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Joe Cutbirth

Joe Cutbirth

Posted March 18, 2009 | 01:02 PM (EST)

The Pope Can't Get Away With This


Pardon my excess here, but occasionally I just lose it. Someone needs to tell Pope Joseph Ratzinger to stop the demagoguery or abort this trip to Africa.

His statement Tuesday, reported as a virtual Papal pronouncement -- that condoms actually increase the spread of HIV -- is frankly unconscionable. And immoral.

What the Hell is the matter with the Associated Press? How can MSNBC in good conscience run a story on his trip to Cameroon with that as the lede quote and then offer nothing to challenge it?

Where is the simple professional follow-up: "What, sir, is your evidence?"

The AP did report that about 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS. In 2007, three-quarters of all AIDS deaths worldwide were there, as well as two-thirds of all people living with HIV.

I challenge anyone -- especially Ratzinger -- to offer one scientific study with a peer-reviewed methodology that shows widespread distribution of condoms has increased the spread of HIV.

That statement is so preposterous it's already being reframed as if the Pope simply favors other methods of pandemic control for spiritual reasons. But that is not what he said.

According to AP, he told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane heading to Yaounde:

You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.

If Ratzinger wants to stay in Italy and scare school kids by telling them God is watching when they French kiss or masturbate, that is his sexual silliness. But this is a matter of life and death.

There are women in these countries at the mercy of promiscuous husbands who refuse to wear condoms. And in one absurd, self-serving statement this Pope has given those men a fresh argument to justify their selfish and deadly behavior.

Equally tragic are the children in these countries who are orphaned at young ages after watching their parents -- and sometimes their siblings -- die cruel and painful deaths that a condom might have prevented.

It's been almost seven years since the World Health Organization began publishing significant scientific findings in British medical journals that showed the widespread impact condom use can have in slowing infection rates in impoverished and developing countries.

In the next few days, news organizations and wire services are going to run all types of benevolent photos of Ratzinger meeting with local dignitaries and conducting spiritual services on his much touted first trip to Africa.

He'll be seen by people in the countries he visits and elsewhere as a powerful and trustworthy spiritual figure, which is all the more reason for journalists covering the trip to flush out the basis of this bizarre statement they have widely reported.

If Ratzinger has a scientific study or some other legitimate evidence, then he needs to lay it out and we need to have that discussion. But only lazy, sycophantic journalists would let a remark like that go unchallenged at the onset of this event, much less give it worldwide currency.

And without proof, only a shameless demagogue or a truly wicked person would make such a statement.