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Pope’s change of the Catholic discussion re condoms

In the Catholic magazine America, James Martin, S.J., wrote regarding Pope Benedict XVI’s “comments about the use of condoms in the prevention of passing on HIV/AIDS:”

Once again, the Catholic Church has not changed its teaching on the use of condoms as a means of birth control. Nor has the church “officially” changed its teaching on the use of condoms: an interview is not the same as an encyclical or a document from a Vatican congregation. But the previously out-of-bounds discussion about whether condoms can be used as a means to prevent the spread of disease is now in-bounds. That is change, by any definition. And that change is a good one, for if it moves the conversation ahead, it may mean a further lessening of the spread of HIV/AIDS and the prevention of death. It is a pastoral approach that has listened to the voices of many in the field–Catholic lay health care workers, moral theologians, bishops, priests, sisters and brothers–who have reflected on their experiences ministering to those living with AIDS, especially in the developing world. As such, it may be seen as a new kind of pro-life initiative on the part of the Holy Father.

Read the entire post here.

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November 23, 2010 Posted by | Health, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion | , , , , , | Comments Off on Pope’s change of the Catholic discussion re condoms

Condomonium: Pope Benedict XVI moves toward agreement with the Centers for Disease Control

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.

The Catholic right has lost the battle to define Pope Benedict’s remarks in his book-length interview Light of the World as changing little or nothing.

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.

The formulation is new and a “game changer,” observed the Rev. James Martin, S.J., culture editor of the Catholic magazine America. A “Papal Biggie after all,” as Mark Silk put it.

November 23, 2010 Posted by | Medical Care, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion, Science | , , , , , | Comments Off on Condomonium: Pope Benedict XVI moves toward agreement with the Centers for Disease Control

Pope Benedict provokes protest in Belgium

Showing again that he is as conservative as he seems when not calming the waters after a controversial action, Pope Benedict has appointed André-Mutien Léonard archbishop of Brussels.

Léonard is sometimes called “the Belgian Ratzinger” for his conservative views. According to Reuters:

Léonard has beene a controversial figure in Belgium for his critical stands on homosexuality, same-sex marriage and condom use. He has been an outspoken opponent of abortion and euthanasia, both of which are legal in Belgium, and criticised the Catholic universities of Leuven and Louvain for their research into assisted reproduction and embryonic stem cells.

CNA reports that in July, his statements in an interview that homosexuals were “abnormal” led Belgian homosexual activists to pursue (unsuccessfully) charges against him for homophobia — “a criminal offense in Belgium since the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Act of 2003.”

Public officials protested the appointment as disruptive. According to Reuters, most outspoken was Deputy Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx, who is the country’s health minister. In a radio interview, Onkelinx said:

Church and State are separate in Belgium, but when there are problems in our society, all the social partners sit down around a table, including representatives of secularism and of religion. Cardinal Danneels was a man of openness, of tolerance and was able to fit in there. Archbishop Léonard has already regularly challenged decisions made by our parliament.

. . .

Concerning AIDS, he’s against the use of condoms even while people are dying from it every day. He is against abortion and euthanasia [legal in Belgium] … The pope’s choice could undermine the compromise that allows us to live together with respect for everyone.

Although the controversy is not as intense as over the eventually withdrawn appointment of pastor Gerhard Maria Wagner in Austria last year, Pope Benedict used the same selection process. He ignored the local Catholic hierarchy and chose someone he was confident would be loyal to him.

The editor of the Belgian Catholic weekly KERK&leven (Church and Life), said the choice of Léonard “is clearly a conscious choice for a totally different style and approach: for more radical decisiveness rather than quiet diplomacy, for more confrontation with the secular society instead of dialogue … .”

Disruptive, pushing toward the political right, as Beligian public officials suggested. And look for more of that.

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Politics, Religion | , , , , , | Comments Off on Pope Benedict provokes protest in Belgium

Theologian ‘saddened’ by Papal decisions on contraception

AIDS, condoms and contraception are a concern even for “superstar” Catholic theologian Hans Kung.

