Davenport, Iowa, Mar 21, 2009 (CNA) - Late last year, Larry Dingman was suffering from a painful spinal infection that put him in “sheer misery.” Two operations later, the patient at Mercy Iowa City says he’s doing better — but not just thanks to the hospital’s doctors and nurses.
“The chaplains have been fantastic,” says the Catholic truck driver from Iowa City. “The best thing is that they’d talk with me and say, ‘You’re in my prayers,’ which may not sound like a lot, but it meant a lot to me… I think that’s part of the healing process.”
In the Davenport Diocese, the three Catholic hospitals — as do other hospitals — acknowledge spirituality’s potential by providing Masses and ecumenical services, in-house and home chaplains, and other offerings. The efforts not only comply with the U.S. bishops’ directive that Catholic health care institutions treat “the whole person,” but reflect research that has linked spiritual well-being to better immune function and quicker recovery.
With faith’s role in mind, Mercy Iowa City has for about 40 years done a spiritual assessment of inpatients, says Mark McDermott. He is director of pastoral care for the hospital and one of its four full-time chaplains, all lay Catholics. (Area priests and sisters also visit the hospital, which has 9,500 inpatients annually.)
The assessment asks about emotional and spiritual issues patients are facing, the patients’ levels of faith, courage and other “inner resources,” and external supports such as a church community. Chaplains use that assessment to meet patients’ spiritual needs — perhaps by reading Scripture and praying with those who say they have no faith community nearby, McDermott says, or providing counseling.
“This stems from our mission that believes healing involves body, mind and spirit, all intimately connected,” he says. “We heal in the spirit of Jesus Christ, who healed the whole person — not just the physical ailment.”
Similarly, Mercy Medical Center in Clinton asks patients if they’d like to see a chaplain, and may document a review of patients’ church community, relationship with God, external support and coping skills. But chaplains automatically respond to code calls, deaths, traumas and high-risk transfers to provide spiritual support, says Judy Wallace, director of social services.
McDermott says he often senses emotional vulnerability in patients, who in the hospital are often more dependent than usual. “I’ll ask, would you like a prayer, and then all of a sudden the tears come,” he says.
Dingman, who was told by a doctor he “just about bought the farm,” can relate. “The experience has taught me a considerable amount about humility,” he says.
During such challenges, “there’s a need to be understood,” says McDermott. Patients need someone willing to listen and empathize, and “sometimes pastoral care is simply being that listening presence.”
“I get fulfillment out of helping someone feel understood,” he says.
Besides ministering to patients and hospital staffers, he and other Mercy Iowa City chaplains offer morning and evening prayer, daily worship service, a bereavement support group, Mass three days a week and ecumenical services four days a week. In Clinton, chaplains are available 24/7 at Mercy Medical Center, and Mass or services of the Word are offered five days a week.
Similarly, at Mercy Medical Center in Centerville, a hospital that has about 1,300 inpatients annually, Mass is celebrated monthly and an ecumenical service takes place in a nursing-home unit weekly, says Ann Young. She is vice president of community and staff relations.
Father Dennis Schaab, C.PP.S., pastor of Centerville’s St. Mary Catholic Church, is among area clergy who take turns ministering to patients each day.
LaVina Stepnoski says she appreciated his visits when a recent hospital stay kept her from attending daily Mass at St. Mary’s as usual.
“It was very important for me to have Communion,” she says. Fr. Schaab “helped me with everything I needed,” hearing her confession and praying with her.
Fr. Schaab says that even for people who’ve lapsed in their faith, religion can play a role in times of illness.
“I think in the hospital there’s a special openness on the part of people who haven’t been going to church,” he says. “It’s a time for them to be contacted, affirmed in their faith and welcomed back into their church community. That happens quite a bit.”
Printed with permission from The Catholic Messenger, newspaper for the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.
New Dehli, India, Mar 21, 2009 (CNA) - The 2008 annual report of the All India Christian Council has showed that it was a “horrible year” for Christians in India, who were subjected to waves of violence and attacks. The report called the constant persecution Christians were subjected to in the state of Orrisa, “ethnic cleansing” and “the fruit of Hindu-inspired terrorism.”
According to the Fides news agency, the AICC report indicates that there were “106 isolated attacks against Christian persons or structures, which have affected 16 states of India, with an average of 9 acts of violence per month.”
