Pope’s view on sexuality is 19th century at best

Pope Benedict XVI is in a bit of a bind regarding HIV/AIDS.  He is trying to make the current pandemic fit a world view that no longer exists in the 21st century.  It makes the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church seem totally out of touch with what the people are experiencing.

” ‘You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane heading to Yaounde. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.’  The pope said a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease, as he answered questions submitted in advance by reporters traveling on the plane. His response was presumably also prepared in advance. The Catholic Church rejects the use of condoms as part of its overall teaching against artificial contraception. Senior Vatican officials have advocated fidelity in marriage and abstinence from premarital sex as key weapons in the fight against AIDS.”

The difficulty of orthopraxis (right actions)  is that it is created during a specific time and place, it addresses specific needs of that time and it does not always transcend societal trends and circumstances.  The Catholic church’s view on sexuality is that it has one purpose and one purpose only and that is procreation of the species.  There is no other purpose of the behaviors that we call sexual. 

This is the reason why the Catholic Church is against latex barriers/ condom usage because they would inhibit the primary reason to have sexual intercourse.   According to a text written by Jonathan Ned Katz, entitled The Invention of Heterosexuality the term Heterosexual was used in 1892 “associating them with nonprocreative perversion.”  This seems to be the mindset view of the Roman Catholic Church.  This explains why the church is against condom use, defining marriage beyond that of one man and one woman, masturbation and homosexuality. 

There was a time when these praxi could possibly be justified.  The Jewish people in the days of the Hebrew scriptures were a minority population.  Having children was important, not only to carry on their culture but also to increase their chances of survival.  The ordinance  against spilling one’s seed on the ground instead of placing it in the belly of a whore, is therefore an important ordinance.  More important than the adultery of sleeping with a known whore.  Homosexual behaviors also reduced the possibility of increasing one’s tribe. Masturbation did the same.  And polygamy defined marriage for the same reason, it increased the possibility of passing on strong genes to as many children as possible.

The prohibitions of homosexuality in the Hebrew Scriptures had another reason that had little to do with the act of homosexuality itself as it did with abandoning the God of Abraham and participating in the religious cults of the native people whose land the Jews were to possess.   Participating in these religious cults was more of a threat to the identity of the Jewish people. 

The Pope advocates for a moral and responsible attitude towards sex as a means to reduce the spread of HIV.   I agree with the statement however, I do not agree with the mindset that produced such a statement.  In today’s world where the purpose of sexual activity is primarily for pleasure and procreation only as desired calls for a very moral and responsible attitude.  It calls for a healthy respect for the human body.  It calls for a mutuality of love between partners where the partners respect and honor their partners body and boundaries.  And it calls for pre-planning in pregnancy when the world is fast approaching 8 billion people in a world that has difficulty finding the resources to sustain 7 billion. 

Having children in today’s world can potentially be the most irresponsible thing a couple can do when the resources to support that child’s life simply isn’t available for the couple.  I do not believe that if god created sex to be as pleasurable as it is, that she would forbid two people from expressing symbolically the love of god in their sexuality because they chose to use a condom.  That symbol of the love of god made manifest in the sacred union is at the heart of every wedding vow in the Christian tradition. 

The Pope is in a bind because the nature of this pandemic requires absolutely requires from a moral and ethical point of view to reconsider the orthopraxi of the 19th century and earlier and find every possible means to reduce the spread of HIV.  Yes, abstinence before marriage is one possible means.  But it does not remove the threat from the partners of the child who contracted HIV from his or her mother and now is an adult thanks to life saving drugs.  For this person, abstinence before marriage only postpones the potential of spreading the virus. 

Latex barriers are going to be essential after marriage to reduce the possibility of infecting his or her partner.  Wouldn’t it be better for the child to learn a healthy respect for his or her sexual body while growing up so they can be responsible in their expression of sexuality as young adults.  The Pope’s condemnation of condoms also condemns this person for wanting to live a healthy and productive life with a sexual partner.    This is simply an immoral and irresponsible view point given the nature of this pandemic.

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2 Comments

  1. If a person presents and asks you if the risk of having sex with a known HIV postive partner is “acceptable” using a condem, what would you say?

    What would you say of the risks of repeated sex?

    That’s the real world clinicans face. What say you of the real world?

    Bill: fair question. When I was certified as a Red Cross HIV/AIDS Prevention Education instructor (my certification has since expired) this sort of question was asked a plenty. Latex barriers ( condoms, dental dams,etc.) when used correctly and consistently are 99.9% effective in reducing the risk of HIV infection. That my friend is the real world. Condoms are not as effective in reducing other sexual transmitted infections like herpes or genital warts as they could be located outside the covered area. If you are open and honest with your sexual partner, you already know they have these infections and are learning how to reduce the risk of spreading these infections. The talk about condom failure is because under the Bush Administration, Abstinence based only education was taught including conflating all the sexual transmitted infections into one statistic for condom failure.

