Another archbishop heard from

Typical of the moral blindness of the Catholic church on the condom issue – the archbishop of Sydney talks a lot of emollient drivel about sexual morality as the putative reason for saying condoms make the AIDS epidemic worse – without ever mentioning the blindingly obvious (to anyone but a moral idiot) that condoms are needed because AIDS transmission involves two people, one of whom can be as sexually faithful as any pope or archbishop could desire and still be infected by the other party. Usually this cashes out to women infected by men. The archbishop talks and talks and talks and talks and never mentions this. It is wicked to fail to mention it.

To blame Catholics and Pope Benedict for the spread of HIV/AIDS requires proof that while people are ignoring the first, essential Christian requirement to be chaste before and within marriage, they are slavishly obedient to a second requirement not to use condoms…Catholic teaching is opposed to adultery, fornication and homosexual intercourse, even with condoms, not because it denies condoms offer health protection, but because traditional Christian moral teaching believes all extra-marital intercourse contradicts the proper meaning of love and sexuality.

But even if one agrees with every word of that the problem remains that a woman (or, much less likely, a man) could heed and obey that to the last jot and tittle and still, without a condom, be infected. Why does the archbishop ignore this fact? Because he has nothing to say? Because there is nothing to say other than that condoms are indeed needed as (at least) insurance? If so, that’s a wicked reason to keep silent.

Christ called Christians to a different way of living, to a purity of heart where even looking on a woman with aggressive and disordered desire (lust) is wrong.

Oh – well maybe the answer is even simpler, as indicated by that remark. Maybe the archbishop really is so stupid and so callous that he really doesn’t even realize that women exist – maybe he really does think that it’s only men who are agents, only men who are called to a different way of living, only men who can and should be faithful, and therefore only men who can be infected. Maybe he just doesn’t get it that women are also part of the equation, that when men ‘look on’ them with lust and then act on the looking, the act has consequences for the woman as well as the man.

Yet he’s the archbishop of Sydney; he has a platform; he can go right on telling Catholics – women and men alike – that condoms are bad and harmful. That’s unfortunate.

35 Responses to “Another archbishop heard from”

  • #14

    Messed up a link there, lost the second part of what I wrote.

  • #15


    I also found this study from Benin. As in the Zambian study, Christianity was found to be a predictor for non-use of condoms (though not as significant a one as the widespread belief that there is a cure!).

    Perhaps tellingly, though, this study identified perceived efficacy (incomplete protective effect) as one of the two most critical barriers to condom use. Now, I hate to leap to conclusions about possible sources of such beliefs – but who can you think of that has been actively promoting the claim that condoms are ineffective in reducing the transmission of AIDS?

  • #16

    “That doesn’t mean that I disagree that the teaching on condoms is incoherent and immoral, it is. I just doubt that it has any effect on AIDS or, in fact, family planning.”

    Well, let’s see. The incoherent and immoral teaching on condoms is intended to have an effect, one assumes, and the effect it is intended to have would be a harmful and grotesquely unjust one, so – what real difference does it make to my point about the archbishop if you’re right about the facts? I don’t see it, myself.

  • #17

    “The ‘other thing’ being honeyed eloquence and enough pork barrels to fill the Grand Canyon?”


  • #18

    Thank you, OB. I guess that was my point, really. It’s one thing to look for evidence regarding the actual effect of Vatican idiocy. That might be useful for educational purposes. It’s still morally bizarre for bishops, especially, perhaps, celibate ones (?), to condemn the use of condoms, period. It is based on an idiotic idea of sexuality and sexual morality, and an entirely unrealistic idea of human nature. Where do they dig these fossils up?

  • #19
    Marie-Therese O' Loughlin

    What has sex got to do with Archbishops?

    What has it got to do with bishops”

    What has it got to do with the pope?

    And last but not least – what has it got to do with God?

    I thought they were all in the business of religion.

    Is it because God (supposedly) made us that the church gets involved in the business of sex as well as religion?

  • #20

    I suspect you know the answer to your questions, Marie-Therese. Religion is and always has been first and foremost a tool of social control for good and ill – mostly ill. The major monotheistic religions (and hardly them alone) have primarily been a patriarchal tool of social control: Their doctrines have the aim (and often the effect) of controlling human sexual beliefs and behavior – especially women’s sexual behavior.

  • #21
    Ian MacDougall

    John M: “That doesn’t mean that I disagree that the teaching on condoms is incoherent and immoral, it is. I just doubt that it has any effect on AIDS or, in fact, family planning…”

    Scientific assessment of the effect of condom use in controlling transmission of HIV/AIDS is difficult because of there is always more than one variable operating. One eminent medical authority I heard speak on the subject advocated the use of them to control the spread of the virus from a public health point of view, and to lower the risk of personal infection. But he said rather memorably: “I wouldn’t have sex with an AIDS positive woman even if I was wearing ten condoms.”