The report divides the attacks in Orissa into two phases, which it says constitute a “black page” for Indian society and for its values of democracy, freedom, pluralism and respect for individual rights.
“It is a true ‘negative record’ in the history of India,” the report stated.
The first phase of the report, described as the fruit of “ethnic cleansing,” occurred “at the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008, when Hindu extremist groups attacked the Christian community, destroying 105 churches, killing 9 Christians, assaulting and raping women, burning more than 730 rooms and damaging 40 businesses.”
The report says that the second phase began on August 23, 2008 and was the “fruit of Hindu-inspired terrorism.” This period of persecution saw 120 deaths (including a Catholic priest), 4640 destroyed homes, 315 towns in which the Christian presence was completely wiped out, 250 churches and places of prayer destroyed or damaged, 13 Christian schools looted, and more than 54,000 people made internal refugees.
Detroit, Mich., Mar 21, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput delivered a speech on Saturday reflecting on the significance of the November 2008 election. Warning that media “narratives” should not obscure truth, he blamed the indifference and complacency of many U.S. Catholics for the country’s failures on abortion, poverty and immigration issues.
He also advised Catholics to “master the language of popular culture” and to refuse to be afraid, saying “fear is the disease of our age.”
The archbishop’s comments were delivered in his keynote address at the Hands-On Conference Celebrating the Year of St. Paul, which was hosted at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
Having been asked to examine what November 2008 and its aftermath can teach Catholics about American culture, the state of American Catholicism and the kind of Pauline discipleship necessary today, Archbishop Chaput said:
“November showed us that 40 years of American Catholic complacency and poor formation are bearing exactly the fruit we should have expected. Or to put it more discreetly, the November elections confirmed a trend, rather than created a new moment, in American culture.”
Noting that there was no question about President Barack Obama’s views on abortion “rights,” embryonic stem cell research and other “problematic issues,” he commented:
“Some Catholics in both political parties are deeply troubled by these issues. But too many Catholics just don’t really care. That’s the truth of it. If they cared, our political environment would be different. If 65 million Catholics really cared about their faith and cared about what it teaches, neither political party could ignore what we believe about justice for the poor, or the homeless, or immigrants, or the unborn child. If 65 million American Catholics really understood their faith, we wouldn’t need to waste each other’s time arguing about whether the legalized killing of an unborn child is somehow ‘balanced out’ or excused by three other good social policies.”
Offering a sober evaluation of the state of American Catholicism, he added:
“We need to stop over-counting our numbers, our influence, our institutions and our resources, because they’re not real. We can’t talk about following St. Paul and converting our culture until we sober up and get honest about what we’ve allowed ourselves to become. We need to stop lying to each other, to ourselves and to God by claiming to ‘personally oppose’ some homicidal evil -- but then allowing it to be legal at the same time.”
Commenting on society’s attitude towards Catholic beliefs, Archbishop Chaput said, “we have to make ourselves stupid to believe some of the things American Catholics are now expected to accept.”
“There’s nothing more empty-headed in a pluralist democracy than telling citizens to keep quiet about their beliefs. A healthy democracy requires exactly the opposite.”
Noting the 2008 presidential campaign’s “revealing” focus upon the candidates’ “narratives,” he said the campaign seemed not to involve facts, but rather “story-telling.”
“Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with story-telling -- unless the press and other news media themselves become part of the story-telling syndicate; in other words, peddlers of narratives in which facts are not told because they’re true, but rather become ‘true’ because they’re told by those who have the power to create an absorbing narrative,” the archbishop explained.
In such a state, he warned, real power does not rest with the people but with those who “shape the structure of our information.” He linked this situation with Pope Benedict’s critique of the “dictatorship of relativism.”
The archbishop also connected this relativistic spirit to St. Paul’s appearance at the Aeropagus, recounted in the Book of Acts. At the Areopagus, a prestigious place of debate for Greek philosophers, “Nearly anything was tolerated, so long as no one claimed to have an exclusive and binding claim on the truth,” the archbishop explained.
He then quoted Acts 17’s description of the Areopagite mindset: “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”
“It’s worth paying attention to that description. There’s no mention of truth,” he commented, noting that when St. Paul preaches the truth “he’s mocked and despised and his preaching is a failure, at least in the short term.”
