Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pope says condoms not the answer in fight against AIDS

For the story go here and here.

Pope Benedict XVI has said that handing out condoms is not the answer in the fight against HIV/Aids, as he makes his first visit to Africa as pontiff.

Speaking en route to Cameroon, he said distribution of condoms "increases the problem".

I previously posted on this topic here.

Perhaps this is one area where we can say, more or less without qualification, that religion is dangerous.

76 comments:

anticant said...

Fatuous Papal pronouncements such as this increase the problem.

Rudy said...

Hey pope. You don't play the game, you don't make the rules.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Just another reason for me to despise the Catholic Church: http://www.atheistmissionary.com/2009/03/was-ailing-nun-first-saint-in-toronto.html

anticant said...

"Perhaps this is one area where we can say, more or less without qualification, that religion is dangerous."

I would go further than that. Much religion is evil.

jbierly said...

"Perhaps this is one area where we can say, more or less without qualification, that religion is dangerous"

No, this is one area where you can say certain teachings of a certain branch of a certain religion with a certain leader are dangerous... this says nothing about "religion" in general

Hannah said...

Religion is dangerous because it thinks it has the right to dish out such ethics. It drives me mad how they think they have the right to just do that, with no back-up apart from it being what God wants. :@ :@ :@ :@ :@

Why can't religious belief or even non-religious ritual just be kept personal? Why do they think they can tell you how to live your life? I mean, I suppose if you take it seriously you have to live as God says but meh, it's the easy way out, than actually realising your own moral values, just to pick and choose precepts from some ancient book and listen to some man who probably has no experience of a normal life or usage of contraception, or actual real issues, which ethics may deal with by at least questioning but which the bloody Pope can just proclaim if he feels like it. I mean God, say the government or the BBC were saying such things, they'd get damn well sued!

Someone abolish the Pope. He really makes me great my teeth. Rant over :-)

wombat said...

"certain teachings of a certain branch of a certain religion.." etc.

By those lights one might say that "a certain chunk of plutonium in a certain thermonuclear device is dangerous"

This is a popular, widespread religion representing a statistically significant fraction of believers. It is not alone in campaigning against condoms.

Q.SocNE said...

So you think that HIV is largely proliferating because the Catholic Church opposes contraception?

I'm NOT Catholic, or even theist - but that's unfair.

Catholicism opposes extra-marital sex and drug usage. If these rules were followed then surely the only people who could catch HIV would be the unborn and someone married to a carrier.

anticant said...

Why do so many people take such a lot of notice of what the Pope says?

Presumably because they hanker after a Voice of Authority to tell people - preferably other people; not themselves - what to do.

The Catholic Church is an authoritarian - not to say totalitarian - institution whose history largely consists of the vehement opposition by a bunch of unworldly medieval-minded clerics to reason, science, progress and modernity.

The sooner it withers on the vine the better.

Michael Fugate said...

Q.SocNE,
...or they could just use condoms.

Anonymous said...

Q.SocNE, the pope's position is like saying that the only way to be safe from car accidents is to not drive a car. Oh, and seat belts are against God's law and not the answer. Of course people are going drive cars, and when they do, it's best that they were a seat belt.

Psiomniac said...

There are lots of hobbies that are dangerous. Rock climbing, horse riding, rugby. Oh yes, and religion. Some hobbies are especially dangerous if you ignore the safety rules. Like signing up for a belief system that purports to dictate your fate through eternity, and then disobeying the strict behaviour code you have agreed to.

I know what you are thinking, people are being put in harm's way for the sake of religious adherence. That's true, plenty of people have been infected by cheating partners, even if they have followed the rules.

So you might want to criticise the Roman Catholic Church for its stance. But what is the goal? How do we make a difference? The point I'm trying to make is that from the RCC's perspective, they are doing the right thing.

anticant said...

Everybody always does 'the right thing' from their own perspective [even Hitler and Pol Pot]. They would be idiots if they didn't.

Those of you who think the Catholic Church is a benign institution should read David Ranan's informative and well-documented "Double Cross: The Code of the Catholic Church".

Psiomniac said...

anticant,
Well, there are plenty of idiots about...
I suppose I'm asking how we can get the terms of engagement right. I've seen plenty of criticisms of the RCC recently which don't seem to think through the logical consequences of their beliefs.

Also, you have to wonder to what extent lack of condom use has anything to do with Catholic doctrine since this very prohibition is widely ignored in other contexts.

Stephen Law said...

"So you think that HIV is largely proliferating because the Catholic Church opposes contraception?

I'm NOT Catholic, or even theist - but that's unfair."

I am saying that, if the Church were to have taken a different line, a great many lives would have - would be - saved.

