pageok
pageok
pageok
Pope Benedict on Condoms and AIDS:

I read this editorial in the Washington Post yesterday and it seemed to me that the editors must've been making a straw man out of Pope Benedict's position on condom use and AIDs:

THE LATE New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts." This holds true even for the pope.

While on a flight to Cameroon on Tuesday to begin a weeklong journey through Africa, Pope Benedict XVI said, "You can't resolve [the AIDS epidemic] with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem." In a perfect world, people would abstain from having sex until they were married or would be monogamous in committed relationships. But the world isn't perfect -- and neither is Pope Benedict's pronouncement on the effectiveness of condoms in the battle against HIV/AIDS. The evidence says so.

Are condoms foolproof protection against infection by HIV, which causes AIDS? No. Sometimes they break, and sometimes people put them on incorrectly. Still, doctors on the front lines of the fight against the AIDS epidemic established long ago that the use of condoms greatly diminishes the transmission of HIV, the cause of a disease that has no cure. That the pope chose to question the value of condoms in fighting the nearly 28-year-old scourge while heading to the continent whose people are most affected by it is troubling. According to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, sub-Saharan Africa is the epidemic's center, with 67 percent of the world's 32.9 million people with HIV and with 75 percent of all AIDS deaths. Heterosexual intercourse is the "driving force" of the epidemic.

Now the peculiarity in this editorial is that the Post insists that "the evidence" says that Pope Benedict is wrong. Yet the Post cites no evidence to support its position. Instead, it offers a hypothesis and implies that common sense says it must be right--but that's not evidence. Obviously it is true that if you have sex, using condoms will reduce the transmission of AIDS.

But is seems obvious that was not the Pope's point. Obviously what he had in mind is that the promotion of condom use leads to an increase in sex and that the increase in sex leads to an increase in AIDS infection. The question is an empirical one.

And, in fact, I see from Mirror of Justice that is exactly what the Pope had in mind. I haven't done an exhaustive empirical investigation as to the accuracy of the findings reported there or whether they are generalizable. But although the Wa Po insists that there is evidence, it doesn't actually provides any evidence for its argument or against Benedict's claim that urging condom use will lead to an increase in sex. Instead it seems like the Post simply misunderstood Benedict's argument and instead attributed an utterly illogical and senseless position to him, implying that his position is something stupid like using a condom while having sex does not reduce the transmission of AIDS. If the Post was not treating the Pope's position as a straw man argument it seems like it would have done well to actually provide some evidence that would disprove the Pope's actual claim.

Soronel Haetir (mail):
Given that I've seen figures that greater than 50% of some populations are already infected encouraging or discouraging sexual activity doesn't seem like a key issue. The sex is already happening. That seems like the missing bit of reality to me. Are 20 safe sex encounters actually worse than 10 unsafe encounters? That is how the question needs to be framed to my mind.
3.20.2009 10:08pm
Paper Nuncio:
Kind of like the "fact" presented in the WAPO that AIDS/HIV is a scourge that has been around for 28 years.

Just kidding. But really, it's been around since possibly as early as 1884 in west Africa, with the latest HIV-1 date put around 1930 and the earliest as somewhere between 1884 and 1924.
3.20.2009 10:11pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
There is evidence, both quantified and anecdotal, that abstinence-only is a FAIL for reducing teen sexual activity and teen pregnancy. So now, we're going to try this discredited method, which doesn't work during a fairly short duration of a human life, as a lifelong practice. How's that working out for the Pope's own troops, anyway?

Excuse me, but this post is fatuous.
3.20.2009 10:19pm
Mayken (mail):
WAPO may not have offered evidence but that doesn't mean the evidence does not exist. That condoms have a very high degree of success in prevention of AIDS is well established in the scientific community both through lab tests and studies involving transmission in the real world. See this pamphlet by the CDC:
http://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/latex.htm
The key line: "HIV infection is, by far, the most deadly STD, and considerably more scientific evidence exists regarding condom effectiveness for prevention of HIV infection than for other STDs. The body of research on the effectiveness of latex condoms in preventing sexual transmission of HIV is both comprehensive and conclusive. The ability of latex condoms to prevent transmission of HIV has been scientifically established in “real-life” studies of sexually active couples as well as in laboratory studies."
So, yes, it is irresponsible and flies in the face of scientifically established fact to say that condom distribution in Africa "increases the problem."
3.20.2009 10:28pm
Cornellian (mail):
On the other hand, we should bear in mind that the Vatican's "abstinence only" approach is based on the theory that extra-marital sex is immoral, not the claim that it actually works. Put another way, even if distributing condoms were proven to be more effective than preaching abstinence, the Vatican would still oppose distributing condoms, because they consider use of condoms immoral, even between married people, let alone outside marriage.
3.20.2009 10:32pm
Bama 1L:
Yes, that is what the pope was saying. There is some empirical evidence on his side of the question; Uganda is usually pointed to as a country that has had great success with what we might call an "abstinence-plus" public healt program.

Unfortunately the "utterly illogical and senseless position" that Benedict was not enunciating was indeed stated by a Vatican official in the recent past. The late Cardinal Alfonzo López Trujilo said in 2003 while he was head of the Pontifical Council for the Family that HIV, being much smaller than spermatozoa, can pass right through condoms. This claim was neither repeated nor retracted. I suppose that the cardinal simply knew nothing about latex condoms.

Some bishops outside the curia have suggested that condoms have a part to play in AIDS prevention, but Benedict's statement puts the kibosh on that.
3.20.2009 10:37pm
Randy R. (mail):
I point out that Benedict did bother to cite any evidence that condom use increases sexual activity. Probably because there is none.
3.20.2009 10:40pm
asanders:
I agree with Todd; it's disheartening how much the media has (deliberately?) missed the point the Pope was making in favor of steamrolling a straw man.

Edward C. Green, the director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, has written that while condom promotion in Africa DOES significantly ameliorate the HIV infection rate in certain "at risk" demographics (such as prostitutes), it is actually associated with a higher infection rate among other "mainstream" demographics who often use condoms inconsistently. The reason for this is "risk compensation" - the tendency to take more sexual risks out of a false sense of personal safety that comes with using condoms some of the time.

When reading the NY Times and the like I can't help but marvel at the faith with which some will cling unwaveringly to their preconceptions and shut their eyes to any empirical research that challenges those preconceptions. I am speaking, of course, about those who are blasting the Pope.
3.20.2009 10:45pm
PQuincy1:
If I understand you, you are claiming that the Pope's assertion was an empirically possible one: "Even though condoms reduce the per-intercourse risk of transmission, the ready availability of condoms increases the overall rate of intercourse enough that the net effect of providing condoms is an increase in the HIV transmission rate." That is, indeed, a more plausible claim than the fairly nonsensical "using condoms increases, or does not decrease, the per-intercourse rate of HIV transmission."

However, your clarification (in line with the Vatican's) does not get Pope Benedict off the empirical hook, for two reasons.

1. As several posters have noted, abundant empirical evidence shows that condoms are very effective (although not perfect) at preventing HIV transmission. To assert that the rate of sexual intercourse increases by even more than the decrease of the per-intercourse transmission rate is therefore highly unlikely. Was Benedict really saying that, if condoms are 95% effective, that people are having %2000 more sex? (One can argue about the exact appropriate parameters, but the claim is one that would require extensive justification and explanation to be even plausible).

2. Moreover, there's every reason to believe that, while the Pope no doubt deplores the suffering caused by HIV, he also has a direct and well-established interest in reducing sexual intercourse among all sorts of people everywhere. Catholic teaching on sexuality makes it quite clear that while sexuality may be a God-given gift, it is a gift to be enjoyed only under very limited circumstances (intercourse between a man and a woman who are married and intend to produce children). The Washington Post and other critics are therefore not unreasonable in attributing the Pope's attack on condom use not to his belief that condoms really, empirically, lead to higher HIV transmission rates -- an extremely dubious claim, even as clarified by you -- but to the Church's tenacious efforts to restrict human sexuality to one context, and to call for complete abstinence from intercourse on the part of everyone who is not in a heterosexual marriage that welcomes children.

Again, as posters above pointed out, the empirical evidence shows the ineffectiveness of any and all programs to promote sexual abstinence, as well as the showing that those taught only about abstinence have similar intercourse rates and higher STD rates (at least in populations that are easy to study, i.e. American and European teenagers).

You have therefore succeeded in showing that the Pope's call was not prima facie absurd, but you leave him in the position of maintaining a highly doubtful position, one that is contradicted by the large preponderance of the available empirical evidence. At most, the Post was guilty of eliding the details of the Pope's position; the thrust of their analysis, however, stands -- and frankly, even that requires torturing their words: they simply said that the evidence suggests that the Pope's claim, that condoms "increase the problem", is false -- and so it is.
3.20.2009 10:48pm
Bama 1L:
The problem is that real people don't use condoms consistently. They will forget, get carried away, or purposely go without "just this one time." There is some empirical study of this. I really hate to link to First Things, but here you go.

I think that different public health strategies may work for different communities. Handing condoms out to everyone won't work any more than telling everyone to keep their legs crossed and take cold showers will.
3.20.2009 10:48pm
PubliusFL:
Soronel: Are 20 safe sex encounters actually worse than 10 unsafe encounters?

Quite possibly so, if the 20 "safe" encounters are with 20 different people, and the 10 "unsafe" encounters are with the same person. That's a big part of Benedict's point: it may be more effective to get people to focus on WHO they have sex with rather than HOW they do it. Promiscuous "safe" sex with promiscuous partners isn't, and monogamous "unsafe" sex with a monogamous partner isn't.
3.20.2009 10:49pm
BTB:
From The Catholic News Agency:

"If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem."

That is what the CNA says the Pope actually said. Based on that, and the rest of the transcript, WaPo misconstrued the Pope's statement. There is no indication in the article linked above that the Pope thinks, empirically, condoms don't work. Rather, he is thinking of long-term, broad solutions to the problem. Of course that solution involves the Catholic church.

I think even this post misconstrues the Pope's broader point. Instead of harping on more condoms=more sex=more AIDS, he was saying that without a change in attitude, the major problem of AIDS in Africa cannot be solved through the distribution of condoms. I tend to agree, even though I don't think that the change in attitude must come through the Catholic church.
3.20.2009 10:56pm
asanders:
@ Bama 1L: Just curious, why do you "really hate to link to First Things"? If we're discussing a statement by the head of the Catholic Church it seems salutary to cite one of the leading Catholic intellectual publications.
3.20.2009 11:04pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
asanders.
He's trying to say he's not one of those redneck godbotherers. He's one of the kewl kids.
3.20.2009 11:12pm
Libertarian1 (mail):
A very similar hypothesis has been made in my field, Dermatology. It was proposed the using sunscreens not only did not prevent skin cancers but actually caused an increase. How is that possible? Well, it was said the users would feel relatively invulnerable and spend many many more hours out in the sun. I don't know how to scientifically prove or disprove that theory.

