As expected, many commentators came out of the woodwork to blast the Pope’s comments. CNN’s Roland Martin:
He is absolutely correct that condoms are not the solution to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. He is also 100 percent correct that the only surefire way of stopping HIV/AIDS, when it comes to sex, is to practice abstinence. That is clearly within the teachings of the Bible and the Catholic Church, and he will find no disagreement from me.
Now the reality.
People are having sex. Catholics are having sex. Heck, some Catholic priests have abandoned their oath and have had sex.
As a layman and the husband of a pastor, I know the difference between utopia and reality, and it is the responsibility of the faith community to deal with the real world.
And frankly, Pope Benedict clearly shows he doesn’t get it.
The Washington Post’s editorial board:
In a perfect world, people would abstain from having sex until they were married or would be monogamous in committed relationships. But the world isn’t perfect — and neither is Pope Benedict’s pronouncement on the effectiveness of condoms in the battle against HIV/AIDS. The evidence says so. Are condoms foolproof protection against infection by HIV, which causes AIDS? No. Sometimes they break, and sometimes people put them on incorrectly. Still, doctors on the front lines of the fight against the AIDS epidemic established long ago that the use of condoms greatly diminishes the transmission of HIV, the cause of a disease that has no cure. That the pope chose to question the value of condoms in fighting the nearly 28-year-old scourge while heading to the continent whose people are most affected by it is troubling.
The Pope’s comments could not have come at a worst time. According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS:
An estimated 1.9 million [1.6 million–2.1 million] people were newly infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2007, bringing to 22 million [20.5 million–23.6 million] the number of people living with HIV. Two thirds (67%) of the global total of 32.9 million [30.3 million–36.1 million] people with HIV live in this region, and three quarters (75%) of all AIDS deaths in 2007 occurred there.
In a nutshell, the Pope really doesn’t get it. He, along with other religious establishments, continue to hide their heads in the sand, hoping the problem of HIV/AIDS disappears. They are hoping their religious dogma and their efforts to shame people into believing they sin if they use condoms is enough to “straighten” people into only practicing relations with their husband or wife–without a condom.
The Pope’s thinking not only further alienates the Vatican from the rest of the world’s Catholic population, but it also endangers the hard work many health officials take on to educate the public on condom usage and STD prevention.
Yes, dear Pope Benedict, only abstinence can fully ensure that one will remain disease free (read: pure) in this world filled with the most horrid infections imagined. But, let’s be realistic here–as Martin said, people are having sex–and they are having sex with numerous partners. The notion that condoms, as well as other forms of birth control, only make the problem of STDs and premarital relations worst not only provides the public with misinformation about their personal health, but it also codifies the extreme Christian conservative myth that if you promote the use of condoms and birth control, you are a supporter of premarital sex.
I would hope Pope Benedict educates himself on the HIV/AIDS epidemic before making any more asinine comments about condom usage. Sure, while the Pope is entitled to his beliefs, he does not have the right to shout his beliefs from his castle as facts.