John Derbyshire is sort of the cranky uncle in National Review’s the Corner. He’s someone I used to find amusing, but he often goes off the rails when it comes to social and religious issues. I was prepared to ignore his scathing attack of a George W. Bush op-ed in which the former president defended his efforts to increase funding to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa. Derb’s not much impressed by Bush’s perceived moralizing, and objects to the public financing of something that he feels should be done through private charity. It’s a sentiment worthy of debate on its own merits, but I was struck by this comment:
The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive. The high incidence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by customary practices there. What is needed is for people to change those customary practices. Instead, at a cost of billions to the U.S. taxpayer, we have made it possible for Africans to continue in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits.
Perhaps the future of sub-Saharan Africa would be brighter if the people of that place changed some of their customs; but now, thanks to us, they don’t have to. (A similar point can be made about domestic AIDS-relief funding, currently around $20 billion a year.)
By “customary practices,” I’m assuming that Derb is talking about both promiscuous sexual activity and rampant drug use.
The reason that this jumped out at me is because it’s a rather familiar argument. After all, isn’t this an echo of what we argue when we note that the encouragement of condom use in Africa won’t solve the AIDS epidemic there? Don’t we, too, claim that we need to change cultural practices, not hand out condoms? In essence, Derb is making a similar argument. By contributing money, he’s saying, you’re absolving people of some of the responsibility for their behavior and perhaps encouraging them to continue in that very behavior which leads them to contract the AIDS virus.
Now it’s not exactly the same thing. Charitable contributions and condom distribution are, to say the least, not morally equivalent. Also, one of the arguments against condom use is that it simply encourages people to have sex outside of marriage. Aside from the moral problems associated with this, even “protected” sex is not 100% safe. Donating money to help people who have already acquired the disease – many through no moral failing of their own – seems to be a rather humane response and should not be scrapped.
Based on the tenor of his post it’s clear that Derb isn’t exactly coming at this from a cultural point-of-view, but is criticizing the program based on an extreme libertarian notion about foreign aid. It does occur to me, however, that this might be one of those moments, discussed on this very blog in recent weeks, where libertarians and social conservatives can find some common ground. Though Derb’s advocacy of a complete abandonment of any American aid certainly feels harsh and is, I believe, an extreme solution , it seems that he shares our end goal of changing behavior.
On the other hand, perhaps one commenter on the Corner has the right response to Derbyshire’s post:
`I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned – they cost enough:
and those who are badly off must go there.’
“If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population…”
Basically he said, as an extreme example, if a male prostitute was to use a condom during sex, it was a step towards a better morality.
Pope Benedict wasn’t speaking ex-cathedra.
Nonetheless, the secular media, like clockwork, has declared that condoms are now allowed by all fornicators (not like dissident Catholics were following the teachings of the Church anyways).
So here is a short roundup of the better informed among us:
Pope Approves Restricted Use of Condoms? – M.J. Andrew, TAC
Understanding Pope’s Dilemma on Condoms – Jimmy Akin, NCRgstr
Condoms, Consistency, (mis)Communication – Thomas Peters, AmP
Pope Changed Church Condoms Teaching? – Q. de la Bedoyere, CH
A Vatican Condom Conversion? – Mollie, Get Religion
Pope: Condoms, Sex Abuse, Resignation & Movie Nights – John Allen
What The Pope Really Said About Condoms in New Book? – Janet Smith
Ginger Factor: Pope Approves of Condoms! – Jeff Miller, The Crt Jstr
The Pope and Condoms – Steve Kellmeyer, The Fifth Column
Pope Did Not Endorse the Use of Condoms – Fr. Zuhlsdorf, WDTPRS?
Did Pope Change Teaching About Condoms? – Brett Salkeld, Vox Nova
Formal cooperation in another’s evil act (that is, undertaking to help expressly another to perform an act known to be evil) is itself evil. Davis, Moral and Pastoral Theology (1938), I: 341-342. There are no exceptions to this rule; no supervening circumstances can ever render formal cooperation in evil good.
For consideration: an excerpt from President Barack Obama’s commencement speech at Notre Dame:
The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships can be relieved.
The question, then — the question then is how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without, as Father John said, demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?
