Following is an excerpt from the National Catholic Reporter’s coverage of Benedict XVI’s visit to Benin, Africa from November 18 thru 20 the purpose of which was to present the conclusions from a 2009 Synod of Bishops for Africa, which Benedict did in the form of a 138-page document titled Africae Munus, or "Africa's Commitment. The Synod was the latest of several Vatican initiatives during the past decade which Catholics concerned with the plight of monogamous African women at the mercy of their HIV-positive spouses/partners had been given to understand and hope that would result in a more Christ-like pastoral approach on the part of the Vatican to that tragic problem. Unfortunately, as with such past fire drills, the Vatican has not backed off its hard line against the use of condoms to protect these innocent women from being infected with HIV --- this in spite of the fact that a number of national conferences of Roman Catholic bishops as well as individual cardinals, including the cardinal theologian of the pontifical household and bishops have, in effect, publicly disagreed with the Vatican’s unconscionable lack of real compassion for these women. Their plight is ultimately the bitter harvest of the promulgation of the so-called birth control encyclical Humane Vitae over the objections of ninety percent of the cardinals, bishops, theologians, medical experts and laypersons appointed to papal commission who did not consider artificial birth control to be intrinsically evil – an encyclical that has never been “received” (church lingo for accepted) by the People of God. " Bill Schuch
Hard questions about Pope Benedict in Africa
by John L Allen Jr on Nov. 23, 2011 NCR Online
1. Did Benedict avoid the condoms trap?
"The pope's last outing to Africa in 2009 was utterly dominated by debate over his suggestion, made to reporters aboard the papal plane, that condoms make the problem of HIV/AIDS worse. That triggered round one of "condom-gate." Round two came last year, when Benedict seemed to suggest in a book-length interview that condoms, while far from ideal, may nevertheless be a "first step" toward morality if they express a desire to save someone's life. ...."There was no repeat of "condom-gate," for the simple reason that Benedict avoided the subject altogether. He briefly touched on AIDS in Africae Munus, stressing abstinence outside marriage and fidelity inside it as the best approach to prevention, and also called for aggressive research and wider availability of anti-AIDS medicines at lower costs.
In 2009, after personal research revealed that the Vatican sycophants in the U.S. Catholic Conference Administrative Board, ignoring the special plight of sero-discordant couples, had in 1989, issued a "corrective" statement ironically titled “Called to Compassion and Responsibility: A Response to the HIV/AIDS Crisis” in which the bishops retracted their 1987 approval of providing factual information about condoms, and stated that, "The use of prophylactics to prevent the spread of HIV is technically unreliable . . . [and] advocating this approach means in effect promoting behavior which is morally unacceptable”, I put together the attached flyer to make my fellow Catholics in the Diocese of Venice, Florida aware of the plight of women in sub-Saharan Africa and the lack of compassion of our church leaders for these women.
(In personally distributing that flyer at a number of parishes in Naples, several pastors, including the pastor of my own parish, actually threatened to have me arrested for “trespassing on “his” parish property.)
Given the ongoing lack of compassion on part of the present Pontiff and his sycophants in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who, as a body, have lacked the moral courage to join those other national conferences of bishops and individual prelates who have publicly challenged the Vatican’s morally-indefensible failure to abide by long-established principles of Catholic moral theology, I invite my fellow Catholics in dioceses throughout the 50 United States to distribute the attached flyer urging their respective diocesan Ordinaries to publicly commit to urging their fellow prelates in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to, in turn, prevail on the Vatican to behave more Christ-like towards our African sisters.
It is time for some leadership from the bottom up. The leadership from the top down has been less than inspiring on this issue as well as others.
East Aurora NY
Bridget Mary's Reflection
Kudos to Bill Schuch for reporting on this important issue. Once again, the Vatican is failing in reflecting Christ's compassion to women and this is more one reason why we need women priests to reflect women's experiences and to listen to women's voices from around the world. Our sisters in sub-Saharan Africa need to be heard loud and clear, they are free moral agents who can make ethical decisions for themselves. Condoms are life-savers in their situation, nothing less! Pope Benedict, started a firestorm when he indicated that it was morally permissable for male prostitutes to use condoms as the lesser of two evils. He did not say, then or now, that women who are faithful wives in sub-Saharan Africa could use condoms in situations where HIV-Aids was a major threat to their lives. How does Pope Benedict's attitude reflect Christ's compassion?
Something is radically wrong with official church teaching on this issue. The Roman Catholic Church should be both pro-women and pro-life, and in all situations affirm that Catholics should follow well-formed and well-informed consciences in all moral choices. Primacy of conscience is the teaching of the church and that is the bottom line. When was the last time that you heard a homily on this topic in your local parish?
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests