To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
10 Aug 2001 00:00
According to the Catholic bishops, the morals of our country are being undermined by “lack of self-control and lack of respect for others ... unfaithfulness and irresponsible sexual behaviour ...
The Roman Catholic Church is the one true church; the rest are heretics or schismatics who have strayed from the one true path of Rome. And sex is something essentially dirty, which can be only tolerated for the purpose of propagating the human race. Why bother?
I would have thought that the selfish pursuit of wealth, consumerism, greed, and lack of concern for the poor were far more responsible for the decline of morals (when were they inclined?) in our country. After all, according to the Bible, depriving the labourer of his hire is a sin crying out to heaven for vengeance. It does not say that about wearing a condom.
Further, “lack of self-control” does not only apply to sex. What about drink for which Roman Catholic clergy are renowned anger, etc? When I was a missionary priest, I found that the worst criticism the people could make of a priest was “unolaka”: he was angry and short-tempered and shouted at people. They were not concerned about his sex life. And they never told me who was the father of the coloured boy who bore a striking resemblance to one of my predecessors.
Apart from any other considerations, of which there are many such as the sexual history of some of those who were party to the statement it is exceedingly arrogant of the Catholic bishops, and an insult to other church leaders, to claim that they are the only ones who are concerned with morality. Many Anglican, Methodist and other church leaders, who are at least as dedicated Christians as their Roman counterparts, support the use of condoms, but they are not advocating sexual promiscuity. Are they responsible for destroying the moral fibre of our country? Are the Catholic bishops the only upholders of Christian morality? Why is it that those who officially do not have sex are so obsessed with it? Sex may be the source of life, but there is also more to life.
Further, if they are to pontificate berobed in their transvestite glory about morality, they should stick to morals and not indulge in pseudo-scientific argument as our president does. What evidence, for example, does Cardinal Wilfred “abortion is the cause of all evil” Napier have for saying that condoms may be one of the main causes for the spread of Aids? Does he really think that people say, “Hey, here’s a condom, let’s have sex”? Rather, they say, “Let’s have sex condom or not.” Get real, Cardinal. If that is possible for a Roman-trained Canon lawyer.
In my experience, as one who defying all human logic remains an adherent of the Roman Catholic Church, I have found that those clergy of other denominations who are happy with their sexuality are far more concerned about the real issues, such as justice and concern for the poor. Pope Pius XII, unlike many popes, was doubtless virginal until his death: how did that help the Jewish victims of the Nazis? Does it matter whether the priests and nuns who were party to the genocide in Rwanda were celibate or not? Did the Crusaders only pillage and not rape? Does the chastity of the clergy who defended apartheid exonerate them?
The Catholic Church has been preaching and teaching for something like 2 000 years that sex is nasty and dirty and that if you indulge in it outside marriage you will be eternally condemned to the fiery torments of hell. Yet it still remains a very popular pastime even among the clergy. If such a threat does not deter people, why should the threat of Aids? People, especially young people, are going to continue to have sex, whatever the church or anybody else says. Even if, because they use a condom, they do not create new life, at least they will reduce the risk of ending one.
Even in terms of orthodox Roman Catholic moral theology, it can be argued that using a condom to prevent transmitting Aids, rather than to prevent conception, is justifiable. The bishops partially acknowledge this in relation to married couples. But their logic is as faulty as their theology.
If, as they claim, they are “pro-life” despite the church having waged
wars and supported the death penalty for centuries why are they not concerned about the tens of thousands of babies who are being condemned to a painful and premature death each year because of the government’s refusal to treat pregnant women and their babies with nevirapine? Without the use of condoms, there will be even more of them. Viva death!
Cosmas Desmond, a former Catholic priest, is editor of ChildrenFIRST magazine and a former Amnesty International official. He was banned by the apartheid government
Create Account | Lost Your Password?