Salvete AC readers!
Here are today’s Top Picks in the Catholic world:
1. Mark Shea has accused the pro-life anti-abortion torture defenders for creating the ‘nightmare’ of Patriot Act abuse. A homeschooled kid was arrested under suspicion of sending death threats to President Obama via his computer. It seems as if someone hijacked his IP address to issue those death threats. As of now he is in jail and hasn’t been allowed to meet his family nor lawyers.
To read Mark Shea’s posting on this click here.
2. Child molesters in the Church again? Nope, but the mainstream media isn’t picking up on the story of a Los Angeles school district ‘repeatedly’ returning child molesters to the classrooms. In a front page story on May 10 the Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) “repeatedly” returned teachers and aides credibly accused of child molestation back to classrooms, and these individuals then molested children again. The major networks, MSNBC, and CNN have failed to pick up on this story.
For the full story by Dave Pierre of NewBusters click here.
3. It seems that Fr. John Jenkins believes in the promotion of condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS. Which is directly contrary to Pope Benedict XVI’s (as well as the Magisterium’s teaching) statement that condoms were not the solution to the problem of AIDS. Fr. Jenkins, the President of Notre Dame, is a board member of Millennium Promise which promotes condom use to fight the spread of AIDS.
For the article click here.
[Update I:I want to make an addendum that so many of you insist I make. I want to also add that Fr. John Jenkins seems to support abortion as well as condom usage.
Millenium Promise, the organization that Fr. John Jenkins is a board member of clearly states on their very own website the following:
Which can be found on the main webpage of Millenium Promise. Emphasis mine.:
Page 84 of Millenium Villages Handbook on condom usage:
Budget and Procurement. The budget for the HIV/AIDS response depends on a number of factors. On the treatment side, the major budgetary concern is the provision of ARV drugs to those in need. Beyond ARV costs, other costs include staffing, other medication, CD4 counts, prevention programming, condom provision, nutritional supplementation, and VHW support.
Page 85 of Millenium Villages Handbook on condom usage:
Communication for Preventing Disease and Changing Behavior: Behavior change communication plays a key role in preventing the spread of HIV and must be seen as a central element in any response to HIV/AIDS. This core intervention includes education, awareness building, advocacy, condom distribution, and education (both male and female), rights building, and voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) promotion among other activities.
Page 92 of Millenium Villages Handbook on condom usage:
Contraception and family planning: Family planning and contraception services are critical to allow women to choose family size and birth spacing, to combat sexually transmitted infections, including HIV infection, and contribute to the reduction of maternal morbidity and mortality. Services include: (1) Counseling; (2) Male and female condoms; (3) Pharmacologic contraceptives including oral, transdermal, intramuscular, and implanted methods; and (4) IUDs
Page 92 of Millenium Villages Handbook on abortion:
Abortion services: In countries where abortion is legal, safe abortion services in controlled settings by skilled practitioners should be established. In villages with a nearby district center with sound surgical capacity, these services can be referred. However, in instances where no district center or alternate post for safe abortion practices is accessible, abortion services can be offered at the village level, provided that sufficient surgical capacity exists.]
A while back, I outline the case that the use of condoms to combat the AIDS epidemic actually has the opposite effect and that it is not a pro-life measure, as some would imagine that it is.
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, while on his apostolic journey in Africa made remarks about the use of condoms and the crisis of AIDS that drew an incredible amount of criticism.
As providence would have it, a senior research scientist of Harvard School of Public Health has spoken out and agreed with the Holy Father.
George Weigel would like to thank President Bush. “For what, you ask? For many things that ought to count for Catholics”:
Frequently in discourse with non-Catholics, or some Catholics even, when the issue of contraception and the AIDS epidemic arises, there is uneasiness about the Church’s teaching on dealing with this deeply troubling matter. One might argue that by maintaining opposition to the use of condoms, the Catholic Church contributes rather to the spread of AIDS in Africa, for if the “Vatican hierarchy” cared more about people’s lives than rigid doctrines that even most Catholics reject, they would change their view to prevent the spread of AIDS. Why? It is the more “pro-life” thing to do given that it would save millions from dying from unprotected sex.