Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who pays for infallibility?

I’m not Catholic, I certainly don’t play one on TV, nor did I stay at the Vatican Holiday Inn Express last night. The closest I’ve come to being Catholic is rooting for Notre Dame.

At the same time, several of my family members are Catholic, and one of the best friends of my family is a priest who used to come to the house to give communion to my Irish Catholic grandmother. When it comes to Catholicism, I may be on the outside looking in, but I’m standing pretty close to the front window.

Since I’m not bound by Catholic teachings, papal pronouncements about such things as birth control usually strike me as quaint and easily dismissed. But a recent pronouncement by Pope Benedict XVI makes me wonder just how much of a grip he has on reality.

During his recent trip to Africa, the Pope went one step beyond his usual opposition to birth control to make the claim that condoms make AIDS worse. Abstinence is, of course, the only way to go in his universe.

He said this to a continent where four out of every five AIDS infections occur, over 20 million people are infected with the disease, and over 20 percent of adults in three countries.

He said this to a continent where some people believe a legend that says that sex with a virgin will cure AIDS. This has resulted in the wholesale rape and infection of children.

And yet, the Pope is leading the continent on a course that will surely lead to more disease and death in order to attempt to adhere to someone’s centuries-old interpretation of the Bible.

Whether abstinence is a worthy goal, I’ll leave up to you, but any idea based on asking people to avoid normal mammalian behavior is dicey at best—and, in this case, deadly.

But wait! Why am I wasting my time with this entry? This isn’t really about AIDS or abstinence or condoms. It’s about a church that, once again, has to maintain its image of infallibility by, once again, not knowing to admit when it’s wrong.

It took the Catholic Church 400 years to apologize to Galileo.

Africa can’t wait that long.

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