White Coat Underground

Oh, God…not the Pope again

Pope Benedict, the former head of the same Church body that ran the Inquisition, has done it again. He just committed an act which is morally equivalent to involuntary sodomy, and did it to an entire continent.

Africa, the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic, sometimes seems to have not all that much going for it—AIDS drugs are expensive, some leaders have been idiots, but there have been some bright lights, such as Botswana’s comprehensive HIV prevention program.

So when some German dude walks in and tells everyone that condoms are wrong and may make the problem worse, one might consider using a rather loaded word to describe this behavior. What would that word be?

Genocide. mass murder Aw, Hell, I don’t even know anymore. Maybe I’ll go with negligent homicide on a continental scale.

To discourage the use of the most effective HIV prevention technique among Africans, a group of people who are dying of AIDS by the millions, is morally indefensible. He should be ashamed.

But of course, he has no shame (it kinda goes with infallibility).

Addendum

Yes, yes, I realize that “papal infallibility” is not an unlimited concept.

Yes, I realize that “genocide” may be a bit over the top, but the point is this: When Mbeke fell for AIDS denialism, tens of thousands died. When the Pope lies about condoms, basically encouraging unsafe sex, thousands or more may die as a direct result of his words and actions. This is not OK. It is not a rant against the Catholic Church, but against the actions of a man whose position makes him uniquely able to help or harm millions.

Comments

  1. #1 Matthew
    March 27, 2009

    Don’t you think that’s a little extreme? He probably believes what he says, and it’s not genocide if you aren’t intentionally causing death. It’s more like… geno-manslaughter maybe?

  2. #2 AlexS
    March 27, 2009

    Intentions don’t matter very much compared to the consequences of one’s actions. There is, for example, no evidence that Hitler had anything but the best intentions. Herr Ratzinger believes that anyone using condoms is risking eternal hellfire. Hitler believed that the European Jewry had to be exterminated for the good of the Aryan race. Regardless of his intentions, the pope is inevitably going to cause numerous deaths by telling people who believe him to be the infallible representative of God that they can’t use condoms.

  3. #3 Katie
    March 27, 2009

    No, using the term genocide in this instance is NOT extreme. Spewing dangerous ideas that go against all scientific evidence from a position of power, an action that will indirectly lead to countless deaths, in an effort to further your own religious agenda – sounds a helluva lot like Hitler to me.

  4. #4 Moth Eyes
    March 27, 2009

    From what I can tell, the word genocide doesn’t contain a requirement that the act be deliberate. Furthermore, I can’t say I’m an expert, but someone in his position going against the entire body of scientific evidence in this situation would probably count as malice afterthought anyway.

    One note, he is still the head of the Catholic church.

  5. #5 Moth Eyes
    March 27, 2009

    Malice aforethought that is (willful disregard for life).

  6. #6 Isis the Scientist
    March 27, 2009

    Brought to you by PalMD, member of the same profession that brought us phrenology.

  7. #7 Katie
    March 27, 2009

    Isis, I love you and your blog, but I am completely missing the relevance of your comment to the content of this post. Are you trying to compare the complete willful disregard of science by the head of a very influential organization with someone who is a member of an organization that has made pseudo-science mistakes in the past (that have since been corrected)?

    Because, as a scientist, you really would be included in that comparison yourself.

  8. #8 Isis the Scientist
    March 27, 2009

    I am not commenting on the Pope’s statements (which I believe to be untrue). I am commenting on the first sentence in Pal’s post in which he equates the current church to that which perpetrated the inquisition. To do so is like equating modern physicians with those who advocating phrenology or modern Germans with those who belonged to the Nazi movement.

    The pope’s statements are unfortunate, but it has very little to do with the inquisition.

  9. #9 Katie
    March 27, 2009

    Has the Catholic Church officially and completely renounced the Inquisition?

    In which case I stand corrected.

  10. #10 MattK
    March 27, 2009

    I understand the point, and I understand that the pope should be held to a higher standard because of his position of leadership. Nevertheless, I think that “genocide” is overstating it a little. Is it stupid, wrongheaded, evil, and tragic? Yes. But it is not being hacked to death with a Machete in Rwanda or gassed at Dachau.

