Pontifications

Pontifications


Pope and condoms: The Full Monty

posted by David Gibson

As usual, CNS’s John Thavis has the fullest and best account in this analysis:

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI’s declaration that distribution of condoms only increases the problem of AIDS is the latest and one of the strongest statements in a simmering debate inside the church.

John also has the full text of the question and the pope’s answer:

The question’s premise was “The Catholic Church’s position on the way to fight against AIDS is often considered unrealistic and ineffective,” and the pope responded:

“I would say the opposite. I think that the reality that is most effective, the most present and the strongest in the fight against AIDS, is precisely that of the Catholic Church, with its programs and its diversity. I think of the Sant’Egidio Community, which does so much visibly and invisibly in the fight against AIDS … and of all the sisters at the service of the sick.

“I would say that one cannot overcome this problem of AIDS only with money — which is important, but if there is no soul, no people who know how to use it, (money) doesn’t help.

“One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.

“The solution can only be a double one: first, a humanization of sexuality, that is, a spiritual human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another; second, a true friendship even and especially with those who suffer, and a willingness to make personal sacrifices and to be with the suffering. And these are factors that help and that result in real and visible progress.

“Therefore I would say this is our double strength — to renew the human being from the inside, to give him spiritual human strength for proper behavior regarding one’s own body and toward the other person, and the capacity to suffer with the suffering. … I think this is the proper response and the church is doing this, and so it offers a great and important contribution. I thank all those who are doing this.”

The CNS also reports at the end that despite intense study at the Vatican, no definitive statement on condoms and AIDS use is forthcoming:

“You could say officially that it remains under study,” one source said.

Another source said that after looking more closely at the question, the church experts decided it was premature for the Vatican to make a comprehensive statement on the theological and pastoral aspects of condom use, in part because there was not unanimity of opinion, and in part because many believed that discussion of the theological nuances would only invite confusion in the media and among Catholics.

It is interesting that the Vatican and church leaders have left that door open, or at least left the ambiguity there for further study. I hope that in fact they will leave it there as there is no good answer–or no definitive all-encompasing global one-size-fits-all (sorry) answer. Moreover, if Rome decrees (unlike Benedict’s casual statement today) that condoms are bad and sinful if promoted to stop AIDS, then the interpretation would be that always and everywhere the couple with the infected partner can’t use them. And if Rome says the couple with the infected partner CAN use them (under certain conditions blah blah blah) then the sense will be that condoms are okay always and everywhere.

This situation seems to call for pastoral and practical sensitivity, at the very least, which is what Catholics on the ground try to promote, in my experience.



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pagansister

posted March 17, 2009 at 7:59 pm


The really annoying part of this whole thing is that anyone with any sense at all would realize use of condoms IS a way to stop the spread of Aids. So what does that say about Benny and his comment??? Reality isn’t one of his strong points. Guess the church would rather have the “rule” about no artificial barrier use so that little sperm can meet that little egg without a problem also means that the Aids virus won’t have a barrier either. One makes babies, one makes the chance that women, men and a future child all could be SICK with a deadly illness. That apparently isn’t a problem for the RCC!!
The church’s ideal of no sex to avoid illness isn’t likely. Guess that hasn’t occured to the RCC. The illness is a fact….taking care of it is possible…if one doesn’t listen to the RCC.



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Your Name

posted March 17, 2009 at 8:05 pm


Rick Warren? Which guy spoke at the inauguration, and which guy, supports gay something or other on the west coast? Is it the same guy, it is isn’t it? Rick Warren? E-mail me if your serious about moving as a community, I don’t want to change the world, I do need help at least protesting the “contemporary” rock band Slipknot. Maybe I could help you with one something or other that means something.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 17, 2009 at 11:37 pm