The Church's line is a major causal contributor to the problem. That's not to say it is the only cause, or that there would not still be a great many cases of HIV even if the Church did take a different line.

wombat said...

Bit off topic but couldnt help noticing this article from the BBC

Pious 'fight death the hardest'

It seems that those with a fervent belief in an afterlife are most reluctant to go to it. Despite the fact that "intensive intervention in the last few weeks and days before death may reduce a patient's quality of life."

What are they all afraid of?

anticant said...

Yes - that's always struck me. You'd think they would all be rushing like lemmings to be first into heaven.

As for 'logical consequences', faith isn't logical - it's irrational. Christians, Jews and Muslims are identical in this respect.

I would have no objection to anyone believing whatever they like as long as their beliefs don't have any adverse effects upon my own life or the world we live in, but they always do. There is no such thing as non-political religion, because religious people always have an agenda of shaping society more in accordance with their beliefs, as history abundantly testifies.

Psiomniac said...

anticant,
A set of beliefs can have logical consequences even if some of them are not held on a rational basis.

Also, there is an empirical question here, which is what is the nature and extent of the causal influence of the RCC on the HIV situation? Stephen above makes a claim that the church's line is a 'major causal contributor'. That might be right, but no evidence has been offered for this.

Stephen Law said...

"Stephen above makes a claim that the Catholic Church's line is a 'major causal contributor'. That might be right, but no evidence has been offered for this."

Yes that's true.

FrodoSaves said...

Call me cynical, but if you don't have AIDS, you have less to pray about.

Cassanders said...

@Psomniac
Would you consider papers like this

http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3420108.html
and this

http://www.thebody.com/content/art9249.html


as evidence?

If not, why?

Cassanders
In Cod we trust

The Atheist Missionary said...

This issue has been making me ill since Stephen raised it and only because I haven't given it much thought until now.

I went looking for some evidence this morning by googling "spread aids effect catholic doctrine africa". That search yields all kinds of catholic apologist discussion denying this atheist myth. The gist of the argument is basically as follows: "Without its message of sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage, the epidemic would have been arguably worse, not only among believers but among the general population."

My simple response to this is as follows:

1. People are going to have sex;

2. Unprotected sex spreads the transmission of HIV;

3. Using a condom dramatically reduces the transmission of HIV;

4. Catholic Church doctrine discourages the use of condoms on the basis that such usage promotes promiscuity and infidelity.

5. If the Catholic Church truly cares about maintaining its doctrine AND saving lives, the only only ethically defensible message would be: We don't want you to use condoms because we want to discourage sex outside of marriage but, if you plan on engaging in sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage or sex in any circumstance where you cannot be assured that your partner is free from HIV, PLEASE USE A CONDOM.

If there are any flaws in my logic, please point them out. The fact that the Catholic Church is not communicating this message has led me to the conclusion that they are just as guilty of murder in Africa than if they were "pulling the trigger".

Psiomniac said...

Cassanders,
Thanks for those links. The answer is yes I would consider papers like that as evidence, but I don't think they directly support Stephen's empirical claim. These two papers seem to me to be consistent with the notion that the Roman Catholic church's line has had little or no effect. I'm not saying that there is no evidence out there, just that I haven't seen a convincing case made.

Psiomniac said...

The Atheist Missionary,

I do think there some flaws in your argument and this is the kind of thing I meant in my reply to anticant above.

I'll accept your 1, 2 and 3 as uncontroversial. The problems start with 4, which I think is false. Although the RCC does argue that advocating condom use promotes promiscuity, this is not the basis on which the church discourages condom use. Their basis is more fundamental: that condom use is wrong in itself, as is extramarital sex.

Your argument seems to fall apart with 5 though. It contains some premises and a conclusion which does not follow from them.

Let us suppose that your two premises in 5 are true, the RCC does care about maintaining its doctrine and it does care about saving lives. You might have made an ethical argument that they ought to sacrifice the former in favour of the latter, but instead you implied they could do both, which is false.

Even if you had made the more credible argument that they ought to bend their own rules on condoms for the greater good of saving life, this would presuppose a number of premises that the RCC simply would not agree to. So what would be your goal in making such an argument?

The Atheist Missionary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Atheist Missionary said...

Thank-you for highlighting what I believe to be the case: the RC Church preaches that "condom use is wrong in itself" (In the immortal words of Palin and Jones:Every sperm is sacrad, every sperm is great, if a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate ...).

We don't even need to go to #5 of my argument. Pronouncing that condom use is wrong cannot be reconciled with #3 - Using a condom dramatically reduces the transmission of HIV.

My goal is making the argument is to ask Roman Catholics to give their f*cking heads a shake.

wombat said...

The "encourages risky behavior " hypothesis sounds at least plausible so what do the facts indicate?

