Under the Glass places both the secular and religious media’s coverage of the Church and other issues of importance under a magnifying glass to uncover what is hidden between the lines.
March 19, 2009

Condoms and the Pope: how to be misinformed and biased in two short paragraphs

The dream scenario for "Under the Glass," whose task is to deconstruct the misinformation labeled as “objective” by some in the secular or religious media, is a short - really short - article in which all prejudices and misconceptions are summarized, so they can be easily countered with evidence.

Of course, it should remain only a dream, one would think, given the sophisticated pretensions with which the “high priests of the media” operate. They would not give away their own bias so easily … Or would they?

Technology developers learned a long time ago to refrain from announcing their products with the label "fool-proof," for the simple reason that fools can never be underestimated.

And so, here comes Joanna England, a blogger from the Dallas Morning News, to demonstrate that the need to refrain from the label applies to the media as well.

In her DMN posting “Pope's ignoring a lot more than the Internets,” England doesn’t say anything surprising about Pope Benedict and his recent statements regarding fighting AIDS in Africa. She just joins the cacophony of voices, such as the New York Times or the London Times, in blaming the Catholic Church for spreading AIDS because it has not joined the condom-happy crowds.

Of course, there will always be the extreme-to-the-point-of-being-ridiculous comments like the one from Robert S. McElvaine, who calls for “Impeaching the Pope,” after claiming that he is, alas, a “catholic.” One wonders what dictionary he must be using. But let’s leave him aside, since McElvaine is in a non-category of his own.

The merit of England’s piece resides in the fact that one can find all of the secular media’s bias and ignorance about the Church's teachings on AIDS in just two short paragraphs.

Here's the first one:

"Pope Benedict XVI thinks pretty much the EXACT OPPOSITE of what health workers have learned from years trying to control AIDS in Africa: Condoms are the problem, says the Pope."

That's quite a paragraph! But Joanna, where are the facts? Actually, the facts are all over the place, and none of them support a word of your assertion.

First: WHAT "health workers" are you talking about? AIDS in Africa has actually increased dramatically in the last five years, and the UNAIDS condom-centered campaign, despite being persistently pumped with cash, has completely failed.  Indeed, according to a recent report commissioned by UNAIDS, between 1989 and 2001 the average number of condoms per male ages 15 to 49 in African countries skyrocketed… along with the number of those infected with HIV.  South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe had both the world’s highest levels of condom availability per man and the world’s highest HIV rates.

How about that Joanna?

Second: The REAL health workers know that the first African country in which AIDS was significantly reduced is Uganda, the first nation to develop an anti-AIDS campaign centered on abstinence and fidelity.

According to Norman Hearst, an epidemiologist at the University of California who conducted a scientific review at the request of UNAIDS to see if condom promotions had reversed HIV/AIDS epidemics, “Condom promotion in Africa has been a disaster.”  Uganda, on the other hand, has experienced the greatest decline in HIV prevalence of any country in the world. From 1991 to 2001, Uganda’s HIV infection rate declined from 15% to 5%.

Of course, if UNAIDS, which paid for the investigation, refused to publish Hearst’s findings, how could anyone ever expect Joanna England, or the New York Times to ever mention it?

Third:  Joanna, Can you actually quote the Pope or any other Church official saying that condoms are “the problem?” Why don't we bet real money on it? The Pope, along with many other Church leaders, has continually insisted that condoms are NOT the solution, but rather part of a life-threatening scam that hails sex with a condom as “safe sex.”  However, it has been sufficiently proven that placing condoms at the core of an AIDS prevention campaign leads to failure. That’s quite different from saying that condoms are “the problem.”

Anyone who reads the real statement of the Pope will actually find that he not only dismissed the whole “condom issue” with which the media seems to be obsessed, but that he laid out a plan to fight AIDS that is both realistic and demanding.

“Is the Vatican, fresh from a major mea culpa about a certain Holocaust-denying bishop, making another mistake? Or is Benedict sticking to his guns on Catholic doctrine?”

No Joanna, those are not the questions to ask. The questions are: Are you and the likes of the NYT ever going to offer a mea culpa about obsessively promoting a policy on AIDS that is actually killing real people? Or are you going to stick to your guns on secular dogmas?


Alejandro Bermudez

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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