As you probably know by now, the word is that a new book about Pope Benedict coming out next week will include comments he made acknowledging the efficacy of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV. The media is having a hay day with the story, and the world is amazed that the leader of the Catholic Church has the ability to tell the truth to his millions of followers.
I guess I am a bit confused about all the excitement; in fact the statements raise more questions for me than they answer. Here are just a few of the thoughts from me, a non-Catholic woman who cares about the health of her community:
First of all, did I hear correctly or do the Pope’s comments state that condoms are acceptable if used by male prostitutes? Am I missing something here, or are there also quite a few woman in this world who are also sex workers?
A public statement by the Pope stating that condoms are an appropriate way to prevent the spread of HIV is great for the AIDS prevention movement, but why is he ignoring the needs of female sex workers? Furthermore, as the leader of such a homophobic institution, why is he giving such attention to the needs of homosexual men? (I am just confused). Even further, why is the media ignoring this aspect of his remarks so much? Blatantly stating that men deserve to be protected against HIV more than women is misogyny at its worst.
It also begs the question of the Church’s policy regarding male prostitutes who have female clients. Given the fact that HIV prevention is but secondary to pregnancy prevention, should a faithful Catholic who works as a male prostitute refuse to wear a condom with a woman client? I need some clarification here.
What, exactly, is holding the Catholic Church back from acknowledging the health needs of women?
On a more positive note, these statements are a great step in the right direction as Catholic social service agencies serve millions of people in our communities. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reports on their website that Catholic charities served over 8.5 million people in 2004 and that 561 Catholic hospitals provided care to over 86 million people. That is a huge opportunity to spread awareness about safe sex, and I truly hope that the recent change in the language will come with an increase in such education.
I really need to get this off my chest: although I am glad that such an influential figure as the Pope has stopped lying to his followers and putting them in danger, it angers me that a religious leader has this much say in what people do with their bodies. To me this is not progress, it is stagnation.
Can someone please fill me in on something I am very confused about? A Vatican insider reports that the Pope has made the statements in order to “kick start a debate” about condom use. What, exactly, is the debate? From what I can understand, once the Pope makes a statement about something like this, isn’t the debate sort of resolved? Also, considering the power this man wields, would it really be a very fair debate?
So I think that pretty much sums up my initial thoughts about God and his apparent change of heart when it comes to condom use. However there is one thing that I just can’t resist ending with:
Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!
Janice is a Virtual Assistant, aspiring doula, and long-time feminist activist with a passion for women's history, nonfiction, nature, and wearing flowers in her hair. She is the Founder of The Feminist's Guide, a women's history travel website, which can be found at www.thefeministguide.com.