Regarding the use of latex condoms to prevent Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Pope Benedict XVI now says, yes. Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi “told reporters Tuesday” that it wasn’t just a matter of HIV-infected male prostitutes seeking to prevent infection of their partners:
“I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine,” Lombardi said. “He told me no. The problem is this … It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship.”
“This is if you’re a man, a woman, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point. The point is it’s a first step of taking responsibility, of avoiding passing a grave risk onto another,” Lombardi said.
The clarification is significant.
Pope Benedict XVI has rethought his March 17, 2009 remarks to journalists aboard his flight to Cameroon. On that occasion, he put himself at odds with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and ruled out use of condoms to prevent AIDS:
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.
The change is startling and, Lombardi made clear, it is not something the pope somehow stumbled into:
“He did it because he believed that it was a serious, important question in the world of today,” Lombardi said, adding that the pope wanted to give his perspective on the need for a greater humanized, responsible sexuality.
His boss, Richard Land, misled the way. So it’s understandable that Doug Carlson of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Commission tried to extract a referendum on health reform from last week’s mid-term elections:
Aspects of health care reform faced a referendum as well. Citizens in three states—Arizona, Oklahoma and Colorado—had opportunity to express their feelings on the health care law rammed through Congress. Arizona and Oklahoma each supported an exemption from the mandate that almost everyone purchase health insurance or else face a fine. A similar initiative lost in a divided vote in Colorado. Nationwide, the number of people upset over Obamacare has not budged. Exit polling by Rasmussen shows that 59 percent of voters favor its repeal.
It isn’t that simple, as this week’s Kaiser Family Foundation poll made clear. There is a majority for repeal or alteration of one aspect of the health reform legislation — the requirement that all Americans have health insurance or pay a fine — but overwhelming support for the remainder of the legislation.
Only 24% of those polled supported outright repeal of the law. The conundrum, more specifically:
Looking ahead, Americans remain divided about what lawmakers should do, with 21 percent of the public favoring expansion of the health reform law, 19 percent wanting to leave it as is, a quarter wanting to repeal parts of the law, and 24 percent wanting the entire law repealed.
Given the rising number of Americans, middle class and poor, who are without health insurance, the absence of a majority for outright repeal of the reform legislation is no surprise.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land stumbled over the heels of the exit polls to argue without foundation that in the mid-term elections, “American voters” demanded the Republicans “repeal ObamaCare.”
Land is wrong, as Dan at Bold Faith Type explained:
Edison Research’s exit polls – which are used by the Associated Press, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox News – show that a minority of midterm voters (48%) wanted to repeal health care reform, with 31% wanting it to do more and 16% wanting to leave it as is. Furthermore, voters who turned out on Tuesday were more conservative than the country at large. Taking a wider view, a Gallup poll that was in the field last weekend showed that less than ¼ of Americans (23%) think repealing health care should be Congress’s top priority after the election.
Inattentive to the polling data, Land appeared to be instead parroting the message of right-wing strategist Richard Viguerie. Both said the voters had decided “to give the Republicans one more chance” to cut the size of government, although the polling data shows that Americans’ overarching concern is the economy.
Centers for Disease Control analysis suggests that any further health reform action should take the form of an expansion of benefits. Not repeal. As Reuters reported:
Nearly 59 million Americans went without health insurance coverage for at least part of 2010, many of them with conditions or diseases that needed treatment, federal health officials said on Tuesday.
hey said 4 million more Americans went without insurance in the first part of 2010 than during the same time in 2008.
“Both adults and kids lost private coverage over the past decade,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a news briefing.
The findings have implications for U.S. healthcare reform efforts. A bill passed in March promises to get health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans who currently lack coverage.
Lack of health insurance kills at a rate of about one American every 12 minutes, Harvard Medical School researchers found.
Andrew Brown at the Guardian muses:
When I consider my Christian academic friends – people who are smarter, better read and harder working than I am – it’s clear that Christianity is a very dangerous profession. Three have daughters who died in their 20s; another has a daughter who is a drug addict. Parents and spouses get Alzheimer’s disease when they don’t get cancer. I imagine they all prayed for these things not to happen. I know they all still pray.
So what is going on here? What is the point of all that prayer? This is hardly a new question. It has been around at least since Job. Nor is there any hope of finding an answer that will convince everyone. But it is possible to tease out a couple of questions. The first is whether intercessory prayer works better than chance. There aren’t any reputable studies suggesting that it does, which is, I suppose another example of unanswered prayer, since at least some of these studies must have been commissioned in the hope that they would prove prayer is a worthwhile medical intervention.
. . .