    Ensuring how to properly use a condom was not taught. Condom failure decreases as the person learns the proper storage and use of the condom. It is a skill. Comprehensive sex education teaches that skill. Abstinence is still taught as a viable option. Because the Bush Administration insisted on Abstinence based only education, HIV rates of infection increased to about 65% in young people under the age of 24 in those states where this was the predominant education. For all that Bush did to aid Africa regarding HIV/AIDS treatment he did a major disservice to his own country in this regard.

    The risk factor does not increase with repeated sex with the same partner. The risk is the same. That is like saying my risk of winning at craps increases every time I throw the di; no the risk of winning at this next crap game, is the same it was with the last crap game. It might happen, it might not happen. I could increase the risk by not using latex barriers or loading the di, but if I am using condoms consistently and correctly, the risk remains the same.

    And the clinicians that I know who have specialized in HIV/AIDS treatment, would tell you the same. WHen I was the executive director of Interfaith AIDS Ministry in Danbury, CT, I knew hundreds of couples, one positive and one negative. They remained that way throughout their union and they did not give up sexual activity with their partner just because of HIV status. Using latex barriers correctly and consistently each and every time, reduces the risk of HIV infection.

    I would ask the reverse question, what is the risk of having unprotected sex with an unknown HIV positive person? There the risk is high because the chances of exchanging bodily fluids that carry the virus (semen, vaginal fluids, blood) is very likely. Use latex barriers correctly and consistently each and every time you have sexual relations, regardless if their HIV status is known or unknown.

  2. I would ask the reverse question, what is the risk of having unprotected sex with an unknown HIV positive person? There the risk is high because the chances of exchanging bodily fluids that carry the virus (semen, vaginal fluids, blood) is very likely.

    Depends on the prevelance in the population from which your selecting your unknown sex partnerm,and it’s the practice of selecting unknown partners that may be the real risk here.

    If you know your partner, and you know your partner HIV+, you make a risk assesment based on the odds.

    If you don’t know your partner, then your dealing with two very different sets of risks: the risks inherent with condoms, and than the risks of selection depending on prevelance rates e.g. your risks far higher in Wash DC than outside DC for example.

    The MD who taught my Kid’s OWL program had a lot of issues with the public schools talking about condoms which he felt from the STDs he was seeing in his practice were offering a false sense of security.

    It was a false sense I appreciated from handing out these packets to the homeless with toliteries and codoms… to folks who presented having a tough time getting their pants on…

    If you follow Ratzingers sexual ethics, your just at less risk… telling people condoms will protect them without a fuller look a the sexual ethics they intend to follow, almost borders on malpractice in my book.

    Bill, let me clarify what I meant by “unknown HIV + person” I meant the person’s status of being HIV+ was unknown. Not that the person was unknown. I agree with the high risk of multiple anonymous sexual partners.

    Yes, there are regions where the prevalence of HIV is higher than in other regions. But I wouldn’t use that information to think I can have multiple sexual partners (HIV status known or unknown) without the fear of HIV infection simply because I am in rural Alabama instead of DC. But again, that does not change the risk level involved if the person, and I will repeat myself again, uses condoms correctly and consistently everytime, when having sexual intercourse.

    I am well versed in this subject area after dedicating 15 years of my life to the reduction of HIV/AIDS so I am not going to back down on this point.

    Every person that I counseled post infection (Sexual transmitted infections -STI’s- and HIV) was embarrassed to admit to me that they had not used a condom. In fact they would most likely tell me that they had because they didn’t want to come across as being stupid. It was only in talking further that I discovered that they did not use the condom, or kept the condom in the wrong place so it became corrupted, or used an oil based lubricant which breaks condoms faster than I can type this. I doubt that a MD in today’s get them in get them out insurance mentality is able to really take the time to find out what the person actually did.

    In the south, our kids in the public schools are being taught condoms don’t work so they aren’t using them. They are taught that vaginal sexual intercourse is only for the marriage bed so they are having anal and oral sexual intercourse without any form of protection. STI’s are on the rise as well as HIV in youth.

    I am also advocating to be morally responsible regarding sexual behaviors. In my 15 years I never taught just to slap on a condom and forget about it. No qualified HIV/AIDS prevention educator would do that and if they did, they should lose their certification to teach.

    Ratzinger’s sexual ethics simply does not ring true to me. Abstinence goes against our primal evolutionary make-up. It is a discipline that takes dedicated practice to follow. There needs to be a comprehensive approach that everyone can easily attain. Where comprehensive sexual education is taught there is a reduction in teen pregnancy, a reduction in sexual transmitted infections, a reduction in domestic violence, and a marked delay in the onset of sexual activity. Because comprehensive sexual education covers all the bases in having a relationship. It is not just about the act of sex. That is the moral thing to do in this case.


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