Another place where that argument could be made is the use of seat belts. If many people who use them speed more than if they weren't using the belts I guess it is conceivable there could be a weak direct correlation, the more belts the more deaths.
3.20.2009 11:13pm
Careless:
So the defense of the Pope is "he wasn't saying something that was factually wrong, he was knowingly acting to get more Africans to die of AIDS"
3.20.2009 11:14pm
ArthurKirkland:
If the Pope's statement, properly construed, is correct -- which seems unlikely, although I have not researched the issue -- it is by happenstance, similar to the circumstance of a person who purchases a winning lottery ticket and begins to offer advice on "prudent investment." He would oppose condom use on dogma, even it were beyond contravention that condoms eliminate AIDS transmission. The reason? "Just because." The Pope is entitled to his opinion, and others are entitled to credit if if they wish, but it is difficult to imagine a legitimate role for a Pope in any discussion of science and reason.
3.20.2009 11:21pm
BobDoyle (mail):
With such profound and fair-minded insights, Careless, I don't understand why you do not use your real name so everyone can give you the full credit you so justly deserve!
3.20.2009 11:34pm
Cornellian (mail):
That's a big part of Benedict's point: it may be more effective to get people to focus on WHO they have sex with rather than HOW they do it.

I think this is based on a false assumption, namely that the Pope's position is a function of the relative effectiveness of distributing condoms versus preaching abstinence only. Even if distributing condoms were proven to be more effective than preaching abstinence, the Vatican would still be opposed to distributing condoms and in favor of preaching "abstinence only" because, in the Pope's view, the use of condoms and extra marital sex are both always immoral.
3.20.2009 11:35pm
BTB:
ArthurKirkland:

The Pope's legitimate role in a discussion of science and reason is not to further science or reason, but rather to counter the opinion that religion/spirituality serves no purpose in a discussion on global problems (and, for that matter, local problems).
3.20.2009 11:45pm
Frater Plotter:
As far as I can tell, the Pope's sentiment is equivalent to a radical pacifist employed by the Brady Campaign advising the residents of a violent inner city area that owning guns will not help them resist crime.

First off, it comes across as disingenuous. A radical pacifist believes that people should not resist crime in the first place: with Jesus, he believes that "if a man demands your coat, give him your cloak as well." So for such a person to give advice on what will or won't help resist crime is always going to appear disingenuous ... like steak grilling tips from a lifelong vegetarian.

Second, it comes across as opinion advocacy rather than honest advice. When the Brady Campaign tells you something about guns, you expect that their intent is not to inform but to convert: to convince you of their pre-established position, not to assist you with your life.

Last, it comes across as ignorant, to those who have reason to believe that the facts are otherwise. There are people whose job it is to research crime, rather than to advocate gun laws -- and they note that household gun ownership reduces crime, and is indeed an effective measure. As such, when an anti-gun pacifist comes around and says that guns are not effective, it occurs to one that they probably just plain don't know what they're talking about.
3.20.2009 11:49pm
asanders:
@ArthurKirkland:

You said:

If the Pope's statement, properly construed, is correct -- which seems unlikely, although I have not researched the issue -- it is by happenstance, similar to the circumstance of a person who purchases a winning lottery ticket and begins to offer advice on "prudent investment." He would oppose condom use on dogma, even it were beyond contravention that condoms eliminate AIDS transmission. The reason? "Just because."



I really doubt the truth of your counterfactual. If it were "beyond contravention that condoms eliminate AIDS transmission," I don't think the Pope would feel the need to make public, policy oriented arguments against their use. The Pope doesn't make public arguments that everyone should eat fish on Friday, or go to confession, or stop masturbating. Certain Catholic moral views "overlap," if you will, with interests that are accessible to those who do not hold Catholic beliefs; other do not. Condom use is one of those: not only is it immoral from a Catholic perspective to use them, but the monomaniacal promotion of them as an AIDS solution is counter-productive to the secularly-intelligible end of reducing AIDS transmission, or so the Pope believes. However, although the birth control pill is as immoral from a Catholic perspective as condom use is, you do not hear the Pope making public arguments re: the Pill the way he does about condom promotion. This is because, contrary to the loud opinions of those who are content with their favorite caricatures of Catholicism, the Pope's "external" aim is not the same as his "internal" aim. While internally he seeks to shepherd those within the Catholic flock towards conformity with the full panoply of Catholic moral teachings, externally his aims are more modest: to advocate moral positions that, while solidly Catholic, are also intelligible and potentially persuasive for those who do not hold Catholic beliefs. So it is with the condom/AIDS issue, and I think your suggestion that the Pope's moral public discourse is characterized by arguments made "just because" is extremely uncharitable.
3.20.2009 11:53pm
ArthurKirkland:
Among those who should be commenting on sexual morality and conduct, the head of the Catholic Church is extremely low on the list. One would imagine that any sense of decency would cause an entity with the church's record to avoid that subject for at least another decade.

This doesn't mean the Pope is a bad person, or irrelevant. But it seems appropriate for him to find another topic, just as I have little interest in Bernie Madoff's opinions on business ethics.
3.20.2009 11:56pm
Randy R. (mail):
" he was saying that without a change in attitude, the major problem of AIDS in Africa cannot be solved through the distribution of condoms."

Yup. And the if the Pope is holding out for a change in the way humans have thought and acted since the dawn of time, he'll be waiting a pretty long time.
3.21.2009 12:03am
http://volokh.com/?exclude=davidb :

The Pope's legitimate role in a discussion of science and reason is not to further science or reason,

What was your first clue?
3.21.2009 12:03am
Tony Tutins (mail):

There is evidence, both quantified and anecdotal, that abstinence-only is a FAIL for reducing teen sexual activity and teen pregnancy. So now, we're going to try this discredited method, which doesn't work during a fairly short duration of a human life, as a lifelong practice.


There is evidence compiled by the Guttmacher Institute that condom use is a FAIL for eliminating teen (or older) pregnancy. Two percent of women will get pregnant in their first year even when condoms are used perfectly. Over 17 percent will get pregnant in typical use, a bare one percentage point better than withdrawal. Realizing that women are fertile only some 20% of the time, some sperm must reach their target about half the time when condoms are used.

However the Pope meant it, a method likely to infect half of all sex partners every year will indeed promote the spread of AIDs.
3.21.2009 12:03am
ArthurKirkland:
I believe the Pope (or a previous Pope) has made strikingly similar arguments about birth control in recent years, and made them in a 'public, policy-oriented argument' (which boiled down to 'if you have ten children and don't want to produce the quarterback, stop having sex with your spouse'). Which does not strike me as surprising. That is what Popes do. For those who constitute a willing audience for papal pronouncements, more power to them. But if you aren't in the market for dogma, the Pope doesn't appear to possess much, if any, role in reasoned discussion.

Much of our world, of course, is not based on reasoned debate.
3.21.2009 12:12am
neurodoc:
TZ: Obviously what he had in mind is that the promotion of condom use leads to an increase in sex and that the increase in sex leads to an increase in AIDS infection. The question is an empirical one.
Yes, that's one among a great many unsettled empirical questions. But it is not one that many serious people, especially those who are even minimally informed medically/ scientifically, are in much doubt about. Absent compelling data to the contrary, most will continue to believe, reasonably so, that the promotion of condom use does not greatly encourage, if indeed it encourages it at all, more sexual promiscuity than would be the case absent such encouragement.

The advent of oral contraceptives about 50 years ago was to be sure a major contributor to greater sexual promiscuity. That result, however, was a more or less direct consequence of the availability of oral contraceptives. No effort to promote the use of oral contraceptives was required to produce the greater sexual promiscuity, which was a collateral effect of lessened risk of unwanted pregnancies.

On questions of Catholic thinking about theological and moral issues, the Pope's views are clearly trump; on questions about the relevant medical and scientific considerations, the Pope's views are anything but trump, and may often be highly suspect, since medical and scientific "truth" is not his principle concern, and the Church has a notably poor record with regard to such. So, the burden to adduce "evidence" and persuade is not the Washington Post's.
3.21.2009 12:15am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
According to a recent article in Salon, the leaders of the anti-foie-gras campaign are in fact members of militant vegan organizations like PETA. Whether geese are or are not tortured in the making of foie gras is of no interest to them, except insofar as it can be used as a wedge issue towards their eventual goal of ending human carnivorism.

Proponents of sexual abstinence, whether aimed at teen education or condom distribution, are not the least interested in whether their programs work as quantified by pregnancies or disease transmission; the programs work on some higher moral plane, one that to non-believers like myself looks hypocritical, but which must make some sense to them.

We know that abstinence-only programs do not work in sex education, if the goal is reducing teen pregnancy. If the goal is an education program aligned with a moral view that premarital sex is sinful, then obviously it is successful, tautologically.

The question of whether programs encouraging condom use reduce incidence of AIDS doesn't seem settled, given the dueling links. But we all know that if this issue—like the question of which type of sex ed, abstinence or comprehensive, works better—is settled by more studies or the evolution and improvement of the programs, the Pope's opinion isn't going to change.
3.21.2009 12:17am
epeeist:
Thanks for posting on this.

As some commenters have noted, those who use condoms for sex are often more prone to use them sporadically, being more likely to not use them among people they know well and thus having a false sense of security. And AIDS still spreads. That's from what I've read about e.g. Uganda and its successes with ABC (though there are some criticisms of whether its been as successful as advertised).

So encouraging condom use may actually (and some studies suggest does) encourage only SPORADIC condom use and a false sense of security = worse.

People should be careful not to let dislike of or disagreement with the Pope or Catholic Church or religions generally bias them. Disagree with the pope all you want, but don't assume it's wrong just because the Pope said it.

I actually disagree with the Pope on this issue, but even so aside from the evidential issues (I may be wrong and the Pope correct) recognize the problems with saying e.g. adultery is wrong but it's less wrong with condom use. Hey, by that standard, mass rapes of women as a tool of terror is wrong, mass rapes of women as a tool of terror with condoms = less wrong. Doesn't make sense, does it? Adultery = wrong, adultery with condoms = less wrong? Maybe, but seems a tough message to get across well.

Don't take my word for it, don't take WaPo's word for it either, research it yourself.
3.21.2009 12:25am
Bama 1L:
asanders, I would have preferred to link to the study itself or a third-party description rather than the authors' excerpt published on FT's blog, which some will dismiss as a sectarian or partisan publication. But I couldn't find it anywhere else.

I'm also not generally a fan of FT's editorial stances; I'm more of a Commonweal Catholic. (FT, to my mind, is not a "Catholic intellectual publication[]," whereas Commonweal and America are and Crisis was, but I certainly agree it's a good place to go in order to understand the pope.)

Richard Aubrey, I've said quite a bit about my religious beliefs in the comments of this blog. I really don't appreciate your statement. Even confining the inquiry to this post, would I really be trying to put the pope's statement in a better light if I were as you suggest?
3.21.2009 12:37am
Soronel Haetir (mail):

PubliusFL:
Soronel: Are 20 safe sex encounters actually worse than 10 unsafe encounters?

