Thursday, May 04, 2006

AIDS and the Pope

Former Catholic priest and current Boston Globe columnist James Carroll argues for a change in Catholic teaching on the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS from one spouse to another. Carroll sums up the problem with the Catholic position in these terms:

The consequences of this Catholic mistake have been catastrophic. Cultural prejudice against condoms, often widespread, has been reinforced. Women for whom condoms can be a crucial protection and a method of self-assertion have been kept at risk and disempowered. Priests, nuns, and the few bishops who denounced the condom ban have been disciplined. Catholic lay people who have been savvy enough to ignore it have been put in bad conscience. HIV/AIDS education has been equated with the promotion of promiscuity. Catholic leaders have falsely defined condoms as ineffective. Prevention of illness has been put in opposition to compassion for the sick. Homophobia has been sacralized. The Vatican's rigid adherence to this teaching in the face of monumental human suffering has been central to the broader collapse of Catholic moral authority.

But even these disasters pale beside the dominant fact of this tragedy: For more than 20 years, the hierarchy's rejection of condom use has been killing people. Even were the Vatican to change its position now--and pray it does--Catholics must still reckon with that betrayal.

See the full column here.