This morning I listened to the "today Program" with an ex- Catholic Herald guy citing Uganda as an abstinence only success story. A quick look at the WHO site on the topic shows that yes indeed Uganda does seem to be a success story. Between 2001 and 2007 the rate does seem to have fallen from 6.1 -9.2% range to 5.0 - 7.5% for adults.

Looking a bit further one can see from the "Epidemiological Fact Sheet" generated from the WHO database a couple of interesting tables of data

{ apologies about the formatting the original was PDF - it can be obtained
here at UNAIDS/WHO Global HIV/AIDS database
)

Percentage of women and men aged 15–49 who have had sexual intercourse with more than one partner in the last 12 months

Year Male Female
----------------
2006 20.5 1.8
2000 18.0 1.6
1995 7.7 1.1

Note the upward trend. So Ugandans are actually having more "sinful" sex. But what about the condom usage? The next table shows this:

Percentage of women and men aged 15–49 who have had more than one partner the past 12 months reporting the use of a condom during their last sexual intercourse

Year Male Female
----------------
2006 41.5 41.1
2000 23.6 24.5
1995 17.9 7.6


Also seems to have increased. So has Uganda been successful because its people have followed the RCC teaching of abstinence or have they in fact reduced infection rates through use of condoms?

Psiomniac said...

The Atheist Missionary,

Thank-you for highlighting what I believe to be the case: the RC Church preaches that "condom use is wrong in itself"
My pleasure, I believe it to be the case as well.

We don't even need to go to #5 of my argument. Pronouncing that condom use is wrong cannot be reconciled with #3 - Using a condom dramatically reduces the transmission of HIV.
You haven't quite got the hang of this logic business have you?

My goal is making the argument is to ask Roman Catholics to give their f*cking heads a shake.
And you think making logically flawed arguments is the way to go?

The Atheist Missionary said...

The logic is only flawed if you accept (from the perspective of a Catholic) that it is ethically defensible for easily preventable deaths to occur in pursuit of their greater good. I think this is not only wrong but perverse.

Cassanders said...

Here is a somewhat newer paper (a comment)

http://www.springerlink.com/content/a1916q6q06v414t6/fulltext.html

Anyway, in your reply to me, you made reference to Stephan's original proposition. (The RCC co-responsibility for AIDS spread through their acive role in "preventing prevention").

Noting inter alia that you
a) consider use of condomes wrong in itself, but
b) seems ready to accept that the studies/data indicates at least SOME beneficial effects of condoms WRT AIDS prevention.

I could be interested to hear how many premature AIDS-deaths you consider would constitute a "religiously acceptable loss" in order to maintain the anti-contraceptive doctrine. Or vice verca: how many premature deaths would it take to convince you that the doctrine is pernicious
(My personnal opinion: silly and nausiating)

Cassanders
In Cod we trust

Psiomniac said...

The Atheist Missionary,
No your logic is flawed regardless. I'm not saying that you couldn't have made a logically sound argument to make your point, just that you didn't.

You might think that the notion that RCC doctrine is ethically defensible is perverse and you might regard their stance as morally wrong. That's your view, I have no problem with that but it has nothing to do with how logical your arguments are.

Psiomniac said...

Cassanders,

Thanks for that link. I'll have a look and get back to you on it later on.

In the mean time I'm afraid you have made some assumptions that are unwarranted. Nothing I have said justifies the inference that I believe the use of condoms is morally wrong in itself, rather that is what the RCC teaches.

Regarding your proposed ethical calculus regarding collateral damage incurred from adhering to RCC doctrine, these questions are not relevant to me. You could ask the Catholic church, but no doubt they would point out that from their perspective, you are criticising from an ethical framework to which they don't adhere. If you read what the RCC actually says, it becomes clear that within their moral framework it is not generally permitted to commit an evil for the sake of a greater good that may flow from it.

Andrew Louis said...

I don’t understand the problem here? What’s wrong with the Catholic Church preaching abstinence as apposed to condoms?

Whether you agree with it or not, that is it’s position and it’s entirely logical that it would solve the problem – at least in an idealistic way.

This may be a bad example, but let’s suppose you appose underage drinking – and, you have teenagers at home. Since we all know that teenagers are going to drink regardless of what you say, should we let them party it up at home with the booze you provide? Or should you stick to your guns?

Or on the other hand, perhaps junior likes sticking forks in light sockets. Should we allow the behavior to go on and simply put a plastic bag over the fork – in which case there’s always a chance the plastic could tare and he could get shocked – or should we take measures to prevent the behavior all together, should we take the hard stance?

My suggestion is simply that, it isn’t the RCC that’s dangerous, it’s simply people who are stupid and are taking risks where they know the consequences. (of course I’m assuming that by and large they know the consequences. If they don’t, then perhaps education is the answer, not condoms.)

