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The pope was right about condoms, says Harvard HIV expert

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William Crawley | 08:14 UK time, Sunday, 29 March 2009

Dr Edward Green, director of Harvard's HIV Prevention Research Project, who came to the defence of Pope Benedict during last week's international row over condoms in Africa, says his research program at Harvard University has come to an end.

In an extended interview on today's Sunday Sequence, Dr Green told me why he decided to voice his support to Pope Benedict's controversial claim that condom distribution is exacerbating the problem of Aids in Africa. He also challenges the scientific authority of the United Nations Aids organisation, and argues that condoms should be used in Africa as part of a combination strategy to combat Aids. Dr Green says, "I have always been politically incorrect. I have always questioned authority and tried to speak truth to power whatever the consequences." A full transcript of the interview is below the line.

Edward Green: What the Pope said was the distribution and marketing of condoms would not solve the problem of African Aids and that it might even exacerbate the problem. And I think it was that second comment that really set the critics off, really upset a lot of people. I can understand that, because I have worked in Aids prevention for a long time. In fact, I worked as a condom and contraceptive social marketer at the beginning of the pandemic--I was working in family planning. I am part of a group of researchers that have been looking for the behavioural antecedents to HIV prevalence decline in Africa. We now see HIV going down in about 8 or 9 countries in Africa and in every case we see a decrease in the proportion of men and women who report having more than one sex partner in the past year. So when the Pope said that the answer really lies in monogamy and martial faithfulness, that's exactly what we found empirically.

William Crawley: What's the evidence that you are appealing to that condom distribution has made things worse in Africa?

Edward Green: Because we have for a number of years now found the wrong kind of association between condom-availability and levels of condom use.. You see the wrong kind of relationship with HIV prevalence. Instead of seeing this associated with lower HIV infection rates, it's actually associated with higher HIV infection rates. Part of that is because the people using condoms are the people who are having risky sex. It's just like there is more bed nets in use in countries with malaria than in countries without such high levels of malaria.

William Crawley: So it would be a mistake to draw any causal connection between an increase in the use of condoms and an increase in HIV prevalence. That would be a mistake, wouldn't it?

Edward Green: We don't have any proof. The closest thing we have are some prospective studies that follow the same populations. There was one where--Norman Hurst of the University of California was one of the authors, it was published in the journal Aids--where they followed two groups of young people in Uganda, and the group that had the intensive condom promotion--and they were provided condoms after three years--they actually were found to have a greater number of sex partners. So that cancels out the risk reduction that the technology of condoms ought to provide. That's the phenomenon known as risk compensation.

William Crawley: What do you mean by risk compensation?

Edward Green: This is when somebody uses a technology, such as condoms or sun-block, to reduce the risk, but then they compensate for that, or actually lose the risk reduction, by exposure to the sun longer in the case of sun-block or they take greater sexual risks in the case of condoms.

William Crawley: What you have suggested is that the use of condoms in Africa is a complicated story: it relates to abstinence and monogamy programmes as well. In those countries where there has been a reduction in HIV infection, such as Uganda, all three seem to play a part--abstinence, monogamy and the use of condoms. At least according to the United Nations Aids organisation (UNAids), all three play a part. Do you have any evidence at all that condoms are making the problem worse, which is what the Pope suggests?

Edward Green: Well I just mentioned a study that was done in Uganda that suggests that with intensive promotion of condoms you actually have people increasing the number of sexual partners, so in that sense--

William Crawley: But you have already accepted that there can be no causal inference drawn from that study.

Edward Green: Well, except that the phenomenon of risk compensation, or behavioural dis-inhibition, is real, and there have been articles, including published in The Lancet, about this phenomenon. So there could be a causal connection.

William Crawley: The Lancet has described the Pope's comments, which you agree with, as a distortion of scientific evidence.

Edward Green: That's because The Lancet is not thinking about the generalised epidemics of Africa. I hasten to add--and I have tried to do this in all of my interviews, although sometimes only part of my interviews are quoted--I point out that at national levels, we see condoms working in epidemics like those of Thailand and Cambodia. But in the generalised epidemics of Africa--well, there was a UN Aids study done in 2003 by Hearst and Chen, it was actually published in the peer-reviewed journal Studies in Family Planning in 2004, and they conclude that there is not a single country in Africa where HIV prevalence has come down primarily because of condoms.