“Paul’s failure at the Areopagus is a good lesson for the times we face now in America,” the archbishop said. “When Catholics start leading their daily lives without a hunger for something higher than their own ambitions or appetites, or with the idea that they can create their own truth and then baptize it with an appeal to personal conscience, they become, in practice, agnostics in their personal lives, and Sophists in their public lives. In fact, people who openly reject God or dismiss Christianity as obsolete are sometimes far more honest and far less discouraging than Catholics who claim to be faithful to the Church but directly reject her guidance by their words and actions.”
Noting that Paul mastered the language of the popular urban culture of his time and used “every technical resource, tool and environment at his disposal,” Archbishop Chaput extensively quoted Pope John Paul II’s 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, which also discussed St. Paul at the Areopagus.
“If Paul felt so fiercely compelled to preach the Gospel -- whether ‘timely [or] untimely’ -- to a pagan world, then how should we feel today, preaching the Gospel to an apostate world?” he asked, answering that the love of Christ must “impel” Catholics forward.
“Catholics in America, at least the many good Catholics who yearn to live their faith honestly and deeply, can easily feel tempted to hopelessness,” he concluded. “It becomes very burdensome to watch so many persons who call themselves Catholic compromise their faith and submit their hearts and consciences to the Caesars of our day.”
But Archbishop Chaput closed by encouraging Christians to remember the words of Jesus:
“In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Yaounde, Cameroon, Mar 21, 2009 (CNA) - An African pro-life leader has noted the stark contrast between hostile media reports on Pope Benedict XVI’s Africa visit and the thousands of Africans who joyously greeted the pontiff as he arrived in Cameroon. He said the “true story” of the Pope’s visit is his inspiration of African Catholics and all people to have “hope” and to address the “root causes” of the continent’s problems.
“I saw over 2,000 people that stayed in heavy rain singing and praying as the Holy Father presided over vespers in the Basilica of Our Lady Queen of the Apostles. This is not a sign of dismay or disillusionment with the Church, but of devotion and joy,” said George Wirnkar, Director of Outreach for Human Life International’s (HLI) Francophone Africa Region.
“Perhaps the historic first visit of the Holy Father to Africa and his providential first stop in Yaoundé, Cameroon should herald an era where the authentic voice of Africans is heard rather than the imposed views of Western press who do not speak for the people of Africa—the continent of hope,” he continued, echoing Pope Benedict’s own description of Africa.
“The true story of the papal visit is that the Holy Father is inspiring African Catholics and all persons of good will to have hope, to deal directly with the root causes of the problems affecting our people, and resist the slogans of the West which offer false solutions to these problems.”
Some Western media outlets had seized upon Pope Benedict’s in-flight comments about condom usage in AIDS prevention programs. He had said:
"It is my belief that the most effective presence on the front in the battle against HIV/AIDS is precisely the Catholic Church and her institutions. I think of the Community of Sant’ Egidio, which does so much, visibly and invisibly to fight AIDS, of the Camillians, of all the nuns that are at the service of the sick.
“I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness - even through personal sacrifice - to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.”
Joseph Meaney, Director of International Coordination for HLI, commented on the Pope’s remarks, saying:
“Pope Benedict gave a thoughtful, spiritual response indicating a solution that is increasingly confirmed by empirical science… The hopeful message articulated by the Holy Father is exactly what HLI is trying to bring to fruition in cooperation with African leaders like George Wirnkar. This is about affirming what is most life-giving in African culture.”
HLI reported that it recently concluded its first Africa conference of Medical Midwifery and Nursing Students for Life. Held March 13-14, the meeting’s more than 125 student participants listened to speakers and discussed pro-life issues.
Conference participants held 10 banners along Pope Benedict’s welcome route expressing support for him.
“Papal visits are usually a time of great spiritual renewal and a time when many people are listening to the Church,” said Wirnkar. “Speaking to physician trainees, practitioners, nurses and other medical professionals about issues which Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II have taught so clearly is crucial, so the Holy Father’s visit seemed the perfect time to kick off this program.”
“It is vital that pro-life young people are not converted to the pro-abortion or population control mentality while in medical school,” Meaney added, saying the graduates of the program are the pro-life professionals of the future.
“HLI is proud to reach an ever larger audience in Africa with the pro-life message thanks to George Wirnkar and our other leaders,” he said.