Condoms are merely a band-aid to a larger social problem that has nothing to do with AIDS, or so I’d throw out there.

Personally, I’m a middle of the road guy here, we should teach condom use, and preach abstinence to a certain degree. Ultimately though, I don’t see the problem with the RCC taking the hard stance.

Andrew Louis said...

I'm willing to bet you wouldn't put a plastic bag over juniors fork. Situations such as this are always different when it's your own kin in question.

anticant said...

The Catholic Church's doctrine is perfectly clear and straightforward, even if inconsistent:

All human life is sacred.

Any act, such as the use of condoms, which thwarts the possibility of a new life being created during sexual intercourse is sinful and therefore prohibited in all circumstances.

It is the same regard for potential new life which motivates the prohibition of abortion and the injunction to save a baby's life at the expense of the mother's if necessary.

The flaw in these precepts is that the creation and preservation of new life trumps consideration of the quality of these lives.

The consequences for the future of humanity, with global population increase skyrocketing every year, are going to be horrendous if millions of people are influenced by these RC teachings.

It is this reckless disregard of their almost inevitable consequences which is the real immorality of Roman Catholicism.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Andrew Louis wrote:

This may be a bad example, but let’s suppose you oppose underage drinking – and, you have teenagers at home. Since we all know that teenagers are going to drink regardless of what you say, should we let them party it up at home with the booze you provide? Or should you stick to your guns?

I think it's a great analogy. The answer, of course, is that you stick to your guns and refuse to allow the underage drinking in your home. However, recognizing that your prohibition might be disregarded by your kids outside your home, you tell them that you are always willing to pay for their cab ride home ("no questions asked") if there has been any drinking so as to ensure that they never find themselves being driven home by an impaired friend. Does this approach dilute your at-home prohibition? Perhaps to a degree but I guarantee it will increase your kids' life expectancy.

I don't find the fork in the outlet analogy compelling. The difference there is that you can control your kids' access to the forks and most parents today use safety covers for outlets. Yes, underage drinking provides a great comparison.

Psiomniac, I'll have to work on my logic skills before I try them again in front of this crowd.

Stephen Law said...

I think most of us, when presented with a Jehovah's Witness watching a loved one slowly and painfully die that could easily be saved by a blood transfusion, telling them not to have the transfusion no matter what, would condemn the Jehovah's Witness as a best a fool and at worst, morally despicable.

Yes they are being true to their religious principles. But it's pretty clear, I'd say, that their principles are idiotic, and that to sacrifice someone's life (or encourage them to sacrifice their life) to such cobblers is not something to admired but, at best, something to be pitied, and (if they're reasonably intelligent and educated) probably despised.

If we can say that about the Jehovahs, I think we can probably say much the same about Catholics who insist on a strictly-no-condom policy even when the use of condoms would save many lives.

After all, even many Catholics think the policy completely idiotic - and would also add morally wrong.

Perhaps the real problem here is that the whole Catholic contraceptive etc. policy is pretty idiotic - and any educated person should realize that. To then recommend the policy in a situation where following is likely to result in many horrible deaths is not just an error - there's also moral culpability involved.

Incidentally, does anyone know what the Catholic position is on using a condom while masturbating? Is that one sin, or two? If one (as seems plausible), then surely using a condom while having anal sex is also one sin, not two (the condom is not causing semen to be wasted, for it's being wasted anyway, as in wanking example). In which case, why doesn't the Church say: if you gays (and heteros) are going to have anal sex, which you shouldn't - use a condom (cos it will still only be one sin, not two). Would save many lives!

The Atheist Missionary said...

Stephen's most recent comment illustrates why he gets paid the big bucks to think while the rest of us morons have to work for a living.

Stephen Law said...

Big bucks?

The Atheist Missionary said...

A relativist view, of course. You just need a good publicist and some well connected friends. If Dawkins can make millions off The God Delusion, you should be the philosopher king. Michael Ignatieff is trying that right now in Canada.

Cassanders said...

@ Psiomniac
I am sure it is evident that English is not my native tounge. But I agree that this is not a real excuse. I did not read your statement carefully enough. I am sorry I conflated RCC's views on condoms with yours.

With regards to the logical stringency of arguments against the pope's statements on AIDS, I am happy to leave the turf to those really interested in THAT part of the issue.

My concern is that a not insignificant number of people (with inevitable cascading effects for societies and families, especially children) probably dies prematurely and uneccessary as a consequense of the active promulgationi of a silly and (in the long run evil ) doctrine. (Cfr Stephen's demographical point mentioned above).

I think the epidemiological evidence against the pope and similar views are quite strong and convinving.