    That covers the situation where one knows the HIV status of the other party. But I venture to say, many women in Africa are better placed to insist that their truck driving husbands wear condoms in marital sex than to refuse marital sex altogether.

    Medical authorities have not supported the Pope, whose arguments are rationalisations for the maintenance of existing Church policy on contraception; which itself was thrown into a new crisis by the emergence of HIV. It was always inconsistent, as the “rhythm method” (otherwise known as Vatican Roulette) had the hierarchy’s approval. The Church’s main objection to condoms was that they worked.

    They were never 100%, but the argument that they are worse than useless for HIV does not bear examination. They are better than nothing.

  • #22
    Marie-Therese O' Loughlin

    “Religion is and always has been first and foremost a tool of social control for good and ill – mostly ill.”

    To be sure, to be sure, G.

    Christ called Christians to keep their tools to themselves, lest they become rusted when they are impurely employed with impunity on pure soft touches.

    “Christ called Christians to a different way of living, to a purity of heart where even looking on a woman with aggressive and disordered desire (lust) is wrong.”

    Moreover, Christ also called his disciples to discipline severely those who were/are on the receiving end of the acted-out lustful desires, namely the babies. He subsequently called them to a different way of living… one behind prison walls in institutions. The condom wearers were/are doomed, reprimanded, and put into spiritual prisons while the offspring of the non-condom wearers were/are doomed and remanded in virtual prisons

  • #23

    ‘But he said rather memorably: “I wouldn’t have sex with an AIDS positive woman even if I was wearing ten condoms.”‘

    There’s a little irony (or something) in that, since transmission is so much easier and more frequent in the other direction. Women get AIDS from men far more easily than men get it from women.

  • #25
    Russell Blackford

    George Pell says:


    In fact, the studies confirm that behaviour modification is possible and is occurring. In Cameroon the percentage of young people having sex before the age of 15 has gone down from 35 per cent to 14 per cent, United Nations AIDS said last year. Uganda has had a 70 per cent decline in HIV prevalence since the early 1990s, linked to a 60 per cent reduction in casual sex, says a 2004 report in Science. Similar evidence exists in Africa, from Ethiopia to Malawi.

    Other studies support my claim that condoms encourage promiscuity and irresponsibility. UN AIDS has found that even when people use condoms consistently, something goes wrong about 10 per cent of the time. Condoms give users an exaggerated sense of safety, so that they sometimes engage in “risk compensation”. In one Ugandan study, gains in condom use seem to have been offset by increases in the number of sex partners.


    I’d like to see some informed commentary on this. There’s no doubt that condoms are not perfect, but what is meant by saying “something” goes wrong 10 per cent of the time? And is 10 per cent the correct figure for this “something”? Is it a relevant “something” for this debate?

    Is it true that Cameroon has been able to reduce the number of young teenagers having sex, and if so how? (I’m not one to deny teenagers the pleasures of sex, but in all the epidemiological circumstances I think reducing the number who are THAT young having sex is a good thing – I don’t trust young teenagers to be very smart about personal safety and public health issues.) Is the “one Ugandan study” well regarded?

    Pell is making some kind of plausible-sounding case by cherry-picking a fact here, a fact there, to try to suggest that condoms don’t help in public health campaigns, at least in Africa, and that some kind of sexual abstinence policy should be used instead (not just “as well as”). The choice of widely disparate facts looks suspicious, but I’d like some specific commentary on what they really mean, since I don’t have staff to run around cherry-picking facts for me, like big George probably does.

    Of course, he gives the game away elsewhere when he says that the Cult of Misery regards as sinful all sorts of the good, healthy things of this world – such as a man feeling lust for a pretty woman (presumably the same applies to a woman feeling lust for an attractive man, but I don’t recall this being mentioned). The Misery Cultists don’t oppose condemns for public health reasons, but because they are inherently sinful, along with many of the things that make life worth living for normal people.

    What I despise about the Misery Cult is its anti-human quality. Sexual attraction and sexual pleasure are regarded as evil. All those women who unashamedly perve over the legs and arms of Aussie Rules players are not just being mildly annoying (to us non-sporting types) but SINFUL, what with their Disordered and Aggressive Desires and all.

    If I and a female friend feel a little buzz of mutual attraction, and so much as flirt over a few drinks, we’re committing a serious sin; we don’t have to do anything more than that. We have Disordered and Aggressive Desires.

    And so on.

    Much of the ordinary joy of living is solemnly condemned as immoral by this horrible, sinister cult.

    The Cult of Misery does dirt on life.

  • #26

    G. Mostly ill? the abolition of slavery and later segregation were both heavily influenced by people that were motivated by religion (Christianity). Also both the liberal and labour movements were inspired by Christian teachings. Both prodestant and catholic churches have been and still are vocal oponents of capital punishment and in the U.K helped to bring about an end to the revolting practice of hanging.