South Bend, Ind., Mar 21, 2009 (CNA) - On Friday Catholic and pro-life organizations responded to the announcement that the University of Notre Dame, one of the oldest and most prominent Catholic institution of higher education, will have President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address on May 17.
The University of Notre Dame announced on Friday afternoon that President Barack Obama will be the main speaker and the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree at the University of Notre Dame’s 164th University Commencement Ceremony at 2 p.m. May 17 (Sunday) in the Joyce Center on campus.
According to the Notre Dame press release, “Mr. Obama will be the ninth U.S. president to be awarded an honorary degree by the University and the sixth to be the Commencement speaker.”
In response to the announcement, the Cardinal Newman Society launched a website, www.NotreDameScandal.com, including an online petition to Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins, CSC.
“It is an outrage and a scandal that ‘Our Lady’s University,’ one of the premier Catholic universities in the United States, would bestow such an honor on President Obama given his clear support for policies and laws that directly contradict fundamental Catholic teachings on life and marriage,” the petition reads.
Less than an hour after the petition was posted, it already counted with the support of high-profile Catholics such as Philip F. Lawler, Director of the Catholic Culture Project, Fr. C. J. McCloskey III, and Thomas N. Peters, blogger for the American Papist.
Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society, also faxed a letter to Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, requesting his intervention.
Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League's national director Joe Scheidler –himself a Notre Dame graduate- called on Fr. John Jenkins to withdraw the invitation to Obama.
“Over the first two months of his administration, Barack Obama has established himself as the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history,” Scheidler said. “My alma mater should not be providing a platform for this president.”
“Starting from his first week in office, President Obama has enacted a string of executive orders, appointments and policy decisions that contradict Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life –a teaching that Notre Dame is supposed to uphold,” he added.
Scheidler is also calling on concerned Catholics, especially Notre Dame alumni, to contact Fr. Jenkins and urge him to withdraw the Obama invitation.
“Father Jenkins cannot expect pro-life Catholics to stand back and allow the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history to make a mockery of Notre Dame's Catholic identity,” Scheidler said.
Austin Ruse, President of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) told CNA “the U.S. Bishops are very clear: pro-abortion speakers should not be given platforms or honors by Catholic institutions. Barack Obama is the most pro-abortion president in our history. One wishes that a venerable institution such as Notre Dame could remain stronger on important points of the faith.”
Obama's commencement at Notre Dame was confirmed by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. The future address in South Bend was one of three Gibbs mentioned. Obama also plans to speak to graduates at Arizona State University on May 13 and at U.S. Naval Academy on May 22.
According to Catholic analyst Deal Hudson, “Notre Dame knows this is going to create a firestorm – why else issue a press release late on Friday afternoon? Perhaps they are imitating the example of their presidential honoree who has been bringing in the weekends with one pro-abortion announcement after another.”
“Need I list the reasons why this is a terrible idea? Need I state the obvious reasons why this will feel like a body-blow to millions of Catholics across the country and around the world?” Hudson asks; and recalls that the U.S. bishops’ document “Catholics in Political Life” (2004) states: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
“No statements or press releases will undo what Notre Dame’s position in the eyes of the world is in response: ‘Doesn’t matter.’ We’ve got THE ONE. So much for the One to whom the school’s namesake gave birth,” wrote National Review columnist Kathryn Jean Lopez.
“At Notre Dame, the administration there just made a choice. They took a giant step away from their identity as ‘Catholic.’ They rather be of this world than the one they supposedly exist to bring people toward,” she also wrote.
On May 17, Notre Dame will confer degrees on approximately 2,000 undergraduates, 420 MBA students and 200 Notre Dame Law School students.
Luanda, Angola, Mar 21, 2009 (CNA) - Thousands of joy-filled African youth gathered in the Dos Coquerios Stadium in Luanda, Angola on Saturday afternoon to meet Pope Benedict XVI. In a heartfelt message to the young people, the Pope addressed their doubts and fears and challenged them to courageously build a future with God.
Well aware that it was only in 2002 that Angolans threw off the scourge of the 27 year-old civil war, Pope Benedict prepared for his meeting with the youth by listening to some of them share their doubts and ask him questions. As he spoke to the throng of youth this afternoon he said, "The embrace I exchanged with them is, naturally, an embrace which I offer to all of you."
