Dealing with Benedict’s legacy

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A common affliction suffered by intellectuals is their ability to think arguments through to their logical conclusions. US audiences watched a minor example unfold quite recently when self-styled libertarian Senator Rand Paul was honest enough to defend the implications of his intransigent commitment to restraining Federal Government activism: ‘principled’ opposition to the Civil Rights Act and, consequently, the perpetuation of segregation in the South. Charming. Practically every Catholic living outside the Vatican Palace could have recognized the Senator’s problem. Legislating on everyday life based on a dogmatic insistence on abstract principles produces laws that are wicked and silly or both.

Several of the more deranged policy priorities that chacterized the reign as Pope of Benedict XVI are a case in point. The late Christopher Hitchens, as ever, cut to it

AIDS is bad – but not quite as bad as condoms

Benedict’s love of his Church’s traditions, its centuries-old laws and its detachment from the passions of the crowd of the day might appear Burkean but that only obscures a core legacy of his reign: the utterly irreparable breach in trust between his institution’s hierarchy and its believers.

By refusing to change – and in many instances to act – Benedict has changed the Catholic Church forever.

Castigating the French Revolutionaries of his era, Burke reflected that they “love humanity but hate men”. The essence of Burke’s loathing was less the act of revolution (hence Paine’s initial astonishment at his former friend’s Reflections) than the fidelity to abstract principles that blinded the revolutionaries, stripping them of compassion for victims and dissidents. Previously known as Pope John Paul’s Rottweiler, Benedict XVI’s commitment to ideology was ferocious, life-long and devastating in its consequences.

The former Archbishop of Munich’s commitment not only to pontificating on, but to ushering the full force of his institutions’ might behind, many of the worst causes of modern times is a source of distress for millions of Catholics who believe in the simple truth of “love thy neighbor” and the notion that their Church should be a force for social justice. To these Catholics, the Church’s opposition to birth control is unconscionable while the fixation on the sex lives of consenting adults is baffling and disturbing. But the anger and disillusion with the hierarchy’s contemporary agenda goes well beyond policy disagreement and political priorities and is located, to no small degree, in the personal influence and modus operandi pursued and encouraged by Benedict since he took the reins of the The Inquisition’s contemporary heir, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

A case in point was Rome’s treatment of American nuns who have dedicated their lives to living the Gospels and working with the poor. Here many of the worst tendencies of Benedict’s approach are captured in one case study. A hierarchy residing in splendor in Roman palaces as out of touch with the outside world as it is with the Gospel’s rejection of material comfort; a collection of angry, suspicious men conspiring to humiliate and control a group of already excluded, subordinated women; the ludicrous prioritization of conformity and obedience over the actual work of charity, especially alleviating the suffering of the sick; agenda setting based on contempt for debate and reason and, instead, a pathetic assertion of authority. This is Benedict’s legacy.

Benedict’s former college contemporary, theologian Hans Küng, observed during the recent clampdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious that,

“… he [Benedict] is absolutely against freedom. He wants obedience…He is against the paradigm of Vatican II. He has a medieval idea of the papacy.”

The price of that culture of obedience has been incalculably damaging to the Catholic Church.

Silence in the House of God aired last week in the US. For anyone assessing the legacy of Benedict XIV it is simply devastating. The documentary attempts to explain the inexplicable lack of compassion, common sense, respect for the rule of law or for children’s safety that characterized Rome’s catastrophic approach to the child rape and abuse epidemic.

The documentary discusses how Canon Law has been a barrier to what would otherwise have been decision-making processes based on easy, urgent and duty-bound obligations to report suspected child rapists to the criminal authorities. I won’t bore you with the intricacies of that debate since the absurd proposition that there could be anything remotely complicated about what one should do upon discovering active child rapists prowling around the children of the parish is offensive.

Much more interesting was its investigation into the hierarchy’s approach to dealing with its own bishops on matters of child abuse. Irish readers have a sense of this: Bishops were instructed to swear victims to secrecy, perpetrators were left free to abuse; many rapists, upon any hint of potential exposure, were provided with refuge in fresh parishes where they were free to continue abusing others for years – and all to protect the institution from scandal. Irish readers may be less aware of what happened in Wisconsin. Deaf victims of sexual abuse, having summoned the courage to hold abusers to account, and thereby protect others from live threats, were coerced into writing letters of apology for having had the audacity to bring scandal on the institution.

At the heart of this operation was Benedict himself, the man with more data on all abuse and cover-up cases than anyone else in the world. How many of those cases could have been avoided had the policy been one based on prioritizing the safety of children, only he can made an informed guess.

This Pope has done real damage. My own sense of the anger many Catholics and former Catholics currently feel is that it extends beyond considering the victims’ lives shattered by egregious violations made possible by his policies. For many people raised in Catholic institutions where the experience was largely positive, there exists a white hot anger at the legacy of suspicion and abandonment fostered by the culture of deference, denial and obedience Benedict was permitted to cultivate under his predecessor.

My own experience of the Church was totally incongruent with the negative images Benedict’s leadership has brought on the institution. To this day, if I had to list the ten most enjoyable, wide-ranging and challenging conversations I had, for example, over three years at Queens, the local chaplin would be associated with more of them then anyone else.

For thousands of priests, nuns and lay people who have dedicated their own lives to the Gospels through the vehicle of the Church, this pope, in my view, acted more like a factory floor boss than a champion or inspiration.

Think of it this way. A threshold question in US presidential debates centres on the “3am phone call” question. “Mr. President, there’s been…” Supposedly the subject matter of this call is so severe that none of the President’s countless highly qualified staff could handle it. For your typical parish priest 3am calls are routine and while the crisis may be local in nature the universe of the afflicted family is generally shaking on its axis. “Fr., so and so is dying; he needs the last rites urgently”.

For immediate family members gathered in vigil, the sense of crisis and fear can be as acute as anything they’ll ever live through. The priest is expected to navigate each crisis, in-person, alone, urgently and with the ability to relate the dignity of everyone involved. That’s a 3am call few would have the stamina, faith or commitment to take on time after time, year-on-year, decade after decade. Moments like that must be profoundly lonely work.

The primary victims of the Ratzinger’s command to prioritize secrecy and obedience were of course the children who were raped and abused, their families, and the sense of trust that existed between parish and church. But for thousands of priests and nuns the world over, men and women who devote their lives to the service of the sacraments, Ratzinger’s directives were effectively an additional betrayal, a policy that compounded the loneliness of ministry they accepted with a further enforced loneliness born of a bureaucracy that commanded its yeomanry to make the following choice. Either betray your vows to your hierarchy or make a mockery of your original motives for swearing those vows to begin with.

It’s no exaggeration, at least by my reading, to depict the dilemma faced by Bishops who received Ratzinger’s instruction-come-threat to report all sexual abuse only within the institution – on pain of ex-communication for those who disobeyed – as a choice between living one’s life according to the Gospels versus maintaining fidelity to the hierarchy.

