by Eric Martin
Mark Leon Goldberg reminds us of a rather grim statistic: 2 million people died from AIDS in Africa last year. Goldberg offers more tragic numbers:
22 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa live with AIDS, that's about 5% of the adult population. 1.5 million adults and children die each year from the disease. Each of these infections and deaths are individual human tragedies, but taken together AIDS exerts a heavy toll on fragile health care systems of these poor countries.
To their credit, a number of sub-Saharan African countries are facing the AIDS epidemic head on. Central to these efforts are vast public information campaigns on how condoms can prevent AIDS.
Progress is being made in some areas - thanks to these efforts. Yet the Catholic Church - that bastion of the so-called "culture of life" - does not support the distribution of condoms on...moral grounds. The moral objection to the use of contraceptives trumps even though such reticence contributes to the conditions that lead to millions of dead and infected each year. But the Church does not merely withhold support for such initiatives, it actively works against them. The Pope, ahead of his first trip to Africa:
"The problem cannot be overcome by distributing condoms. It only increases the problem," the pontiff told reporters on board the plane headed for Africa.
Actually, you know what increases the problem? Rigid, antiquated and stunted conceptions of morality that have lost the plot entirely. There are worse things than extra-marital sex. The suffering and death attendant to HIV/AIDS being one such thing (especially for the non-adulterous women infected by their wayward husbands, as well as infected newborns that had no part in the underlying sin).
Compassion must be the guiding principle to spiritual beliefs or you're missing the point entirely. At least, that was Jesus' take.