William Crawley: You accept that condoms do work in other parts of the world, like the Western World, for example?

Edward Green: I do. And they should have a back-up role even in the generalised epidemics of Africa. I believe condoms should be made available to everyone. It should be, and as you say, the ABC strategy: Abstain, Be faithful, use a Condom. Condoms may well have contributed to the prevalence decline in Uganda.

William Crawley: That's a serious ideological difference between yourself and the Pope. He doesn't think that condoms should be used, even in the case of married Catholic couples where one of the partners is HIV-positive.

Edward Green: Yes, well, I don't agree with that. And, I have said that I am not a Catholic, and I am not talking about condoms in any sort of moral-ethical sense. I am talking about what has been found to work and not work. So, yes, the article I mentioned by Hearst and Chen is very clear that condoms work in certain types of situations and certain sub-populations and condoms have had a positive national impact in certain concentrated epidemics. So, yes, I don't agree with the Pope across the board.

William Crawley: Which brings us back to Africa. And to try to explain why there has been a mixed experience in terms of condom distribution in Africa, you are appealing to this possible mechanism of risk compensation. Which is another way of saying, really, that when people feel they are protected by a condom they engage is other risky behaviours. And one could say in response to that, this is not a criticism of condom distribution, it's a criticism of the education programmes that accompany condom distribution, surely?

Edward Green: Yes, we can say that. It's just I am somebody, who, as I mentioned I think, worked in family planning at the beginning--before the Aids pandemic began. And I think we have tried just about everything that can be tried as far as getting people to use condoms consistently and correctly in general populations. You know it's possible in certain sub-populations, such as commercial sex workers and their clients--even in Cambodia and Thailand, it was commercial sex workers in brothels where the 100 per cent condom policy was implemented and was so successful. But once you get outside of brothels are some situations where you have some control, it's again very difficult to get people to use condoms. So, yes, it's the fault of the person and not with the physical device the condom.

William Crawley: You can see why some people perhaps misunderstand your position, Dr Green, because you make a blunt statement like "the Pope is right about this" and "he is right on the science". And it is a much more complicated story once we explore it a little bit. You are encouraging the use of condoms in Africa. You are just saying: in addition to that, we should take seriously abstinence and, particularly, "be faithful" (monogamy) programmes, as well in Africa. That's a very different position to the one that the Pope holds to.

Edward Green: Well, you could phrase it that way. Or you could say: the Pope said that the distribution and marketing of condoms is not the solution or the best solution to African Aids; rather, it is monogamy and faithfulness. And the evidence is so clear about partner reduction. If you promote monogamy and faithfulness what you get is a reduction in the number of partners and concurrent partners. We haven't mentioned concurrency: we are finding that if you have partners, ongoing relationships that overlap, these are particularly effective in transmitting HIV. The evidence is so clear about that, that one of the reasons I stuck my neck out, knowing that I would get into a lot of trouble with my peers and colleagues, is because the Pope didn't repeat the usual condoms-versus-abstinence but instead mentioned fidelity and monogamy.

William Crawley: The United Nations Aids organisation says recent analysis of the Aids epidemic in Uganda confirms, and I am quoting, "that increased condom use in conjunction with delay in age and first sexual intercourse and reduction of sexual partners was an important factor in the decline of HIV prevalence in the 1990s". They say it was all three: ABC. The Pope says it was AB. And you seem to be agreeing with him.

Edward Green: Well, you must understand that UN Aids is not a scientific body. It's an advocacy body. And, in fact, a former director, Peter Piot, in recent years has been saying that what they do is "evidence-informed" rather that "evidence-based". If you stop and think about that distinction, you know, it suggests that UNAids draws upon the evidence that supports what it believes.

William Crawley: We shouldn't trust the UNAids organisation on this?