Several have suggested various metaphors in order to lend support to the pontifications(sic).

Bonnie Erbe point to real-life facts, which in my opinion demolishes the
assumptions made -both in the papal apologetics, and in the the metaphors presented here.

http://www.usnews.com/blogs/erbe/2009/03/18/popes-dangerous-aids-message-in-africa-no-condoms.html

Cassanders
In Cod we trust

The Atheist Missionary said...

Perhaps Pope Benedict is God's gift to the cause of secularism and the advancement of reason.

wombat said...

Glad to hear that Stephen gets paid more than a relativist...

Just to throw another idea into the discussion what does the Pope teach on anti-retroviral therapy?

CKDC said...

Hey "The Atheist Missionary": I hear that you make big bucks. Paint that boat in your profile picture, will you please.
This is a no-brainer. The Church says in part that encouraging safer sex is less desirable than encouraging abstinence among young, unmarried adults. That skews the question. The question is whether encouraging safer sex among young persons who are already having sex is less desirable than encouraging abstinence. Of course not, because BOTH should be encouraged. Would the Church support allowing its leaders to marry women because that would reduce buggery? No because the Church would say that not all priests molest young boys to compensate for their sexual abstinence. Quite right. And not all young teens who screw everything in sight do so because they wear condoms. Ridiculous.

Psiomniac said...

Anticant,
I think the inconsistency is not in the RCC position, rather it arises from trying to criticise the conclusions of one moral framework using some of the premises of another, without realising that is what you are doing.

Cassanders said...

@Psiomniac

Let me see if I get it right this time:

Does this mean that you claim there is no (philosopically acceptable or logically sound) way to critisize e.g Aztec human sacrifice og O.T. provision for stoning (to death) transgressing children(!), idolators, fornicators and the like,

-Provided that the normative parts of those belief systems was internally consistent?

The Atheist Missionary said...

That's precisely what Psiomniac is saying.

Psiomniac said...

Stephen Law,

Firstly, I'm sure you are aware that whether or not the religious principles of the JW's or the RCC are idiotic is logically separate from the harm adherence to them does. This is an obvious point. If it is idiotic to believe that condom use is sinful, then it is equally idiotic to believe in the trinity, even if the latter does no harm.

Secondly, although we can advance reasonable arguments as to why it is idiotic to believe in religious principles, it doesn't follow that adherents are idiots or inconsistent. Highly intelligent rational people can find a way to justify beliefs that they acquired via non rational means.

So what I am saying is, if you are going to criticise any religious teaching, I think it is a good idea to focus on your goal in doing that. I can't think of a goal which is made easier to attain by criticising moral framework A from the perspective of moral framework B, whilst thinking one is doing it within A.

So could the RCC credibly advocate condom use for anal sex? Well that depends whether it is credible for them to give guidance about how one should do something that they think one shouldn't do under any circumstances. So imagine a chief constable issuing the following statement: "Could you people who are going to commit rape, which you shouldn't, please use a condom?"

Psiomniac said...

Cassanders,

I looked at the more recent paper, and that doesn't support Stephen's claim either.

Also the article you linked to makes a valid criticism of the RCC's practical response to the HIV problem in not promoting the use of foam. Which assumptions made by the RCC does this article demolish in your view?

You said:
"Let me see if I get it right this time:

Does this mean that you claim there is no (philosopically acceptable or logically sound) way to critisize e.g Aztec human sacrifice og O.T. provision for stoning (to death) transgressing children(!), idolators, fornicators and the like,

-Provided that the normative parts of those belief systems was internally consistent?
"
No I'm afraid you haven't got it right. I'm not a cultural relativist and so I think there are philosophically sound ways to criticise the RCC policy on condoms as well as the things you mention here. That's why I wish people would use them.

Stephen Law said...

Oh I am not saying that Catholics who say these things are idiots. I am saying their view is idiotic. They're not being idiots makes it worse!

You say: "So what I am saying is, if you are going to criticise any religious teaching, I think it is a good idea to focus on your goal in doing that. I can't think of a goal which is made easier to attain by criticising moral framework A from the perspective of moral framework B, whilst thinking one is doing it within A."

Well, only if my goal is to persuade those who hold that teaching to change their mind. Which it isn't here.

However, my question about anal sex was designed to bring out a possible inconsistency in the official RC position. The Bible doesn't condemn condom use. It condemns, perhaps, casting your seed on barren ground, or whatever. But if e.g. that's the principle which drives the prohibition on condom use, it's hard to see why it justifies a flat ban on condom use per se, rather than their use to prevent pregnancy. As homosexuals don't use them that way, there should be no problem about them using condoms. The Church should say don't have gay sex. But it should not say "Don't use condoms" (for the justification does not justify prohibiting condoms, per se) This is just an example of how the RC position may not make sense internally.