Quite possibly so, if the 20 "safe" encounters are with 20 different people, and the 10 "unsafe" encounters are with the same person. That's a big part
of Benedict's point: it may be more effective to get people to focus on WHO they have sex with rather than HOW they do it. Promiscuous "safe" sex with
promiscuous partners isn't, and monogamous "unsafe" sex with a monogamous partner isn't.


My point is that we've already got those 10 promiscuous unsafe encounters. If we were starting with zero, then yes I would agree that 10 monogamous encounters would be preferable, with or without condom use. But we aren't starting from zero.

I do agree that intermintent use is a serious problem. Not sure what can be done about it, especially given that the entire subjec is one that people are very apt to lie about.
3.21.2009 12:48am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Mr Tutins, Your post has so many different math and logic errors I scarcely know where to begin.

1. The effectiveness of condoms, per se, is not an issue. Your entire analysis, given the "typical use" number, fails on the simple hypothesis that abstinence-only teens are (even) less likely to know how to use a condom correctly than students who have had comprehensive sex ed. This may account for the result of several studies that abstinence-only is simply less successful than comprehensive sex ed, which you choose to ignore.

2. I also noticed that while you cited statistics for withdrawal, you left out the pathetic results of the Church-approved rhythm method: 25 percent failure in the first year. (Other studies have it even higher.) The statistic for couples too ashamed to have any contraception at all is 85 percent failure. Why not be honest and acknowledge that the Church (and, perhaps, you personally) oppose extramarital sex, and confect any argument in that direction, regardless of validity.

3. By my calculation, sperm reaching the target half the time would be a 24 percent failure rate, not 17. (Intercourse 20 times when the woman was fertile; condom failure 50%; 2.5% chance of pregnancy each time of failure.) Can you explain your calculation?

4. How can one conclude from the previous data that with condoms one will infect half of all sex partners every year? Are you extrapolating from the data about pregnancy on the (unstated and unsubstantiated) assumption that the likelihood of contracting AIDS is the same as the likelihood of getting pregnant? Or is this from some other source that you did not cite?

Numbers do not baffle me, so if you are going to fill posts with them, I'd like sourcing and explanation. Otherwise I suspect they are copied or concocted.
3.21.2009 12:49am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
There is good evidence that condoms can help slow or even reverse the increase in HIV infections. I won't argue with the criticism that the original article didn't cite such information, but....

When I was studying AIDS epidemiology in college, one of the cases which came up was Denmark which was, at the time, the only European country with a declining HIV infection rate, despite the fact that Danes were sexually active earlier and more likely to have affairs outside of marriage than other Europeans. The cause for the declining HIV infection rate was widely accepted to be the aggressive stance of the government in pushing condoms. Kids were indoctrinated from something like 2nd grade to associate boyfriend/girlfriend relationships with condom use, there was aggressive advertising on television, buses, etc.

While I won't argue with Todd about the rhetorical flaws in the original article he linked to, there is solid evidence of this sort.
3.21.2009 1:05am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Cornellian:

I think this is based on a false assumption, namely that the Pope's position is a function of the relative effectiveness of distributing condoms versus preaching abstinence only. Even if distributing condoms were proven to be more effective than preaching abstinence, the Vatican would still be opposed to distributing condoms and in favor of preaching "abstinence only" because, in the Pope's view, the use of condoms and extra marital sex are both always immoral.


This I think is exactly the point. The Pope is not interested in science on this one because the Pope does not see this as a crisis which has at its root a scientific solution. Instead the root is the "culture of death/sexual promiscuity/etc" which encourages sex outside church-sanctioned marriage and thus is seen to be the real cause of the epidemic.

Hence to the Pope, the AIDS epidemic is a moral rather than an epidemiological problem. In short from his point of view, the scientific evidence doesn't matter because he thinks that if the rules of the church were adhered to, the problem would go away.

IMO, the Pope should just admit that this is what the discussion is about, and admit that there is ample evidence that promotion of condoms done correctly helps limit the spread of HIV, but that in the church's view, this is the wrong solution. Otherwise we end up fuzzing NOMA out of the picture.
3.21.2009 1:13am
Joe Kowalski (mail):

you left out the pathetic results of the Church-approved rhythm method: 25 percent failure in the first year.

The Church hasn't promoted just the simple Rhythm Method for a long time. Most modern NFP methods use a combination of temperature taking and monitoring of vaginal/cervical mucus. When used with a lot of discipline and following the indicators fairly conservatively, the method failure rate is around 3%. Granted, the actual usage failure rate is higher since there are breakdowns due to lack of discipline and cutting corners on the indicators, but there are couples who successfully have used NFP for years without conceiving.
3.21.2009 1:18am
CaDan (mail):
Strange.

According to many of our fine commentators here, I was under the impression only Muslims attempted to influence the rest of the world to follow their religious tenets.

You learn something new every day.
3.21.2009 1:37am
Randy R. (mail):
Wow -- a whole day of criticizing the Pope, and so far no one has yet accused us of Catholic bashing. I wonder what the holdup is?
3.21.2009 2:06am
Derick:
Hi, I'd just like to point you and your readers towards some additional information on the topic.

this article is an excellent source.

"“There is,” Green adds, “a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by ‘compensating’ or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.”"

Edward C. Green is the director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.

Their website can be found here: http://www.harvardaidsprp.org/
3.21.2009 2:09am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Yeesh. Where do I begin?


1. The effectiveness of condoms, per se, is not an issue.

As a physical barrier, in the lab condoms block HIV as well as they block sperm. However, in practical use by couples having sex, condoms fail to block sperm frequently enough to produce a 2 to 17.4 percent (or more) per year failure rate. The actual sperm penetration rate is much higher, because sperm can fertilize eggs only 96 hours per menstrual cycle (24 hours maximum egg life + 72 hours maximum sperm life). This suggests a typical sperm bypass rate of at least 50% per year. Which in turn suggests a typical HIV bypass rate of at least 50% per year, because the latex condom blocks HIV as well as it blocks sperm.


Your entire analysis, given the "typical use" number, fails on the simple hypothesis that abstinence-only teens are (even) less likely to know how to use a condom correctly than students who have had comprehensive sex ed. This may account for the result of several studies that abstinence-only is simply less successful than comprehensive sex ed, which you choose to ignore.

The Guttmacher Institute compiled data for sexually active women irrespective of their sex education or lack thereof. Therefore, I do not understand how any conclusions regarding the efficacy of sex education can be drawn from this data.


2. I also noticed that while you cited statistics for withdrawal, you left out the pathetic results of the Church-approved rhythm method: 25 percent failure in the first year. (Other studies have it even higher.) The statistic for couples too ashamed to have any contraception at all is 85 percent failure. Why not be honest and acknowledge that the Church (and, perhaps, you personally) oppose extramarital sex, and confect any argument in that direction, regardless of validity.

No argument here: A method that allows HIV transmission 100% of the time is twice as bad as one that allows HIV transmission 50% of the time.


3. By my calculation, sperm reaching the target half the time would be a 24 percent failure rate, not 17. (Intercourse 20 times when the woman was fertile; condom failure 50%; 2.5% chance of pregnancy each time of failure.) Can you explain your calculation?

The observed cum fail rate is 17.4 percent/year, with the woman being fertile at most 1/7th of the time. Assuming a constant failure rate, the cum fail rate for an entirely fertile year is more like 73%. However, a 50 percent failure rate is conservative.

As an example. I am a combination serial killer/deliveryman. Every day I make one or more deliveries to a certain factory. I stop at the guard shack, which has heavily tinted windows. I fire into the guard shack, make my delivery, and leave. The factory repairs the guard shack and replaces the guard, if necessary.

Over the course of the year, the death toll stands at 17. However, it turns out that the company stations a guard there only one day a week.

The question being asked is how many guards would I have killed had there been a guard in the shack every time I pulled up?

4. How can one conclude from the previous data that with condoms one will infect half of all sex partners every year? Are you extrapolating from the data about pregnancy on the (unstated and unsubstantiated) assumption that the likelihood of contracting AIDS is the same as the likelihood of getting pregnant?

Nope. I am assuming that condoms prevent HIV transmission as well as they block spermatozoa.
3.21.2009 2:28am
Tony Tutins (mail):
(When there is a red flag flying outside the guard shack, sometimes I stop, and sometimes I don't. I'm not all Orthodox about it.)
3.21.2009 2:33am
PubliusFL:
einhverfr: IMO, the Pope should just admit that this is what the discussion is about, and admit that there is ample evidence that promotion of condoms done correctly helps limit the spread of HIV

Is there? Not according to Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, apparently. Which is kind of what the original post was getting at -- too many people are ASSUMING Benedict is wrong and just saying what his dogma tells him to without showing that he is empirically wrong.

Soronel: My point is that we've already got those 10 promiscuous unsafe encounters. If we were starting with zero, then yes I would agree that 10 monogamous encounters would be preferable, with or without condom use. But we aren't starting from zero.

I'm afraid you've lost me. Have we already got 10 unsafe encounters or 20 safe encounters? If we're talking about what's already happened, where's the choice presented in your original question? If you're just asking whether it's a good thing that a lot of promiscuous unsafe sex has happened in the past, I guess the answer is pretty obviously "no."
3.21.2009 2:35am
PubliusFL:
Whoops, should have refreshed before posting. Sorry, Derick!
3.21.2009 2:46am
TruePath (mail) (www):
The pope's remark wasn't much better as far as supply evidence goes but I don't think it's his fault nor that of the washington post.

I mean aside from trying to massage someone's intuition into agreeing with you (as the WaPo article attempted) their is little else you can say to argue for your conclusion aside from citing empirical results.

Sure, the WaPo article could have appealed to some study or demographic data that appears to support your position. However, the kind of empirical evidence on can appeal to in an article of this length carries no more argumentative force than a pure declaration that there is evidence.

Of course there will be some empirical evidence that seems to support both sides of the argument. However, If we know that both sides of the argument will be able to cherry pick enough data points to fill out a short article with 'evidence' then it isn't really evidence at all.

In other words at best the WaPo author could have pulled the wool over our eyes by offering a few data points and avoid drawing attention to the fact that he was asking us to believe his assertion they were representative.

This is actually a pretty general problem in the media. People want to believe they are evaluating the evidence themselves rather than blindly trusting the experts. However, most sociological or scientific disputes require a larger investment of time and energy to usefully evaluate the arguments than most people are willing to give. At the very least you need to see an extended back and forth between proponents on each side where they both have the chance to give detailed answers (e.g. did the statistical technique in that study create a bias). Unless you are devoting a great many pages to giving a broad overview of all the major work done on the subject or to an extended and detailed debate this so called 'evidence' is merely a slogan
3.21.2009 3:04am
TruePath (mail) (www):
Or to put the point a slightly different way:

Go read the pro-gun control and anti-gun control pieces that appear in the popular media. Invariably both cite empirical results that on it's face would appear to be extremely compelling arguments. Of course if you go read the long academic articles written (by conspirators and others) about these claims one realizes that many of them aren't nearly as compelling as they superficially appeared.