Preaching and enforcing obedience to institutional authority was the central, consistent driver of Joseph Ratzinger’s career. As the conclave tasked with electing his successor gather in the weeks ahead, they would do well to resign that legacy with him.

  • Reader

    Ruari: It’s no exaggeration, at least by my reading, to depict the dilemma faced by Bishops who received Ratzinger’s instruction-come-threat to report all sexual abuse only within the institution – on pain of ex-communication for those who disobeyed – as a choice between living one’s life according to the Gospels versus maintaining fidelity to the hierarchy.
    Big decision. It looks like most chose fidelity to the hierarchy, doesn’t it?

  • Harry Flashman

    Crikey, long post, any chance of a precis?

    I’ll take a guess at; “I don’t like the pope because he was too Catholic, if only he was more like a liberal protestant I would have liked him better (although of course I still wouldn’t have gone to church, like liberal protestants oddly enough)”.

    Would that have got close?

  • tuatha

    Flashy – though I concur that a precis would have saved 5 minutes we won’t retrieve, methinks t’was more “I don’t like Ratzinger because he’s a, delusional at best or evil in reality, hypocrite”.
    Good riddance.

  • michael-mcivor

    The Pope is gone-long live the new Pope and the one who has just stood down for what ever reason-i have a notion that the reason will soon be made public-

    2013 could be the year of the resignations- Queen could be the next one-

  • Rory Carr

    The failure of the Vatican to prioritise the safety of child victims of Catholic clergy is certainly reprehensible and indeed at times, where the victim was excoriated as a figure of temptation, quite repugnant.

    The matter of its policy on human sexuality however is different kettle of fish entirely. While Catholic teaching against homosexual acts, all sex outside marriage and any sexual act that places an artificial barrier against the possibility of procreation certainly screams against modern sensibilities.But, before we get on our high horses about it all, and especially when we scream, “Freedom !”, we should bring to the fore of our minds (in that spirit of ” think[ing] arguments through to their logical conclusions”) the salient fact that CATHOLICISM IS NOT COMPULSORY. No adult is obliged to continue to be a member of the Catholic Church or, at any time, adhere to its teachings.

    You will not be sent to prison, nor given community service, nor will one be fined. The harshest sanctions for transgression are to be asked to pray for guidance and attempt sincerely to amend one’s ways – and even then there is no one to know if you even complied with these suggestions from one’s confessor..

    . To take the case of the misguided example of the late Christopher Hitchens which sets up a straw man argument on Church policy and protection against HIV/AIDS infection. Rather than Hitchens’ ignorant,

    ” AIDS is bad – but not quite as bad as condoms”

    an intelligent, honest minaiturisation of Church policy would better read,

    “AIDS is bad - condoms offer some protection but abstinence offers total protection.”

    The Catholic Church already preaches sternly against sexual promiscuity and extra-marital sex which strictures, if followed by its members would lead to a dramatic drop in the spread of STDs. It is a nonsense to suggest that those Catholics who spread AIDS through unprotected sexual promiscuity and against the teaching of the Church would be deterred in the least if the Church amended its doctrine on sex and procreation. They have already demonstrated, quite forcibly, that they pay no attention to the teaching of the Church in this matter.

    Imagine, if you will, that the Church preached the necessity of men wearing condoms while engaging in promiscuous, extra-marital sex. Does anyone seriously believe that those men who defy the Church’s teachings on all other aspects of sexual behaviour would now suddenly adjust to become devout in that one area ? It is not Catholic policy that is spreading AIDS in Africa.It is spread by men who wilfully defy the teachings of that Church.

    The Catholic Church has much to repent on the matter of yje sexual exploitation of children by its clergy and the unpardonable subsequent cover-up by its hierarchy but on the matter of the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa i has nothing for which to answer.

    The Church is doing its job and cannot be blamed if the condom salesmen are not doing theirs.

    Rory Carr*

    * I sign so as my post appears as to be from “Anonympous” prior to submission – part of the ongoing difficulty I presume.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    ” AIDS is bad – but not quite as bad as condoms”
    an intelligent, honest miniaturisation of Church policy would better read,
    “AIDS is bad – condoms offer some protection but abstinence offers total protection.”

    Whereas a ‘boots on the ground, what the real crack is down in the engine room, I was in Nam you don’t understand nuthin hippy’ realistically adjusted for planet Earth policy would read as;

    “AIDS is bad, condoms offer a lot of practical protection, abstinence offers complete theoretical protection but is practically unenforceable, so better stick with the condoms till the day comes when we can stop people sleeping around…”

    The church policy does not account for the incredible number of women in parts of sub-Saharan Africa who are driven into prostitution.

    It’s an unbelievable amount. Really. Go to Uganda or DRC or Kenya and you’ll not comprehend it.

    Also, throw in some good old fashioned poverty driven poor education and you’ll end up with eyebrow raising scenarios such as the following conversation that occurred between a female Ugandan patient and a British medical intern that I partied with in Kampala*, Uganda:

    Patient: “Doctor, again I have these diseases, they are from sex. How can I make them stop”

    Intern: “Erm, well, if you’re going to have sex, though we advise against casual sex, we recommend that you use condoms”

    Patient *indignant*: “I CAN NOT USE CONDOMS!!! I AM A CATHOLIC!!!!”

    This is not a one-off conversation either. Ask anyone who has worked in the Ugandan clinics and they’ll have all heard similar stories.

    The ‘job’ that the church is doing in Africa, in terms of promoting abstinence, is assisted by the government (in Uganda at least).

    You’ll see billboards around Kampala displaying wholesome family scenes that declare things like “stay off the sexual network”.

    Uganda had massive success in reducing the rate of HIV years ago, however, since President Museveni’s missus became more evangelically minded she has been pushing for a more pro-abstinence approach.

    Since then, AIDs has been on the rebound.

    This is quite simply about the application of church theory & principles vs human behaviour.

    The human behaviour isn’t changing, so what does that leave that can be adopted or amended?

    *note: Lest my bad grammar be misleading, I wish to point out that I partied with the medical intern, NOT the STI ridden female Ugandan patient…

  • Ruarai

    Rory Carr,

    may I ask what you make of Am Ghobsmacht’s point?

    Abstinence is just not serious as a means of addressing reproductive rights and health in the developing world.

    And the new Pope will be able to mark his cards very early given the initiative Melinda Gates is about to launch.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/…/melinda-gates-new-crusade-investing-billi

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    As luck would have it, I’ve just come across a video of Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry going to town on Anne Widecombe on the ‘intelligence squared’ debate:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJYj6WbLFbg

    @ 25:39 Mr Fry actually references the ABC campaign of Uganda as evidence to the contrary of the Catholic church’s stance, incidentally ‘ABC’ stands for ‘Abstinence, BE faithful and Condoms’.

