Papacy Should Learn to Check Its Facts

Condom Controversy Says a Lot About Loose Lips in Vatican City


Published: April 9, 2009

By this time, we’ve all heard that the Pope isn’t a fan of condoms. We’ve heard his opinion that condoms do not help to alter the AIDS crisis in Africa but can actually help to spread the HIV virus and thus should be avoided at all costs.

Media outlets, as they sometimes do, blew this story out of proportion. This comment may have been something said in passing on an airplane, but it turned into world news that made headlines for weeks. Practicing Catholics shouldn’t be surprised about this lingering popularity of all things Papal, however. Nor should the Pope—shouldn’t he recognize the magnitude of his words? It shouldn’t matter whether such things are said while addressing thousands at St. Peter’s or making a comment in a seemingly private situation. With celebrity comes power (and little privacy) and with power comes responsibility.

The Pope is an immensely important figure in Catholicism and has achieved a certain degree of prominence to the general public as well. He represents hundreds of thousands of Catholics worldwide, which is why he ought to watch what he’s saying.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported that nearly 100 percent of those infected who regularly use condoms avoid sharing the virus with others. Of course, nothing is completely foolproof, but even a rate of 98 percent cannot be used as evidence to prove that condoms cause AIDS or increase its spread. A group called Catholics for Choice has been fighting the religious ban on condoms since 2001, proving with their campaign that believing in the effectiveness and value of condoms doesn’t make a person a bad Catholic.

By offering facts that are unsupported based on an entrenched belief system, without having done the amount of research necessary to truly back up his argument, the Pope is essentially misleading his people. He misleads not only Catholics but also anybody who truly takes his Papal position seriously. All it takes is even a quick Google search to find facts and figures presented by reputable governmental agencies around the world.

It seems to me that, after the amount of recent controversy over the reinstatement of Bishop Richard Williamson, a radical cleric who denied historically accurate and accepted facts of the Holocaust, a little Googling might be just what the Pope needs, especially when it comes to public figures.

As a figure of such importance, he cannot just make an off-the-cuff comment any easier than President Obama can say something out of context that can so negatively impact the American people and the world at large. Instead of getting caught up in controversy as he so often seems to, whether it be over the make of his red leather shoes or his stance on things such as condoms, Pope Benedict XVI should be carefully researching his statements, Googling Bishops that are due for recommunication (lest one be a Holocaust-denier) and making sure that the opinions he holds and the stances he takes are the ones that can and will best guide the Catholic people, the Vatican and anyone who looks to the Pope for moral authority.