The problem is that when it comes to condoms just like gun control most people don't want to read 25 or even 10 pages of dense material on the subject and it's not even possible in the newspaper. The best one can do on these complicated topics in the space of an editorial is ask the reader to accept your claim that the rest of the evidence support's rather than undermines their view. So what's bad about doing this openly?
3.21.2009 3:16am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Tony:

How did we end up discussing the "cum fail" rate in a condoms thread?
3.21.2009 3:17am
Careless:

With such profound and fair-minded insights, Careless, I don't understand why you do not use your real name so everyone can give you the full credit you so justly deserve!

Whine about it if you like, Bob Doyle, but the fact is that the Pope's efforts to prevent the use of condoms will, if they have any effect, result in more deaths from STDs. It's entirely predictable. The Pope has engaged in a course of action that, if he has any influence, will kill people.
3.21.2009 3:58am
Careless:
the only options are A) preaching abstinence, despite the fact that it has virtually no effect, is the only moral/possible course
B) the Pope wants to kill Africans with STDs
C) The Pope is clueless
3.21.2009 4:02am
Vermando (mail) (www):
"monitoring of vaginal/cervical mucus"

WTF? Gotta admit I didn't hear about that one in catechism class.

I find it odd that Professor Zywicki targets the relatively irrelevant reporter who does not cite his evidence while he defends the influential religious leader who makes the same error. Given that the Pope spoke first - and, as stated above, there is reason to doubt both his scientific objectivity and his claim - it would seem that he would carry the first burden.
3.21.2009 4:21am
cmr:
On the other hand, we should bear in mind that the Vatican's "abstinence only" approach is based on the theory that extra-marital sex is immoral, not the claim that it actually works. Put another way, even if distributing condoms were proven to be more effective than preaching abstinence, the Vatican would still oppose distributing condoms, because they consider use of condoms immoral, even between married people, let alone outside marriage.


Ah, so what? Even if they feel using condoms is immoral, his point isn't wrong because of that. Abstinence, or simply not having sex, is more effective and works better than condom use. I don't think abstinence-only as a stand-alone educational model should be in place in lieu of kids knowing about contraception, but I do hate the thoroughly incorrect and partisan demonization of abstinence-only as a pragmatic way of teaching about sex. People claim to want scientifically accurate sex ed, but that's not true, because the part they don't mention is that they want sex ed that's scientific (meaning it's more empirical than word-of-mouth) that allows them to do whatever they want. It's absolutely correct, scientifically, to say that abstinence =/= unwanted babies and itchy bits. For every one teen who has sex and experiences one of those outcomes, there are fifty or better who don't. So I don't know how it's not effective, other than people don't want it to be.

I also think Benedict's point is pretty simple: promoting condom use indirectly and maybe unintentionally justifies the beliefs and sexual habits people have, when those habits and beliefs are part of the overall problem. The whole idea is people shouldn't think condoms will save them from themselves. It's their attitudes about sex that do more to transmit AIDS, not the lack of condom use.
3.21.2009 4:39am
Visitor Again:
Because of length limitations and the emphasis in the mass media on appealing to a general audience, no one can reasonably expect newspaper editorials or news stories to cite scientific studies or original studies of any kind. They may quote scientists or briefly summarize the state of the scientific evidence, as this Post editorial did, but it has never been journalistic practice, whatever the politics of the newspaper, to give citations. Newspapers simply are not academic treatises. Criticism of the Post for failure to provide citations cannot be taken seriously.

One might, of course, properly criticize a newspaper for getting the state of the scientific evidence wrong, but I hardly think the Post did that here, even after reading all the comments. I don't see any citations to scientific evidence in the papal statement to which the Post responded. With all due respect--and only that which is due--I wouldn't take seriously anything the Pope has to say, on only his own authority, about sexual practices and their consequences. The Catholic Church persists in its rather rigid religious beliefs in this area without regard to science, and, at the same time, it has fostered and covered up sexual abuses of children throughout the world of horrendous proportions.

This Todd Zywicki post sets up a straw man itself--the proposition that newspapers should cite to scientific studies when they make a scientific statement. It is just another overblown and unjustified Volokh Conspiracy attack on the mainstream media--and particularly newspapers Volokh Conspirators consider to be liberal.
3.21.2009 6:58am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
PubliusFL,

My point with the 10 unsafe encounters is that there is already enough unsafe promiscuous sexual activity to allow wide spread disease transmission. It is the status quo.

We have on offer (basically) two alternatives as to how to change that.

My question is would a substitution/replacement of that activity be better, even if it does not reduce transmission to zero?

The Pope is in the position of being required to promote the perfect as the enemy of the realistic.
3.21.2009 7:49am
Nick056:
It bears pointing out that the AIDS Prevention Research Project has the following mission statement:


The AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard University Center for Population and Development Studies was established to support evidence-based research on the impact of behavioral approaches in reducing the transmission of HIV worldwide. The Project investigates documented HIV prevention successes, as well as other promising behavior-based approaches, to help guide the development of evidence-based models of behavior change for both generalized and concentrated epidemics.

The pivotal role of partner reduction well as other behavior-based prevention strategies that have been shown successful in reducing HIV prevalence in generalized epidemics will be investigated. This Project also seeks to promote a deeper understanding of the influence that spirituality, beliefs and values, such as respect and responsibility, can have on human behavior and health, especially with regard to the AIDS pandemic.



In other words, the AIDS PRP explicitly advances ideas about deeper spirituality as a direct solution to the epidemic. They share this point of view with the Pope, whose comments they defend. Most AIDS research groups aren't trying to promote a deeper a understanding of the value of spirituality as an essential part of their mission statement.

This is aside from the fact that their entire program is about behavioral approaches to reducing HIV worldwide, which sounds remarkably like a roundabout way of saying they're not heavily invested in exploring contraceptive use as prevention. Sure, "behavior-based" is a term that can include the behavior of condom use, but considering "partner reduction" is apparently the foremost pivotal behavioral shift they wish to investigate, well, that is a bit of a tell as to their bias.

Additionally, this group is supported by the John Templeton Foundation, whose main award is reserved for people who "affirm life's spiritual dimension." The award was awarded in 2008 to Michal Heller, a professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology. He is a Roman Catholic Priest.

Unless the AIDS PRP supports its assertions on behalf of the Pope with more evidence, I can't find the group's word alone credible. I'm not saying it's a Papal plot, but it's obvious that the Pope and this group have peculiar, coinciding interests.
3.21.2009 8:13am
Nick056:
It seems upon following the link to Mirror of Justice that Green is prominent there. He describes condom promotion as a "disaster" and supports this claim with a simple correlation involving a few countries. He then looks at Uganda and points to another simple correlation.

Nowhere does he mention that his aim is specifically to promote "a deeper understanding of the influence of spirituality" (yes, among other values) in defeating the AIDS pandemic. It's interesting. Did he decide to promote partner reduction because contraception wasn't working, or because it comported better with a spiritual approach to the problem? Sort of like the question, are the places with a high number of condoms also suffering from high rates of infection because of the condoms, or are there so many condoms on hand to combat a problem which was comparatively worse at the outset?

From the link alone, we can't know an answer to either of those questions. But I don't think the alleged disaster of condoms in Africa was so horrifying to Green that it lead him to find religion.
3.21.2009 8:32am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Tony Tutins: You say you are assuming that condoms are equally (in)effective in stopping HIV transmission as sperm. But your claim only makes sense if you also assume that the probability of getting AIDS from an incidence of contact with the infection approaches certainty. Even assuming, arguendo, all your other claims are correct, only one partner in six would be infected every year.

In any event, the reason I discussed sex ed is as follows.

[A] Abstinence is more effective than condoms in preventing (AIDS | babies)

[B] Abstinence-only education is more effective than condom-based programs in preventing (AIDS | babies).


I readily concede the truth of Statement A. The conclusion B does not, however, follow from the truth of A, and indeed I don't see any possible argument from A to B, whereas I do see how the truth (vel non) of B can be established by empirical studies.

In contexts that don't involve pretty young women screwing, we don't seem to have problems with this distinction.

[A'] A strict pesco-vegetarian diet with frequent exercise is more effective than Lipitor in lowering cholesterol and preventing heart attacks.

[B'] In actual practice, prescribing Lipitor prevents more heart attacks than hectoring patients about diet and exercise.


I don't know if A and B are true, but I suspect they are, and even if they aren't there must be some similar example that is. But the Guardians of Morality are much more interested in sex than in gluttony these days.
3.21.2009 9:08am
NickM (mail) (www):
Condoms are routinely misused in the U.S. - stored improperly, put on in a manner likely to cause tears, or even worse, reused. How much more often will they be misused among a low literacy population like that of a subSaharan African country?

Anecdote: Someone I know who was involved in a Christian medical mission in Southeast Asia was horrified to find that some of his male patients would deal with using their last condom and wanting another round of intercourse by turning it inside out and reusing it.

Nick
3.21.2009 9:30am
mystified:
Wow, what effort it takes to try and rationalize what is so clearly an abhorrent statement from Benedict. The Pope made this declaration while on a continent ravaged by this epidemic. To be clear, he proclaimed that one of the necessary (even if imperfect) tools/strategies for combating AIDS was off limits PURELY on moral grounds. He said this as a leader of what should be considered one of the most discredited organizations on earth as it relates to understanding and dealing with the realities of human sexuality.
3.21.2009 10:04am
Desiderius:
BTB,

"I think even this post misconstrues the Pope's broader point. Instead of harping on more condoms=more sex=more AIDS, he was saying that without a change in attitude, the major problem of AIDS in Africa cannot be solved through the distribution of condoms. I tend to agree, even though I don't think that the change in attitude must come through the Catholic church."

Exactly correct. What amazes me is how otherwise intelligent people can either so completely misread him or can think they can get away with acting as if they did.
3.21.2009 10:18am
SeaLawyer:
Not having sex with people who have hiv/aids actually works.
Having sex with people who have hiv/aids with or without a condom does not work.

It really is that simple.
3.21.2009 10:26am
Cornellian (mail):
He said this as a leader of what should be considered one of the most discredited organizations on earth as it relates to understanding and dealing with the realities of human sexuality.

If nothing else I wonder why people would take advice about sex from a bunch of elderly male virgins.
3.21.2009 10:31am
Cornellian (mail):
Not having sex with people who have hiv/aids actually works.
Having sex with people who have hiv/aids with or without a condom does not work.

It really is that simple.


If we had perfect and complete knowledge about other people, all the time, life would indeed be simple.
3.21.2009 10:32am
SeaLawyer:

If we had perfect and complete knowledge about other people, all the time, life would indeed be simple.