David,
“Any science to back up the pope’s claims?”
Happy Feast of St. Patrick! I’m taking off my Catholic Hat and putting on my Microbiologist hat for a few moments. We’ll only use Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data and common sense to see where the Pope’s position takes us. The following link is to a CDC page that gives efficacy rates for the various contraceptives.
http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/UnintendedPregnancy/Contraception.htm
From this page:
“Male condoms are 85–98% effective at preventing pregnancy.”
Given that range, let’s take the average efficiency-91.5% and use that with the extreme ends of the CDC efficacy, 85% and 98%. We’ll consider condom failure rates of 15%, 8.5%, and 2%.
As of 2007, there were 22,000,000 men, women, and children in sub-Saharan Africa with HIV/AIDS. 1,800,000 of these are children, age 15 and under. This leaves us with 20,200,000 adults with HIV/AIDS.
Many may be too ill to have sex. So, let’s be very liberal and assume that in a given year 25% of HIV+ Africans have no sex at all. That leaves 15,000,000 who are sexually active. If every one of those 15,000,000 had sex ONCE A YEAR and used a condom, then the number of condom failure events in HIV+ Africans would be as follows:
@2% Failure Rate: 15,000,000 x .02 = 300,000 Condom Failures
@8.5% Failure Rate: 15,000,000 x .085 = 1,275,000 Condom Failures
@15% Failure Rate: 15,000,000 x .15 = 2,250,000 Condom Failures
Now let’s assume that each of those people has sex ONCE PER MONTH, using a condom every time. The number of failure events at each % Failure rate above is multiplied by twelve.
@2% Failure Rate: 300,000 x12 = 3,600,000 Condom Failures
@8.5% Failure Rate: 1,275,000 x 12 = 15,300,000 Condom Failures
@15% Failure Rate: 2,250,000 x 12 = 27,000,000 Condom Failures
Any volunteers to be on the receiving end of just one of those failures?
Thus, using CDC’s own numbers, eliminating ¼ of all HIV+ Africans from sexual activity and doing the math, the number of condom failure events in which virus may be transmitted is staggering. To be certain, male to female and female to male transmission rates vary. So does the viral load in seminal and vaginal secretions, based on where the patient is in the infectious process. Offsetting some of those factors are the high Sexually Transmitted Infection rates in sub-Saharan Africa that produce ulcerations which act as portals of entry for viruses that may exist in low titers.
This little experiment produced absurdly LOW numbers. It would not be unreasonable to expect the number of sex acts per person to be much higher than once per month. It is likely that more than ¾ of HIV+ Africans have sex in a given year.
As a Microbiologist, of course I see that condoms slow the transmission rate for HIV in a given sex act. But in the aggregate, I question whether the sense of security leads to far more sex acts, which multiplies the chances for a failure event.
CDC has the following fact sheet on male latex condoms:
“Condoms and STDs: Fact Sheet for Public Health Personnel”
http://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/latex.htm
From the Fact Sheet Introductory Paragraph:
“Consistent and correct use of male latex condoms can reduce (though not eliminate) the risk of STD transmission. To achieve the maximum protective effect, condoms must be used both consistently and correctly. Inconsistent use can lead to STD acquisition because transmission can occur with a single act of intercourse with an infected partner. Similarly, if condoms are not used correctly, the protective effect may be diminished even when they are used consistently.”
The final half of the paragraph sounds somewhat like it could have been written by the Pope:
“The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), are to abstain from sexual activity or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.”
Catholics would call that abstinence before, and fidelity during marriage.



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Husband

posted March 18, 2009 at 12:07 pm


Such complete and utter foolishness from the Pope, since it only address what is the desired ideal (abstinence) instead of the actual reality – people will not abstain.
And from you, Gerard, since your post only addresses potential failures instead of the 85% – 98% of the cases where condoms did not fail.
If the goal is to reduce disease, non-use of condoms is 100% a failure.
If the goal is to reduce termination of unwanted pregnancies, the reality is you’re going to have to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. And once again, the non-use of condoms to do that has a 100% failure rate.
You folks are asking the wrong questions and ignoring the realities. I don’t discount the ideal, but it isn’t what we’re dealing with.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 18, 2009 at 12:39 pm