One of the architects of the second Vatican council and also the first major Catholic theologian to attack the concept of papal infallibility, Kung said in an interview this week with euronews:

The Pope is without any doubt a figure who embodies hope in the fight against corrupt dictators and regimes, and this is why I am saddened. The Pope didn’t seize the opportunity to tell people reasonable family planning and sensible contraception is justified.

The interview deserves close attention and we will come back to it, later.

April 9, 2009 Posted by | Pope Benedict XVI, Religion | , , , , | Comments Off on Theologian ‘saddened’ by Papal decisions on contraception

Faith-based condom distribution

The United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ have joined together in support of distribution of condoms and comprehensive sexual education by houses of worship and faith-based education institutions.

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Their initiative contradicts recommendations which follow from Pope Benedict XVI’s plane-board statement during his visit to Africa that “You can’t resolve [AIDS] with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, the UCC’s executive for health and wholeness advocacy, urges a more scientific and compassionate approach to the prevention of HIV. “The availability of condoms as part of a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention sends the right message and more importantly, it saves lives.”

Shuenemeyer said, “The message is rooted in the belief that loving carefully is a moral responsibility. The practice of safer sex behavior is a matter of life and death. People of faith make condoms available because we have chosen life so that we and our children may live.”

The United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network (UCAN) speaks directly to a key issue in the raging international debate over condoms and sex education, and is on sound behavioral ground, when it says:

There is no evidence that making condoms available promotes sexual activity. In fact, condoms, when distributed with educational materials and integrated into a broader, more comprehensive prevention package, have been shown to delay sexual debut among those who are not sexually active. Among sexually active youth, HIV prevention education programs have resulted in a reduced number of partners and increased condom use.

UCAN says making them available does provide “opportunities to open conversations that can save lives. In this context, condoms become educational tools.”

They are in good faith striving to follow the best available science.

March 28, 2009 Posted by | Health, Politics, Religion | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pope versus the epidemiologist re AIDS

Driven to sarcasm by Pope Benedict XVI’s pronouncement that condoms “can even increase the problem” of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani wrote for the London Times:

I’ve worked with HIV prevention data for more than a decade, and I have found nothing to support this except a claim by William Bennett, a former Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration, who once pointed out that condom use was higher in communities with higher HIV prevalence – clear evidence that condoms aggravate the epidemic. Similarly, more people use treated bed nets in Lagos than in London, and Nigeria has far more malaria than the UK – clear evidence that bed nets spread malaria.

She finds “great mystery” in what she sees as the Pope’s focus on compassion for HIV victims at the expense of the uninfected, a view “shared by many evangelicals.” Instead:

Why can’t we also show compassion to uninfected people by helping them to stay that way, using every effective tool at our disposal? That includes abstinence, which works for many Catholic priests and some teenagers. And cutting down the number of people you have sex with. And condoms.

March 18, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion, Science | , , , , , | Comments Off on Pope versus the epidemiologist re AIDS

Use condoms to prevent AIDS? The Pope versus the Centers for Disease Control

Regarding the use of latex condoms to prevent Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS):

Pope Benedict XVI, speaking to journalists aboard his flight to Cameroon March 17, said:

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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga., said:

Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In addition, consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including diseases transmitted by genital secretions, and to a lesser degree, genital ulcer diseases. Condom use may reduce the risk for genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and HPV-associated diseases, e.g., genital warts and cervical cancer.

The CDC Web page on this subject included an overview of laboratory studies, medical/scientific theory and epidemiologic data. Regarding epidemiology the CDC concluded:

Overall, the preponderance of available epidemiologic studies have found that when used consistently and correctly, condoms are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV infection and reduce the risk of other STDs.

The Pope offered no laboratory studies, medical/scientific theory or epidemiologic data.

March 18, 2009 Posted by | Medical Care, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion, Science | , , , , , | 7 Comments