They do have a test these days for hiv.
3.21.2009 10:37am
Chris Bell (mail):
Isn't this exactly what we want from journalists though? Don't we want to see less neutral reporting of incorrect statements and more "the President said X, which independent reporting showed to be factually untrue."

I understand that you wanted to see more evidence for this statement, but a newspaper is not a journal. Perhaps the reported could have taken the same exact language and just gotten a sex researcher to confirm it.

"Dr. X has studied hundred of reports on the effects of condoms. These reports show that the Pope is being ridiculous..."
3.21.2009 11:02am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Sometimes, Randy, you are the definition of a troll...
3.21.2009 11:08am
Cornellian (mail):

They do have a test these days for hiv.


It takes several weeks after an infection for that test to register as positive, so you can still be infected by someone who tested negative if they got tested in that window. It also won't protect you from a partner who you think is monogamous but is actually cheating on you.
3.21.2009 11:14am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Publius:

Is there? Not according to Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, apparently. Which is kind of what the original post was getting at -- too many people are ASSUMING Benedict is wrong and just saying what his dogma tells him to without showing that he is empirically wrong.


In another post I pointed to how Denmark's aggressive condom promotion (starting with 7-year-olds!) was successful for a long time in reducing/containing the AIDS epidemic in that country. Yes, there is evidence. The big issue is that doing it right (teaching kids from VERY early on that condom use is extremely important) is even more abhorrent to the Pope than seeing lots of folks die.

Interestingly at the time, studies were showing that folks who had extremely drunken sex (which in the US would be less likely to be with a condom) were using condoms pretty much all the time, and in the absence of condoms were abstaining.
3.21.2009 11:26am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
BTW, in Denmark, young (7-year-old) children were routinely taught that "if you don't use a condom, your girlfriend will leave you." For a long time (as far as I can see, as long as the program was in effect), the AIDS epidemic was more or less stopped in Denmark despite widespread teen sex and marital infidelity.
3.21.2009 11:28am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
BTW, does anyone dispute the following as evidence in this debate:

http://sitemaker.umich.edu/final3isaacson.356/sex_education

I will also note that the HIV rate was declining in Denmark in the early 1990's when such aggressive promotion of condoms was pushed, and since the program has fallen out, the HIV rate has rebounded to what is comparable to other Scandinavian countries. This suggests that the programs themselves were the reason for the falling rate at that time.
3.21.2009 11:39am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
by the way, it is worth noting that a lot of monogamous african women catch hiv from their husbands and pass it to their children. and the pope would tell these women that they can't have a divorce and remarry someone who is more likely to be faithful

seriously, the idea that a married woman can neither use a condom nor get a divorce is condemning her and her kids to a certain death sentence. the pope (and his predecessor) has blood on his hands.
3.21.2009 1:06pm
epeeist:
Dilan Esper:

This is part of why I disagree with the Pope's message, my understanding from having asked questions about the theology is that in Catholic teaching a married couple may use condoms IF the purpose is to prevent spread of HIV between the partners rather than birth control. Purpose and intent matter. If African Catholic priests don't get that message across, that's wrong. Of course, men having sex with their wives (including marital rape) after having sex with strangers is worse.

I don't think that for societal/cultural/whatever reasons, divorce would be terribly common even if the Catholic Church said "hey, go ahead, do what you want", given the position/role of women in many African cultures. As for a decree of nullity (religious annullment), I have no idea about the situation in Africa, to oversimplify greatly my understanding is that there are many things that can make a marriage invalid, inability of one of the partners to genuinely commit (as may be evidenced by spousal abuse, innumerable affairs, etc.) may lead to a decree of nullity.
3.21.2009 2:04pm
theobromophile (www):
Dilan: to state the obvious, the Papal teachings are meant to apply to everyone, not just women. It is the cheating men, not the Pope, who have blood on their hands. The Pope is merely pointing out two things to these men: that condoms will not always protect them against AIDS, and monogamy is the way to go. Strangely, like a lot of Papal pronouncements that one takes the time to think about, that ends up being really good for women.

Back to condoms and STDs. If you posit a situation in which a couple is about to have sex, and one partner is infected and another is not, yes, condoms will help prevent transmission of the virus. The Pope's point is that those two people (one infected, one not) did not simply spring into existence as adults who want to have sex with each other and happen to have STDs; rather, they came to be infected adults because of non-monogamous sex, which is partly fueled by a belief in the infallibility of condoms.

You can talk about failure rates of consistent and correct use of birth control all you want, but reality is that most people think that the fine print doesn't apply to them. As some commenters mentioned above, many people don't know how to use condoms correctly, or don't have access to enough new condoms (and the knowledge that they must be new, unexpired, and free from tears) to use them the way that they would be used in a controlled, clinical setting.

It seems pretty obvious to say that STDs and unwanted pregnancy are a natural consequence of not living your life according to God's plan: abstinence until marriage, and mutual monogamy within marriage. You cannot posit that a culture with easy access to condoms (and a belief that condoms are a solution to the natural consequences of promiscuous sex) is the same as a culture that respects and encourages chastity.
3.21.2009 2:10pm
Putting Two and Two...:

a culture that respects and encourages chastity.


I can't think of a culture that respects and encourages chastity more than the Roman Catholic priesthood. Can you?

Care to Goolge their HIV rate?
3.21.2009 2:44pm
theobromophile (www):
Care to post something about it, from a reputable source?
3.21.2009 2:47pm
Putting Two and Two...:

Hey, by that standard, mass rapes of women as a tool of terror is wrong, mass rapes of women as a tool of terror with condoms = less wrong. Doesn't make sense, does it?


It does to me. Perhaps you should ask some women who 1) were raped 2) bore the humiliation of giving birth to the child of the man who killed her family 3) is now caring for an HIV+ infant and 3) is dying of AIDS herself.
3.21.2009 2:50pm
Putting Two and Two...:
How about
America, The National Catholic Weekly?

"Reputable" enough?
3.21.2009 2:58pm
Desiderius:
einverfr,

"For a long time (as far as I can see, as long as the program was in effect), the AIDS epidemic was more or less stopped in Denmark despite widespread teen sex and marital infidelity."

God forbid that we get more than one bird with our stone.
3.21.2009 3:08pm
ArthurKirkland:
Instead of railing against condoms from a dogma-infused perspective, the Harvard project, the Templeton foundation, Dr. Green and the Pope could probably accomplish infinitely more toward their espoused goal of promoting the influence of spirituality by establishing that the conduct of the religious person is one-millionth of one percent better than the conduct of the non-religious person, or by arranging to make it so.
3.21.2009 3:42pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
epee and theo

the problem with just blaming the men is that despite thousands of years of numerous religions railing against infidselity and prostitution, there has never been a society where they weren't common. and the pope has to deal with the world the way it is, not the way he might like it to be.

saying this wouldn't happen if men were faithful is like telling women that they should't pack pepper spray in their purses because, in an ideal world, there wouldn't be rapists.

in fasct, neither JP2 nor B16 has ever endorsed the use of condoms for married african women whose husbands are HIV positive, despite specific requests to do so from AIDS activists and some lay catholics. they probably see it as a slippery slope that might undermine a lot of other silly positions the church takes on sex issues.
3.21.2009 5:26pm
epeeist:
To Putting Two and Two:

My point was, taking something that's wrong (e.g. rape), it doesn't make sense to teach e.g. "it's not as bad to rape if you use a condom". The message should be "don't rape". Would it be better if more rapists used condoms? Sure, but I don't think it makes any sense to target messages to rapists that they should use condoms because a rapist is not likely to pay attention to the message.

In a much less inflammatory way, take someone with multiple sexual partners that he keeps secret from his wife (or not secret, but she has no say). Can that person be expected to listen to the Catholic Church saying hey, we don't like all the adultery, but it's not so bad if you use a condom? Is there any point in such a message?

I question how much power women have in Africa to insist that spouses/partners use condoms anyway (but I do agree that e.g. a spouse wanting a condom used to avoid infection from the other spouse is okay, message should be put out).

Given difficulties in delivering safe food and water to large elements of the population, what's the likelihood of delivering adequate safe condom supplies anyway? If condoms can't be provided, what point to emphasizing condom use, doesn't an abstinence/monogamy argument make more sense?

I commented elsewhere, my recollection is that e.g. Zuma in his SA rape trial (the sex was admitted, dispute was over consent) was asked why he didn't use a condom. His answer was that he took a shower afterward. If that's the approach prominent politicians/demagogues have, does it really make much of a difference to the spread of AIDS in Africa, what the Pope says?
3.21.2009 5:36pm
theobromophile (www):
saying this wouldn't happen if men were faithful is like telling women that they should't pack pepper spray in their purses because, in an ideal world, there wouldn't be rapists.

No, it's not. Bad analogy. Let's be honest here: condoms are not promoted as something akin to pepper spray (that which you use to defend yourself against a hostile attacker); they are seen as a way for people to get closer together and enjoy their lives. This is a crucial distinction: are women really going to tell their husbands that they are STD-ridden cads who should deny themselves sexual pleasure within the marriage (by wearing a condom)?

What about the men's other partners? Dilan, it takes two to cheat. If women abstain from extramarital sex, then, as much as men may want to screw around with anything in a skirt, it just won't happen.

Fact is, if you can insist on condom usage, you can almost always also insist upon monogamous marriage. Why take the condoms - with all of the emotional implications of extramarital sex, failure rates, and the like - when you can have monogamous sex?

(Bonus question: why is it that it's always men who strongly oppose calls for chastity, and do so in women's names, while women are the ones who think that a chaste world is the best one for them?)
3.21.2009 5:57pm
Guest12345:
Can someone explain to me what is wrong with the message of abstinence and monogamy? In the context of social welfare and public health, it's a damned good message. In the context of personal health it's a very good message. So why the hostility to the message? Is it that people aren't very good at hearing the message and living it? If that is the case, I'd be interested in hearing if anyone supports encouraging people to manage their money wisely, to wash their hands regularly, to eat healthily, get a good education, get enough sleep, drink in moderation, etc. Yet we continue to push those messages even though people have demonstrated that they aren't all they great at adopting those lifestyle choices.

Or is it because it's a religious spokesperson giving the statement? Seems pretty stupid and shortsighted to ignore good advice just because you are biased against the messenger.
3.21.2009 6:00pm
Putting Two and Two...:

In a much less inflammatory way, take someone with multiple sexual partners that he keeps secret from his wife (or not secret, but she has no say). Can that person be expected to listen to the Catholic Church saying hey, we don't like all the adultery, but it's not so bad if you use a condom? Is there any point in such a message?


You seem to forget that exposure to HIV is a two-way street. I would think that a serial adulterer would respond to such a message.

All this discussion avoids the widely accepted fact that the three-part ABC campaigns in Africa have worked better than anything, even in reaching the serial adulterers. The Pope, like his predecessor, is working to squelch the "C" part of what has worked.

Do the folks who look to the Pope on matters of epidemiology consult epidemiologists on matters of theology?
3.21.2009 6:04pm
theobromophile (www):
Two: aren't you proving my point? The article hardly says that HIV rates among Catholic priests are higher than those among their peers in the general population (i.e. gay and male); in fact, they are lower.