  11. #11 Katie
    March 27, 2009

    How many people did Hitler personally slaughter?

  12. #12 Ramel
    March 27, 2009

    I still don’t understand why anyone takes notice of sexual health advice form an 80 year old virgin who wears a dress.

  13. #13 cphm
    March 27, 2009

    Violations of Godwin’s Law aside, I don’t think genocide is too extreme. He has the information and he’s intelligent enough to understand it, but he lets his beliefs and ideas about how he would like the world to be to overrule reality. It’s the very essence of denialism, and it has, and will continue to, cost many lives. He may be right that HIV/AIDS “is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone”. It would be a good start though.

    Isis: the Catholic church may not have burned anyone for a while, but they didn’t abolish the list of prohibited books until the 60’s. Their attidude towards evidence and critical thought still seems to be somewhat…medieval.

  14. #14 PalMD
    March 27, 2009

    I was really torn about this post and probably should have paused before posting it. I feel bad. I hate offending good people, but i was so horrified and nauseated by the pope’s pronouncement on condoms. I think the things said by american evangelicals are far worse but the pope has far more global influence.

  15. #15 Dianne
    March 27, 2009

    the Catholic church may not have burned anyone for a while, but they didn’t abolish the list of prohibited books until the 60’s.

    And still condemns people to hell for evil sins such as saving the life of a 9 year old who has been repeatedly raped. But not the rapist. His sin wasn’t really so bad.

  16. #16 Danio
    March 27, 2009

    I feel bad. I hate offending good people, but i was so horrified and nauseated by the pope’s pronouncement on condoms.

    I don’t think you have anything to apologize for here, Pal. The Pope’s pronouncement was, in fact, horrifying and nauseating, and completely worthy of derision. I share your outrage, and if people, good or otherwise, are offended by your word choices in expressing this shock and disbelief, well, it’s a tough old world. Even if you chose to retract the apparently offending bit about the inquisition, it wouldn’t change the substance of the post in any appreciable way. Own it. You are entitled to be pissed about this guy.

    The pope’s statements are unfortunate

    Stretch marks are unfortunate. The pope’s statements are lethal.

  17. #17 PalMD
    March 27, 2009

    the inquisition part is true. it’s the G word that worries me

  18. #18 Danio
    March 28, 2009

    According to the UN:

    [G]enocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    I think a case could be made for one or two of these.

  19. #19 Bob O'H
    March 28, 2009

    If we’re using the definition that Danio just posted, then this isn’t genocide: “intent to destroy” is missing.

    Which is not to say that the Pope’s actions aren’t harmful, just inadvertent.

  20. #20 doug
    March 28, 2009

    Yeah, the intent part is what’s missing, unless you take a truly evil view of the pope. I assume he’s not actually evil and trying to kill Africans, just horribly inept but, unfortunately, influential despite that.

  21. #21 iRobot
    March 28, 2009

    Isis, to your point that the Inquisition is a long time ago. Ok, we will skip that. How about the pedophile priests that the catholic church was and still is protecting. This pope was involved in that disgusting episode. He aided and abetted men who preyed on innocent children. Men who took advantage of their position as “god’s representative” to do vile and disgusting things. This pope and his underlings looked the other way and hid the problem to protect the church’s reputation directly leading to more children being abused. If the pope went on trial for genocide due to his anti-condom stance, this could be used to show that he is a multiple offender who deserves a harsher sentence. Isis wont agree since she is a catholic. She has to overlook the moral bankruptcy of the catholic church or acknowledge that she is complicit in providing money and support for a bunch of criminals.

  22. #22 MattK
    March 28, 2009

    Danio, I think that case would be stretched a bit thin.

    iRobot, this strawman attack is unfair, overstated, and lacks subtlety or nuance, so Isis should feel right at home.

    Seriously though, the pedophile priest thing is bad but even as a non-catholic I get pretty damn sick of the “ooh a pervert! how deliciously awful! disgusting! vile!” trump card. Let’s stumble all over our selves to see who can be the most histrionic about pedophilia! Let’s stay on topic.