The second question is whether prayer works on the pray-er as a form of pain relief. It obviously sometimes does and I can’t imagine any remotely plausible way to run a controlled trial of these effects. Now, my Christian friends would object at this point that the point of prayer is not “pain relief” and that prayer does not deliver from anguish. I don’t think it does. But it makes life capable of being borne, and that is sometimes the only possible step forward.
. . .
Read the rest here.
David Frum, who lost his job at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) after his “Waterloo” analysis, clarifies the report that he said AEI scholars were being muzzled if they agreed too much with Obamacare. Frum wrote:
Did AEI muzzle healthcare scholars? I fear that in reproducing in print a private conversation from some months ago, Bruce Bartlett made a transmission error. I did not report as fact that scholars were laboring under any restrictions. What I did say was that AEI was punching way below its weight in the healthcare debate. I wondered, not alleged, wondered, whether AEI scholars were constrained by fear of saying something that might get them into trouble. To repeat: this was something I asked many months ago in private conversation, not something I allege today in public debate.
Well and obliquely said.
Bruce Bartlett then issued his correction. With elaboration. Summary: There’s a compelling “circumstantial case” for the muzzling, and AEI has demeaned itself by letting Frum go.
Republicans not only lost, public opinion is shifting toward the enacted health care reform [USA TODAY/Gallup Poll] and they must decide what to do, as Newsweek headlines it, “After the Fall.”
Will Republicans follow those who helped lead them into this abyss by, say, raving about the Battle of Midway?
Nate Silver digs statistically down to the root of it.
He does explore how complex the decision was. Truly complex.
Even so, pull retiring Democratic members of Congress out of the mix. That done, as the chart at right illustrates, and the best predictor of their Sunday votes was “the percentage of the vote that Barack Obama received in each congressional district in 2008.
The voters decided this one, it seems.
Recently while declaring his willingness to eat nonhuman persons, Al Mohler showed that he knows what a species is. He certainly knows black children are not a separate species. Georgia billboards saying “Black Children are an Endangered Species” not withstanding. Though the view of blacks as a separate species, rather than human beings, is defended by people who affect white robes with pointed hoods. Not allies for the president of Southern Baptist Seminary, especially given the Southern Baptist Convention’s 1995 renunciation of its past stands in favor of segregation and slavery.
Yet Mohler does blog in ardent support the billboard campaign and its arguments, among them that Planned Parenthood is somehow applying views of eugenics once entertained by its founder, the late Margaret Sanger. Mohler seems to be unconcerned that applying the same guilt by historic association to the SBC he serves could put him among defenders of racial segregation. Ford Motor Co. could be worse tarred, given the late Henry Ford’s admiration for Adolph Hitler. Those are, however, three similarly false arguments.
The “endangered species” argument is also unsound as variously made. Black Americans as a group are not endangered the way that metaphor invites us to believe. Black fertility rates (live births per woman of childbearing age), like overall U.S. fertility rates, are projected to show a 2010 Census increase. The reverse of a decline in overall birth numbers. Not suggestive of ethnic cleansing. Nor coherent with the expressed fears of extermination.
It is still true that a relatively large number of black pregnancies end in abortion, just as Catherine Davis argues. The Centers for Disease Control reports that “57.4% of the abortions performed in Georgia in 2006 were performed on African-American women.” Whereas blacks compose 30% of Georgia’s population. Similarly, black women account for some 37% the nation’s abortions. Whereas just 13% of the population is black. Yet women seeking abortion are distinguished more by their poverty than by their race. They are mostly unmarried, most already have at least one child and are ending unintended pregnancies which probably resulted from a failure of or failure to properly use birth control.
Contributory factors are nonetheless not the decision. The controversial abortion numbers are the result of decisions black women make to have abortions. Decisions they are free to make. Decisions Mohler would deny them the legal right to make by criminalizing abortion, first by reversing Roe v Wade. Therein lies the freely expressed core purpose of this uproar: To end what Mohler calls “the scandal of abortion.”
Tim Collard, who is retired from the British foreign service and spent most of his diplomatic career in China and Germany, writes about the ongoing U.S. struggle with health reform for the London Telegraph:
You might argue that America is a Christian country too. Oh no it isn’t. You can’t serve both God and Mammon, the Man said, you have to choose one or the other, and the USA has made it admirably clear where it stands. And it flourishes. Yes, a few thousand lives are wrecked by the lack of access to healthcare. But that’s an acceptable price to pay for all the private jets and Manhattan super-apartments, surely? Let’s hope the Man was kidding when he said all that stuff about camels and the eyes of needles.
Read the entire blog here.