The Catholic Church and AIDS: A Sorry Case of Denial

The Church’s continued ostrich approach to the catastrophe that is HIV/AIDS on the continent:

Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday signed off on an African roadmap for the Roman Catholic Church that calls for good governance and denounces abuses, while labelling AIDS a mainly ethical problem. Benedict signed the apostolic exhortation called “The Pledge for Africa” during a visit to the West African nation of Benin, his second trip to the continent as pontiff.

The document says AIDS requires a medical response, but is mainly an ethical problem.

Changes in behaviour are required to combat the disease, including sexual abstinence and rejection of promiscuity, it adds. “The problem of AIDS in particular clearly calls for a medical and a pharmaceutical response,” it says. “This is not enough however. The problem goes deeper. Above all, it is an ethical problem.”

More on this from the Daily Nation.

I have written against the Church’s policy on birth control here, here and here.

constitution making in Kenya and the noise around it

Muthoni Wanyeki has this cool piece on the ongoing debate over the draft constitution.

I share in her surprise at how low the church has decided to sink in its opposition to Kadhi courts and the so called abortion clause in the draft constitution. Firstly, abortions are but a symptom of greater social problems (marital rape, poor sex education policies, the church’s intransigence over contraceptives, etc etc). People do not carry out abortions because they are baby-killers. Can someone please point this out to these men of God?

In any case personal morality is not a province of the state. People’s “moral failings” are a reflection of the church’s inability to instill in them the values that they consider to be ideal. Sending millions to their graves and creating even more orphans on the premise that God does not endorse the use of contraceptives is simply absurd. If I ran the Daily Nation I would print rates of contraceptive use and fertility rates in Rome, Canterbury and the great evangelical centres of America in the front page to make this point.

I say this knowing that Kenyan conservatism is not necessarily because of Christianity. But we don’t hear traditional elders screaming about these two issues. If the church wants to remain relevant it mus realize that before we all go to heaven we have to live through real life on earth.

And on the issue of Kadhi’s Courts. Who cares? Doesn’t the current constitution have this already? And isn’t it ironic that the same people who want to legislate personal morality on religious grounds are the ones opposed to Muslims having the option to use an Islamic judicial system? And do they even know that these courts would still be subordinate to the country’s secular court system?

i still don’t get how the church justifies this

The Catholic Church, among other churches, continues to be opposed to birth control measures that also help in the prevention of AIDS. This is such a disappointment. Millions of people have died from the disease since its emergence in the 1980s. Currently there are more than 20 million infected people on the Continent, and 11 million orphans as a result of HIV-related deaths. Clearly this is a situation that calls for a rethink of the Church’s policy on the use of condoms.

This is separate from the abortion debate. This is about disease prevention. I find it hard to reconcile church teachings of love with the heartless condemnation of millions to their graves. Now, individuals can make their own decisions regarding whether to engage in unprotected sex or not. But I also think that it matters if their priest or pastor tells them to do so. As long as the church is against AIDS prevention (yes, refusal to allow condom use amounts to being against AIDS prevention) government efforts to tame the disease will continue to founder.

It is easy for moralists perched up in far off places to dictate to their faithfuls on the Continent that they should not use birth control or protect themselves against AIDS. But African governments should know better than to stand by and let this be. They are the ones who are losing hundreds of thousands of teachers, doctors, engineers, civil servants and most importantly PARENTS every year. Millions of children are left orphaned and therefore a burden to the state. Rome or the evangelical churches will never have to deal with the losses that these governments have to deal with as a result.

There is a huge disconnect between the church and the realities on the ground on the Continent. The fact of the matter is that people are having sex outside of wedlock. The church (and even the state) should have good reasons to worry about this (the concern here being the hordes of unplanned pregnancies, especially among teenagers). But the best way to deal with it is not to preach abstinence and then pretend that people will listen. Governments and the church should be aggressive with ALL preventive measures. Once the disease is down to negligible levels then perhaps we can revive the moralizing crusades. Now is simply not the time.