The priesthood has long been a refuge for homosexual men who struggle with their sexuality and the Church's teachings. Many gay Catholics come to the conclusion that if they cannot express themselves sexually within God's will (i.e. in a heterosexual marriage), then they are called to the priesthood, where celibacy is not just acceptable, but encouraged.

Many people convert to Christianity, join the clergy, or find themselves called to religious life after a youth full of promiscuous sexual encounters. The fact that someone who is religious has a STD does not mean that it was acquired during his life as a Christian (or, here, specifically as a Catholic).

Finally, CS Lewis (in "Mere Christianity" IIRC) discussed the effects of the Christian belief system. He said that the correct test is not whether or not any particular Christian is better than any non-Christian, but whether or not that Christian would be better than he would be without his faith.
3.21.2009 6:09pm
Putting Two and Two...:
No, I'm not proving your point. I'm showing that even in the most "obidient" demographic, abstinence remains unachievable.

The Pope's "solution" requires that humans behave in a way in which humans do not behave. In the real world, a variety of approaches must be used to acheive results. A three-pronged approach has been shown to work in Africa. The Pope would cut out one approach. I know of no one in favor of condoms who advocates dropping the other two prongs.
3.21.2009 6:20pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Guest 12345, I don't see anyone opposing the promotion of abstinence or monogamy, as appropriate. I see opposition to the position that only abstinence/monogamy be promoted, and this opposition is on the grounds that empirically, there are fewer misfortunes when people are aware of the steps to be taken should they choose (unwisely, if you wish) to be non-abstinent or non-monogamous.

You mention drinking. Which do you think works better in terms of saving lives: hectoring party-goers about the dangers of drink and recommending abstinence, or encouraging drinkers to pre-arrange a designated driver? Does it matter if you are, say, not the Pope, but rather an Islamic imam and you oppose drinking alcohol altogether?
3.21.2009 6:22pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
theo

1. you are assuming that the pope could actually convince enough of these men to become chaste that it might work better than giving women condoms and promoting their use. in reality, the pope is using male misbehavior as a cop-out, because it allows him to shift blame and not seal with the reality that condoms will save some lives.

2. don't forget that the divorce issue makes it worse-- the pope also says if your hubby cheats, you can't leave him

3. if you really believe that modern women support a return to pre-feminist pretense that sex must only occur in marriage (which wan't actually followed anyway), you need to get to know more women
3.21.2009 6:55pm
theobromophile (www):
Dilan,

1) So according to you, male misbehaviour (aided and abetted by women who engage in the cheating) is not the real issue - it's lack of condom usage. We're never going to see eye-to-eye, because we just look at the world in different ways.

2) Not necessarily true. While a real Catholic (i.e. not me, who was raised Catholic and left the Church over a decade ago) could better answer, I'm almost certain that adultery and abuse are considered valid reasons to leave a marriage, although only as a last resort - i.e. after doing one's best to continue to work in the marriage, infidelity aside.

3) You need to get to know a better class of women... but I suspect that you hang around the ones that you do because of the, ahem, benefits.

Two: you're going to need to work a lot harder to prove that abstinence is impossible. Trust me, it's not.
3.21.2009 7:06pm
Guest12345:

You mention drinking. Which do you think works better in terms of saving lives: hectoring party-goers about the dangers of drink and recommending abstinence, or encouraging drinkers to pre-arrange a designated driver? Does it matter if you are, say, not the Pope, but rather an Islamic imam and you oppose drinking alcohol altogether?


I didn't bring that situation up at all.

My position would be that we continually argue against stupidity and avoid accepting a middle ground. Stupidity will never go away. Every time you reset your stake in the ground at a happy medium, stupidity will keep pulling you toward Moronville. Before you know it you are standing the intersection of Numbskull Place and Idiot Way wondering why everyone is slack jawed and drooling. One of the biggest failings of a society is to stop judging people who engage in stupid behavior. We really should look down on such people and not accept their diversity of lifestyle.
3.21.2009 7:09pm
theobromophile (www):
Whoa, wait, random question Dilan: are you seriously stating that adultery is not, in the Catholic teaching, a legitimate grounds for an annulment? While you are technically (and pedantically) accurate when you state that adultery is not a grounds for divorce, since the Church does not recognise divorce, adultery has long been held to be a valid grounds for an annulment (Matthew 5:32).
3.21.2009 7:15pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Guest 12345, 6:00 pm.

If that is the case, I'd be interested in hearing if anyone supports encouraging people to manage their money wisely, to wash their hands regularly, to eat healthily, get a good education, get enough sleep, drink in moderation, etc. [emphasis added]

Lazarus
You mention drinking. Which do you think works better in terms of saving lives: hectoring party-goers about the dangers of drink and recommending abstinence, or encouraging drinkers to pre-arrange a designated driver?

Guest 12345, 7:09 pm
I didn't bring that situation up at all.
OK, whatever.
3.21.2009 8:01pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
theo:

1. Where you go wrong is assuming there is one "real issue". There are lots of issues. Unprotected promiscuous sex is part of it. But another part of it is that women don't have cultural support to demand their husbands use condoms. What you (and the Pope) want to do is say that because the unprotected promiscuity is happening and contributes to the HIV epidemic, the Pope gets a free pass and never has to confront aspects of Catholic doctrine that also contribute to the epidemic. No sale. This is the genius of "ABC" programs-- they get at ALL the different factors that combine to facilitate HIV transmission.

2. I am no Catholic either, but annulment is only formally available where there was fraud or a misimpression at the time of the marriage. While sometimes the definition gets stretched to cover egregious cases, that's not what the formal doctrine actually allows. Further, if you are going to say that we can stretch annulment doctrine, why not stretch other doctrines as well, in ways that would allow couples to use condoms?

Further, annulment is complicated and difficult. It simply makes it very hard to leave one's husband under Catholicism. And the Church opposes easy CIVIL divorce laws wherever it can. So it isn't simply an issue of there being a procedure-- thanks to the Pope, lots of women cannot PRACTICALLY leave their husbands despite adultery. And that puts them in a bad position with respect to HIV transmission.

Further, it's worth noting that another thing you would want to do is give women more power in relationships so they can insist on condom usage and not face rape or other forms of reprisal. Yet the Church both doctrinally and on a policy level stands foresquare against women's rights and feminism. That also makes the problem worse.

3. It is frankly insulting to imply that (1) any woman who rejects conservative Catholic teaching about sex is a slut (or as you say, not a high quality woman) and (2) that nobody would advocate against the Church's teachings on sex and gender for any reason other than pure self-interest. I don't think accomplished, educated, successful women with pleasurable sex lives and no husband or children are "low quality", for instance. And I hold to that opinion without regard to whether any of them are attracted to me or not.

4. Let me make a final point on this. The reality is that Catholic teachings on sex are ridiculous. First of all, the guy who is supposedly such an expert on this subject, the Pope, is ostensibly a virgin. What the hell does he know about the subject? (And no, God, whoever or whatever She may be, doesn't talk to the Pope.)

Second, the teachings themselves are just loopy. Millions of people have pleasurable and healthy sexual activity who have no intention of conceiving a child. Millions of people have happy, healthy sex lives without marrying. Millions of people masturbate as part of their sex lives or incorporate oral or anal sex therein (all of which the Church condemns). Millions of gays and lesbians have healthy sexual relationships. And millions of people find happiness in their second or third or fourth marriages.

Meanwhile, many who tragically attempt to follow the Church's teachings end up repressed, with deep and lasting scars.

In other words, it isn't as if you are defending the position of a bunch of people with a great track record on sex who should be listened to on this important subject. Rather, you are defending people who manage to get just about every important question on issues of sex wrong. Why would they manage to get this one right?
3.21.2009 8:50pm
theobromophile (www):
Dilan,
You're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

Fact: the Church allows for annulment in the case of adultery. This is not a "stretch," but, as per Matthew 5:32 (and Mark 19, IIRC), the only Biblically-sanctioned reason for divorce.

I'm almost certain that the Church not only permits, but all but mandates, oral sex in marriage. It may have been Humanae Vitae, in which the Pope basically ordered married men to bring their wives pleasure (and orgasm) by any means necessary. But why let some good Catholic teachings get in the way of an ad hominem attack against the Church and anyone who dares defend its teachings?

Moving from there onwards: the Church's teachings are not "loopy," although they are very much designed to protect women against sexually exploitative men. (One Volokh commenter put it best: This business of women having sex without commitment worked really well until they figured out that men only wanted sex without commitment.)

There is also an incredible psychological and physiological truth about human - and female - nature buried within the "loopiness," that you may come to appreciate as you age (and learn more about women). Even young women who classify themselves as "exceptionally open to casual sex" eventually back away from that stance, once they realise that the sex doesn't turn into a relationship. (S. Rhoades, IIRC.) Anecdotally, most of my girl friends wished they had waited for marriage, and say that, while the sex is good, it doesn't make up for what it does to their minds and emotions.

That is what I mean when I say you should hang out with a better class of women - those with maturity and introspection.

Physiologically, waiting is the best thing for women. Women take about 5-10 years of sex with the same partner to get maximum physical enjoyment out of the act. (There's a reason why married women in the Bible belt enjoy sex more than anyone else, and married women like it better than unmarried women!) We aren't men.

Finally, pregnancy. It always cracks me up that the non-religious types, who presumably believe in evolution, are the first to yell and scream about how women can have sex like men. Sex outside of marriage - when the guy can just take off and never see us again - is a good idea for the guy. Over millions of years, our psyches became wired to match that reality. No amount of birth control can change that psychological reality: condoms don't change the brain's wiring.

That's only "loopy" if you're a guy who is hell-bent on convincing women that they can best be liberated by screwing lots of men, preferably the one telling them exactly how to be liberated.
3.21.2009 9:47pm
theobromophile (www):
Mea culpa: my penultimate paragraph should have included the fact that, although it can be good for men in the short term, it's not good for women, and, as such, our psyches have developed to match this reality.
3.21.2009 9:50pm
cmr:
Guest 12345, I don't see anyone opposing the promotion of abstinence or monogamy, as appropriate. I see opposition to the position that only abstinence/monogamy be promoted, and this opposition is on the grounds that empirically, there are fewer misfortunes when people are aware of the steps to be taken should they choose (unwisely, if you wish) to be non-abstinent or non-monogamous.


...which is opposition to a claim very few people make. The claim is abstinence and monogamy are the safest ways of avoiding STDs, and unless someone has some empirical evidence to the contrary, that is still true. The opposition doesn't seem to be against this, it's against the belief that people should be expected to be self-preserving and not expect society to force-feed them what they need to know.