But frankly, I don't care if the RC's official position on everything is internally perfectly consistent - it's still idiotic.

Stephen Law said...

Psiomniac - Put it this way - if there is no RC justification for banning condom use per se, rather than their use to prevent pregnancy, then the Church does not have to advocate condom use between gay partners, but it should certainly not say "Never use a condom, period." Which is what it does say.

anticant said...

Psiomniac -

I am pleased you are not a cultural relativist; neither am I.

I consider an ethical humanist secular philosophical standpoint superior to any system of morality derived from religious teachings, and I comment here from that standpoint.

I am therefore puzzled by your earlier remark that "the inconsistency is not in the RCC position, rather it arises from trying to criticise the conclusions of one moral framework using some of the premises of another, without realising that is what you are doing."

It is not what I am doing. The inconsistency I referred to was between the unrealistically lofty aspirations of Catholic teachings about sex, AIDS, and abstinence, and their harmful social consequences.

And Stephen, I think you are rather missing the point that Roman Catholic teaching says that ALL sex is sinful except within heterosexual marriage without any artificial barriers to the possibility of conception.

Therefore the Catholic Church is never going to condone the use of condoms or the Pill in ANY circumstances. For it to do so would be as unlikely as a group of Quakers wearing badges proclaiming "Quakers for War".

Yes, it is idiotic but the entire theological teaching of that Church is idiotic and it is a wonder that any sane people give it any credibility.

Papal globe trotting is about overawing the ignorant masses and extracting yet more revenue for the Vatican from the impoverished.

Psiomniac said...

Stephen Law,

As far as I can tell, as belief systems go, the RCC one has a high degree of internal consistency.

The only reason one should care about that if one thinks the whole thing is idiotic is if you rely on what you perceive as inconsistencies in your argument.

In other words, if you are going to criticise RCC teachings in their own terms it is best to get them right.

As far as I know, the RCC doesn't specifically condemn condom use in gay sex. It just condemns gay sex which covers that base. So from their perspective, there is no legitimate use of a condom, hence they condemn its use. That is not inconsistent.

Psiomniac said...

Anticant,
I don't think that's an inconsistency. From your point of view there is a stark contrast but I don't think the RCC is being inconsistent in its prohibition on condoms.

The Atheist Missionary said...

The RC position is not consistent, it's intransigent.

Psiomniac said...

I think it is both.

Andrew Louis said...

Rather then being specific in talking about condom use and the RCC’s position with regard to it, or it’s position on pre-marital sex, homosexuality, so on; I tend to think that what makes these positions “idiotic”, isn’t the fact that people behave in ways consistent with those beliefs (or advocate that behavior), but that they hold them with an authoritarian justification as apposed to a practical justification of why it may make sense (within a society) to behave in such ways.

Having said that, outside that sort of justification, I see no real problem with advocating abstinence, in which case we can logically conclude that condoms are a no-no. As Psiomniac stated, “"Could you people who are going to commit rape, which you shouldn't, please use a condom?"

anticant said...

I thought I had made it clear that I don't think the Catholic position is internally inconsistent. The inconsistency is between the aim of these unworldly precepts and their practical consequences.

Having been professionally involved in sex education for some 35 years from the 1960s onward, I know only too well that injunctions to abstinence directed at those who have no intention of abstaining are futile and simply don't work. To oppose the teaching and provision of any preventive and prophylactic measures to sexually active people, as the RC Church does, is not merely misguided - it is downright wicked.

anticant said...

Benedict certainly seems to have got up a lot of people's noses:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/18/pope-africa-visit-aids

Psiomniac said...

anticant,
I thought I had made it clear that I don't think the Catholic position is internally inconsistent.
Yes, sorry. I agree that the evidence suggests that the aims of the RCC are incompatible with the aim of deploying the most effective practical measures to reduce HIV transmission.

wombat said...

"...incompatible with the aim of deploying the most effective practical measures... "

This I think is what is wrong with the RC position here. They are opposing condoms on the grounds that advocating their use is ineffective from a practical standpoint. In other circumstances they argue against them on the grounds that they prevent conception etc. but not in this case. It is OK to advance the hypothesis that encouraging condom use is ultimately self defeating but it cannot be sustained in the face of the body of epidemiological evidence and must be abandoned. Whether or not "spilling ones seed" is a sin is simply not relevant to the argument that the Church is advancing in this case.

anticant said...

"They are opposing condoms on the grounds that advocating their use is ineffective from a practical standpoint."

That is merely a pseudo-scientific gloss designed to lull the gullible into thinking that there are other reasons for their opposition besides the usual theological ones.

