Michael Cook evaluates the late Pope's legacy with regards to AIDS on the African continent.

A sample:

Superimposing maps of prevalence of AIDS on prevalence of Catholicism is enough to sink the link between the Catholic Church and AIDS. In the hospice which is Swaziland nowadays, only about 5 per cent of the population is Catholic. In Botswana, where 37 per cent of the adult population is HIV infected, only 4 per cent of the population is Catholic. In South Africa, 22 per cent of the population is HIV infected, and only 6 per cent is Catholic. But in Uganda, with 43 per cent of the population Catholic, the proportion of HIV infected adults is 4 per cent (9).

In fact, without the Catholic Church the situation might be much worse. The AIDS disaster in Africa weighed heavily on the Pope. Ten years ago he appealed to "the world's scientists and political leaders, moved by the love and respect due to every human person, to use every means available in order to put an end to this scourge" (10). And Catholics have responded.

About 27 per cent of health care for HIV/AIDS victims is provided by Church organisations and Catholic NGOs, as even The Lancet has acknowledged (11). They form a vast network of clinics which reach the poorest, most remote and most neglected people in Africa.

These statistics suggest that the true story may be quite the opposite to the tune sung by the media: that Catholic observance may, in fact, be the best prophylactic.

His conclusion:

There is a political answer. A slick campaign to discredit the Pope and the traditional teachings of their Church has been operational for several years. A pro-abortion rights group called Catholics for a Free Choice (CFC) launched an international PR drive in December 2001 to promote their view that "good Catholics use condoms". Advertisements in the US, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, Kenya, Chile and Zimbabwe were intended to mark "the first phase of an effort to change the Vatican's policy and challenge its aggressive lobbying against availability and access to condoms in areas of the world most at risk" (19). Subsequent media coverage, at least in the UK, has reflected the major themes of CFC's ideology.

But on a deeper level, Catholic beliefs about sexuality clash with what John Paul II called a "pathology of the spirit". As an example of this, take Polly Toynbee's claim that "contraception is women's true saviour". The Pope looked to a different saviour. He knew that technology cannot repair the wounded human condition. It cannot inject self-restraint; it cannot infuse respect for others; it cannot manufacture a sense of responsibility. The only lasting salvation comes not from a pill or a latex tube but from a conversion of heart. A technical patch will leave Africa's acute problems of gender inequality, poverty, low education and social disruption unsolved. And without fixing these, the AIDS problem is sure to get worse.

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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on June 14, 2005 7:45 AM.

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