  23. #23 Pierce R. Butler
    March 28, 2009

    Bear in mind that the office within the Vatican headed by J. Ratzinger before his promotion was until recently known as the Holy Inquisition. If we accept a renaming as sufficient to make it no longer the Inquisition, we have to reject the “genocide” label too, no? As the Holy Mother Church doesn’t use the word, then it can’t be right, can it?

    If Ratzinger and his sheep choose to lie to themselves, that in no way obligates the less deranged to parrot them.

    Inquisition fits. So does Genocide.

  24. #24 iRobot
    March 28, 2009

    strawman? so the catholic church didnt defend and hide pedophiles? They are the ones that claim to be the defenders of morality and holiness. They were the ones who transferred priests from district to district after complaints of child abuse were brought up. It is not a strawman attack when the people you are accusing did what you are accusing them of. From wikipedia “A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position” The protection of pedophiles isn’t a position, it is a crime that the catholic hierarchy is guilty of. The paid millions and millions of dollars to their victims, how is this a strawman attack? This isnt “how deliciously awful!”, how can you say that? Have you no compassion? Do you think the victims pains are not important? or they are some sort of a pawn in a game? This pope was involved in the scandal, he is now saying that using condoms makes the AIDS epidemic worse. How can you say they aren’t related? Both issues show the catholic church is willing to let innocent people suffer to advance their ideology.
    The next response from catholics will be that their priest and church wasn’t involved and he is wonderful man of god so the crimes of the hierarchy do not touch them. This is plain wrong. The hierarchy owns the churches and makes the decisions with out any input from their parishioners. Ask the people who had their church closed against their protest because the church was broke from paying abuse settlements.

  25. #25 iRobot
    March 28, 2009

    BTW, I am sorry if Isis feels attacked or persecuted. By going to the catholic church she is providing support to the people that keep committing these terrible acts. The decisions you make concerning how you spend your money and time have consequences. If people walked away from the catholic church when this came out the pope would not be in the position to continue making harmful statements such as “condoms are bad”. It isn’t a personal attack. I dont expect every one to become an atheist, just dont support a criminal organization.

  26. #26 PalMD
    March 28, 2009

    By going to the catholic church she is providing support to the people that keep committing these terrible acts.

    I don’t buy that. Collective guilt doesn’t work for me. The fault is Ratzinger and his advisers, not the entire Church and its members. A subtle point, but important.

  27. #27 leigh
    March 28, 2009

    it would have at least been conditionally accurate if he said that nobody should have sex, because sex makes the AIDS problem worse. (the condition being that he acknowledge unprotected sex is the kind that makes the AIDS epidemic worse.)

    instead, he essentially condones unprotected sex! wrong move!

    does this guy realize what’s going on in africa? sex is currency. not that it isn’t here, i suppose, but how many children are selling their bodies for a coke and a packet of crackers here in the usa? [true story, i mentored a student from a poverty-stricken african country who told me quite a bit about what life was like there.]

  28. #28 DaleP
    March 28, 2009

    The impact of the Pope’s remarks is large. In today’s Washington Post, they were defended as scientifically accurate:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/27/AR2009032702817.html

    —–
    Catholicism Under Attack

    Saturday, March 28, 2009; Page A11

    Of all the cartoons published last week, why did you choose one that is anti-Catholic for Drawing Board on March 21? Not only was it offensive, but its implications were false.

    The cartoon showed Pope Benedict XVI in an AIDS ward saying, “Blessed are the sick, for they have not used condoms.” The implication was that condoms would reduce the incidence of AIDS.

    However, no less an authority than Edward C. Green, a senior research scientist at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, was quoted as saying in National Review Online last week that “we have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates.”

    When asked to comment on a statement by Pope Benedict XVI on AIDS, Green said that the pope is correct, “or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments.”

    The implication of the cartoon that the pope does not care about the plight of AIDS victims was insulting and outrageously untrue. What other group can match the care given to AIDS victims throughout the world by Catholic institutions and health-care workers?

