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The Pope’s condom comments leave the Catholic Church’s fastest growing segment, Latinos, in limbo

Pope Benedict created a global outrage with his recent remarks regarding the effectiveness of condoms against the spread of AIDS. In the United States, his remarks have the potential to impact this nation’s Hispanic population who have not only emerged as an at-risk population for the virus but who are also responsible for fueling the growth of the U.S. Catholic Church.

LatinaLista — Last year when the Vatican issued the announcement that Rome, after 400 years, was finally admitting that the astronomer Galileo wasn’t a heretic for saying the earth wasn’t the center of the universe, the declaration was globally met with snickers.
In making that public confession, the Church committed a huge PR mistake of making itself look irrelevant to generations who were schooled on Galileo’s accomplishments and contributions to the field of astronomy. Luckily, all was forgiven because while everybody knew the truth, the Church’s sudden reversal didn’t affect anybody’s lives or changed their beliefs.
The same can’t be said of Pope Benedict’s latest remarks about condom usage while on his recent visit to Africa. While talking to reporters on his plane in route to Cameroon, the Pope said that AIDS is “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.”
Since uttering those words, the Church has come under a barrage of criticism. From AIDS activists and organizations to health ministers of various countries to even the World Health Organization, all have condemned the remarks as being irresponsible and unfactual.
In fact, the President of the World Health Assembly, Guyana Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy, characterized the Pope’s view as “absolutely and unequivocally wrong” and “inconsistent with science.” He accused the pontiff of “sowing confusion” and trying to set back the progress made on proven strategies against the spread of AIDS.
Since then, the Church has not apologized for the Pope’s remarks but has defended them as being consistent with Catholic teachings that believe using condoms promotes risky sexual behavior.
And while the Pope’s words may be consistent with how the Church feels about promiscuous or homosexual sex, this time around, the image of an irrelevant institution out of touch with the realities of today’s society is far more dire than holding onto a 400-year-old grudge.
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  • Karen
    April 1, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    I have to disagree with your comment that what the Pope said about condoms “leaves Latinos in limbo.”
    First of all, not all Latinos are Catholic. Secondly educated Latinos who are Catholic do not do whatever the Pope says.
    It’s sad that in the 21st century anybody would surrender their power over something as important as family planning and bodily health to the Pope. It’s pathetic.

  • Sandra
    April 2, 2009 at 9:32 am

    The Catholic Church has always been opposed to family planning other than the “rhythm method” which has been proven not to work most of the time. Not trying to insult any Catholics in here ( I was once a Catholic myself) but it appears that they encourage large families to contribute to their coffers by large congregations.

  • Idler
    April 2, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    People have freedom of conscience and they can choose to follow an authority or not, whether that authority emanates from the Vatican, the AMA or the Supreme Court.
    One of the unfortunate aspects of social reality today is that people generalize from their political freedom to the notion that they have the authority to judge profound philosophical questions.
    Recommended reading: La rebelion de las masas by José Ortega y Gasset.
    PS: Sandra, I think you misunderstand (or rather are ignorant of) the ethical underpinning of the Catholic position.

  • Sandra
    April 2, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Idler, I went to Catholic school for 6 years and was brought up Catholic. I know what I am talking about. It is one of the reasons that I left the Catholic church.

  • Alessandra
    April 3, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I think those of us who grew up post-Vatican II might have a different understanding of our faith than those who grew up under the pre-Vatican II times.
    In our religious ed classes we were taught that each family needed to decide what their optimal family size should be. Factors such as emotional and financial resources, health were important and valid considerations.
    I went to public school and there we were taught about various methods of birth control. Fertility awareness was one of them; it differs greatly from the old, less accurate “rhythm method” and is actually quite effective when used correctly–which of course is the key to all birth control usage.
    As for the Pope, he is just reiterating the official position of the church on this issue. The moral theology behind this position is not easy for a lot of people to understand, but it does make sense once you understand it. In the end, most people will follow their consciences on this issue.

  • Idler
    April 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Right, Sandra, because everybody who ever went to Catholic school for at least six years understands the theology and philosophy behind its ethical teachings.
    Bear in mind that all you said was “it appears that…” Your statement has nothing to do with what you learned about the Catholic position on the topic, which does exist and in fact has nothing to do with revenue.
    You’ve made a lot of sound and creditable points on this blog but this isn’t one of them.

  • Karen
    April 3, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    I also went to a Catholic school, and in my senior year they brought in a priest who told us that women who use birth control have no self-respect. Can you believe that?!
    In my opinion, too many Latinos have been brainswashed by this institution.

  • Idler
    April 6, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Unless there has been some technical problem, Marisa apparently thinks it’s perfectly OK to say that people are “brainwashed” by the Catholic Church but it’s not OK to suggest that people are brainwashed by other authorities.
    I’m fine with Karen’s “Can you believe that!” comment, because it only shows that she is a child of her time and place, and has learned what are the right thoughts and the wrong thoughts according to the authorities she recognizes. Thus, I don’t fault her inability to imagine a radically different point of view based on other assumptions. Nor do I expect her to be able to sort out between which of those assumptions were based on doctrine, which on the prejudices of time and place. However, I do expect people to be more humble about the conclusions they leap to, especially when they are used to denigrate a certain point of view. I also think its fair to expect Karen not to be a bigot and a hyprocrite.

  • Robot Hairgel
    May 2, 2009 at 8:36 am

    The pope can say what he wants, and Catholics can do what they want – which may be a surprise to a Vatican that seems to just now see it’s global lapse of leverage. So, it may come as some surprise that the pope cannot control most of the world anymore. But, the Church had its chance at affecting the outcome of this great experiment called evolution – the result is now known as the Dark Ages. The Church squandered its authority on self-aggrandizement and inspired a world that is as spiritually conscious as a herd of guinea pigs and this same Church now seems to be characterized as a defunct government body of a failing state. Should such an entity have any part of educating the public consciousness about the employ of birth control techniques? Maybe it is more appropriate that they squabble among themselves about whether to allow the “leader of the free world” to address the graduating students of one of their universities based on some morally ambiguous arguments that have nothing to do with academic excellence. But kudos to the staff at Notre Dame involved in hosting an actual world leader at their commencement. Perhaps some of these students will be able to peek outside the confessional box and see that the real world can be an exciting, challenging place with room for people from all walks of life that seek to participate with conscience and intelligence in the decisions that affect the global community.

  • Stephen Fleri Soler
    September 16, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Abstinence and self control remain the best forms of preventing AIDS. Condoms are not 100% safe. Those who use condoms really would be after sex and may not always actually use condoms. I believe that the pope knows what he is saying and eventually in time he will be proved right.

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