The Holy Father seemed to draw energy from the youthful crowd, declaring "Meeting young people is good for everyone!" as he began his address.
"You may have your share of difficulties," the Pope said, "but you are filled with great hope, great enthusiasm and a great desire to make a new beginning. My young friends, you hold within yourselves the power to shape the future.
But the Pontiff was careful not to point them to their own abilities as the source of change. "I encourage you to look to that future through the eyes of the Apostle John," who wrote in Revelation, "I saw a new Heaven and a new earth… and I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven, from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold the dwelling of God is with men.’"
"Yes, my friends! God makes all the difference… and more! God changes us; he makes us new! This is what he has promised: ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ It is true!" Pope Benedict exclaimed.
In the crowd of young people were some who have been maimed or disabled by the war of landmines and the Holy Father spoke directly to them:
"I think of the countless tears that have been shed for the loss of your relatives and friends. It is not hard to imagine the dark clouds that still veil the horizon of your fondest hopes and dreams. In your hearts I see doubt, a doubt which you have expressed to me today. You are saying: ‘Here is what we have. There is no visible sign of the things you are talking about! The promise is backed by God’s word – and we believe it – but when will God arise and renew all things?’"
"Jesus’ answer is the one he gave to his disciples: ‘Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’ But you persist, dear young people: ‘Yes! But when will this happen?’ The Apostles asked Jesus a similar question, and his answer was: ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth.’ See how Jesus does not leave us without an answer; he tells us one thing very clearly: renewal starts from within; you will receive a power from on high. The power to shape the future is within you."
Likening the healing work of God within them to the parable of the Sower and the Seed, the Pope told the youth that they are the seeds God has planted the future in.
"My dear friends, you are a seed which God has sown in the world, a seed that contains power from on high, the power of the Holy Spirit. And yet, the only way to pass from the promise of life to actually bearing fruit is to give your lives in love, to die for love."
Pope Benedict then encouraged the youth to "not be afraid to make definitive decisions" despite the many uncertainties that they see.
"You do not lack generosity – that I know! But the idea of risking a lifelong commitment, whether in marriage or in a life of special consecration, can be daunting. You might think: ‘The world is in constant flux and life is full of possibilities. Can I make a life-long commitment now, without knowing what unforeseen events lie in store for me? By making a definitive decision, would I not be risking my freedom and tying my own hands?’ These are the doubts you feel, and today’s individualistic and hedonist culture aggravates them. Yet when young people avoid decisions, there is a risk of never attaining to full maturity!" the Pope said.
"Take courage! Dare to make definitive decisions, because in reality these are the only decisions which do not destroy your freedom, but guide it in the right direction, enabling you to move forward and attain something worthwhile in life," Benedict XVI encouraged.
"There is no doubt about it: life is worthwhile only if you take courage and are ready for adventure, if you trust in the Lord who will never abandon you."
The Pope closed his speech by calling on the young people of Angola to "unleash the power of the Holy Spirit within you, the power from on high! … This is the life worthy of being lived, and I commend it to you from my heart. May God bless the young people of Angola!"
Cambridge, Mass., Mar 21, 2009 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict’s recent brief remark against condoms has caused an uproar in the press, but several prominent scientists dedicated to preventing AIDS are defending the Pope, saying he was correct in his analysis. In an interview with CNA, Dr. Edward Green explained that although condoms should work, in theory, they may be “exacerbating the problem” in Africa.
Benedict XVI’s Tuesday comments on condoms were made as part of his explanation of the Church’s two prong approach to fighting AIDS. At one point in his response the Pontiff stressed that AIDS cannot be overcome by advertising slogans and distributing condoms and argued that they “worsen the problem.” The media responded with an avalanche of over 4,000 articles on the subject, calling Benedict a “threat to public health,” and saying that the Catholic Church should “enter the 21st century.”
Senior Harvard Research Scientist for AIDS Prevention, Dr. Edward Green, who is the author of five books, including “Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning from Successes in Developing Countries” discussed his support for Pope Benedict XVI’s comments with CNA.
According to Dr. Green, science is finding that the media is actually on the wrong side of the issue. In fact, Green says that not only do condoms not work, but that they may be “exacerbating the problem” in Africa.
“Theoretically, condoms ought to work,” he explained to CNA, “and theoretically, some condom use ought to be better than no condom use, but that’s theoretically.”
