I recently posted a short excerpt from a news article in which it was noted that the governments of France and Germany, as well as the British medical journal The Lancet, condemned the Pope for being “irresponsible and dangerous”, for daring to suggest that condom distribution might not be the best way to check the spread of AIDS in Africa.
I posted substantially the same text in a discussion group which I frequent, the majority of the members of which are atheists and liberals. I am the only Catholic and I know of only two other Christians who are members of the group: One of whom rarely makes an appearance and another who made one appearance and then never showed up again.
The gist of my argument, again, is that it seems racist to condemn the Pope for dissenting from the prevailing orthodoxy with respect to the best way to mitigate the effects of promiscuity in Africa, namely the spread of AIDS; while never uttering a word of criticism, let alone condemnation, of those who are committing the promiscuity itself. The reason it’s racist is this: It implies that the Pope is worthy of condemnation while promiscuous Africans are not. Which in turn implies that the Pope should have known better and should have moderated his actions so as not to commit such an “irresponsible and dangerous” act — but that Africans cannot be expected to know better or to moderate their actions so as not to commit “irresponsible and dangerous” acts of promiscuity which spread AIDS.
Condemn one who declines to endorse condoms as a way of mitigating the effects of actions which put people’s lives in danger — but don’t condemn those who are committing the acts themselves!
One liberal atheist responded, “If Catholic priests molest children and don’t seem willing to alter their behavior, what right does the Pope have to demand that non-priests should alter THEIR behavior?”
Which is an excellent point. In favor of my argument, that is. You don’t see the governments of France and Germany, or The Lancet, holding back on their condemnation of molesting priests. Yet they decline to condemn promiscuous Africans.
Again (and again), the implication is that promiscuous American and European priests should be able to control their libidos, and should be condemned for failing to do so; but promiscuous Africans should not be expected to do the same, nor condemned for failing to do so, even when the results may be deadly. Why are priests be expected to control themselves while Africans are excused from doing the same?
It’s clear from what I’ve written, yet I’ll spell it out all the same: I’m not saying molesting priests should not be condemned. I’m saying that all people ought to be given credit for being able to control themselves, and therefore should be asked and expected to control themselves, rather than being excused from any obligation to do so. This includes priests (above all, in fact) as well as Africans, Europeans and Americans, and homosexuals as well as heterosexuals. In fact it’s my belief that underlying the priestly molestation scandal was a societal relaxing of the expectation that people in general can and should control their sexual urges, and the idea that in fact people should indulge them and use them as a means of self-expression. I suspect that these ideas were allowed to seep into the seminaries and were a partial contributor to the molestations.
But you don’t see me, or the Pope for that matter, or The Lancet or the governments of Germany or France, saying that the poor priests couldn’t help themselves since they received such poor priestly formation, so let’s all give them a break, huh? It wasn’t realistic to expect them to control their sexual urges under those circumstances, right? On the contrary, everyone agrees that they should be held responsible for their actions.
Yet when it comes to the AIDS epidemic in Africa, you see no such calls from European governments or the liberal media, to encourage people to control their urges and either abstain from sex or remain monogamous, for the sake of saving lives. Instead all you hear is that it’s unrealistic to have any expectation that the people will control themselves, even when their actions might kill people.
This, I repeat, is insulting to Africans, and possibly racist.
Of course some make the point that those who condemned the Pope, but don’t condemn promiscuous Africans for their share of responsibility for the spread of AIDS, aren’t racist since they also don’t condemn promiscuous Europeans or Americans. Well of course they don’t. And the reason is obvious: It’s simply taboo in the liberal Western media to condemn the promiscuity of those who spread AIDS, because aside from the question of how true it is, the widespread perception is that AIDS in the West is a primarily homosexual disease. So to condemn those who spread AIDS would be perceived as condemning homosexuals. Which is a BIG no-no in our society.
So we may not condemn promiscuous Africans for spreading AIDS, because it might be perceived as condemning blacks; and we may not condemn promiscuous Europeans and Americans who spread AIDS because it might be perceived as condemning homosexuals. We would rather let people die than break these taboos.
In recent years there has been a massive media campaign in the U.S. against smoking, which seeks to portray purveyors of tobacco as evil, and people who smoke as stupid and as dupes of the tobacco companies. The idea apparently is to try to remove the “cool” factor from smoking, by portraying smoking as decidedly uncool. A laudable intention, really: to use the power of the media to influence attitudes, in the service of saving lives.
Why hasn’t a similar media campaign been launched in an attempt to stanch the spread of AIDS? They could portray large corporations who try to use sex to make money, including movie studios, TV networks and their advertisers, as evil; and promiscuous people as dupes of these evil corporations. They could at least try to use their power to influence attitudes in the service of saving lives.
But again this would encroach on forbidden ground. More important to obey the taboos than to save lives.