Defense of Pope Benedict's comments


In Wednesday's edition of The Daily Targum, I noticed the column titled "The dogmatic and the pragmatic" on the widespread and controversial remarks made by Pope Benedict during his recent visit to the HIV/AIDS-infested African country of Cameroon. While considering myself, at least to some extent, to be a worldly individual, I must confess that I knew rather little about the African country aside from a few of the names of the their biggest soccer stars due to my roommates reliance on Cameroon as his secret team in FIFA. So like many students — and Americans for that matter — I progressed to read the article without much background information on the subject matter at hand. As you may recall, the article chastised Pope Benedict for his comments when he basically said that condoms are not the answer to the African HIV/AIDS epidemic, and in fact it can be part of the problem. Rather than jump up in arms and take the so-called cool approach of condemning the Church as being out of touch, even provincial, in its views, I decided as a Catholic to take a moment and really reflect on what it is that the pope was espousing. I should also make it abundantly clear that as I write this I'm listing to Marilyn Manson's "Antichrist Superstar" record, and in no way do I find myself to be an overbearing religious zealot like the people outside Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus handing out pocket bibles. In fact, I'm a realist, and probably to a degree that is uncomfortable to some. But that's beside the point. So as I reflected upon the pope's comments and the article associated with it, I realized the pope should not be chastised for his comments. On the contrary, perhaps he should be praised. And so I did a little reading on the subject.

How is it in an era of selling-out, backstabbing, and continued moral degradation can we crucify Pope Benedict for actually being one of the few remaining prominent men to hold true to his belief value at all costs? However intolerable or ignorant the comments may seem to some, I find them to be, on the most basic level at least, to be encouraging in that the Church is sticking true to its belief structure regardless of outside pressures to conform to the ages. More importantly, no one is forcing you to conform to these belief structures. There are other faiths that one may explore if Catholicism is not the answer. In this regard, Pope Benedict's comments are in line with timeless Church doctrine that form a major crux of the Catholic faith, that sexual relations should be limited to married partners without contraceptives, which interfere the spiritual sanctity of the act: reproduction. This is the point that the pope was trying to make with his comment before the media-induced witching that followed. The irony of course being that many dismissed the pope as being ignorant when in fact their inability to properly assess the pope's message was the only evidence of ignorance. Even more amusing to this saga is the fact that Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, has publicly stated that the current evidence supports that condom distribution has not been effective in addressing the AIDS problem. Once again, current evidence supports that condom distribution has not been effective in addressing the AIDS problem. And as the common cliché affirms, you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Others have dismissed Pope Benedict's comments and being ridiculous in that they seem to lend a hand to abstinence, which is considered by some to be not only unfeasible, but also in direct confrontation with our innate drive as humans for sexual pleasure. In this regard I agree; complete abstinence is probably not realistic, but as affirmed by news reports. Abstinence initiatives have been effective in other African countries, such as Uganda, where a 60 percent reduction in casual sex has been reported. The success in Uganda has led to similar initiatives in Swaziland and Botswana, another testament that Pope Benedict may have been more right than wrong. After all, while condoms are successful in curbing the transmission of HIV/AIDS they are by no means a complete guarantee, and indeed represent a false sense of security in many regards. Indeed, condoms promote continued intercourse with multiple partners, which is of course the major factor contributing to the epidemic. There is always the chance the condom is defective as a result of improper storage or application, etc. So what about man's innate drive for sexual satisfaction? The answer, once again, is monogamy. The only realistic solution is for there to be conjugal sex between two married partners who are HIV/AIDS-free. Of course this leads to questions involving securing proper testing and continued overpopulation amid food shortages. While these are realistic problems, the focus is in regard to Pope Benedict's comments, and so I'm merely proposing a continued emphasis on monogamy and abstinence, in addition to condom distribution for those who are willing to use them, since condoms alone can not, and will not, eliminate the pandemic in Africa. What has this little ordeal of playing devil's advocate for god's holy man taught me? Perhaps Pope Benedict, while of course espousing Church doctrine, may have been onto something with his comments this past week.

Christopher Santo D'Esposito is a Rutgers College junior majoring in criminal justice and history. 


Christopher Santo D'Esposito

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