Condom proponents often cite the lack of condom education as the main culprit for higher AIDS rates in Africa but Green disagrees.
After spending 25 years promoting condoms for family planning purposes in Africa, he insists that he’s quite familiar with condom promotion. Yet, he claims that “anyone who worked in family planning knew that if you needed to prevent a pregnancy, say the woman will die, you don’t recommend a condom.”
Green recalls that when the AIDS epidemic hit Africa, the “Industry” began using AIDS as a “dual purpose” marketing strategy to get more funding for condom distribution. This, he claims, effectively took “something that was a 2nd or 3rd grade device for avoiding unwanted pregnancies” and turned it into the “best weapon we [had] against AIDS.”
The accepted wisdom in the scientific community, explained Green, is that condoms lower the HIV infection rate, but after numerous studies, researchers have found the opposite to be true. “We just cannot find an association between more condom use and lower HIV reduction rates” in Africa.
Dr. Green found that part of the elusive reason is a phenomenon known as risk compensation or behavioral disinhibition.
“[Risk compensation] is the idea that if somebody is using a certain technology to reduce risk, a phenomenon actually occurs where people are willing to take on greater risk.” The idea can be related to someone that puts on sun block and is willing to stay out in the sun longer because they have added protection. In this case, however, the greater risk is sexual. Because people are willing take on more risk, they may “disproportionally erase” the benefits of condom use, Green said.
Another factor that contributes to ineffective condom use in Africa, is the phenomenon where condoms may be effective on an “individual level,” but not on a “population level.” Green’s research found that “condoms have been effective” in HIV concentrated areas where high risk activities are already being conducted, such as brothels in countries like Thailand.
Claiming to be a liberal himself, Green asserts that promoting Western “liberal ideology” where, “most Africans are conservative when it comes to sexual behavior,” is quite offensive to them. Citing his new book, “Indigenous Theories and Contagious Disease,” Green described Africans as “very religious by global standards” who are offended by “trucks going around where people are dancing to ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’, tossing out condoms to teenagers and the children of the village.”
Green also noted that there is an ideology called “harm reduction” that is being pushed by many organizations trying to prevent AIDS. The ideology believes that “you can’t change the underlying behavior, that you can’t get people to be faithful, especially Africans,” the HIV specialist explained.
One country, Uganda, recognized these issues and said, “Listen, if you have multiple sex partners, you are going to get AIDS.” What worked in Uganda, a country that has seen a decline by as much as 2/3 in AIDS infections, was that officials realized that even aside from religious and cultural reasons, “no one likes condoms.” Instead of waiting for “American and European advisors to arrive,” Ugandan officials reacted and developed a program that fit their culture; their main message being “stick to one partner or love faithfully.”
However, in 2004, Uganda’s AIDS infection rates began to increase once again, due to an influx of condoms and Western “advice”, Green recalled. Western donors also came to Uganda and said behavioral change doesn’t work and that, “most infections nowadays are among married people.” Green said these claims are “misleading,” pointing out that “married people always have lower HIV infection rates than single or divorced people of the same age group.”
Green’s new book, “AIDS and Ideology,” to be completed in the next few months, will describe the industry in Africa that is “drawing billions of dollars a year promoting condoms, testing, drugs, and treatment of AIDS” and is clearly resistant to the idea that behavioral change is the solution.
Yet the two countries that have the highest infection rate of AIDS in the world, Botswana and Swaziland, have recently launched campaigns to promote fidelity and monogamy, the Harvard researcher said. These countries “have learned the hard way” about the failure of condoms in preventing AIDS, he said, noting that “Botswana has probably had more condom promotion” than any other county on a per capita basis. Green said he had no problem “having condoms as a backup to fidelity-based programs.”
According to Green, the Catholic Church should continue to “do what it is already doing,” avoid “arguing about the diameter of viruses” and cite scientific evidence in connection with scripture and moral theology.
Luanda, Angola, Mar 21, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict gathered the bishops of Angola and Sao Tome at the apostolic nunciature on Friday night to speak about the state of the Church in their country, warning them to fight the spread of relativism by promoting an "adult and mature faith."
"God will reward you," he told the prelates, "for all the apostolic work which you have accomplished in difficult conditions, both during the war and at the present time, in spite of so many limitations, thus helping to give the Church in Angola and in Sao Tome and Principe that dynamism which everyone acknowledges."
