Posts Tagged “abstinence”

Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford 3, 2009-09-02The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Hartford has a number of problems on its hands. It has several misbehaving priests to deal with, in addition to its campaign to control the state of Connecticut. One would think that Archbishop Mansell would be working to address these and other issues — such as the continuing lawsuits and controversy over a deceased pedophile doctor at St Francis Hospital in Hartford (cached). But if one thinks that, one would be wrong. It turns out that the archdiocese has a much larger agenda, which includes an effort to promote abstinence among gays in Connecticut, as the Hartford Courant reports (WebCite cached article):

The Hartford Archdiocese wants gays and lesbians to practice abstinence in the new year.

On Tuesday, the archdiocese announced it was launching a local chapter of a national ministry called Courage “to support men and women who struggle with homosexual tendencies and to motivate them to live chaste and fruitful lives in accordance with Catholic Church teachings.”

This effort is ironic; on the one hand the archdiocese is putting forth a specific effort to reach out to gays; on the other hand, it’s telling them they’re disordered and need to curb themselves:

Linda Estabrook, executive director of the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective, took offense.

Thousands in the state receive services each year from the health organization, whose motto is “Be well. Be yourself.” The ministry implies that many of them “are not moral and are not leading fulfilling lives, and that is not true,” Estabrook said.

Those of us with brains can see how insulting and backhanded this ministry is, but I’ll concede that the folks who came up with it don’t see any problem with what they’re doing. The Catholic Church is run by a bunch of celibate men; they probably don’t consider it unreasonable to order gays to be celibate, too. They’re celibate themselves, so — in their eyes — there’s nothing wrong with it.

This idiocy serves as further evidence of how out-of-touch with reality the leadership of the Catholic Church is … as though we needed any more such evidence. I think the archdiocese of Hartford should work on putting its own house in order before it runs around telling other people how to live. And this shouldn’t be too much to ask of a Christian organization. After all, Jesus Christ himself is reported to have said:

Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own? And how dare you say to your brother, “Let me take that splinter out of your eye,” when, look, there is a great log in your own? Hypocrite! Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye. (Mt 7:3-5)

How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out that splinter in your eye,” when you cannot see the great log in your own? Hypocrite! Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter in your brother’s eyes. (Lk 6:42)

Time for the archdiocese to put Jesus’ own teachings into effect, and straighten out their own act before ordering other people around.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Benedict XVI recently weighed in on the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and made an astonishing claim, as the AP reported:

Pope Benedict XVI said condoms are not the answer to the AIDS epidemic in Africa and can make the problem worse, setting off criticism Tuesday as he began a weeklong trip to the continent where some 22 million people are living with HIV. …

In his four years as pope, Benedict had never directly addressed condom use, although his position is not new. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, often said that sexual abstinence — not condoms — was the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.

Benedict also said the Roman Catholic Church was at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.

“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane heading to Yaounde. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

The pope said a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease, as he answered questions submitted in advance by reporters traveling on the plane. His response was presumably also prepared in advance.

In the most technical sense only, the Pope has a point. Having less sex means less AIDS transmission. However, his position — that the only way to solve the AIDS epidemic in Africa, is for the entire continent to collectively stop having sex — is unrealistic to the point of being asinine.

It’s just not going to happen!

Not only that, the Pope is not an epidemiologist and has no expertise to rely on, in making this claim. He is looking at it in a purely idealistic or philosophical fashion. Few problems have ever been solved by idealistic means, however.

The Pope has, naturally, taken some heat over his claim, but continues to defend his indefensible claim, as Reuters reports:

The Vatican on Wednesday defended Pope Benedict’s opposition to the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS as activists, doctors and politicians criticised it as unrealistic, unscientific and dangerous. …

Asked about the criticism, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope was “maintaining the position of his predecessors”.

The Vatican also says condoms can also lead to risky behaviour but many contest that view.

Kevin De Cock, director of the World Health Organisation’s HIV/AIDS department, said there is no scientific evidence showing that condom use spurs people to take more sexual risks.

The Vatican’s claim that widely-available condoms increase irresponsible behavior, is akin to slippery-slope thinking, and for that reason, is fallacious. It might intuitively appear to be the case, but intuitive suppositions are not facts. The Reuters article quotes someone who actually is an expert in the field, who summarizes how stupid the Vatican is being on this matter:

“The pope saying they are not good is like someone saying travelling by air is not 100 percent safe, so we should not fly,” said Pat Matemilola, national co-ordinator for the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), a medical doctor who has been living with HIV/AIDS for more than a decade.

The moral of this story: Being a religious or spiritual figure — even one as revered as the Pope — does not make one an expert in fields one has never studied. Credentials matter; idealism, or worse, religionism, doesn’t.

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If you think Fox News really is “fair and balanced,” guess again. They’ve been the mouthpieces for the Religious Right ever since the channel began in the mid 90s, and they remain so. The lengths to which Fox News will go, in order to make the Religious Right look good even in the face of obvious facts to the contrary, are ludicrous.

Here is one example which I just came across recently.

On the heels of a metastudy — which I blogged about a little over a week ago — showing that “abstinence-only” sex education is a dismal failure and actually results in more teen pregnancies than other types — Fox News released this story a couple of days later in an attempt to show the opposite:

Study: Religious Teens More Likely to Abstain from Sex

Religious teens lose their virginity later than those who are not religious — waiting on average three years longer than their peers, a recent study reported.

Janet Rosenbaum, a post doctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, wrote in this month’s issue of “Pediatrics” that those with strong religious backgrounds became sexually active at about 21 on average — regardless if they took a pledge to remain a virgin until marriage. …

Rosenbaum told FOXNews.com she compared apples to apples. “The behavior of teenagers who have never been to church before is pretty irrelevant when understanding the behavior virginity pledgers,” she said.

Overall, religious students, regardless of whether they take virginity pledges, are more conservative than their non-religious peers. When compared against national averages, “they are having sex an average of about three years later than the average American,” Rosenbaum said.

Note that in this story, Fox News does not dispute that the taking of virginity pledges does not affect whether or not kids have sex. What they are doing is emphasizing — instead — that religious kids are less likely to have sex. Moreover, they are actually dismissing the behavior of non-church-going kids as “irrelevant” to the study.

This is an insane use of the figures in this study. The study ostensibly is examining whether “abstinence-only” sex education coupled with virginity pledges, actually works. Clearly it does not do so. What Fox is doing, here, is plucking out of these results, those kids who are not church-going. But they cannot really do that … since quite obviously these “abstinence-only” sex education programs include both church-going and non-church-going kids! You cannot measure their effectiveness by culling out a big chunk of that group!

What Fox has done, therefore, is to put a happier face on what is truly bad news for the Religious Right, by shining a light only on a tiny part of it and de-emphasizing the rest.

“Fair and balanced”? I think I’ll let “you decide.”

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