Edward Green: I would be very careful about trusting the UNAids organisation for anything scientific, anything having to do with, for example, statistics about Aids. They have had to back-pedal and retract a lot of their basic statistics. It may seem pretty shocking for somebody like me to disagree with UNAids, but the fact is that UNAids is changing its thinking on this matter. As a matter of fact, in a very few days, there is going to be joint statement released by our Harvard programme, the Southern Regional Office of UNAids, and the Southern Regional Office of the World Bank, saying that the primary intervention for Aids in Southern Africa should be to discourage multiple and concurrent partners and that condom promotion is a secondary backup strategy.

William Crawley: How can you believe that condom promotion should be a back up strategy and also believe that "condom distribution is making matters worse in Africa"?

Edward Green: Well, I wouldn't keep saying that way, I am--

William Crawley: That's what the pope said, and that's what you say you agree with--

Edward Green: Higher condom use and higher infection rates could be explained in a number of ways: we should be alert to the fact that one of those ways could be dis-inhibition. This has been sort of a taboo word in the field of Aids. We don't want to think that, possibly, we are making the situation worse by giving people a greater sense of security than they ought to have. But, you know, we should think about that possibility.

William Crawley: But condoms are either making the problem worse in Africa, or they are a backup strategy, which is it?

Edward Green: Well, I would say that they should, again, be made available. They should be available as a backup strategy. It's obviously better to not indulge in a risk behaviour ... Lets go back to what we know about condoms: when they are used consistently, when they are used consistently, they provide, under more or less ideal conditions, about 80 to 85 per cent risk reduction, compared to those who don't use them at all. But how many--what percentage of any large national population--uses condoms consistently? Probably nowhere in excess of 5 per cent.

William Crawley: There does seem to be a world of a difference, Dr Green, between what you have just said, and the Pope's simple claim that condoms are aggravating the problem in Africa. Those two positions do not seem to be the same, and yet you say you agree with the Pope.

Edward Green: I told you that I stuck my neck out knowing it would be controversial, because the Pope said that the distribution of condoms was not the solution, that monogamy and fidelity was. It depends on how you look at condoms. Condoms, as a technology, can work in certain circumstances. Yes, they should be a backup if people are not going to avoid the risk altogether. But looking at it from a public health standpoint, we have not seen that condoms have worked at the population or national levels in Africa. So you can interpret that I suppose in different ways.

William Crawley: Let's come to the situation that your programme faces at Harvard University. You have said that you have managed to put yourself in some difficulties with some of your peers. What is the situation you are facing now at Harvard?

Edward Green: Well, before this most recent situation came up with my name being in the news a lot in connection with the Pope, our project was coming to an end, and actually has come to an end. We are running currently on a no-cost extension for another approximately 11 months.

William Crawley: So you regard your position on this as somehow "politically incorrect" over the years in terms of the politics of all of this?

Edward Green: Yes, my position is very politically incorrect. I have always been politically incorrect. I have always questioned authority and tried to speak truth to power whatever the consequences.

William Crawley: Are you are paying an institutional price for that in terms of Harvard?

Edward Green: Well, I don't know. I don't know whether our programme would have ended when it's ending if I had been more politically correct. You would have to ask Harvard.


  • Comment number 1.

    Green's science is flawed. There are many variables involved which he has no account for because he has no control group. He is generalizing. What does this mean in practical terms? It means that where there seems to be a statistical correlation between the availability of condoms and an increase in the incidence of HIV, he has no way to know if no availability of condoms would have led to an even greater increase in HIV. He also lumps all African societies together where there may be clear differences in the local culture of each. Bad science, the research is unsatisfactory. Dr. Green, you'd get an F in my class.

    While the research study is flawed, so is the program. If availability of condoms is not reducing HIV, then the education necessary to go with it such as showing people the consequences of contracting the disease and the facts about the way it is spread including even a single incident of unprotected sex should be intensified.

    So we have a concurrence between bad science and no science theology. Sound familiar? McIntosh/Wilder-Smith and the ID nuts.

  • Comment number 2.

    This interview finishes off Green's credibility. At one point, he says condoms played no part in the Uganda success, at another point he says they played some part. At one point, condoms are part of the problem, at another point, they are a backup strategy as part of the solution. He says he agrees with the pope but at almost every turn he disagrees with the pope. He says we shouldn't trust UNAids, then he says they should be trusted because they now agree with him that monogamy is part of the solution. He is all over the place. The logic is barely present in the arguments he makes. Why is he doing this? Is he looking for publicity? Or a new job?

  • Comment number 3.

    Dr Green needs a class in elementary logic!

    1. When condoms are distributed in country X, HIV levels increase.
    2. THEREFORE, condoms are the reason why HIV is increasing in country X.

    Formally, that's:

    If A, then B
    Therefor B because of A.

    That just doesn't follow. Will points that out and says there's no causal connection, but the doctor won't buy it. Try this one:

    1. When mosquito needs are distributed in country A, malaria increases.
    2. Therefore, distributing mosquito nets is the reason why malaria is increasing.

    It just doesn't compute. Maybe HIV would increase by an even greater rate in sub-Saharan Africa if we didn't distribute condoms. That would a foolish and dangerous experiment to set up.

    The Pope's number one scientific expert has been exposed as illogical.

  • Comment number 4.

    Those on other threads who describe Dr Green as a Harvard professor, please note: He is not a Harvard professor. Go to the linked website and read his biography. He is a researcher with no tenure, no teaching responsibilities, and no university professorial title. He has a PhD from the Catholic University of america, and was appointed as an HIV advisor by ... you guessed it, George W. Bush. Hmmm. I rest my case.

  • Comment number 5.

    Bad science is bad science. Water and Gin will get you drunk. Water and vodka will get you drunk. Water and Scotch will get you drunk. Water and Rye will get you drunk. Water and Bourbon will get you drunk. Therefore water will get you drunk. This guy is just an incompetent trying to use his pseudo-science in service of a religious point of view. The only people who will believe them are those who want to, not those who think for themselves. Why doesn't he get exposed like McIntosh was? I think Harvard should sever all ties with him. He's one more blot on their credibility for academic ethics. Einstein was another.

  • Comment number 6.

    Condoms have not worked at the population or national levels in Africa. On the other hand, condom promotion could help as a secondary backup strategy – among those who are not going to avoid having risky sex (sex workers ecc).

    That makes sense to me.
    Let's wait and see if the Pope really disagrees on that.

    The use of condoms in Africa indeed is a complicated story. Read the 2004 consensus statement published and endorsed by some 150 global AIDS experts:
    "All three elements of this approach (Abstain, Be faithful/reduce partners, use Condoms) are essential to reducing HIV incidence, although the emphasis placed on individual elements needs to vary according to the target population."


  • Comment number 7.

    If you can't win the argument, take out the man. Guys, you can't look at an interview with William as if it's a research paper - he said this and then he said that and that's not exactly in agreement with the Pope.

    The Pope said Aids can only be beaten at the human level through fidelity and movement from promiscuity and that the condoms approach can even make things worse. The evidence to support this in Africa is irrefutable.

  • Comment number 8.


    "Condoms have not worked at the population or national levels in Africa."


    "the condoms approach can even make things worse. The evidence to support this in Africa is irrefutable."

    Rubbish! There is no evidence one way or another for either statement. They cannot be either supported or refuted by the facts. There is no way to know whether increased risky sex without condoms due to the availability of condoms offsets reduced spread of the disease by the availability and use of condoms. Green's so called research process was badly flawed because there was no control group where availability of condoms was the only variable tested. The Pope's statement is just self serving baseless rhetoric. Repeating it is just lying to assert a religious doctrine that also has no basis in fact. It's places like this where reliance on religious teaching to tell us what to do in issues of the contemporary real world are a matter of life and death. Why don't all the preachers stick to their sermons about how Jesus fed 5000 with 12 loaves and 2 fish and leave policies of public health and control of epidemics to experts who actually have some understanding of the facts and know what they are doing?

  • Comment number 9.

    i don't know why in this day in age we still get our selfs in such a fuce over religon lol - copynprofit review

  • Comment number 10.

    MarcusAureliusII, what about the evidence that condoms have worked at the population or national levels in Africa?

  • Comment number 11.

    By the way, Green is not the only scientist criticizing the current HIV prevention strategies. Here's another one:

    James Chin, The AIDS Pandemic: The Collision of Epidemiology With Political Correctness, Radcliffe Publishing, Oxford, Seattle 2007.

  • Comment number 12.

    tonema, the Hearst and Chin studies ate mentioned in the interview by Edward Green himself. We know he's not the only researcher with this view. That doesn't make him right. These researchers are a minority within science. They are well-intentioned and believe the science supports them, but any comments that give the impression that condoms are a waste of time in dealing with HIV are extremely irresponsible.

  • Comment number 13.

    The Pope is not saying dont use condoms because they dont work.
    He's saying dont use condoms because it is sinful to use them.

    If we presented him with irrefutable evidence that using condoms stops the spread of HIV and Aids, would he then advocate their use?

    No, he wouldnt.

    The comment about condoms sometimes making things worse appeared to me to be an attempt by him - and a pretty successful one - at shifting the goalposts.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm glad we (or some of us) agree that these researchers are well-intentioned and believe the science supports them, and we at least allow the possibility that the same is true of the Pope.

    This time the Pope didn't talk about the sinfulness of using condoms!
    In the Catholic moral theology the use of condoms to reduce the risk of HIV infection is still an open question, and a debated one, although not in public. Read about it:

    That's probably the reason why the Vatican is so silent about it. Which I think is inadmissible.

  • Comment number 15.

    since when did catholic moral theology ever have an influence on what the Pope said or didnt say?

    Like Brian Clough, the Pope listens to everyone concerned, then they all decide that he is right!!

    The fact that the Pope didnt talk about the supposed sinfulness of using condoms is exactly my point! He was hiding behind the 'condoms can increase the spread of Aids' ticket.

    Have a glance at the history of moral theolgians who disagreed with the Pope. Not too many of them remained in their teaching posts at Catholic Universities.

  • Comment number 16.

    The catholic moral theology reflects on the teachings of the Catholic Church, that is, on what the pope and the bishops (in community with the pope) teach.

    A moral theologian can disagree and is free to find some institution where he will find his audience.

    Until now, the Pope hasn't said anything on the question weather the use of condoms to reduce the risk of HIV infection is sinful or not. Many bishops and cardinals are saying it's not.

    12. jovialPTL, James Chin is not Chen (Hearst and Chin).

  • Comment number 17.

    Casti connubi - "Those who commit such an action (contraception) are stained with the guilt of grave sin."

    Gaudium et Spes - "In questions of birth regulation, the sons (and presumably daughters) of the Church are forbidden to use methods disapproved by the Magisterium."

    Vademecum for confessors (1997) "The church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception."

    The sinfulness of contraception has not only been stated and restated by the Church, it has been pronounced infallibly.

    Moral theologians and Bishops can say what they want, but they will be ignored by this Pope and the Roman Curia who are notoriously lacking in collegiallity, (just asthey were ignored by Paul VI who actually appointed many of them to study the matter and rejected their findings in a well documented fit of temper.)

  • Comment number 18.

    I was talking about the use of condoms to reduce the risk of HIV infection, not as contraception.

    For example:
    Cardinal Cottier said condoms should not be used as contraceptives, but in exceptional circumstances (to reduce the risk of HIV infection) can be considered morally legitimate.


  • Comment number 19.

    When somesthing is intrinsically wrong then it's wrong irrespective of the motivation. It's completely ludicrous to suggest the Pope has shied away from teaching the sinfulness of condoms - he was asked a specific question on a plane - he didn't give a lecture explaining the position, he gave a couple of sentences to be understood within the clear teaching of the Church.

    In the main, the Church doesn't tell people the best way to commit sin. We don't tell people it's better to shoot people than use bombs. And at the level of the individual the teaching is clear - it's wrong to use condoms and wrong to have sex outside marriage. And at the population level, a lot of evidence suggests the condom approach has been unsuccessful. You can say it's not scientific, that there's no control group, but lots of science is like that - not everything happens in the lab. The trouble with some people is they think the lab results for condoms will always be reflected in society and it doesn't work that way. The same way they think that more sex education will guarantee fewer pregnancies.

  • Comment number 20.

    Take this example:
    a woman has to take some medicine which has contraceptive side effect. That's morally legitimate.
    And the same may not be true of the use of condoms to reduce the risk of HIV infection when one of the spouses is HIV positive?

    The Pope hasn't addressed this question. It remains open. We shouldn't read anything into the words of the Pope.

  • Comment number 21.

    "We shouldnt read anything into the words of the Pope."

    On the subject of contraception, not many Catholics do!!

    The idea that this latest controversy was just the result of a few comments made to the media is naive, to say the least. The question does not remain open, it is closed as any priest or Bishop who has called for open debate knows.

    During his tenure as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he actively opposed any debate on subjects such as contraception, homosexuality, the ordination of women and mandatory celibacy. He enforced a strict party line.

    To argue that he views such subjects as 'open' is laughable.

  • Comment number 22.


    Nice to have you guys join the conversation. Hope you stick around.


  • Comment number 23.

    Out of curiosity - how media savvy should a pope be? This seems to be part of his problem. His comments on Islam where apropriate for the academy, for example - but a media storm was easy to forecast. Then we have the ethics of washing machines and the science of condoms.

    The Vatican has an "image" problem. But should that concern the Vatican?


  • Comment number 24.

    I myself haven't experienced any opposition whatsoever regarding the debate on subjects you mention, and which in fact are not 'open', so I can't comment on that. The use of condoms to reduce the risk of HIV infection when one of the spouses is HIV positive, on the other hand, remains open. As Radio Vatican reported 2 years ago, Cardinal Barragán handed over a study to be examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Obviously, the study is in favour of the use of condoms to reduce the risk of HIV infection when one of the spouses is HIV positive. I don't know why they haven't published it yet, but they certainly plan to do it.

    Another thing I don't know is why the question on Aids was allowed on the plane without having prepared a more exhaustive explanation on the issue. Such deficiencies certainly should concern the Vatican. It's well known that they're going through serious internal communication problems.

  • Comment number 25.

    Just one example of Vatican opposition to debate.

    Every country's Bishops are invited for their 'Ad Limina' visit, once every 7 or 8 years. During my country's last visit, John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger were in charge.

    After extensive discussions around the country which took place in school halls and the larger church halls, a dossier was drawn up on the matters which most concerned catholic lay people in my country about the Church.

    At the top of the list was the role of women in the church including their ordination, contraception, mandatory celibacy and the treatment of homosexuals. It was stressed that the people did not want immediate change in all these areas, they simply wanted them debated openly and honestly.

    The response of JPII and Cardinal Rat. was that none of these matters were up for discussion.

    This type of internal bullying never reaches the Press, but it is there alright.

    The "serious internal communication problems" the Vatican is going through is quite simply that Cardinals and Bishops are becoming increasingly exasperated at having to explain the 'latest' faux pas the Pope has committed.

    (Note how Vatican Officials rushed to change and soften what he actually said on that plane.) They've had to do this time and again with regard to Jews, Moslems and yet, arguably the people he has most offended, are ordinary Catholics themselves.

    By the way, I love the use of the term "a communication problem." In my time I've heard that one trotted out a few times to cover a multitude of sins. Lol.

  • Comment number 26.

    Romejellybean - I don't know what country you're from but you must have very stupid bishops if they wanted to arrive on their ad limina visit and discuss things where the teaching of the church is as clear as can be. "They didn't want immediated change" - well that was nice of them, they just wanted to go on undermining the Church from within. Good grief!

    gveale#23 good question - I don't think a Pope should be media savvy at all - all that does is corrupt and weaken the message - spin doctors telling you to soften the message on condoms, don't mention the war, our focus group says we need a spike on women's rights. Leave all that to the politicians.

  • Comment number 27.


    Is it warm in your cave yet? Has the Pope given the okay for fire? Has he allowed you to use the wheel?

    When the "perfectly clear church teaching" on contraception was formed, Paul VI totally ignored (twice)the conclusions and recommendations of the very people he had asked to deliberate on the subject.

