The Right Coast
May 11, 2005
St. Kristof the Ignorant speaks
By Tom Smith
This has got to be my least favorite canard. This is the claim, close to absurd on its face, that the Catholic Church is encouraging the spread of AIDS by not promoting the use of condoms in the Third World, especially Africa.
Notice how innocent of anything like statistics Kristof's opinion piece is. It is called opinion, and boy, that's what it is.
The spread of AIDS in Africa has a lot of causes, none of them pretty. Not having condoms is the least of their problems. For one, many southern Africans favor dry sex. You haven't heard that? Well, maybe you don't know a hell of a lot about African sexual practices, just like Kristof. I heard about it from an infectious diseases expert in Peru, who mentioned several reasons for the AIDS epidemic in Africa, Catholics not being one of them. If Africans are averse even to natural or artifical lubrication, because they don't like the way it feels, just how are condoms going to save the day? Kristof makes it sound like all these happy innocents just want to have nice, sex with a condom, but darn it, Sister Chastity told them no condom, so boo hoo, I guess we will just have to risk AIDS. What rubbish. The huge cultural barriers against condoms in Africa don't need any help from the Church. It's just a convenient way to bash the Catholics. How sad for the New York Times that abortion doesn't cure AIDS.
Oh, here's a fact. Catholicism is small, minority religion in the African countries where incidence of AIDS is highest. However, maybe the Vatican is somehow controlling behavior remotely.
Here's another thing. All kinds of extra- marital or extra-stable relationship sex is common in Africa. Prostitution is rife. So is sex with children, "sugar daddy sex," promiscuity and various other practices that help spread AIDS. Lots of discussions of AIDS downplay this, but it is extremely important. Yes, it doesn't help that so many Africans choose not to use condoms, but the deeper problem is that so many choose to frequent prostitutes, keep multiple sexual partners, and infect their young mistresses. The idea that if the Church would just support condoms, this would all change, is ridiculous. What needs to change is behavior. Prostitution is a horrific industry in Africa that exploits women and children mercilessly. In many instances, it is simply sexual slavery. If Kristof wants to help the victims of the world, maybe he should say something about that, instead of criticizing the dedicated people who actually work to help the victims in these places, rather than getting paid top dollar to recycle tired lefty bromides.
And yes, AIDS is also a disease of poverty in Africa. It has more to do with lack of jobs than lack of condoms. What African women need is a place to work besides a brothel, not a brothel with plenty of condoms. What African children need is schools, not truck drivers with plenty of rubbers. Kristof may think he is just indulging in a little innocent Catholic bashing, but what he is really doing is showing his typical American liberal ignorance about the plight of the people his moral betters -- I refer to the priests, nuns and lay people who are actually working in Africa -- are trying to help. Catholic charities are doing a lot more to fight AIDS in Africa than Kristof and the New York Times are. All he is saying in effect is, Let's make sexual exploitation more hygenic! The Congo isn't some Manhattan day academy, and theTimes is not helping by not telling lies about the Church.
Catholic Relief Services in Africa.