    Much better to listen to him eloquently describe the point I was trying to illustrate rather than my beer mat scribblings…

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Have a few beers, get aroused like the one you just met, and try to remember what the priest told you about the virtues of abstinence. But you do know that you have a condom in your pocket.

  • Harry Flashman

    If you are going to engage in sex outside marriage you are breaking a fundamental tenet of the Catholic faith, having chosen to do so why get so hung up about the Church’s teaching on condoms?

    It appears to me that the Church’s position is perfectly logical and as Rory so eloquently, as always, points out you don’t actually have to follow Catholic teaching if you don’t want to, it’s just that at that point you cease to be a Catholic.

    Your choice; you join the army you were the boots. If you don’t like Catholic teaching become a protestant, or better yet set up your own church, no doubt the tens of millions of disgruntled Catholics we keep hearing about will flock to your church in their droves.

  • Rory Carr

    Ruaraí,

    Your link to the article on Melinda Bates’s “Crusade” (an unfortunate choice of terms ?) is incomplete.
    I must attend at my hospice today so I hope to address the well-made points that were raised by Am Ghobsmacht, as well as addressing that article, later today

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Preaching your belief that using condoms is against your perceived God’s wisdom and a sin is fair enough. Democracy and freedom of belief and speech etc. But what about bishops spreading deliberate lies that condoms are deliberately infected with dangerous pathogens, including HIV? Is that ok?

  • Harry Flashman

    “I must attend at my hospice today”

    Bit shocked by that statement Rory, I had assumed your treatment was progressing well.

  • Ruarai

    “Your choice; you join the army you were the boots. If you don’t like Catholic teaching” -blind faith and total obedience or you can leave…

    Harry and others who share this view with Benedict, this position, particularly following the collapse in the moral authority of the hierarchy, gets to the nub of much of this.

    Should the relationship of the Catholic congregation (everyone: laity and those active in ministry alike) to its hierarchy be one based on blind faith?

    This has been a live debate since, at least, the 1200s where debate and concern swrilled around whether to condemn independent Aristotelian principles as heresy or embrace them part of an essential, unifying Truth. (And how sad is it that a Church that eventully embracedThomism has, under Benedict, regressed back to relying on the authority of the Pope, rather than appealing to faith based on reason?)

    The Church’s position ebbs and flows (with the hierarchy inevitably ebbing much less than the main body of congregants) based on debate and revision, and politics and popes. Advocacy for more conscience-based decision-making and the very notion of inclusive debate reached a high point (high for Catholicism) with Vatican II before falling back under JP and now reaching a crisis point under Benedict. But the point is: it is a debate, not a settled point – and it will always be a debate (despite Benedict’s best efforts to blacklist and marginalize his internal opponents.)

    Benedict would agree with your position in this debate Harry; he worked for that, working against those within who pushed back and, as a consequence of his authoritarian approach and agenda (and his socially sheltered life), he created and perpetuated a series of disasters for his Church, including personal disasters for many within and even without.

    It’s precisely this legacy – “a smaller purer Church” based on less (if much at all) questioning and conscience-based decision making – and a recognition of the ludicrously detached and abstract personality who took the lead in cultivating it, that the pending conclave should reflect on seriously. And begin to move away from.

    Some officers of the Church have contempt for the very notion of an “educated laity”, including those who stand firmly on the position that following one’s conscience when it contradics dogma is a sin. Alas, their position just isn’t cutting it with the majority of ‘their’ faithful on many questions, including some questions about social policy raised above, but mostly, surely, because anyone who believes in the concept of sin can be in little doubt where the sin lay when it came to obeying the hierarchy’s orders to cover up, shield and rotate pedophiles.

    If the concept of sin is to mean anything then this directive was exhibit A and those who acted in compliance with it committed exhibit B.

    Where many Church officers, not least Benedict, may have contempt for the very notion of an “educated laity”, well, in a mirror image, a hardening of the same dynamic leading to a deepening of the hierarchy/rest divide, increasing numbers of practicing Catholic laity, never mind lapsed or departed Catholics, hold equal contempt for the very educational process and sealed environment from which the Church hierarchy bases its pronouncements on questions of marriage, sexuality morality, gender relations, and so on.

    Benedict, as Pope, should have feared this emerging disconnect.

    Moreover, he completely failed to recognize the seriousness of the basis for it – the collapse of moral authority following the revelations of the shield and rotate approach to child rapists.

    Instead he relished the disconnect, seeing the fault (and sin) for the split located almost entirely in the disobedient flock.

    He doubled-down, not merely on the demand for obedience but on the hunting down of internal dissidents, over-seeing the promotion an ever-growing chorus of graceless yes-men, while literally ex-communicating not the child rapists but the “heretics”.

    I spent three years reading Scholastic philosophy and, in fairness to Benedict, some of his writings have penetrated philosophical conversations about the sublime and the good beyond the specialist confines of Catholic theology. And, so what?

    His legacy, as my post tried to outline, is a top-down, heavy-handed culture; a disconnected regime that takes a pride in Benedict’s attempts to justify opposition and hostility to thinking in theological terms, especially from its own best thinkers.

    His mind my have been known for its capacity for serious contemplation but its much more notable for its authoritarian tendencies; tendencies that have helped lay both an authoritarian structure and, maybe worse, a reinforced intellectual foundation for a hierarchy that continues to sleepwalk like a mass of intruders form the middle ages, content with deluding themselves that living a life Rome’s libraries, lunch rooms with Cardinanl Law, and churches, ensconced form the realities of the real world (including the realities may of its own best servants face the world over day and daily) is not only an adequate but indeed a proper training for passing judgments. And worse: for exercising real power – like the idea that child rapists should have been reported internally.

    The Church has an opportunity to realize the disaster of the “blind faith” obedience-based culture that Benedict sought to consolidate and impose. Despite Benedict’s own efforts to promote the yes-men, they at least have a chance to take a step back and renew this Easter.

  • Ruarai

    Rory Carr – not sure why you’re visiting a hospice, whether as staff or otherwise (and I’m not asking) but I wish you the very best.

    Regarding the link, here’s a her talk on the forthcoming plans:

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Chaps

    My missus, who is a practising Catholic of the ‘toe the line’ variety informs me that Benedict did in fact recently give some sort of ‘thumbs up’ to the wearing of condoms in parts of AIDS ravaged Africa. Please, you look:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/the-pope/8148899/Pope-approves-use-of-condoms-in-fight-against-Aids.html

    But then this article suggests that they’re still heavily frowned upon:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/world/europe/21pope.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    Does anyone know the official stance?

  • Ruarai

    “Does anyone know the official stance?”

    On the relevance of the teaching to its faithful: You just shelled the nut, Am Ghobsmacht.

  • Harry Flashman

    Heavens above Ruari, your reply to me is almost as long as the original post, can we have an executive summary?

    Maybe you answered my point in all that but unfortunately I only skim read it so may have missed it so if you don’t mind I’ll ask again.

    The Catholic Church believes sex should be within a monogamous married relationship otherwise one should remain abstinent.

