Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Suggested additions to episcopal regalia

Ostrich feathers--only for bishops who keep their heads stuck in the ground.

Such as the bishops of Tanzania in Africa--a country with a population of 31 million of which 2 million are HIV-infected (the U.S. rate is only about 1 million out of population of 280)--are condemning a government sponsored health program for primary schools that teaches 12-year-olds how to properly use a condom, according to Reuters. That method of HIV prevention is only one of many forms of prevention included in the curriculum.

According to a Reuters report, Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, the archbishop of Dar es Salaam, said, "Introduction of the [teaching of] use of condoms in schools, apart from being sinful, is indeed justification and opening the door for immoral lifestyles." He said the church had to respond to "defend human dignity." From what?

It may seem harsh to expose 12-year-olds to condoms, but consider that Tanzania, like many African nations, is facing an unprecedented epidemic, that many young women experience sexual intercourse at an earlier age--the life expectancy is less than 50 now--and that there is little access to HIV treatment. HIV diagnosis means death, and women and girls are most susceptible to HIV transmission through heterosexual contact.

I just don't see how Catholic leaders can justify open opposition to programs that are proven to reduce HIV infection rates just because those methods aren't "perfect." Life in Africa--and in many other places for that matter--is not "perfect" by any stretch of the imagination--think little clean drinking water, famine, and exploitation by the West. I hardly think condoms are the greatest threat to anyone's human dignity. The are a matter of life and death.


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