  • #27

    O.B Why no? president Obama is certainly eloquent and a trillion dollars of aditional spending(paid for with borowed money)could be fairly described as pork even by his most ardent supporter?

  • #28

    Sorry, Richard, but that tired old “But what about the wonderful Christian abolitionists?” bullshit doesn’t hold any water at all: Yes, people with decent moral convictions can in fact cherry pick their religious tradition or holy texts for what they want. But just as many (if not more) preachers were extolling the virtues of slavery from the pulpit as were fighting for abolition – so what exactly about the abolitionists’ Christianity made them abolitionists? Not a damned thing. The New Testament has a whole buncha words attributed to this rabbi Yeshua fellow, but not one word against the institution of slavery. My favorite tidbit: The phrase “Slaves, obey your Earthly masters…” appears TWICE in Paul’s letters! (Ephesians 6:5 & Colossians 3:22)

    Liberalism as a political tradition is firmly rooted in the Enlightenment and reasoned argumentation, not faith. For all that the great early proponent of political liberalism John Locke was himself a Christian, his arguments were not even slightly religious in origin or content. And labor movements have always been motivated by and carried out by workers trying to better their own lots in life. To blithely attribute such movements primarily to Christianity is to ignore two obvious facts:

    (1) The OPPONENTS of both liberal politics and labor movements were ALSO Christians, and they ALSO cited religious support for their positions. People always claim God is on their side: That doesn’t make their position legitimately religious in origin or motivation.

    (2) There is no particularly religious content to the ideas and ideals of liberalism or labor activism. The central ideals of each are commitment to human dignity, equality, and self-determination – values that are not logically connected to and do not need any appeal to God. Some people CLAIM that these concepts are religious, but they can be and are supported quite independently of any faith belief or any supernatural concept.

    Some churches oppose capital punishment, and others support it – and most ignore it, in my experience. Even those religious groups that oppose it do so for deeply flawed reasons: The problem with capital punishment is not that only God should have dominion over life and death – the problem is that the state should never have the power to execute its citizens. The religious reasoning used to oppose capital punishment is deeply flawed, which can be seen when it is applied in other areas. For example, the whole “God’s dominion” bullshit is used justify opposition to voluntary euthanasia – which is nothing more than forcing people to suffer miserably for no discernible reason (except incoherent and unsupportable religious convictions). And, by the way, that position is directly opposed to the values of human dignity and self-determination.

    No, I’ll stand by my claim that religion is a tool of social control for good and ill – mostly ill.

  • #29

    And Richard? What the hell does Obama and U.S. budgets and bank bailouts and all that have to do with ANYTHING DISCUSSED IN THIS THREAD?!?!?!

    Stop suckling at the teat of right wing media, Richard. It rots your brain. Seriously.

  • #30
    Russell Blackford

    I wrote that “the Misery Cultists don’t oppose condemns …” rather than “oppose condoms”. I hate making mistakes of any sort, but especially ones that reveal too much about how my mind is working. Maybe I should have written the rebarbitive “condemn condoms” and been done with it.

  • #31
    Ian MacDougall

    OB: “There’s a little irony (or something) in that, [ie the bit about wearing 10 condoms] since transmission is so much easier and more frequent in the other direction. Women get AIDS from men far more easily than men get it from women.”

    Quite so, but the eminent medical authority concerned was speaking legitimately IMHO from his own male point of view. I think his advice to any woman would have been “don’t have sex with a man you know is AIDS positive even if he is wearing twenty condoms and is on the inside of a space suit.”

  • #32
    Marie-Therese O' Loughlin

    “Women get AIDS from men far more easily than men get it from women.”

    Yeah, and one reason is that the female anatomy is more susceptible to infection than the male anatomy.

    “But the boys did not want to harm them – they just wanted to rape”

    Said the assistant principal of a school in Meru, Kenya, some years ago, when there was a mass assault by male pupils of female classmates. The boys were not penalised afterwards for their gross acts. The Kenyan government ignored the incident. Rapists in Africa are seldom punished even when their cases goes to trial, which is rare.

    African men literally believe that having sex with virginal young girls (that the pope would approve of) and children will cure their Aids. They do not grasp the fact that they giving infections to these young girls and children.

  • #33
    Eric MacDonald

    Just as a footnote to all this. I passed a church today. On the sign they had this helpful slogan: “All suffering is due to disobedience to God”. I phoned the church and left a message. Suggested they go to the nearest children’s hospital and tell the kids. I wonder if it will make any difference.

  • #34

    Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh – that is so hateful. Let’s hope that not a single unhappy person who sees that sign, believes it. Bastards.

  • #35
    Eric MacDonald

    When I drove by this morning the slogan had been replaced with: “God is Light”. So, perhaps they took the hint. Loony by not quite so hateful.Well, they were going to say something looney. The sun was shing at the time. Perhaps they are sun worshippers. But when I turned my computer on, there was light, but no god.