Monday, 23 March 2009

The Pope's not the brightest bloke

The Catholic Church is often accused of being out of date and distance from the real world and the Pope’s comment earlier this week that contraception is ‘not the answer to AIDS’ does lend rather a lot of credibility to this accusation. As someone who dislikes religion, particularly organised religion, particularly the Catholic Church, you could hardly expect me not to use this to slate Catholic now could you?

In the Pope’s defence (I never thought I’d write those words) he has a point; contraception is not 100% effective and can lead to complacency, even, heaven forbid, promiscuity, however it think it is safe to say that they form part of the solution to the spread of HIV rather than part of the problem. In place of contraception the Pope and indeed the Catholic Church promotes abstinence, which is fair enough; as a solution to Sexually Transmitted Infections not having sex would be pretty effective, but it seems rather harsh on people to ban them from sex with anyone in case they catch something when there is a perfectly reasonable method of protection available. Of course you would not expect the Pope to know anything about that, given that he is so pious that he has forgone sex in order to be able to drive a funky car (the Pope Mobile). I’m sure that there are other benefits, like a really nice house and plenty of choir boys to molest, but I guess the car is the major advantage. There may even be something about an afterlife as well, but I’m not entirely up to speed on my theology these days.

Sorry, I got a little distracted there, where were we? Oh yes. Sex. The reason the Catholic Church in all its majesty has decided that contraception is a bad idea is that it prevents any possibility of conception, as if we need any more children in a world which is already incredibly overpopulated and very poor in many areas (like the one that the Pope was in when he made the comment). The reason, incidentally, for this stand point was that St Thomas Aquinas decided that going at it like rabbits and making as many offspring as you possible could in your life time was inherently virtuous and we should do it as much as possible, which makes abstinence a bit of a no go. Ok I’m slightly misrepresenting catholic doctrine there, there are other things which we should do such as try to survive which mean that abstinence is probably ok, but frankly who cares?

The fact that the Catholic Church clings to these outdated ideas in the face of an ever changing and complicated world in which seems to be embracing postmodern relativism is admirable, but ultimately they are barking up the wrong tree. Banning the use of contraception in countries where HIV is widespread and medical care is poor is simply absurd. Morality should be based on principles, but they have to be the correct ones and a principle which condemns millions to die needlessly of a wasting disease is not moral. Not that the Pope, sitting in the Vatican, riding around in his pope mobile blessing random passers by, is going to recognise that because he is so distant from the real world that he might as well be cryogenically frozen and left to sit on his seat in the Vatican for all eternity.

Not that the Catholic Church needs its pope to make absurd and insensitive decisions; its bishops can do that just as well. For example in Brazil this month a doctor was excommunicated for aborting a nine year old rape victim. I don’t think I need to examine the Catholic arguments against abortion for you to appreciate just how absurd this is. Obviously when Jesus went on about compassion and mercy the Catholic Church weren’t listening very hard, or maybe they heard something we missed, maybe Jesus said that in the case of a women being raped, no mercy should be shown. Somehow I doubt it.

So, in conclusion, the Catholic Church is an insensitive, outdated institution which is in needs of some serious introspection before it can become in any way useful to society. Shame that it provides moral authority for more people worldwide than any other institution, religious or otherwise isn’t it?

N.B. This will be the last entry for a while as I’m off to Dubai on Thursday for a couple of days before flying on to Japan for just under 2 weeks. Pictures when I return.

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