Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Catholics Guilty of Spreading HIV?

Recently, I was having a discussion with a visitor on the subject of whether or not the Church was guilty of spreading HIV in Africa because of her teachings on contraception. I made a lengthy reply and I just hate putting in so much effort to something that only a few people will ever read again.

So here's the original post and here's my reply:


Wow lots of stuff there. You have some good points and some underlying issues that I agree with.

But I did not call you a 'horrible, evil liberal' so please dont put that in quotes as if I said that or even implied it. I said you were in a minority which you are (I am in a minority too, it doesnt make it wrong).

First, you're absolutely right that the Church needs to correct the problems within her own doors. I am painfully aware of this as are all faithful Catholics. The Church is not perfect, never has been never will be. St. Augustine said that 'the floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bad bishops'. And there have even been a number of 'bad' popes (Leo X for example).

Jesus told us to remove the plank from our eye before removing the splinter in someone elses'. I think you're absolutely right about that and you understand His teaching more than most do in this day in age. He spoke as much (or more) corporately than individually. This 21st century western individualism that we paint into 1st century Palestine is anacrhonistic to say the least. So Jesus told Israel (as a corporate body) just what you're telling the Church (the new Israel): clean up your act before cleaning up others.

The Church is working on it and is coming out of some painful lessons post Vatican II and post numerous sex-scandals(which you alluded to) and so naturally, there are a lot of things to fix and these things dont happen overnight.

But like the Inquisition, the Crusades and other issues, the 'Church' herself was never guilty of any wrong doing. I speak corporately not individually. There have been many priests, bishops and yes even popes (though rarely) who have done things that did not meet up to the standards of Christian dogma and sometimes even did things gravely opposed to it (such as the sack of Jerusalem or the sack of Constantinople which Im sure you're aware of). But these events (and the often grossly exaggerated incidents surrounding the Spanish inquisition) were not ordered by Popes, ecumenical councils or Vatican decrees. In fact, there were commands from the Pope NOT to do many of the evils which were done in the Holy Lands during the crusades but they were ignored. The individuals (whether priests, bishops or laymen) are certainly culpable for the evil they committed, but the Church cannot be held responsible for those who dissent from her teachings.

Now to what extent the Church is culpable (and you allude to it with the issue of the sex scandal) then the Church along with her members who are guilty should suffer due consequence. In cases where any diocese is guilty of protecting a child molester or anything of the sort, there should be severe consequences, I agree with you. It makes my blood boil even more than yours because I am a Catholic!

Now with all that said, I ask you to also be aware that there are 2 sides to every story and it would do you well, I think, to study up a little more on the Catholic side of it (and maybe you already have). But the actual guilt in the sex scandal (for example) has been overblown by the media in many cases and it is actually a small minority of priests guilty. Notice how the Protestant Churches (arguably as often guilty of the same things) have been barely mentioned. Again, not defending those who did wrong. Those who are guilty should face the consequences and the Church should not protect them (at the expense of endangering others and or failing to administer due justice).

Same thing goes for the crusades and the inquisition. Both of these are routinely misrepresented in an anti-Catholic exageration. By no means am I claiming that there was no evil involved. Far from it. Just saying that there are two sides to every story. If you havent read any Catholic sources on the subject here are a few links:

Those are just a couple (the first will keep you reading for days on the subject if you really want to know your stuff) I dont have my links at hand because Im not at home. At any rate, all Im saying is that I hope you will at least take an honest look at the other side of the argument.

Now about condoms & HIV, it seems to me that the situation can be compared to a group of people jumping into a lion's den with a gun for protection. Another group says 'you cant use a gun against lions its immoral' The first group doesnt understand why using a gun would be immoral and says its the best protection against the lions. The second group says 'just dont jump in the first place' Now, obviously, theres nothing immoral about using a gun in self defense against a lion, but the point of the analogy is that the best solution to the problem is not to use a gun, but rather not to jump in the lions den in the first place.

Now your side of the argument (I think) is that jumping into the den (having sex) is inevitable and therefore we need to arm them with guns.

