An associate professor of political science at a Catholic university has ruffled a few feathers with a newspaper article entitled “Pope Puts Doctrine Ahead of Lives.”
The author was referring to Benedict XVI’s recent visit to Africa and his “stubborn” opposition to the use of condoms. This is enough, according to the author, to make the Holy Father “a preacher of death.” So now we know that the Pope is promoting the culture of death while, presumably, the secular world is promoting the culture of life.
The Sixth Commandment forbids adultery. Does the use of the condom rescind this interdict? Does the modernized version read: “You may commit adultery as long as you use a condom”? Does latex replace the confessional? Was it a shock to the major media that Benedict XVI did not toss aside the Sixth Commandment?
It is an extraordinary thing to place greater faith in a band of latex than in Christianity, prayer, virtue and Catholic teaching. Where a program of chastity and premarital abstinence is used, such as in Uganda, the rate of AIDS has gone down by half during the last decade. Congressman Chris Smith has witnessed and reported on the positive results of the abstinence message when he toured Uganda.
Dorothy Kwanze, a HIV activist in Kenya, has reported, “Abstinence education remains the best strategy, especially for the risk group aged 15-25. The concept has worked well for Uganda and can work for other African countries.” Fortunately, Ms. Kwanze is not influenced by gross media distortions such as what is found in some American newspapers.
Our misguided political scientist suggests, rhetorically, that, “Perhaps the Pope doesn’t know that 12 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are suffering with the disease [HIV/AIDS].” What the Pope does know is that the promotion of premarital abstinence works very nicely. Uganda once had the highest HIV infection rate in the world. In the 1990’s, 30% of the country’s population was infected. Today’s rate (2009) is down to about 8%.
The headline, accusing the Pope of putting “doctrine ahead of lives,” is scurrilous journalism at its worst.
The author, of course, is not without his own doctrine, which is barbaric in its essence. Widespread fornication, together with its negative impact on marriage, the family and personal integrity, appears to be of no concern to him. Would a wife be satisfied to know that her philandering husband always uses a condom?
The author feigns an interest in the lives of those infected or those who may be infected by the HIV virus, but his unremittingly vicious attack on the Holy Father certainly calls into question his supposed altruism.
He refers to the Holy Father as “immoral,” offering a “ridiculous belief,” expressing an “abhorrent motive,” and spreading a “general fear of sexuality,” while showing a “disregard if not contempt” for the people of Africa,” and, “instead of praying for those in need,” “preying on them.”
This is a fairly comprehensive, though recklessly intemperate, swipe that is seldom levied against even the most villainous of criminals.
The Church is concerned about saving souls as well as lives.
Condoms do not always work. They have both user as well as product failure rates. To be concerned exclusively with lives, but not with their moral quality, is not only irresponsible, but a sin against charity. The Church is vitally concerned about both, but the moral dimension must take precedence. To those who are good, good things will follow: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
This is surely the message of Christ when he bids us to seek first justice and the Kingdom of heaven. To countenance out-of-control sex is not an expression of love. But to believe that a thin layer of latex is Africa’s most pressing need is superstition in its most virulent form.
Morality must come first. If it does not, immorality will grow without check.
And this is why Pope Benedict stated that the distribution of condoms “increases the problem.” When morality is ignored, immorality grows by leaps and bounds.
The Church is supposed to move the world, though the world is certainly intent on moving the Church. The Church is a light.
Yet, that light is sometimes sent into a darkness that is so impenetrable that it cannot receive it. The venomous and slanderous attack on the Holy Father is a recurrence of the attack against Christ, which is also an attack against the light. “Let there be light” should be the maxim of all newspapers, secular as well as religious.
Donald DeMarco is a professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary
and Mater Ecclesiae College.