Thursday, 19 March 2009

Pope Hampers Health Promotion

Pope Benedict XVI is currently visiting Africa. Whilst on the plane flying to Africa he pronounced that the use of condoms remains against the doctrine of the Catholic Church (as set out in the Encyclical 'Humanae Vitae' , 1968).

He is quoted as saying that 'Aids cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problem'. This latter statement is completely wrong as the majority of scientists agree that the consistent and correct use of condoms substantially reduces the spread of Aids. It would be interesting to know what research the Pope is quoting when he made that statement.

The UN programme against Aids says that condoms are an essential part of combination prevention. Several Aids activists as well as the French and Belgian government have expressed grave concern at the Pope's statements, in exactly that continent where Hiv and Aids are of pandemic proportions, which unfortunately is also the continent where the Pope remains quite popular.

The Pope of course has the right (vested in him by the Catholic Church) to make statements on Church Doctrine, but unless he can show evidence of research that shows that condoms aggravate the problem, he really does need to retract that statement.

The situation is that condoms are expressely forbidden because they are a form of birth control, (within what the Church considers it rightful area of expertise) but that condoms are an essential part of the combination prevention for HIV.

If people as a consequence of the Pope's statement stop using condoms, this means that more babies will be born that are HIV positive. This is obviously something that the Pope feels he can live with, although he did say that he is suffering with the poor of Africa. That should make them feel a lot better, hopefully it means that he will be distributing the estimated $10 - $15 billion Vatican wealth very soon amongst the poor and needy.

Or maybe he will buy a drug company that enables the people suffering from Aids that he is so concerned about, to have free drug treatment. At the moment 70% of people who are HIV positive on the African subcontinent, die as a consequence of the disease. The cost of drug treatment is prohibitive for most African countries.

As a very lapsed Catholic I have no problem with the Pope making his doctrinal statements, but I feel he has to keep out of the issue of Health Promotion, particularly as he is not offering any evidence of his statement. Come on Pope, you talk about religion and God, and let everyone else make pronouncements on their areas of expertise.


  1. Now that Pope Benedict has been kind enough to share his opinions on issues of public health, perhaps the head of the World Health Organization should return the favor by making a few public statements on questions of Catholic theology.

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