A lot of people take statements like the Pope's to be erroneous simply because some people don't want to do it. I really hate using examples to make a point (because people do that too much), but there are a lot of people who don't want to diet and exercise, but that doesn't mean those aren't two very effective ways of being healthy and fit. People say promoting abstinence doesn't work...because people don't want to do it. It's pretty much true that people aren't going to want to do things that limit their impulses, regardless how you broach the subject.
3.21.2009 10:14pm
Desiderius:
theo,

"you may come to appreciate as you age"

I'd be willing to bet good money that Dilan is older than you.

OW, good convo. Thx both.

Dilan,

"Yet the Church both doctrinally and on a policy level stands foresquare against women's rights and feminism."

Only on an exceptionally narrow reading of the former. The latter? Well, the word hasn't aged well.

Again, I'm non-Catholic, but a huge Wojtyla fan. Neither the Fascist and Communist barrenness he first fought nor the libertine mores he later did have proven to be better for women than has the liberal democratic communitarianism leavened by spirituality which he advocated.
3.21.2009 10:19pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
theo:

Here's the wikipedia page on Catholic annulment. You will see that I am right— while lack of INTENTION to remain faithful from the outset (something akin to fraud which is sort of the touchstone of Catholic annulment) is a ground, simply being unfaithful is not among the listed grounds.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Annulment_(Catholic_Church)

That said, I don't deny that the Church grants annulments on this ground by stretching its rules. But the Church, as I said, could stretch its condom rules too. It's all a matter of what the Pope feels like doing and what he doesn't.

Further, annulments are really difficult to get. The result is even if a cheated-on spouse is entitled to one, it doesn't mean she will get through the process and get one, and if she doesn't, the Church says "you're stuck" and that's a terrible doctrine with respect to HIV.

Here's a good source on oral sex and Catholicism:

http://www.bustedhalo.com/features/
what-does-the-church-teach-about-oral-sex

Basically, if fallatio goes to completion, the pope says it's a no-no. And again, that's just stupid, as this is a healthy activity that millions of people enjoy without harm. (And the same goes for masturbation and anal sex, both categorically prohibited by the Church.)

Moving from there onwards: the Church's teachings are not "loopy," although they are very much designed to protect women against sexually exploitative men.

Google "feminism" and "the protection racket". This is a form of paternalism that assumes that women aren't competent to make their own choices about sex.

Further, you continue to portray sex as something that male horndogs want and females are pressured into having. In fact, females seek out and enjoy sex too. And it's healthy for them to do so. And for all those women who do like to control their own sexuality, these rules are HORRIBLE because they make them dependent on one man (who could be, as TLC would say, a "scrub", or simply a bad and inconsiderate lover) to provide it for them.

And as a historical matter, just about EVERY major patriarchal religion created its rules to CONTROL female sexuality for the benefit of men. The Catholic Church is no different.

There is also an incredible psychological and physiological truth about human - and female - nature buried within the "loopiness," that you may come to appreciate as you age (and learn more about women).

The only response that this condescending, offensive, and incredibly self-unaware statement could possibly merit is one that would violate the comments policy of this website.

But with respect to the part of your statement that isn't simply a smug lecture, you need to read Carol Tavris' wonderful "The Mismeasure of Woman" and then come back to me with your statements about women's essential "nature".

Anecdotally, most of my girl friends wished they had waited for marriage, and say that, while the sex is good, it doesn't make up for what it does to their minds and emotions.

I have a theory about why an ex-girlfriend of yours would feel this way, but again, if I voiced it, it would violate the comments policy here, so I'll take the high road.

Physiologically, waiting is the best thing for women. Women take about 5-10 years of sex with the same partner to get maximum physical enjoyment out of the act.

I suspect that the millions of promiscuous and serially monogamous women who enjoy their sex lives, as well as many women who stayed married to terrible lovers for many years, would find your foray into sexology to be hilarious. Don't quit your day job.

If you are interested in what sexologists actually find on this topic, may I suggest you read the Hite report or one of the many similar studies on this subject matter?

That's only "loopy" if you're a guy who is hell-bent on convincing women that they can best be liberated by screwing lots of men, preferably the one telling them exactly how to be liberated.

Again, you are being horribly patronizing to women. You really don't think that a woman might decide she wants to enjoy sex without worrying about children? You really don't think that the millions of women who are seemingly enjoying their ability to have sex with whomever they want to without having to risk a pregnancy have all been tricked into doing it by men?

You know, you accused me a couple of posts up of not understanding women. But— and I can say this with 100 percent certainty— you have no bloody clue about them.
3.21.2009 10:20pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Yet the Church both doctrinally and on a policy level stands foresquare against women's rights and feminism."

Only on an exceptionally narrow reading of the former. The latter? Well, the word hasn't aged well.

First of all, the Church itself is patriarchal. It claims that God always chooses a man to be the Vicar of Christ on earth. Why? (Yes, I know the answers, you don't have to bore me with them.) Huge amounts of power in the Church are concentrated in offices that women aren't allowed to hold. The entire structure of the thing is a blatant and offensive violation of women's rights.

Second, the Church opposes important women's rights almost every chance it gets, including rights to contraception, abortion, and divorce, as well as some employment discrimination laws (because such laws may affect the Church's organization).

Third, "feminism" has aged just fine, thank you. Indeed, it is thanks to feminists (and no thanks to the Church) that women can now succeed in remunerative careers, and can avoid having to be dependent on men. It is thanks to feminism that the nation's great colleges admit women. It is thanks to feminism that women have the right to vote and that women have achieved high elected and appointed offices. (Again, many of those women have been opposed by the Church because they are pro-choice.)

The fact that Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives demonize feminism is no proof that the word hasn't aged well. Feminism presaged great changes in society that have happened and have redounded to women's benefit. And unfortunately, the Church has stood on the wrong side of history (as it so often has).

The point is, I have little patience for those who claim that Catholic doctrines on sex and gender-- about as perfect an example of a traditional religion's entrenchment of patriarchy-- are intended to confer some sort of benefit to women. For the last several decades, women have been mobilizing precisely to undo the centuries of entrenchment of second class status that the Church had a big part in creating.

I'll listen to how great the Catholic Church is on women's rights whenever it is that we see the election of the first female Pope.
3.21.2009 10:56pm
Grover Gardner (mail):

Can someone explain to me what is wrong with the message of abstinence and monogamy?


There's nothing wrong with promoting ideal behavior, unless you insist on undercutting measures designed to address the problems brought about by failure to live up to that behavior. It's like promoting good driving habits, then removing the stop lights from intersections because you think they encourage bad driving.
3.21.2009 11:03pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
cmr, would you care to answer my question about drinking and the designated driver? It's in the same comment you quoted already.

Meanwhile, I do not understand how you can say I am describing an opinion few people hold. The sex ed policy of the Bush Administration was exactly only abstinence-only. Is this because abstinence if followed is 100 percent guaranteed to work, or because premarital sex is "immoral" and must not be discussed, much less condoned, in any way?

Teetotalism is the best, 100 percent guaranteed, way of not driving drunk, right?
3.21.2009 11:08pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
It's like promoting good driving habits, then removing the stop lights from intersections because you think they encourage bad driving.
Believe it or not, there's empirical evidence than in certain traffic conditions, this is true. However, I am not aware of any evidence that the designated driver campaign has increased the number of drunk-driving accidents.

Something like 40 comments since I first asked if the Pope and his supporters recognize the difference between the efficacy of abstinence (100 percent) and the efficacy of abstinence-only programs (in some cases, clearly worse than comprehensive programs). All I get back is pleading about what's wrong with abstinence and monogamy. Interesting question, but not responsive.
3.21.2009 11:14pm
Desiderius:
Dilan,

"Feminism presaged great changes in society that have happened and have redounded to women's benefit."

I don't disagree. I also note the past tense. Hence my claim.

BTW, when Theo referred to his girl friends, he wasn't speaking of exes. Perhaps were you younger...

;-)

Look, it's turned out that the alternative to patriarchs isn't a metrosexual paradise but rather cadville, with the mensches shat upon for good measure*. This doesn't argue for going back to the patriarchy, as if that were possible, but it does suggest some readjustments in the age-old women's rights strategies.

* - most of us can take it - we always have - but the current flavor of feminism isn't making it any easier to recruit many would-be cads to the cause.
3.22.2009 12:42am
Desiderius:
"I'll listen to how great the Catholic Church is on women's rights whenever it is that we see the election of the first female Pope."

Promise?

More likely it will be Palin redux.
3.22.2009 12:43am
cmr:
cmr, would you care to answer my question about drinking and the designated driver? It's in the same comment you quoted already.

Meanwhile, I do not understand how you can say I am describing an opinion few people hold. The sex ed policy of the Bush Administration was exactly only abstinence-only. Is this because abstinence if followed is 100 percent guaranteed to work, or because premarital sex is "immoral" and must not be discussed, much less condoned, in any way?

Teetotalism is the best, 100 percent guaranteed, way of not driving drunk, right?


I'm not going to answer your "question" about drinking and driving, because it's just a thinly veiled attempt to get me to say something other than what I mean. It's a rhetorical ploy to get me to acknowledge your point on that subject so that you can apply to this situation.

So what if it was Bush's policy to promote abstinence. I don't think many people would deny the importance of teens knowing about contraception, but I think the point behind the scant support for abstinence education is that it's ideal for children to be abstinent. We'd expect adults to be safe about sex, because it should go without saying, but we expect teenagers to not have sex. Your drinking analogy doesn't really pertain.
3.22.2009 1:01am
just askin':
I don't really have a firm opinion on the WAPO piece, but I really resent organized religion for unrelated personal reasons and would like to somehow express my hostility while looking objective and impartial. Is this the right thread?
3.22.2009 1:07am
Grover Gardner (mail):

So what if it was Bush's policy to promote abstinence.


He didn't stop there, cmr. He denied funding to potentially more effective programs.
3.22.2009 1:10am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Promise? More likely it will be Palin redux.

I think it was great that the GOP nominated a female veep candidate. Liberal criticism of Palin centered around the fact that she was not ready for prime time and an extremist. Had the GOP chose a different female who had better preparation for the job and wasn't as extreme, I suspect you would have seen a different reaction.
3.22.2009 1:12am
Mayken (mail):
@Theo although Dilan seems to be holding his own quite well and doesn't need my rescue I thought I'd pop in with my perspective as a woman.
You need to be disabused of the notion that having sex outside of marriage = casual sex/sex without commitment. I have never had casual sex but have had sex outside of marriage. I had sex with both my ex and current husband before we married. I was not pressured or exploited into these relationships. I wanted them. I enjoy sex and have a great sexual relationship with my husband (had a good one with the ex too - we just wanted very different things out of live and had to part. We are still friends, btw. Boy, am I exploited!) And I can tell you categorically that it does NOT take 5-10 years for a woman with one man to be able to get maximum enjoyment.
I've had a healthy sex drive since I was a teenager. I have many, many girlfriends who also have healthy sex drives and good sex lives, both in and out of marriage. None of them are exploited by their male relatives. I know people who waited until with terrible sex lives and women who didn't with incredible sex lives (and vice versa.) I have one girlfriend whose marriage broke up because SHE wanted more sex than HE did. So please don't extrapolate from your own narrow vision what is true for all women in this world.
The Catholic way may work for some men and women. It does not work for all. But Catholic doctrine has not been largely good for women, being as it has kept us in a subservient position to men for thousands of years.
3.22.2009 1:13am
Grover Gardner (mail):

I don't really have a firm opinion on the WAPO piece, but I really resent organized religion for unrelated personal reasons and would like to somehow express my hostility while looking objective and impartial. Is this the right thread?