    Now I appreciate all that kind of thing is strictly for old squares and fuddy-duddies, none of the cool kids do that stuff any more, no siree we’re letting it all hang out daddy-oh. But the Church has at least been consistent in its teaching for the last two millennia and it has the virtue of being a much more effective guarantee against AIDS than the current teach-kindergarten-kids-how-to-use-condoms approach so beloved by the liberal establishment.

    So again my question is if people are prepared to break a fundamental tenet of Catholic moral teaching by having sex outside marriage, why do they suddenly balk at wearing condoms? They appear willing to hang for the lamb but not the sheep, which is most odd.

  • Ruarai

    Harry,

    You’re right: Above, I have already touched on some of the issues around the Church hierarchy’s aggressive advocacy and sanctioning on various questions of sexual morality. Indulge me: Read it. Or skip it. But I promise you, these questions have profound real-life implications not only for the Church’s relationship with its members but for the poorest communities on the planet.

    To that end, I can’t recommend enough Gates’ talk, above. Far from contraception – since you’re zooming in on contraception – being a simple matter of personal morality, it’s a profound public health issue, both in terms of tackling disease and in terms of giving women more control over their family planning: a critical issue for sustainable development and the dignity of the individual.

    (That Catholic laity clearly have almost zero interest in the hierarchy view, that’s relevant to some of the broader themes I’ve raised above.)

    I’ve worked with, and continue to work with, various public health and international development organizations and believe me: Hierarchy driven Catholic Church lobbying influences development budgets and, as Gates discusses, the whole development agenda. It’s very significant. I don’t expect the next Pope to come out in favour of condoms-on-demand (though I’m sure they eventually will) but the priority they give to being on the wrong side of this public health issue is a public health hazard and not just for Catholics. It’s also indicative of a broader disconnect between hierarchy and the rest and hierarchy and the modern world; a breach Benedict’s hierarchy seems to consider, revealingly and disastrously, as a positive disconnect. (You say that the hierarchy’s position on condoms is a “fundamental issue” but is it? It’s not in the creed, 10 Commandments, etc, etc. Debatable -but its certainly one the hierarchy relishes pushing above many others that could be considered more fundamental.)

    Regarding the general length of the post and subsequent threads, fair cop.

    A lot of writing about the Church tends be either myopically focused on scathing denunciations vs. shrill defensiveness based on blind loyalty. (All buttressed by people of other faiths and none who enjoy attacking for the sake of damaging.) Particularly missed, in my view, are the dilemmas faced by the yeomanry who have taken on ministries at great personal sacrfice faced only to be faced with Benedict’s hierarchy’s fixation on controlling, bullying and censoring them – when they should be listening to them.

    My post is simply my attempt to take a step back from many of the most serious features and implications of the Ratzinger-Benedict years, and his role in creating them, and then, before the beginning of a new papal era, ask: What the hell is going on under Benedict, what’s driving these decisions and his priorities?

    Yes, I could be more brief but I’d rather be considered on this one. (Whether I succeed is less important.)

    Harry, are you still there? Harry?? Dammit! :)

  • Alias

    If there was a correlation between the prevalence of Catholicism in particular countries and the incidence of AIDS. as is claimed by some anti-Catholic bigots, then there should be some statistics produced to support the claim.

    Look at South Africa, for example, which has the highest number of people living with AIDS in the world (at 5m). How Catholic is South Africa? Not very is the short answer, where just 3.3m or 6% of the total population are Catholic. And most of those Catholics are whites who are descendent from Irish immigrants.

    It seems that Catholicism has nothing at all to do with the spread of AIDS there and plenty to do with its prevention. The Catholic Church is, of course, the world’s largest provider of free care for people living with AIDS – a fact who won’t hear from the bigots.

    In reality, the Catholic countries have the lowest incidence of AIDS. Ireland, for example, has just 100 people living with AIDS.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Harry Flashman, although my earlier comments might make some of this (or our) statements redundant, I’d like to reply to the points you illustrated:

    Firstly, my story about the STI riddled Ugandan woman who was appalled at the thought of condoms illustrates a mind set that the ‘logical’ position (or former position?)of the Church doesn’t cater for. End of.

    I can only clumsily speculate why this mindset exists, maybe it’s a case of not wanting to pour petrol on the eternal fire, maybe it’s a warped ‘ticket to heaven’ in the same way we’ve all heard of religious girls who won’t ‘have sex’ before marriage but would happily take it up the tradesman’s in a one night stand.

    Either way, it may not be logical, but it is very very real.

    Secondly, you don’t have to follow the teachings of the Catholic church, but, as with many denominations, many people have a real fear/apprehension about leaving their flock.

    Yes, join the army, wear the boots, or as many of the Catholic (and Protestants too, lest ye think I’m THAT GUY) youth of the Mid-Ulster area do, take off the boots for the weekend, go rakin’ in ‘cyars’, break all manner of church tenets, (possibly with condoms), put boots back on and then happily head to mass on a Saturday night (not the Protestants, obviously, unless it was a real bender of a night).

    Repeat as desired till new generation of car, church & bed hopping hypocrites grow up to seamlessly blend a contempt for church rules with a church centred life.

    You COULD leave, or just stay and give a 2 fingered salute to the rules.

    However, Cookstown and Magherafelt districts are not sub-saharan Africa (*INSERT JOKE HERE*) nor is the household of high-profile Catholic practioners who openly admit their use(d) of birth control e.g. Cherrie Blair.

    The happy hypocritical balance does not apply in African climes.
    Ergo a huge problem BUT ONE which the church can help solve.

    I also want to re-iterate my point about the incredible number of Prostitutes in these countries.
    Assuming they can get their hands on them in the first place, they are at a ‘marketplace disadvantage’ by trying to insist upon the wearing of said jonny as “her around the corner will spread them for the same price and she won’t make me wear one a them oul things, she goes to church!”*

    So, now most, if not all of the ladies of the night have to lower their ‘standards’ otherwise they might starve the next day.

    Of course they may well have an extra mouth to feed sooner rather than later, but I’m given to understand that the long term approach does not sit well with some one whose belly is screaming at them.

    Now, I will point out that the attitude to condoms in sub-Saharan Africa is lamentable anyway (Jacob Zuma and his ‘shower’ is a classic example) but, adding a religious obstacle to this steep uphill struggle is negligent, illogical and borderline murderous.

    These points that I made can not be palmed off by insisting that people stick to the rules or simply move to a more accommodating quarter.

    I could only countenance such a theory if the Vatican declared loudly, clearly and unequivocally that Africans should leave the Roman Catholic Church if they can’t be celibate and thereby forgo the use of prophylactics which are a necessity in that region if extra/pre-marital sex is to be practiced at all.

    THEN we’d see the movement of millions of Catholics.

    *Please forgive my substitution of East African pidgin English for a Mid-Ulster vernacular. No offence is intended to the peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Alias

    With what you have just written, and with what we know of Sub Saharan Africa, then you have just given me some relief the Catholic community forms such a small part of that area.

