing the church’s official position on moral issues?”

    JP would have said yes, I think, which is why he tended to be more progressive. He saw the Church as a more organic and evolving thing (to a degree, but I think he was sensitive to latex, too). Benedict is more a Biblical and doctrinal textualist, and would probably say that he isn’t responsible for directing the church’s moral position, but is only meant to keep it in line with the already established code. At lot of the arguments revolve around when, and if, a final code was actually established, or whether it is still in an infinite process of being established. Adherents of the latter more liberal philosophy are currently out of fashion at the moment. They’re about as popular with The Vatican as the Jesuits.

    It’s all moot however, because all that is Gospel certain is that a Pope is only right until he’s dead and judged wrong by the actions of a new Pope subscribing to a different kind of right.

  15. Se non c’è l’anima, se gli africani non si aiutano, non si può risolvere il flagello con la distribuzione di preservativi: al contrario, il rischio è di aumentare il problema.

    It’s hard to translate because the very first sentence seems out of place but…. I would say :
    “If there is no soul, if Africans are not helped, handing out condoms is no solution to the plague. Quite to the contrary, there is the risk of making things worse.”

    Kristin, first of all, I don’t think you are going to get any flames here — remember, it’s typically the believers who are obsessed with making everyone else conform to their beliefs.

    Yes, the Pope is the head, but that doesn’t mean he is always right. Its not as simple as right and wrong and that the Pope is taking notes on who believes what and sending direct messages to God.

    I am sorry Kristin , with all due respect, you are wrong. Ask any catholic priest to talk to you about the infallibility dogma. Your position is all too reminiscent of that of many catholics, especially in Italy “I am catholic but I do not necessarily abide by everything that the Pope says.”
    This called trying to have it both ways — on the one hand to enjoy the spiritual comfort, sense of fellowship and mutual reinforcement that belonging to a large group practicing organizing religion can provide, while on the other taking exception every time the duties that come with such membership tread with one’s individual priorities. I am sorry, it’s either one or the other. Just my opinion, of course.

  16. Thank you for this post – I haven’t been able to adequately express my feelings about this, but you did a great job helping me put my thoughts in order.

  17. Massimo- Thx for the translation!! I was secretly hoping you would provide one… and I’m with you on the having it both ways thing. I hear that quite a bit-the I’ll pick and choose the parts that I like, and choose to ignore the rest. To me, from the outside, organized religion isn’t pick and choose, and not being in an organized religion doesn’t mean that one is not a spiritual person and can’t be a believer in whatever deity one wants.

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