While Critics Blame Catholic Church for AIDS Deaths Stats Show Just the Opposite
By Hilary White
LONDON, March 5, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Catholic Church is killing "millions" because of its teaching on chastity and fidelity in marriage and needs to change its "policy" on banning condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS, according to a popular and apparently perpetual theme in mainstream journalism.
Commentators, especially from Britain, regularly pronounce that the late Pope John Paul II, and his successor Benedict XVI, are personally responsible for the deaths of millions of people because of their opposition to contraception, particularly condoms.
The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, on the occasion of the death of John Paul II, called the Vatican, "a modern, potent force for cruelty and hypocrisy." Toynbee said with the "ban on condoms the church has caused the death of millions of Catholics and others in areas dominated by Catholic missionaries, in Africa and right across the world. In countries where 50% are infected, millions of very young Aids orphans are today’s immediate victims of the curia."
Catholic readers of the mainstream press are familiar with the regular appearance of articles speculating on whether the Pope will "lift the ban" or approve the use of condoms to stop AIDS.
Last week the Times’ religion correspondent, Ruth Gledhill, wrote on her weblog that she and Times colleague Richard Owen in Rome, were "inundated" with emails, calls "and other tips" wondering if the Pope intended to lift the "ban" on condoms in his Ash Wednesday homily that afternoon.
The rumour was entirely false, she said, but it was followed the next day with a letter speculating that Pope Benedict would lift the ban on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the publication of Donum Vitae, a document that reiterated the Catholic teaching on the sinfulness of artificial contraception, including barrier methods.
Gledhill quoted John Coventry of the aid organization, ActionAid, that promotes condom use for AIDS prevention. Translating Catholic teaching on chastity and fidelity in marriage as "anti-condom ideology" Coventry said it "has got in the way of pragmatic approaches to preventing the spread of the disease."
"For the Pope to relax Catholic attitudes to condoms would send a clear signal that it is not acceptable to prevent access to potentially life saving materials - in this case condoms - on grounds of religious belief," Coventry said.
Coventry’s comments were mild compared to Toynbee in 2005 when she compared John Paul II to Vladimir Lenin: "they both put extreme ideology before human life and happiness, at unimaginable human cost."
Toynbee wrote, "Disgracefully, the European rich quietly ignore the church’s outlandish teachings on contraception without rebelling on behalf of the helpless third-world poor who die for their misplaced faith. Those ‘civilised’ Catholics have as much blood on their hands as the Vatican they support."
A short examination, however, of the HIV/AIDS rates of those African countries that have a large Catholic population shows that the Church’s accusers have not done the homework or are deliberately misreporting the facts. The available statistics show that countries with a large Catholic percentage population, show significantly lower rates of HIV/AIDS infections than countries with mostly non-Catholic populations.
2003 statistics from the World Factbook of the US Central Intelligence Agency, shows Burundi at 62% Catholic with 6% AIDS infection rate. Angola’s population is 38% Roman Catholic and has 3.9% AIDS rate. Ghana is 63% Christian, with in some regions as much as 33% Catholic and has 3.1% AIDS rate. Nigeria, divided almost evenly between the strongly Muslim north and Christian and "animist" south, has 5.4% AIDS rate.
Strongly Christian Uganda continues to frustrate condom-pushing NGO’s by maintaining its abstinence and fidelity AIDS prevention programs and one of the lowest rates of AIDS in Africa, at 4.1%. Uganda’s population is listed by the CIA Factbook as 33% Roman Catholic and 33% Protestant.
Of African countries with low Catholic populations, Botswana is typical with 37.3% AIDS, one of the highest in Africa, and 5% of the total population Catholic. In 2003, Swaziland was shown to have a 38.8% AIDS infection rate and only 20% Catholic population.
Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Uganda AIDS Prevention Success Being Undermined by Infuriated UN Condom-Pushers