The RC Church opposes the use of condoms in ALL circumstances as a matter of faith. Period. It will take a major upheaval within the Church itself to bring about any modification of this stance.

After all, when you believe [or say that you believe] your opinions come directly from God, as the Pope is bound to do, mere human testimony that you may be mistaken isn't going to shake you.

wombat said...

Anticant -

I agree it is an argument advanced as a tactical move, peripheral to their core position, nonetheless it is a rational argument and falls on rational grounds not matters of faith. I believe it is a mistake to get drawn into a faith vs secular debate on this specific aspect.

anticant said...

It's not a faith vs secular debate. It's a reason-based vs. irrational faith-based one.

People who believe that Jehovah, Jesus, Allah, the Tooth Fairy, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or some other 'supernatural' entity, is telling them what to think and how to behave are not in the least interested in reason except as a debating ploy with which to cloak their "divinely inspired" fantasies and bemuse the rest of us.

Stephen Law said...

Hi Psiomniac

What about wives who are pregnant who can protect themselves and unborn child getting HIV from their husbands by using condom, or wives that are post-menstrual or infertile, or whose husbands are infertile, who again want to prevent themselves getting the husbands HIV. If the Church's position on condom use is that they should not be used to prevent preganacy, rather than they should not be used period, why not say so, and make it clear these are legitimate uses of condoms. Again, there may be an internal problem for the RC position on condoms here.

But as I said, the above type of objection was just an after thought. Frankly I don't care whether the RC position on condom use and sex is internally consistent, it remains idiotic.

Psiomniac said...

Hi Stephen,

I agree, if it were the case that the prohibition on condom use related only to sexual acts that had a possibility of conception then your suggestion would be sensible even from their point of view. Unfortunately, judging by my reading of Humanae Vitae and related RC teaching, it isn't quite so simple for them.

My concern here has been that a number of criticisms of the RCC seem to me to lack depth of understanding of their position.

Now, I'm not saying that we have to have an understanding of their point of view in order to criticise their policy, and I think I can understand you not caring whether it is internally consistent or not, since it is idiotic anyway.

My general suggestion is just this, if you want to criticise the RCC, don't do it in a way that seems to rely on a knowledge of their views that you don't possess. After all, there are plenty of fine ways to criticise them from a secular rationalist perspective which don't use spurious speculation about inconsistencies in their views. As I said before though, it depends on your goal.

Psiomniac said...

Postscript: The Bishop of Rochester (CofE) said on Any Questions that the Vatican were looking into the matter of whether it is permissible to use condoms where, for example, one married partner is HIV positive.
Yes, I agree, fiddling while Rome burns is an inescapable image. I found references to this from 2006 but I couldn't find a report of their findings. Maybe they're still thinking about it....

Ian Logan said...

Why precisely do you teach at a College with a religious foundation if you think religion is dangerous?
Are you a hypocrite?

The Catholic Church is the largest provider of health care in Africa. Good thing.

Atheist states have consistently murdered their citizens on an enormous scale. Bad thing.

It's atheism that is dangerous, surely??

Stephen Law said...

Hello Ian - I did not say all religion is dangerous. I suggested this bit of policy is dangerous. A lot of Catholics would agree with me about that. Quite a few Jesuits at Heythrop would, I'd guess.

Anonymous said...

To fight against the use of condoms is the fight against common sense. To the extent that people already engage in sexual activitices, condoms can hardly be seeen as exascerbating the problem. I think the real issue is to teach responsible sexual behavior. Preaching abstinence is an anachronism that's out of touch with reality. You can find more of this perspective at: http://www.ricoexplainsitall.com/politcs-economy/2009/3/20/sex-and-the-vatican-city.html

Mr. Hamtastic said...

People are going to have sex-wait. Would you have sex if you knew there was a good chance of catching AIDS? I won't have sex with a girl if I'm afraid of catching a yeast infection, myself. Is the value of having sex greater than the value of not catching AIDS?

Or are humans just too incompetent to know the difference?

Martin Gifford said...

Sins aren't sins in emergencies e.g. killing someone who is about to kill someone else is not a sin.

AIDS and Overpopulation are emergencies since they can lead to deaths, so using a condom should no longer be a sin.

QED.

Wojciech Żełaniec said...

Atheist Missionary is writing:

'If the Catholic Church truly cares about maintaining its doctrine AND saving lives, the only only ethically defensible message would be: We don't want you to use condoms because we want to discourage sex outside of marriage but, if you plan on engaging in sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage or sex in any circumstance where you cannot be assured that your partner is free from HIV, PLEASE USE A CONDOM.

If there are any flaws in my logic, please point them out. The fact that the Catholic Church is not communicating this message has led me to the conclusion that they are just as guilty of murder in Africa than if they were "pulling the trigger".'