There is merit to that argument but we have to remember a couple things. First, regardless, the cause of the death is jumping into the lion's den (the cause of HIV is sex with someone else who has HIV) not the lack of protection. The group forbidding guns (or condoms) may be accused of failing to allow those people to protect themselves but nothing more. They cannot under any rationale be accused of causing the death.

You are also making a few assumptions about the HIV epidemic. It is intuitively wrong to assume that HIV is spreading because of adherance to Catholic dogma. (Theres no way you can say that these people are contracting HIV because they are afraid to disobey Church teaching. In fact they have openly disobeyed Church teaching by engaging in the promiscuous acts which 95% of the time are the cause of its spread so why would they be afraid to disobey the teachings on condoms?) In other words, if they obeyed Church teaching, they (most likely) would not contract aids in the first place and even if they did, it would end with them as they are faithful to only one partner.

Therefore, the spread of HIV would not be NEARLY as rapid if not completely non existent. So clearly, the problem is not by any stretch of the immagination Church teaching (regardless of whether it's right or wrong).

Heres an interesting post on the subject that brings up a few other points:

Anyway, thanks for you input and while we may never reach an agreement, I hope that we can both learn some from other view points.

Oh and about Church growth, I believe your global trend analysis is a bit off, here is an article in the LA Times that addresses the issues you brought up (the idea that the Catholic Church needs to liberalize in order to keep up),0,2668973.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

According to that article, the exact opposite is occuring right now. Ive seen other sources that show the Catholic Church growing (per capita) in relation to other branches of Christianity and obviously Christianity itself is growing world wide (now over 2.1 billion) and the only other group growing so quickly is Islam (now over a billion) and Islam is hardly a liberal think tank.

Anyway, hope my comments made some sense. Peace be with you.


japhy said...

I only have one comment to make about your response:

In other words, if they obeyed Church teaching, they (most likely) would not contract aids in the first place and even if they did, it would end with them as they are faithful to only one partner.

Therefore, the spread of HIV would not be NEARLY as rapid if not completely non existent. So clearly, the problem is not by any stretch of the immagination Church teaching (regardless of whether it's right or wrong).

The real twist here is that a person with HIV/AIDS is going to produce offspring already infected. So as long as infected persons have offspring, it will continue to spread. Infection is basically a call to (a painful) celibacy.

Johnny Vino said...

That was a very level-headed response to a typically bitter diatribe. I love it when people feel the need to proclaim their distinguished and unquestionable intellectual background before right before immediately betraying that how inadequate their knowledge actually is! Blustery outrage is the first defense of people insecure in their beliefs.

Anyway - I would add to your explantion of the Church's postion by pointing out that no amount of condoms in the world can defend against male predatory sexual behavior. This particularily true in sub-Saharan Africa where a recent Frontline episode documented the pervasive and dangerous sexual practices of local militias. A good percentage of these men have HIV, and they just plain don't care about death or protecting others from it. Condoms do not solve the problem of their organized criminal behavior, nor do they contribute to a de-objectification of women and liberation of millions from the sex-trafficking industry!

The only true solution lies in the spread of the Roman Catholic view of the human person and human sexuality. But materially comfortable leftists are too addicted to lives of self-gratification to consider the Paul VI/JPII perspective anything but a personal threat.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Thanks for the comments. You guys are both right. I've also heard that there are some urban legends in Africa that if an infected man has sex with a virgin, he will be cured of AIDS. I dont remember where I heard / read that so I cant verify its validity but if it's true at all, what do you think that does for the spread!

Peter Sean Bradley said...

Nice response.

One thing I've observed is that when someone starts talking about being raised a Catholic by nuns and brothers, what that person thereafter says about Catholic teachings is invariably absolute nonsense.

The sad thing about Catholicism is that cradle Catholics are usually very ignorant about their faith.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Peter, you're right Ive noticed the same thing as well. Ex-Catholics usually misrepresent Catholic doctrine worse than anyone else. I think the Church is starting to do a better job of Catechesis though.

Thanks for stopping by.