    There was also the fact that HIV/Aids wasnt around then. Dont you think the fact that millions have died and will die necessitates that we revisit that particular "clear teaching."

    You also criticise spin doctors to gveale after having yourself put a pretty good spin on people asking genuine questions of their leadership. For asking for debate read "undermining the church from within." Dont accuse the media of something you do yourself. Thats called hypocrasy.

    Try looking up Lawrence Kholberg's theory of moral developemnt. Go to stage 4. You'll probably find a photo of yourself there (nodding obediently to authority figures as you did when you were six.)

    Grow up, good grief!

  • Comment number 28.

    If you don't mind coming back to the subject of the
    researchers who are criticizing the current HIV prevention strategies - "a minority within science", as jovialPTL said. Here's a conversation with HIV/AIDS expert Helen Epstein:

  • Comment number 29.

    jellybean - you clearly don't understand the Church. Pope Paul VI, acted as universal teacher and guardian of the faith and acted to maintain the consistent teaching of the church on contraception. The point of the commission was to look at whether the Pill changed things - some, the majority thought it did, the minority and the Pope, the only one with actual responsibility and authority thought otherwise. As for the ad limina - bishops touring town halls for grievances - you say for discussion and debate. Pope John Paul II declared infallibly that women cannot be ordained - there is no room for debate or discussion and bishops who encouraged debate as if there is are betraying their office. In the same way if they started debating the divinity of Christ.

    And I think you'll find I didn't accuse the media of anything. Spin doctors don't work for the media - they work for the organisations the media are trying to cover.

    And frankly I'd rather be a six year old who can recognise authority than a teenage who thinks he is the authority.

  • Comment number 30.

    mccamleyc -

    You obviously have no clue about what an ad limina visit is. The Bishops are REQUIRED by the Pope to report to him on what issues the people in their country are facing/feeling.

    Yet another spin - "The Bishops touring town halls for grievances." Ever heard of the authority of the sensus fidelium? That is church teaching too.

    Respect for authority should be earned, not demanded.

    The Church has debated the divinity of Christ for centuries. What do you think Christology is?

    You insult the many people of goodwill who attended the preparatory meetings for the ad limina visit. None of them shouted out grievances, but I'll tell you what they did do. They took seriously their baptismal promises to be members of Christ's body. They aired their fears, hopes and aspirations for what they love - The Church. They took seriously their resposibility to give shape and form to the thing which has given shape and form to them - The Church.

    You, my friend, obviously dont have the courage or the gumption to do so. Instead you take your God given faculties of conscience, reason and intellect and throw them in the trash can. I think that is as cowardly as it is sinful.

    You've obviously taken every parable, every teaching of Christ and subjugated them to "Thou art Peter."
    Oh for a Pope whose reign was characterised above all else by mercy, instead of sacrifice; by understanding instead of an almost manic adoration of dogma. A Pope who will display the same values as Christ did.

    Sorry, Tonema, what was that you were saying about research and science again?

  • Comment number 31.

    I was talking about HIV/AIDS expert Helen Epstein.

    She reminds me of what Dambisa Moyo (a Zambian black African who holds an Oxford Doctorate) is saying:

    In Africa, $1 trillion of aid has not worked. In fact it is making things worse.

    "It is the monster spending of governments and the bureaucracies it spawns which is the problem. Aid bureaucracies themselves have an interest in perpetuating the system, and so have the fading pop stars who find ways to renew their prominence."


    Isn't UNAIDS one of these aid bureaucracies?

  • Comment number 32.

    Crumbs William - you couldn't have tried much harder to make him say what you wanted him to say - short of putting a gun to his head!

  • Comment number 33.

    Some interview! It was a desperate attempt not to hear what he had to say. After all, if human sexuality is more like what the pope describes it to be, and eveyone else has been resolutely, ignoring and mirepresenting the situation while tens of millions have been dying...wouldn't that make them, and not the pope guilty of the deaths of these tens of millions? Uganda and other subsaharan nations are proveing that the pope is right. Botwana proves the condom crowd false. They are revealed as blind, dangerous ...can one say murderous?...demagogues.


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