At UN Vatican reaffirms stance against condoms for HIV/AIDS prevention - Analysis
NEW YORK, November 25, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - At United Nations headquarters Tuesday, Vatican representative Fr. Philip Bené reiterated the long-held position of the Holy See against the use of condoms, even for AIDS prevention. While the position has had some accuse the Pope of ‘crimes against humanity’ and been ridiculed by the mainstream press and political leaders, the Catholic Church has nevertheless refused to be cowed by the criticism.
Speaking to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York on Tuesday Nov. 22nd about a resolution on the Rights of the Child, Fr. Bené stated: “the Holy See in no way endorses contraception or the use of condoms, either as a family planning measure or in HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.”
The tenacity of the Catholic Church on the issue is remarkable given the massive pressure directed at the institution on the matter.
Fr. Bene’s comments follow on the heels of the Pope’s own recent talking points in Africa where he reiterated the same teaching.
On Sunday November 20 Pope Benedict XVI presented his document - Africae Munus - to chart evangelization of the continent in the coming years. The 55-page document spoke of AIDS noting that while the Church has encouraged a medical and pharmaceutical response, the problem goes deeper. “Above all, it is an ethical problem,” he said. “The change of behaviour that it requires - for example, sexual abstinence, rejection of sexual promiscuity, fidelity within marriage - ultimately involves the question of integral development, which demands a global approach and a global response from the Church.”
The significance of this stance may be easily missed. Recall that in his first trip to Africa as Pope, Benedict XVI inadvertently enraged the left when he noted that AIDS “cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.”
He said the “traditional teaching of the Church” on chastity outside marriage and fidelity within it had proved to be “the only sure way of preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS.” He added that while “we must suffer with those who suffer” and give greater support to those who are sick with the disease, combating AIDS in Africa depends on promoting “correct and moral behavior.”
The day after the Pope made his comments, the then heavily anti-Catholic government of Spain announced it would be sending over a million condoms to African countries. The French foreign ministry called the Pope’s comments a “threat to public health policies and the duty to protect human life,” while the Dutch development minister said it was “extremely harmful” and that “the pope is making matters worse.”
The Belgian Parliament went so far as to pass a resolution 95-18 deeming the Pope’s remarks “unacceptable” and forcing the Belgian envoy to the Vatican to “condemn the unacceptable affirmations of the Pope during his trip to Africa and to protest officially to the Holy See.”
Meanwhile, one of the world foremost AIDS experts confirmed that science supported the Pope’s assertion that condoms exacerbate AIDS. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, said that evidence confirmed the validity of the Pope’s remarks.
The mainstream media attempted to distort the Pope’s stance (and claim victory in the fight) by misinterpreting comments in his 2010 book-length interview with reporter Peter Seewald. The New York Times headline read: ‘In Rare Cases, Pope Justifies Use of Condoms’ and the London Telegraph screamed ‘Pope approves use of condoms in fight against Aids’. Even some Catholic media added to the confusion about what the Pope meant by his comments.
The Seewald interview recorded in the book ‘Light of the World’, actually had the Pope rejecting condom use. “(W)e cannot solve the problem [of AIDS] by distributing condoms…” he said, adding that “the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality.”
Rather, media focussed attention on a hypothetical scenario raised by the Pope in which he again did not okay the use of condoms for AIDS prevention.
In addition to media correction by the publisher of the book, some 40 bishops around the world spoke out publicly to affirm the Vatican’s unchanging stance against condoms as AIDS prevention measures.
What the above demonstrates is a new strategy by the leadership of the Catholic Church to confront the culture head on even on the most difficult issues. It seems the often-used and failed tactics of avoidance of difficult situations, of attempts to obfuscate or of entering into compromises are being put aside.
Benedict realizes that when truth is pushed aside for political correctness, to fulfil ideals of civility or to achieve false unity and false peace, the world is harmed by the lack of truth the Church is called to bring to it.
When truth is boldly proclaimed and held to, despite persecution, even the enemies of truth are forced to see that the opponents of their secular or liberal ideologies truly believe their teachings and are willing to suffer for them. This eventually generates a degree of respect from some of the critics and an openness to re-consider their own flawed positions.
Pope Benedict understands that this has always been the only way to evangelize, for the benefit of all people.