Husband,
Thanks for commenting. Non-use of condoms equals 100% failure if non-use accompanies sex. Non-use of condoms equals 100% success if it accompanies abstinence. CDC says as much in its fact sheet on male latex condoms. They will not guarantee 100% efficacy, even with correct and consistent use:
“Consistent and correct use of male latex condoms can reduce (though not eliminate) the risk of STD transmission. To achieve the maximum protective effect, condoms must be used both consistently and correctly. Inconsistent use can lead to STD acquisition because transmission can occur with a single act of intercourse with an infected partner. Similarly, if condoms are not used correctly, the protective effect may be diminished even when they are used consistently.The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), are to abstain from sexual activity or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.”
http://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/latex.htm
As for your use of the “ideal”, your implied sentiment is that ideal=unreal. It isn’t.
If the Pope were to stress condom use, then he would share in the culpability for condom failure and any HIV transmission resulting therein. We credit parents for a good job when children grow up as solid productive citizens. When they don’t, the first question is, “Where were the parents?” The same may be said for the Holy Father. The numbers of condom failures I pointed out above are devastating, and yet the numbers themselves are absurdly low. People would have just cause for anger at the Church if its teaching led to those numbers or worse.
Humans have great capacity for decency and self-control. We don’t want to hear about that, though. That gets in the way of our narcissistic self-indulgence. Even CDC says abstinence and monogamy are the recipe for success.
You Play, You Pay. Don’t expect Rome to participate in delusional thinking to the contrary.
God Bless.



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Little Bear

posted March 18, 2009 at 8:20 pm


Sorry Gerard,
But the Pope isn’t anybody’s “Daddy”.
And in marriage, celebacy is not the aim. Chastity, yes, celebacy no! I have a number of friend living in Africa. The men who have sex with other men (and think nothing of it—he’s faithful to his wife–he’ll claim) and then he will have sex with his wife and she is at risk for contracting the disease. The woman may be faithful to her husband and does not have the disease—but with her
husband’s multiple male sex partners—she’s put at risk.
Secondly, abstinence is a Western world concept. It is an alien term to Africans. Are you aware, Gerard, that even the diocesan clergy are often married. In the dioceses that a member of a religious order is appointed Bishop, it is because there is no unmarried diocesan priest available.
Nope, the Pope did something again that he has proven himself to be very good at—putting his foot in his mouth. He should say nothing until further studies have been made about the theological and pastoral concerns about condoms.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 18, 2009 at 10:49 pm


Hi Little Bear,
Now, you’ve done it! There are a whole lot of African Priests here in New York that would like to have a sit-down with you. This is #1 on the agenda:
“Secondly, abstinence is a Western world concept. It is an alien term to Africans.”
They beg to differ.
“Are you aware, Gerard, that even the diocesan clergy are often married. In the dioceses that a member of a religious order is appointed Bishop, it is because there is no unmarried diocesan priest available.”
My friends believe that you have this confused with Orthodox Churches, not the Catholic Church. We would also appreciate it if your friends would furnish us, through you, the names of these married Bishops.
Finally, the Africans have the same capacity to conform their behavior to the moral law as anyone else. The African priests I spoke with tonight have often noted how much better the people at home are in this than we are here in America. I won’t say that you are intentionally dissembling. I do believe that you are getting some mighty skewed, mighty bad information from friends.
I suspect more than a few are upset with the Pope for suggesting indirectly that they could better control their appetites. That isn’t putting his foot in his mouth. That’s preaching the truth.



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rhonda

posted March 19, 2009 at 2:35 pm


the Catholic Church does invite everyone to be a part of her. But she does not force anyone to do so. If one chooses to be a part of her, he or she then chooses to accept her teachings. To be in full communion is to accept her teachings as revelations of the Holy Spirit. If one decides to pick and choose, he or she is not in communion with the Church. That is just a matter of fact.
That the Pope upholds Church teaching shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.The Church teaches that sex is a gift to heterosexual husband and wife for the purpose of imaging God in the spousal union open to pro-creation. John Paul II’s writings:Man and Woman He created them -a theology of the body, does a beautiful job explaining why the Church holds these teachings as truth. Even if you don’t agree, it’s a wonderful glimpse into the reason the Church teaches what she does.
My honest and sincere question is this, If someone who is HIV+ or positive for any other STD really loves someone,why would they risk even the slightest chance that a condom might fail and potentially infect this person that is so loved?
really loves someone



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Little Bear

posted March 19, 2009 at 7:06 pm


Gerard,
I suggest that you and your priest friends from Africa click onto
ncronline.com and you will see a summary of the Pope’s Address
in the Cameroons. The title is:
“Pope demands halt to sexual, financial scandals”
I have not confused Orthodox clergy with Roman Catholic clergy. Roman Catholic clergy have been and are married.



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