The blog of Dr Glenn Andrew Peoples on Theology, Philosophy, and Social Issues

The Pope is Right: In Africa, Condom Orthodoxy is Wrong


I’ve  titled this blog entry based on the title of the article by Edward Green as it appeared in the World Focus Supplement of our local paper, the Otago Daily Times. Apparently (and fortunately) the editor down here is less concerned about provocative titles than the powers that be at the Washington Post, where the article was simply called “The Pope May Be Right.” How boring.

I’m a Protestant. I do not defer to the Pope in any matter because he is the Pope. I also do not have a principled moral objection to all forms of contraception. But the drive behind family planning organisations (that is, organisations for those planning never to have a family) and the like is more like a vacant sounding religious mantra than anything else. When Pope Benedict told Africa and the world that the public promotion of condom use was not the appropriate answer to Africa’s colossal AIDS and HIV problem, he was lambasted for it. A newspaper (see the linked article for details) depicted the Pope as cynically declaring to a crowd of dying Africans: “Blessed are the sick, for they have not used condoms.”

“Yet in truth,” Green points out, much to the chagrin of our secular liberal commentators, “current empirical research supports him.”

It’s public suicide for any liberal public figure to dare suggest that the Pope just might have a point on something like public policy on sexual behaviour. So much so that it doesn’t seem to matter if the facts side with him. But, as Green notes:

In 2003, Norman Hearst and Sanny Chen of the University of California conducted a condom effectiveness study for the United Nations’ AIDS program and found no evidence of condoms working as a primary HIV-prevention measure in Africa. UNAIDS quietly disowned the study. (The authors eventually managed to publish their findings in the quarterly Studies in Family Planning.) Since then, major articles in other peer-reviewed journals such as the Lancet, Science and BMJ have confirmed that condoms have not worked as a primary intervention in the population-wide epidemics of Africa. In a 2008 article in Science called “Reassessing HIV Prevention” 10 AIDS experts concluded that “consistent condom use has not reached a sufficiently high level, even after many years of widespread and often aggressive promotion, to produce a measurable slowing of new infections in the generalized epidemics of Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Check out the article in full for more.

Glenn Peoples


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1 Comment

  1. I wonder when family planning will come to a simliar conclusion here in New Zealand.

    The context is different and condoms may by more effective here but we have essentiually raised a culture that believes sex with a condom is okay!!

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