Pope Benedict XVI is under fire for reiterating the Catholic Church's opposition to condom use while on his first pilgrimage to Africa. The pontiff told reporters that condoms are not the solution to the AIDS epidemic ravaging the continent; rather, they “aggravate” the problem.
His comments sparked a firestorm. “My reaction is that this represents a major step backward in terms of global health education, is entirely counterproductive, and is likely to lead to increases in HIV infection in Africa and elsewhere,” said Quentin Sattentau, a professor of immunology at Britain's Oxford University.
Even the French government got involved. “While it is not up to us to pass a judgment on the doctrines of the church, we consider that such remarks put in danger public health policy and imperative needs regarding the protection of human life,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. We can always count on the French to fight - to the last man, if necessary - for the right to strap on a plastic rubber for recreational sex.
However, Pope Benedict simply restated the church's long-held view that sexual abstinence and fidelity within traditional marriage is the most effective way to prevent the spread of HIV infection. He is right: AIDS is a disease caused by behavior; it is not hereditary or genetic. HIV is most commonly transmitted by sex between men, intravenous drug use and heterosexual sex. It is a disease that primarily plagues homosexuals, drug users and those who engage in promiscuous sex with multiple, overlapping partners. Correcting these behaviors will dramatically curb the HIV infection rate.
Moreover, distributing condoms has not been effective but has only made the situation worse. Nearly 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV. The AIDS crisis threatens the continent's economic and social stability. Africa is short on many things - food, water, good governance - but condoms is not one of them. United Nations, health and family planning agencies have relentlessly promoted them for years. Yet, condoms are not the solution for one simple reason: Their use encourages reckless sexual activity, a major source of the pandemic.
Contrary to the claims of so-called “experts,” condoms are not infallible. Many of them break, tear or come off during intercourse. Wearing a condom while having sex outside of marriage is a form of Russian roulette - a high-stakes game that comes with a potentially devastating price.
Birth control leads to higher rates of sexual activity. Condoms create the illusion that they offer protection from the moral and physical consequences of sex. Hence, individuals increasingly engage in permissive, risky behavior, expanding their appetite for more sexual pleasure. The result is a sex-obsessed, promiscuous culture in which sometimes condoms are used and other times they're not, depending on the person's “mood.”
Thus, AIDS is metastasizing across Africa because too many people have no regard for their bodies, and are willing to engage in deadly behavior. All the condoms in the world will not change this dysfunctional culture. Only a spiritual revival - one that is being led by the Catholic Church - can ultimately alter hearts, minds and actions.
The pope's critics do not have to look at Africa for evidence that condoms are ineffective in combating AIDS. All they must do is look closer to home: Washington, D.C.
The District's official report this week was astounding: The number of people with HIV infections rose 22 percent from 2006 to 2007. More ominously, the report said 6.5 percent of the city's black men are infected - that is more than 1 in 20. The disease is decimating not only the District's gay community, but its African-American neighborhoods. Yet, the city has a major condom distribution program: More than 1.5 million condoms were distributed in 2008. In other words, it is raining condoms and still the District's AIDS rate is soaring. The answer is not free birth control or more sex education, but a return to the old Judeo-Christian moral order - marriage, abstinence and personal responsibility.
From its inception, contraception was intended to supplant traditional morality; to replace the ethic of self-control, chastity and sex for procreation with a new one of sexual recreation. Artificial birth control was one of the most revolutionary - and destructive - inventions of the 20th century. It has fostered a shallow secularism based on hedonism and amoral individualism.
The sexual revolution of the 1960s destroyed the old America, which was characterized by the nuclear family and Christianity. Radicals, such as Herbert Marcuse and other New Left gurus, understood that overthrowing bourgeois civilization and capitalism depended upon destroying their cultural underpinnings. Marcuse championed the “pleasure principle,” arguing for a new society centered on sexual gratification. He openly called for “polymorphous perversity,” such as contraception, free love, abortion, pornography, homosexuality and divorce.
For leftist revolutionaries, the pill and the condom have served as the hammer and sickle of cultural Marxism. “Birth control appeals to the advanced radical because it is calculated to undermine the authority of the Christian churches,” said Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. “I look forward to seeing humanity free someday of the tyranny of Christianity no less than capitalism.”
That day has come. The 1960s counterculture has triumphed. Its decadent values now reign supreme, slowly sapping the West of its moral vitality. It has failed, however, to smash the Catholic Church. The Vatican is the last line of resistance.
The liberal elite know this. Hence, their relentless assault on Pope Benedict. The recent attacks on him have nothing to do with Africa or stopping the scourge of HIV. The deadly virus has killed 25 million around the world - part of the sexual revolution's countless victims. No other social institution has done more to fight AIDS or assist Africa's poor than the Roman Catholic Church. The real issue is more existential - and belligerent: the replacement of Christianity with the new quasi-religion of sexual liberation.
It is the cult of the condom, and it does not tolerate any other gods.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington think tank.