    Taking what we KNOW (or think we know) consider this:

    We KNOW that Uganda’s ‘ABC’ (Abstinence, Be faithful and Condoms) prevention scheme is the most successful by far on the continent.

    We KNOW that for it to work it requires all three components.

    We KNOW (well, KNEW, if the Pope has indeed performed a mini U-turn) that the Roman Catholic church favours just an ‘AB’ approach, which, is theoretically bullet-proof but practically brittle.

    If we KNOW these things then can we even begin to imagine the damage that would rain down upon the continent if it were under the HIV stewardship of the RC church?

    With regards to the AIDSfacilities provided by the RC church:

    1/ A number of them defiantly hand out condoms anyway and are applying pressure to above (also, I’ve heard of at least one priest who was forced to give up his pulpit in Africa because he was handing out condoms in his clinic. He’s still at the clinic though, methinks.)

    2/ Is it not true that some of these facitlities are vessels for proselytising?
    Or, as we would have called similar relief works in Ireland during the Potato Famine, “soup kitchens”!

    (Not a hair for hair comparision, but certainly in the same ball park)

    So, there you have it, Catholic boots on the ground supporting condoms, a proven method for reducing AIDs that uses condoms, as well as abstinence (which is hands down the best policy IF it can be enacted), medical workers saying “use condoms!” and some rumblings that the Pope may have said that they can be used in certain situations.

    How much more evidence do you need?

    Ireland does indeed have one of the lowest levels of AIDs in the world.

    It is also 1st world, educated, wet, cold and not in the middle of Africa. And they sell condoms here too.

    South Africa on the other hand suffers from tremendous levels of rape, ignorance (e.g. the ‘rape a baby’ AIDS cure) and the widespread male chauvinistic attitude towards condoms which is inherent in many sub-Saharan countries and would not be helped by a religious policy that re-enforces such a ‘condoms are bad’ mentality.

    So, with regards to what you just told me, I’m GLAD that the Catholic church has such a low level of involvement there, I shudder to think of what it would be like if it was otherwise.

    This is not bigotry, just common sense.

  • Harry Flashman

    As usual with such discussions no one’s mind is likely to be changed either way. I myself am not a Catholic, nor have I the remotest objection to using condoms or any other form of contraceptive and to the best of my knowledge neither me or the missus is HIV positive so in many ways I don’t have a dog in this fight.

    But what I do see is a lot of rather hypocritical Catholic bashing going on. The Catholic Church’s position on sexual morality is crystal clear, whether one chooses to follow its teaching is down to you. If you do however follow the Church’s teachings, all of the Church’s teachings, you will have a degree of certainty of never catching AIDS far, far away ahead of those people who worship at the temple of a tiny latex tube.

    For liberals to blame the Catholic Church for the spread of AIDS and other STD is simply gobsmacking. It is the Catholic Church’s doctrines which if observed will guarantee a healthy, loving, secure sex life.

    It is the undermining of traditional sexual morality by liberal fundamentalists, the rejection of monogamous marital relationships in favour of laissez faire sexual liberation which has caused the AIDS crisis and the explosion in sexual diseases. To then use the crisis which is entirely the fault of the liberal sexual revolutionaries as a stick to beat the traditionalists takes some chutzpah.

    So if a woman is a prostitute apparently the Church should say instead of stop being a prostitute, okay be a prostitute just use a condom, prostitution is a perfectly acceptable profession in this day and age and no harm can come of it as long as your client wears a sheath. Should that be the Church’s position?

    Or the bucks out in mid-Ulster of a Saturday night should not be advised to stop copulating with whatever bint they pick up in the back of their Vauxhall and have a bit of respect for themselves, their bodies and the women they’re with, but instead should go ahead, sure what’s the harm as long as you use a prophylactic?

    Hmmmmmm, I gotta say, the Church’s position sounds the more logical.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Harry,

    That’s all very well in the West where people are well informed and where most practicing Catholics have enough knowledge to make their own choices. The RC church has resorted itself to making token protests over the use of contraception.

    In Africa I would hazard a guess that people are not so well educated or well informed and are more inclined to place their trust in the word of the priest and the church hierarchy. That makes the church’s insistence on these entirely arbitrary rules there highly irresponsible.

    It gets even more nasty when you consider the RC church’s focus on “suffering”. It was one of a number of things I took away from my Catholic education, this idea that suffering is some sort of a cleansing, invigorating thing that brings you closer to that which was endured by Jesus on the cross. Some elements of Catholicism – the same kind of elements who might once have practiced self flagellation etc – might therefore say that it’s not the church’s role to get involved in the debate about what needs to change to prevent suffering. Rather like the debate which is currently going on about Mother Teresa who never spoke a single word in criticism of the system that created the grinding, desperate poverty she was famous for tending to.

    The church thrives in any environment where there is poverty and people are poorly educated/informed. That was the case around these parts a few generations ago where the local priest had a stranglehold over the local community. Once people became well educated and well informed enough to know that it was all a load of bull, that stranglehold was broken.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Harry Flashman

    The chief point of the Catholic church of ‘don’t sleep around’ is shared by most if not all Christian churches.
    That this is a good idea and a fine moral trajectory to follow is not being debated nor attacked (nor could it be).

    As you state, IF it is observed then it will assist the points that you refered to.

    Where it falls down though is that it has no fall back.
    No plan B.
    What to do in the event that you do give into temptation or sins of the flesh.
    I’m sure there are many sins where they don’t have a plan B either; “should you find yourself giving into temptation and murdering your neighbours with a chainsaw, then the church recommends the following steps…”, but, with scenarios as drastic as those, the damage is done.

    The physical damage in the instance of falling off the moral bandwagon is not IF one uses a condom.

    I understand your not being able to fathom the idea of being adverse to wearing a condom if one has already risked the wrath of God, but, just because many people here are willing to say “in for a penny of eternal damnation, in for a pound…” does not mean that other cultures will feel the same.

    It could be seen as a moral bridge too far or a hundred other reasons.

    The fact is that this mindset exists. (see earlier’s curious example)

    People will sleep around.

    Moral turpitude, yes. Inadvisable, yes. An excuse to NOT wear a condom because the it might be the sinful straw that broke the back of the camel’s soul? No.

    If people observed the Catholic (and other churches’) stance, then yes, AIDS would not be a problem.

    But they don’t.

    From Mid-Ulster to Ouagadougou people are doing what they shouldn’t, God’s wrath or no.

    This has practical considerations for millions of others too.

    If this is what is happening then this is what we’re dealing with.
    If it will help to save lives and indeed quality of life for potentially millions of people then surely it’s worth looking into?

    Why do you exclude the possibility of the Church advising women NOT to be prostitutes? Did I say that? I merely stated a fact. A lot of these women will go to church too. Very few of these ‘Jezebels’ want to be prostitutes, they just don’t have much choice.
    But if they have NO CHOICE then surely it stands to reason that giving the condoms will help cut off some branches of the tree of infection?

