Pope in condom capAlternate Title: Pope-phylactic

Alternate Alternate Title: Habemus Scumbag

So, our pal Pope B-B-B-B-B-Benedict XVI made his first visit to Africa since becoming the Big Catholic Cheese recently (note to Governor Palin: that’s Africa the continent, not the country). While he was in Cameroon, he made a statement about the use of condoms in the effort to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS. From an AP article:

Condoms are not the answer to Africa’s fight against HIV, Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday as he began a weeklong trip to the continent. It was the pope’s first explicit statement on an issue that has divided even clergy working with AIDS patients.

Benedict arrived in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, and was greeted by a crowd of flag-waving faithful and snapping cameras. The visit is his first pilgrimage as pontiff to Africa.

In his four years as pope, Benedict had never directly addressed condom use, although his stance is not new. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, often said that sexual abstinence was the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.

Benedict also said the Roman Catholic Church was at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.

“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope said en route to Yaounde. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

Huh? Wha? Let’s start off with a look at the first, and arguably lesser, of the two utterly nutso statements at the end: the claim that the church is “at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.” Just what it is it the church does in the battle against AIDS? As far as I know, it insists that people refrain from sex outside marriage. It’s abstinence training.

And how well does abstinence training work?

The number of teenagers having babies rose for the second straight year in 2007, at a slower pace than the previous 12 months, a U.S. government report showed.

The birth rate for teens increased about 1 percent in 2007 from 2006, following a 2.8 percent rise in 2006, according to the report from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The number of unmarried women having babies also rose, accounting for almost 40 percent of all births in 2007, the report said.

Babies born to teenage mothers are more likely to be premature and less healthy, according to the March of Dimes. Government and nonprofit programs work to provide education on contraception, encourage youth to postpone sexual relationships and promote abstinence to reduce the rate of teen births, which had declined for 14 years until 2006.

“It is clear here that one of the jobs at hand is to get back on track to where we were, and that is convincing more young people of the value of delaying sexual activity and convincing sexually active teens to use contraception consistently and carefully,” said Bill Albert, a spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in Washington.

The reasons behind the increase in teen births are unclear. Some policy experts attributed the rising pregnancies to a lack of education about contraception as the U.S. government focused on abstinence-only programs under former President George W. Bush. Others cited an ill-advised confidence after years of progress.

Or how about this article from late last year:

Teens who take virginity pledges are just as likely to have sex as teens who don’t make such promises — and they’re less likely to practice safe sex to prevent disease or pregnancy, a new study finds.

“Previous studies found that pledgers were more likely to delay having sex than non-pledgers,” said study author Janet E. Rosenbaum, a post doctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “I used the same data as previous studies but a different statistical method.”

This method allowed Rosenbaum to compare those who had taken a virginity pledge with similar teens who hadn’t taken a pledge but were likely to delay having sex, she said. She added that she didn’t include teens who were unlikely to take a pledge.

“Virginity pledgers and similar non-pledgers don’t differ in the rates of vaginal, oral or anal sex or any other sexual behavior,” Rosenbaum said. “Strikingly, pledgers are less likely than similar non-pledgers to use condoms and also less likely to use any form of birth control.”

OK, so abstinence is clearly the answer.

And what can we say about Bennie’s claim that condom distribution “increases the problem” of HIV? I’m at a loss to respond with anything more than a simple “what the fuck.”

By the way, while we’re on the subject of wacky papal pronouncements, I don’t want to leave out this gem:

Benedict said that while the Catholic church in Africa is the fastest growing in the world, it faces competition from increasingly popular evangelical movements and “the growing influence of superstitious forms of religion.”

Superstitious forms of religion. As opposed to the religions that are based on the scientific method. Yeah, we’ve really got to watch out for that stuff.

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