Saturday, March 28, 2009

Condom Quandary: Lancet, Facebook Join International Criticism of Pope's Remarks

CNN reports that the British medical journal Lancet and Facebook groups based mainly in Europe have joined the chorus of governments, AIDS-awareness and health agencies criticizing the pope for his gratuitous remarks that condoms do nothing to combat the spread of HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.

The pope's restatement of a long-held Vatican position sheds more public light on a major flaw in the official Catholic stance on human sexuality, pointed out by moral theologian Charles E. Curran and others: that by focusing too prominently on the physical structure of the act of reproduction, it prevents appropriate appreciation of other aspects of sexual acts, including their potential role in endangering public health and the best ways to avert that impact. Excerpts from the CNN report follow:

Critics took to the social networking site Facebook to voice their fury over Pope Benedict's remark that condoms do not prevent HIV.

Thousands have pledged to send the pontiff millions of condoms to protest the controversial comment he made to journalists as he flew to Cameroon last week.

"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

Pope Benedict XVI has made it clear he intends to uphold the traditional Catholic teaching on artificial contraception. The Vatican has long opposed the use of condoms and other forms of birth control and encourages sexual abstinence to fight the spread of the disease.

About a dozen Facebook groups have sprang up (sic), mostly from European countries, criticizing the pontiff.

The online campaign added another voice to a deluge of criticism, which includes the governments of France, Germany and Belgium. Aid agencies and other health organizations have also chimed in.

The Lancet, a British medical journal, urged the pope Saturday to issue a retraction for the "outrageous and wildly inaccurate" statement to journalists aboard his plane.

"When any influential person, be it a religious or political leader, makes a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people, they should retract or correct the public record," The Lancet said in an editorial.

"Anything less from Pope Benedict would be an immense disservice to the public and health advocates, including many thousands of Catholics, who work tirelessly to try and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide."

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