    Is it impossible for the church to condem what they’re doing but offer advice on the fly? That way they have the moral social pressure coupled with practical preventative measures.

    Of course the church should tell the young bucks in Mid-Ulster to keep it in their pants.
    What if they don’t though?
    No condoms?
    Is there some binary moral code where you’re either ‘I’ (completely squeaky clean) or ’0′ (a veritable Marquis De Sade character)? What if you’re somewhere in between?

    The church’s position is logical until it is disobeyed.
    At that point we need damage limitation in places like sub-Saharan Africa. There is not (well, apart from the renegade workers in some of the Catholic church’s AIDS clinics who distribute condoms, are you going to tell them that they are wrong?).

    Yes, the sexual revolution of the West in the sixties MAY have encouraged some loose attitudes in Africa.
    If so, the damage is done.
    If not, then the damage is still done.
    Either way, we need to arrest it.
    Is the discouraging of condoms going to help this?
    Don’t see how. The promotion of abstinence will help, but again,where’s the plan B (well, plan ‘C’ according to the Ugandan government)?

    I don’t think the Catholic church is responsible for the AIDS catastrophe, as pointed out by Alias it’s just as high (if not higher) in the former British Empire’s (Protestant) countries than in the Catholic countries that were ran by the other European empires.

    The point is, and what we all get hissy about, is that it refuses to acknowledge that it’s practices hinder the continent’s recovery, would be devastating if employed throughout the continent and that the people ‘under their watch’ are severely disadvantaged at this fobbing off of logic and pragmatism.

    I don’t care about who’s responsible for starting it, I just want it (the transmission of AIDS) to stop.

    The Catholic church isn’t helping as much as it could.

    That’s not chutzpah, it’s fact.

    Anyhoo, you’re right, I doubt anyone is going to be converted out of a chat like this.
    I don’t have a dog in this fight either (thankfully) but my wife is (very) Catholic and I’m not sure know which dog she’ll back.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Ruarai

    My apologies, I appear to be THAT GUY and have helped to steer the direction of your topic off course.

    It is as Anne Widecombe lamented in the Intelligence squared debate, “there’s always someone who mentions condoms…..”

    (Though she only laments it cos she can’t give a decent answer)

  • Harry Flashman

    Unfortunately Am Ghobsmacht I find the entire premise of your thesis that there are prostitutes in Africa who are willing to be prostitutes but refuse to wear condoms because it is contrary to Catholic teaching frankly rather suspect, Africans aren’t as stupid as you paint them, neither are prostitutes if it comes to that.

    The Church condemns prostitution, more importantly it condemns men who use prostitutes, week after week from a million pulpits around the globe the Catholic Church bangs on and on telling men to restrain themselves to restrict their base carnal desires to their marriage. It condemns prostitution as a, what’s that old fashioned word again, yes, a sin, and tells people not to indulge in it.

    Meanwhile the liberal left has no hang-ups about sexuality, the left sneers at the old-fashioned, out of date sexual morality of the Church. What feels good is right say the liberals, the only thing is a condom must be worn. The sacred, hallowed condom, the font of all virtue in the world the condom. The condom which children as young as five must learn how to use in school, blessed be the condom.

    The Church’s teaching on monogamous sex within a loving marriage, or the condom, which to follow? Which will bring more happiness? Which will ensure a more stable, productive and healthy society?

    Why the condom of course, all hail the holy condom.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Harry

    I believe you’re not listening to me, so I’ll keep it short(er) this time:

    I highlighted the culture of reluctance to wear a condom in many Sub-Saharan countries.
    I also highlighted that this mentality does not require any encouragement from religious sources which can have a tremendous hold over people’s lives.

    Neither am I basing my argument ENTIRELY on the premise that Catholic teachings directly influence a prostitutes decision to wear condoms, but, if I wanted to, I could trail out examples that it does happen.

    I already gave you the example of the STI ravaged woman who refused to wear PURELY because of RC policy.
    It’s more common than you’re willing to contemplate. It may seem silly to you but it exists and that’s that. Check it out if you don’t believe me.

    Africans are not stupid and I did not paint such a picture, there is simply a MASSIVE cultural difference between many African countries and first world Europe.
    Your arguments are all based on a European way of thinking: “The rules are quite clear; don’t do X, Y and Z and everything’ll be grand” I’m telling you that X, Y and Z are happening regardless of the rules and we need help to prevent further damage.

    You may find it suspect, fine, I could be making this up.
    I could be making up the story of my pals arguing with prostitutes in bar in kampala, Uganda that Abortion might not be a bad idea only to watch the prostitutes crack up.

    Sure it’s a different topic, point is, a lot of these prostitutes listen to the church(es) in many areas.
    Obviously they ignore the preachings against prostitution, but, once again, it’s not like most of them have a choice.

    THAT is not up for debate, ask as many charity workers that you want and they’ll tell you that Mr Am Ghobsmacht with the creepy penchant for drinking dens in central Eastern Africa is correct, most of the prostitutes are forced into it by poverty and such circumstances.

    I agreed with you numerous times in my post that bstinence is the best theoretical policy.
    I am just very aware that it is not practical.
    You have the evidence, should you choose to look, that the ABC policy of Uganda works (well, worked, till they turned the ‘C’ into a ‘c’) and that it requires ‘C’ to be effective.

    It took a bit of a knock recently (AIDS figures) so, Ugandan MPs are asking for the distribution of FREE condoms in schools.
    http://allafrica.com/stories/201207051047.html

    Are you going to tell the people on the front line who are dealing with this mess that they’re wrong?!!!!

    What will it take to make you think (like the Pope (supposedly)) that we/they may have a point after all?

    If Abstinence works in conjunction with condoms as a back-up plan, then surely it’s worth looking into?

    Could you please tell me of an alternative for prophylactics in the event of non-abstinence? I’d love to hear it.

    If the liberals have caused all this damage with their sexual depravity then so be it, the damage is done. Now we have to clear up the mess.

    I don’t care a hoot if it’s old fashioned or trendy so don’t get hung up on it, as long as it works

    Needless to say, if abstinence worked then we wouldn’t be having this repetitive conversation.

    So to summarise; you’re spot-on that abstinence as preached by the Church(es) is by far the best way IF it is followed, I’m telling you that it is NOT followed and it needs a back up plan, “keep it in yer pants son” is not working.
    Simple as that.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Actually, that wasn’t shorter, lets try a different angle:

    You’ve had a rough day, you find yourself in a battered old formerly elegant room wearing snappy clothes chatting to a slightly nutty albeit interesting guy called Morpheus.

    Morpheus offers you a choice of 2 pills.
    Take the blue pill, every thing stays as it is: The church says be chaste , many people ignore this guideline but stick to the celestial bonus point of not using condoms as they don’t want to REALLY REALLY annoy God whenever they can just simply REALLY annoy him.
    You wake up, people are being infected in huge numbers and your world (most importantly) carries on as before.