However, the Church still faces other challenges such as "widespread relativism which acknowledges nothing as definitive and, even more, tends to make its ultimate measure the individual and his personal caprice," the Pope cautioned.
In the face of relativism, he said, "we hold out another measure: the Son of God, Who is also true man. Christ is the measure of true humanism. The Christian marked by an adult and mature faith is not one who is borne along by the waves of fashion and the latest novelties, but one who lives deeply rooted in the friendship of Christ. This friendship opens us up to all that is good, and it provides us with the criterion for discerning between error and truth."
The Holy Father also praised the efforts of the bishops to develop a communications strategy since "culture and models of behavior are nowadays more and more conditioned and shaped by the images set forth by the communications media." This strategy, the Pope observed, "will enable you to provide everyone with a Christian interpretation of human events, problems and realities."
As he did in Cameroon, Pope Benedict also focused the bishops’ attention on the "difficulties and threats" facing families, which he said "are particularly in need of evangelization and practical support." This is all the more necessary because many marriages are proving to be fragile and there is a "widespread tendency in society and culture to call into question the unique nature and specific mission of the family based on marriage."
"In your pastoral concern which extends to every human being," he added, "continue to raise your voice in defense of the sacredness of human life and the value of the institution of marriage, as well as in promotion of the family's proper role in the Church and in society, at the same time demanding economic and legislative measures to support the family in bearing and raising children."
Pope Benedict also shared his joy at the vibrancy of the faith community in Angola and Sao Tome, citing the increasing number of native priests and of the faithful.
Luanda, Angola, Mar 21, 2009 (CNA) - During his homily on Saturday morning in Luanda, Angola, Pope Benedict addressed bishops, priests, religious, members of ecclesial movements and catechists and explained that through the Sacrament of Baptism, all believers are unified in Christ.
Reflecting on the teachings of St. Paul, the patron saint of Luanda, the Holy Father noted that the Apostle to the Gentiles "speaks to us from personal experience about this God Who is rich in mercy."
The decisive event in the life of St. Paul, explained Benedict XVI, "was his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul saw the Risen Lord and from then on "saw everything in the light of this perfect stature of humanity in Christ."
The Pontiff explained that when we know the Lord, as St. Paul did, we are brought into a "new dimension" which "integrates matter and through which a new world arises."
This new dimension, the Holy Father continued, comes to us through "faith and Baptism." He explained that the Sacrament of Baptism "is truly death and resurrection, transformation and new life. ... I live, but no longer I. In a certain way, my identity has been taken away and made part of an even greater identity; I still have my personal identity, but now it is changed and open to others as a result of my becoming part of Another: in Christ I find myself living on a new plane."
"Through this process of our 'Christification' by the working and grace of God's Spirit, the gestation of the Body of Christ in history is gradually being accomplished in us."
The Holy Father then recalled the years following 1506 when the first sub-Saharan Christian kingdom was established. He explained, "The kingdom remained officially Catholic from the sixteenth century until the eighteenth, with its own ambassador in Rome." Within the kingdom, two different ethnic groups, the Bantu and the Portuguese, "were able to find in the Christian religion common ground for understanding, and committed themselves to ensuring that this understanding would be long-lasting, and that differences - which undoubtedly existed, and great ones at that - would not divide the two kingdoms! For Baptism enables all believers to be one in Christ."
"Today it is up to you," he continued, "to offer the Risen Christ to your fellow citizens."
So many of them are living in fear of spirits, of malign and threatening powers." The Holy Father went on to address those who may object saying, "’Why not leave them in peace? They have their truth, and we have ours. Let us all try to live in peace, leaving everyone as they are, so they can best be themselves'."
However, "if we are convinced and have come to experience that without Christ life lacks something, that something real - indeed, the most real thing of all - is missing, we must also be convinced that we do no injustice to anyone if we present Christ to them and thus grant them the opportunity of finding their truest and most authentic selves, the joy of finding life. Indeed, we must do this. It is our duty to offer everyone this possibility of attaining eternal life."
Concluding his homily, the Holy Father prayed that all embrace the will of the Lord and, like St. Paul, preach the Gospel.
At the end of Mass, the Holy Father returned to the apostolic nunciature, where he ate lunch.