    — Robert H. Follett

    Lansdowne, MD
    ———–
    His link is to
    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MTNlNDc1MmMwNDM0OTEzMjQ4NDc0ZGUyOWYxNmEzN2E=

    Kathleen Jo Lopez
    From Saint Peter’s Square to Harvard Square
    Media coverage of papal comments on AIDS in Africa is March madness

    ‘We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates, which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working.”

    So notes Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, in response to papal press comments en route to Africa this week.
    ………..
    “There is,” Green adds, “a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by ‘compensating’ or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.”

    Green added: “I also noticed that the pope said ‘monogamy’ was the best single answer to African AIDS, rather than ‘abstinence.’ The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates (the other major factor is male circumcision).”
    …………
    ——————
    So, PalMD, is Edward Green a reliable researcher, or not?

  29. #29 PalMD
    March 28, 2009

    not.

  30. #30 Danimal
    March 28, 2009

    I am not commenting on the Pope’s statements (which I believe to be untrue). I am commenting on the first sentence in Pal’s post in which he equates the current church to that which perpetrated the inquisition.

    And he would be completely right. It is the same church. My family being Catholic. This Pope sucks about as bad as George Bush. Going to Africa where AIDS is epidemic and so is starvation and asking no-one use birth control or practice safe sex is ludicrous. The church has not changed only its leaders have.

  31. #31 Danimal
    March 28, 2009

    One further comment. The Church (meaning Catholic)should stick to what is does best, molesting alter boys, that way there is no need to abort babys, like the seven year old raped girl carrying twins from her father. The girl probably would have died in child birth and the doctors were excommunicated (I’d say good riddance and raise the finger). Unfortunately molesting boys without a condom still causes AIDS even if it can’t cause pregnancy. Yes, this is the Catholic Church and they should be called out for it.

  32. #32 The Blind Watchmaker
    March 29, 2009

    The Church is likely going to go on spin control on this one. Benedict keeps putting his foot in his mouth. Recently he spoke about Galileo’s imprisonment. Although the Church officially pardoned Galileo, Pope B. said that the Church was justified in its actions.

    It’s time for a change.

  33. #33 Brian X
    March 29, 2009

    Isis:

    I have to say that I’m sorry if you’re offended, but the RCC is returning to its natural state of closed ranks and unconscionable arrogance. I say this as an ex-RCC member who grew up in the Boston archdiocese who left because I lost faith, but can never forgive the people who have made the pedophilia issue a problem since the days of Voltaire.

  34. #34 MartinB
    March 29, 2009

    “Collective guilt doesn’t work for me. The fault is Ratzinger and his advisers, not the entire Church and its members. A subtle point, but important.”

    Yes, I’ll get the Godwyn called upon me, but the same could be said by a member of the NSDAP or any other organisation.
    Sorry, if you are a member of an organisation you contribute to its influence. If you don’t want that, leave it or try to change the organisation from within.

  35. #35 Danio
    March 29, 2009

    I don’t buy that. Collective guilt doesn’t work for me. The fault is Ratzinger and his advisers, not the entire Church and its members. A subtle point, but important.

    I’m having a hard time with this one. Ratzinger has been nothing if not consistent in realizing his goals of regressing the Catholic Church to a more conservative state of being. If this ISN’T what the majority of Catholics want for their church, why aren’t more of them speaking up? Why does he still have this much influence, if he is truly speaking and acting only on his own behalf and a on that of a handful of other insulated old robed dudes? I’m not saying that his actions are the fault of the ‘entire Church and its members’ per se, but I do think that at least some of the responsibility for his continued position of influence lies with the people who, while they may personally believe his actions to be ‘unfortunate’, don’t do anything that would substantively affect–or counteract–his impact on the the world. Any Catholic claiming to be a humanitarian, rationalist, feminist, etc. who isn’t at least questioning their participation at this point is engaged in a degree of cognitive dissonance that I find rather unsettling.

  36. #36 Danimal
    March 29, 2009

    @Danio: Well said.

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