Well, I should like to point out, with your leave, that you require that the roman catholic church should be saying these two things at the same time:

1. You must not do p (be promiscuous, whaddever).

2. If you do p, you may (must?) do q (use condoms).

OK, let's forget, for the sake of argument, what 'p' and 'q' here stand for, let us let them stand for 'whaddever'.

Now, do you think 1. and 2., taken together, at the same time, and in the same sense, are consistent?

I, for one, have my problems with that. Deontic modalities being a bit tricky to handle (deontic logic is still its, boy-girlhood, say, if not childhood), let us use the fact that they are regarded as, by and large, analogous to alethic modalities; so, 'you must not...' is, by and large, analogous to 'it is necessary...'.

So da ting boils down to this:

1. It is necessary that p;

2. If not p then ... whaddever.

which IS consistent, if you give up 1., or let 2. be vacuously true (in which case it matters not what you substitute for 'whaddever').

Now coming back to our initial problem: Let us imagine the rc church saying these:

1. You must not be promiscuous;
2. If you are promiscuous, be so nice and use condoms

--- well, in the light of the above: do you seriously expect the rc church to give up 1.? And as far as 2.'s being vacuously true, it clearly isn't, for people are, and will go on, being promiscuous.

This, if anything, seems to me to be a kind of 'logical flaw' in your `modest proposal'.

There is, too, a pragmatical flaw, if I may say so: the fact is that in Africa most so-called Catholics don't care a f* about 1. (and not only in Africa, I suspect) so it is only to be expected that they should care much less about the, less fundamental to the teachings of that church, injuction to wear condoms while being promiscuous --- should the church choose to issue an injunction like that, as you chaps require.

Any remedy to either flaw?

Re the 'trigger-pulling' stuff, I dunno, I sordda imagine there are bigger trigger-pullers than the largely defeated and humiliated rc church.

b.b.b. said...

All good non-catholics who know how to be a good catholic. Perhaps you are all fighting against the church which you would belong to - one where a small group , dominates others - just like a strong thought or an intelligent argument can uproot an opponent. The problem is you are only arguing about the way you concieve the church to operate. All these "pronouncements" by the vatican are really teaching for the prayerful consideration of other catholics. Without the individuals appreciation and integration of these ideas they are worthless. That is basic catholicism. You might all be used to making the rules and taking other peoples ground and thoughts - but its not exactly catholic - to do so. Next time you listen to the vatican - listen to everything it says - and not just the little titbit that gets you onto your self congratulating hobby horses.

stephen perhaps you could give better coverage of this debate before feeding it to your hyenas. From my casual and rudimentary reading of it benedict was talking about the areas where condom distribution has been the highest are also the areas with the highest hiv rates .

Incidently - for those of you who want to the church to say this line about condoms - it has - the french bishops have asserted this sub-rule for the contemplation of the faithful - as have african bishops. You have a general rule given by a pope interpreted into realistic recommendations by bishops - and yes most groundlevel workers in the church are well aware of how much information actually gets through - safe consensual sex is pretty much a baseline in contemporary american higher education. Sexual maturity is a rare enough flower without savaging it's early growth.

Stephen Law said...

Hi BBB

are you saying - most Catholics don't agree with or follow the pronouncements of the Pope and Church authorities, so there's little to complain about?

Have you read through the various comments above, including my own? There's a lot, I know....

b.b.b. said...

Stephen ,

as much as i can - ive read them - it hard to reply to 105 people at once in a coffee break...

I dont really object to your point - I am trying to explain possibly pointlessly how the church can be percieved to operate - from an insiders view.

The church - as in the bishops and the american colleges - voice what you want to hear - its just the pope doesn't.

But it seems you wont be happy unless the pope says it. Like a vengeful mob - You demand that the idealist and the pragmatists are boiled in the same faceless pot.

It might be nice for you - possibly because you might think the pope is somehow in charge - but in a symphony you have different parts. The church is more diverse than it has ever been - look at the american sexual pressure groups you have Dignity and you have Courage.

Of course In the face of this ever expanding wheel of diversity the central hub fixes itself in hard. Much harder now than it did in the 60's. People now believe the church is right wing. But please dont be fooled into thinking the wheel is anything less than the sum of its parts...

There is nothing to stop anyone in the church saying what you say - and nothing to stop them doing what you want them to do - but to say the church cannot have a vatican based voice to promote an integrated ideal of sexuality - seems rather prohibitive.

There are different ways of communicating and understanding. I wouldn't expect you to spend all your time debating - wrestling with misunderstanding and controversy - trying to bring a little reason to an irrational world. Even you must admit its nice to write a book every now and then isnt it ?

I am trying to dumb this down - hopefully you can see something of my point...