    Or, you can take the red pill, where the church still says be chaste but doesn’t have a made-up rule about condoms that is practically flawed, opposed by many of it’s own members and most of Earth.
    You wake up, carry on as normal but find that the infection rates for HIV have dropped.

    Does the red pill seem such a bad idea?

    Lemme guess:
    “But Morpheus, if people would just obey the rules then we wouldn’t have to take pills from you sexual deviant liberty types….”

  • Rory Carr

    Apologies for the delay in returning to this post.

    I am indebted to Harry Flashman and Alias for valiantly struggling with all the straw dog arguments in my absence.

    Strange that I, an unreconstructed Marxist, should find myself in alliance with two who are decidedly not so, but, like Harry and Alias I do like to have as much of my thinking as possible unclouded by ill-informed bigotry.

    I am pleased that Mrs Gates is using her influence and talents (and no doubt some of her husband’s untold wealth) for the beneficial provision of contraceptive material (but only where it is freely demanded, I trust. A woman’s right to exercise her reproductive function must not be limited solely to restricting that function).

    The teaching of the Catholic Church prohibiting the placing of unnatural barriers to procreation during sexual intercourse, such barriers including coitus interruptus; anal sex ( a favourite in Italy before, indeed, even long after, the arrival of the contraceptive pill), prophylactics, pessaries (and whistling “Dixie” for all I know) is directed at those couples already in that state defined by the Church as Holy Matrimony (and I am quite sure that Ruaraí is aware of this).

    Sexual intercourse, indeed any sexual play whatsoever, including masturbation, frottage (that’s dry humping yo the layperson), fingering, heavy petting, even thinking about it , fer jeezsake ! , outside marriage is strictly forbidden. The question of contraception does not even arise as one (or indeed, two) ought not be doing it (or even thinking about doing it) in the first place.

    Mortal sin is mortal sin. It’s not akin to criminal law where a murder may be exacerbated by a defiling of the corpse or by the use of a firearm as the deadly weapon of choice, or by choosing to murder a cop rather than a civilian. To put it in the vernacular – an outside fuck is an outside fuck ! Outside of Holy Matrimony that is. It doesn’t matter one iota whether a condom (or a Fedora hat for that matter) is worn during the act, if the sinner dies with that mortal sin unshriven, then they’re for the spiritual high jump according to Church teaching. Now if anything is likely to induce a believing Catholic through fear of hellfire and damnation to desist from engaging in extra-marital sex it is surely that teaching – condoms just do not come into it.

    The sin of placing a barrier to procreation is one likely to be incurred by married Catholic couples for whom sexual activity is not sinful, but being naughty with the condoms, or other errant activity may well be ( see Blair memoirs.)

    Maybe if Mrs Gates (who surely belongs to one of those 400 families who between them control more than half of America’s total assets) might be better to supplement) her activities with persuading those fellow captains of industry who have plundered the wealth of Africa to think of allowing those desperately poor women, driven to prostitution to feed themselves and their families, sufficient access to that wealth to obviate that awful necessity. (I do not expect that either Harry or Alias will join me in that last request.

    Of course even if women and children did not go hungry (although, as The Christ said, “the poor are always with us…), and women did not resort to prostitution, there is always the matter of rape

  • Rory Carr

    …continued…

    …rape. What is the new Pope to say to the thousands of African men who rape women and children (of both sexes) with impunity, pretty much, on a daily basis ?

    “C’mon guys, if you’re gonna have a little rape fun, remember to Johnnie up first. God bless you now.”

    Oh but, as Harry has already said, minds are already made up and I know I’m just blowing off (not a sin by the way, at least I think not), but it does a fellow good once in a while.

    P.s. Thanks for those expressions of concern, guys. hospices today tend to be day hospices, as mine is, and are intended for comfort and aid (note no “s“) for those, as they declare, “living with cancer” rather than “dying from cancer). I was caught a bit late (ish) and so had some grim surgery and over 6 hospital admissions last year plus 7 weeks of radiotherapy and hormone treatment. I have bad days of sickness ( Wednesday and yesterday for example) and some, though not a lot of pain, but all of that is from the treatment, the cancer is silent and painless just now). Apologies for thedisruptio to the thread by letting the cat out of the bag but I am doing quite well and we really do live in confidence of winning through and my latest tests are good. But since I have opened up bit, please let me urge all you guys out there to have the simple test each year (ha! ha! – I typed “each rear” in a neat Freudian slip) it is only a blood test – no fingers into the darkness unless the blood test indicates a sudden increase in antigens). Prostate cancer is the single biggest cause of death in men in the UK yet, if caught early, treatment is simple, often excluding surgery, or involving keyhole surgery – in and out within 10 days (one fellow patient was back to full sexual activity within a month (I didn’t ask about condoms).

    I was a bit unlucky ( I chose a plonker for a GP) – don’t you be ! But even late as I was and having to endure some rough treatment I am pretty hopeful that I will be pestering you lot for some time yet. So have that blood test annually, guys, (PSA test is the term) after the age of 40 at least.

    Drugs I take cost £300 a pop (thankfully I contributed to the NHS a much more economically efficient health care system than any other by an Irish country mile).

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Welcome back Rory

    I think frottage shall be my word of the week.

    With regards to the rest of what you say I’m afraid we still run into the stumbling block of ideology vs practicality.

    Now, you just enlightened me (as obvious as it may now be in retrospect) with regards to the doctrine only applying to marriage, because, as you quite rightly pointed out, extra-marital sex doesn’t come into it.

    This would then lead to the point that I believe Harry was trying to ram home earlier, that if you have sex out side of wedlock then what matters the addition of condoms into the play? (Correct me if I’m wrong Harry).

    This is where the serpent starts to eat it’s own tail.

    There are many warped ideas on how ‘bad’ a sin is.
    You stated that it’s not akin to criminal law as a comparison, my experience tells me that this is not how many many people see it.

    There seems to be a Sin class I, Sin Class II, super dooper sin III etc etc in the eyes of many people, ergo, the prostitute conversation that I posted at the beginning (I’ll paste it again so ye don’t have to scroll up):

    “Patient: “Doctor, again I have these diseases, they are from sex. How can I make them stop”

    Intern: “Erm, well, if you’re going to have sex, though we advise against casual sex, we recommend that you use condoms”

    Patient *indignant*: “I CAN NOT USE CONDOMS!!! I AM A CATHOLIC!!!!”

    This is what is actually happening on the ground and what is helping to propagate the AIDS problem.

    The fact that there is a post-it-note or (even something much more obvious) in the Vatican (or in the Bible?) some where saying “applies to married couples only” doesn’t come into it.

    The distilled belief amongst many people in Africa, (and in my house, I just assumed it was a blanket ban, and I’m married to a practising Catholic) is that they shouldn’t be using condoms full stop, regardless of whether all heavenly bets are off if it’s outside wedlock.

    If you think that this is not the case then please memorise the conversation I pasted above and ask as many aid workers as you can find if it is thus so.

    Also, you say a mortal sin is a mortal sin. That is theologically correct (I assume, I’m not the best qualified to comment).

    How many people do you know think that way?

    Consider this (fictional) scenario with it’s various forms of mortal sin (please forgive my ignorance of mortal sins, I’ve tried to find lists on the internet but they seem to vary, one American site included membership of a communist or Socialist party as a mortal sin, so bear with me, I’ve added the ones that I think are mostly universal(?)):

    I finish my overtime shift,I have some overtime money to give a colleague but I keep a fiver of it (MS).
    I go home, get ready for the weekend but can’t resist looking at some filth on the internet (MS) and decide that it would be foolish to go out with a ‘loaded weapon’ and see that it is ‘disarmed’ (MS), I have a joint afterwards (MS?).
    I disobey my parents (MS) when they tell me to stay in as it’s blowing a gale outside.
    Whilst in town I wait for my friends in a bar and get drunk whilst doing so (MS) and I’m also eyeing up the talent (MS?) and quite envious (MS) of some of the yuppie types with their cars and fit girlfriends.
    We head to a strip joint. I give a stripper a huge ‘tip’ and she comes back with me (MS – prostitution).
    We do ‘it’ (MS) and use condoms (MS).
    She votes socialist (MS?).

    So far it sounds like a mega night out. For sake of this argument, I kill her (MS).

    No, is there anyone here who really considers all of the above to be equally sinful? I don’t, I have pecking order in my head, with murder being the worst and voting socialist being among the ‘lightest’.

    According to church they are the same, but most people in the street don’t think that way.

    Including many African women.

    So, applying that mindset, which would be perceived as the greater of the sins (although technically equal in terms of mortal sin)?

    Extra marital sex or extra marital sex PLUS the condoms which the church has been opposing for decades?

    Answer: The second scenario

    That is what we’re dealing with in parts of Africa. A fear of making a sin and even bigger sin (or such like).

    I trust you read my remarks about the workers in Catholic AIDS clinics who hand out condoms anyway?

    What’s your opinion on them?
    Should they stop?
    Or is it OK since the Popes partial turn-around?
    Should they check to ensure they are handing them out to only married couples (and start classic black market conditions for condom sales for those few who realise
    that they’re doomed to hell fire for shagging anyway) ?

    Should the Ugandan government only give out free condoms to those schools that aren’t Catholic?

    Is this not a tad discriminatory?
    Or even dangerous?

    I appreciate the comments of Alias and Harry in that if people stick to the rules then it’ll be grand and that if one doesn’t, well, all bets are off anyway so what odds if you go the extra sinful mile (is that right chaps?) but what I’m imploring you to see is that this principle is flawed practically speaking and people are suffering because of it.

    The rape factor I’m afraid can’t be accounted for by anyone’s declarations or teachings, they’ll do what they want…

    Your advice personal advice however is sound, I had said test a while ago and am going into hospital for a wee ‘looksie’ next month, so yes, best to keep on top of it.

  • Rory Carr

    Thanks you, Ghobsmacht, for your entertaining comments.

    Your constant repitition of the anecdote of the woman driven to prostitution fails to move me however as I am more inclined to think that it is the attraction of “bareback” intercourse to her potential clients and the fear of customer loss that is more likely to deter her use of condoms. Like all else- the market rules !

    As I recall, the conditions required for sin to be mortal are:

    The matter must first be grievous (in the kick up the arse vs. GBH category); the sinner must have full knowledge that what he is doing, or about to do, is a most serious violation of God’s law and, in such total awareness, he must continue giving his complete will to the performance of that action. So, before a sin can be so great as to deny one the grace of God it must fulfill all three conditions of (a) grievous matter (b) full knowledge and (c) full consent. So it is not very easy to commit a mortal sin unless one freely and wilfully gives way to action that one fully understands to be very wrong indeed. Farting in church probably doesn’t count, nor even padding out one’s arguments with dubious boring anecdotes about mythical old tarts in downtown Kigali.

    Anyway, I hope your rectal examination proves not to be alarming, but do try not to enjoy it too much as that might be borderline in the sin department.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I’m pretty sure I touched upon the market rules that the ladies of the night earlier, with the point being that it doesn’t help if they and their clients perceive that God is against their preferred but already unpopular choice of ‘apparatus’.

    If I could just point out, she did state that it was PURELY HER CATHOLIC BELIEFS (or misunderstandings as they may be) that drove her to this state of affairs.

    Harry Flashman pointed out how Africans aren’t stupid yet in this instance you know best, her points of view are discarded and that’s that?
    Silly African woman with STIs trying to blame some one else for her woes, when will they learn?

    You seemingly know so well to the extent that you hint that you doubt the existence of this mentality at all (or at least my encounters with it).

    If I didn’t have these encounters then I’d have no interest in participating in this debate:
    “Here’s a debate that touches on the RC birth control policy and it’s ramifications in Africa! Great! I saw a sketch about an anti-condom Catholic African prostitute with STIs on the telly last night, I’ll plant it into the debate somewhere and no one will be any the wiser! You’d have to be really stupid to think you can be a Catholic prostitute and not wear a condom, how do these guys think of it….?”

    It’s only cos I have encountered all this stuff that I am aware of how ignorant we in the West are of it all.
    And no wonder, it would appear that some of us are happy to be ignorant of it.

    So that’s fine, they don’t exist, problem solved and the Catholic Church can carry on as before instead of taking a leaf out of the book of the Ugandan Muslims which altered their stance to accommodate a very real problem (of course their opinion is still very much wedlock based, but at least it’s removed the demonisation of condoms which matters a lot).

    So far all you’ve done is doubt the sincerity of my stories and give me a check list of how to commit a mortal sin. What’s your next step? The classic semantics approach?

    I fully acknowledge that people should keep it in their pants, I also fully acknowledge that a lot of people don’t and that a lot of the same group of people are scared that they’re going to anger the almighty even more so if the add a condom into the mix.

    Or do you doubt the existence of these people too?

    Your case seems to be based on “the rules are very clear” combined with a perceived denial of the dangerous mindsets that I have strained to highlight to you all.

    Furthermore, it is probably now in your interest (face saving wise) to now NOT acknowledge these dangerous and bizarre mindsets so I’ll call it a day here, if you can’t acknowledge what is going on then there’s little point

    With the amount of money that I have to pay for this examination it would not be enjoyable even if it were to be administered by Eva Green, Katie Perry and Gemma Arterton in classic sexy nurse’s outfits with Benny Bennassi directing the scenes and music, although, while the doctors are hoking around up there, maybe they can find other stories about illogical African hookers that you effectively told me to stuff up there as well as the points you dodged and answers to to the questions you didn’t answer ….