No, you want Jim Lindgren's post about ACORN and Barney Frank being responsible for the the entire sub-prime debacle. Too bad he's not allowing comments.
3.22.2009 1:17am
Ricardo (mail):
Another data point on the effectiveness of condoms is Thailand. The HIV infection rate there has steadily declined at the same time as the government has aggressively promoted condom usage. That's not proof that there is a relationship between these two trends but that should be enough to throw some cold water on Benedict's implicit claim that condom promotion will increase HIV infection rates.

Obviously, it isn't enough to just hand out condoms and hope people will use them properly. They need to face constant reinforcement and education efforts to convince them to use condoms consistently.
3.22.2009 2:10am
Guest12345:

OK, whatever.


Whatever yourself. I said moderation in drinking is something to strive for. You created a scenario involving two different behaviors that had nothing to do with my point. I'll put my name on positions of my choice. If people choose to be immoderate in their behaviors, that is their responsibility not mine.
3.22.2009 3:30am
cmr:

He didn't stop there, cmr. He denied funding to potentially more effective programs.


To be fair, this sort of encapsulates Bush's entire administration.
3.22.2009 7:36am
Joseph Slater (mail):
Theobromophile writes:

It seems pretty obvious to say that STDs and unwanted pregnancy are a natural consequence of not living your life according to God's plan:

Really? I mean, even outside the obvious counter-examples of women who become pregnant or get an STD after rape, incest, or other coercion, I don't think that's defensible.
3.22.2009 11:25am
Desiderius:
Dilan,

"I think it was great that the GOP nominated a female veep candidate. Liberal criticism of Palin centered around the fact that she was not ready for prime time and an extremist. Had the GOP chose a different female who had better preparation for the job and wasn't as extreme, I suspect you would have seen a different reaction."

You've shown yourself to be fair-minded enough in general that I can give you the benefit of the doubt (although I know many generally fair-minded people who were unable to extend such a benefit to Palin, or Obama, for that matter), but I hope that you'll admit that the judgments you attribute to liberals regarding Palin were in general not reached after giving her a chance but often immediately after the convention speech, if not the nomination. In other words, before we had the opportunity to fairly determine if she was, in fact, extreme, or to consider her qualifications in light of what was, after all, an unusual election qualification-wise.

That this prejudice turned out to some extent (that extent itself is still debatable: anyone able to get NOW presidents to address a Republican rally - and to get the rally to cheer lustily - certainly has something going on that I haven't heard liberals, let alone the feminist left, acknowledging) to be borne out by subsequent experience is of course no excuse for that prejudice, any more than the visceral reaction against Obama on the part of significant segments of the white working class (Democrat and Republican and neither) would not be justified even should, God forbid, the Obama presidency flounder.

Back to the thread, enmity is a powerfully unifying and motivating force, and thus quite difficult to work oneself out of, even when one recognizes that it may be working at cross-purposes to one's goals. I should know - I've been trying to walk back my enmity for the left since I recognized how essential those who make up the left are to the success of my country in the course of Iraqi Freedom. That goes doubly now that they have in their hands the remainder of the levers of power they then lacked.

Likewise, I'd ask you to consider the possibility that the Catholic Church, as currently constituted, is not the ideal enemy for one seeking to promote the rights of man, especially those of the female sex. They've come a long way, baby.
3.22.2009 1:15pm
Mayken (mail):
@Joseph Slater - to add to your excellent statement: And the women who have unintended pregnancy inside a marriage or who get HIV from a bad blood transfusion or accidental needle stick because they work as a Dr., nurse or other care provider for at-risk populations. And never mind the millions of people who DO NOT get STDs or have unwanted pregnancies due to protecting themselves properly through the use of contraceptive and disease preventative products such as condoms.
And I won't even go into the depths of religious imperialism the statement reflects.
3.22.2009 1:18pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
desid:

1. had the GOP nominated Christie Whitman for VP, do you really think she would have gotten the Palin treatment?

2. unfortunately, the Holy See currently expends a lot of energy in national and international fora opposing women's rights treaties, laws, policies, and court decisions. for the Church to play a constructive role on these issues, they would need to change a whole bunch of their policy positions.

in any event, i don't want them as an enemy. indeed, i think that the church has many great attributes, especially as they@encourage believers to think critically and try to make the theology and doctrine coherent. but i do want the church to be irrelevant-- people have wisely moved on from the church's silly positions on sex and gender and i see no particular reason why we should be listening to an organization controlled by a bunch of virgin males who endorse discrimination against women and gays.
3.22.2009 2:38pm
theobromophile (www):
Note to Dilan: I'm a WOMAN.

Ergo, your lectures about feminism, how women think, what's good for us, etc are totally inappropriate. Your snarky comment about my "ex girlfriends" is entirely out of line. (My "girl friends" are my female friends, with whom I am very close. My "ex girl friends" are former friends of the female persuasion. The only "exes" I have are male, 'cause I'm not a lesbian.)

You owe me an apology. Whether or not you've "violated the comments policy," your response was crass, rude, and condescending beyond belief. There is something remarkably sexist in having a male (i.e. you) tell a woman (i.e. me) how she should think. Such crap.
3.22.2009 3:04pm
theobromophile (www):
Er... reading through this... the note to Dilan also applies to Mayken and Des. (Apologies, although not as needed as from Dilan, would be appreciated.)

You have no idea how cruel and degrading it is to be assumed to be a man (with the screen name of "chocolate-lover," no less) on account of holding certain viewpoints. Sorry, but I am really tired of basically being denied my gender because I don't toe the party line on third-wave feminism.

If you read through my website for more than a picosecond, you'll find that I am most definitely a woman.
3.22.2009 3:16pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Anecdotally, most of my girl friends wished they had waited for marriage, and say that, while the sex is good, it doesn't make up for what it does to their minds and emotions."

--"I have a theory about why an ex-girlfriend of yours would feel this way, but again, if I voiced it, it would violate the comments policy here, so I'll take the high road. "

Then allow me. Or, more specifically, let's allow Dan Savage. He's the sex advice columnist from the Seattle Reader, and nationally syndicated. He stated that he continually gets letters from women who did the morally correct thing and saved themselves for marriage. Now, after 5 years of marriage,or 7 or 10, they are desparate because their sex lives are boring, no matter how many positions or kinks they apply. The reason? They want to know what sex is like with another guy. So they ask Dan how they can have sex with another guy without cheating on their husband.

Which, of course, means you can't have your cake and eat it too. This isn't meant to say that every woman should have sex with as many men as possible before they get married, but at least for some women (and men) it might actually be a good idea.

The point is that every person is different, and trying to come up with a 'one size fits all' policy is bound to fail. By saying that you cannot have sex outside of marriage, for instance, means that gays can never have sex in their entire lives. (Which, I suppose, is exactly what the church wants, but again, it shows how out of touch with reality they really are).
3.22.2009 3:40pm
theobromophile (www):
Randy: all good points (although non-responsive to Dilan's snark, which was to imply that I'm such a horrible person that my "ex-girlfriends" hate me).

Last thing first: one of my many disagreements with Christianity is on the subject of homosexuality. For many conservative reasons - creating a stable family structure, allowing gays to have a socially-approved, monogamous, stable union - I'm very much for gay marriage. To continue the theological theme here, you're preaching to the choir on that one.

Moving on to other points: yes and no. Obviously, there's several counterpoints to the issue of having waited until marriage (or at the very least, until engagement or the like): it's easy to regret not knowing what it's like to be with other men when you don't have STDs, when you didn't marry another guy because you got pregnant with his kid, when you didn't break up because you had an abortion, etc. Furthermore, sexual jealousy is a reality for many, many people, and there are a lot of people who wonder how they compare in bed to their spouses's exes, or wish that their spouse - as loving and kind as he/she is - could measure up to someone else.

Certainly, chastity brings its own problems, but, IMHO, they pale in comparison to the consequences of a different lifestyle.
3.22.2009 4:14pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Ergo, your lectures about feminism, how women think, what's good for us, etc are totally inappropriate. Your snarky comment about my "ex girlfriends" is entirely out of line. (My "girl friends" are my female friends, with whom I am very close. My "ex girl friends" are former friends of the female persuasion. The only "exes" I have are male, 'cause I'm not a lesbian.)

Theo, I apologize for thinking you were male, but you need to grow up. You don't speak for all women, and women who enjoy their sex lives in ways that the Catholic Church would disapprove of are not "a lower quality of woman" or "less mature" than you are.

You seem blissfully unaware of both the extensive literature that asks real women how the feel about sex and sexuality (again, the Hite report might be a nice place for you to start) as well as the stifling of female sexuality that occurred before the sexual revolution (you might look at Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" for some idea of what it was like to be a married woman before the sexual revolution). You also might look at the classic "Our Bodies Ouselves", by the Boston Women's Health Cooperative, for some insight as to how female sexuality actually works and whether you really need 5-10 years with one partner to have a satisfying sex life.

In other words, you are sitting there assuming that millions of very intelligent women who are in touch with their bodies and who have found healthy ways to express their sexuality are all oppressed because they haven't found the incorruptible truth that only Catholic chastity will make them happy and satisfied.

I should mention one more thing, since you mention your (very commendable) support for gay marriage. I would suggest to you that the existence of stable and healthy homosexual relationships brings the entire edifice of Catholic sexual morality down. What I mean by this is that the Church makes a lot of claims about what can and can't happen to semen, and what people must and must not intend when releasing it. These positions can ONLY make sense in a world where there are either no gay males or anyone who is gay needs to be "treated" and "cured" into a straight person. Because the nature of gay male sex is that there are going to be orgasms and the precious fluid isn't going into a vagina where it can mate with an egg and make a baby.

So you can't really take the position that "these guys are wrong about gays but right about the rest of it", because their beliefs about gays are of a piece with the rest of it. They are integral to the whole theory. Take away the doctrines prohibiting homosexuality and they will have to admit that there is nothing special about male ejaculate that doesn't get into a fallopian tube, which means in turn that there is nothing wrong with birth control, nothing wrong with masturbation, nothing wrong with fallatio, and nothing wrong with couples (married or not) who have intercourse without welcoming the possibility of procreation. The entire structure falls.

The Church, in order to maintain its silly doctrines, HAS to be homophobic. There is no other way. So while you are right and good to reject the homopobia, you need to consider what the implication of that rejection is for the rest of your views.
3.22.2009 4:50pm
Desiderius:
Theo,

My apologies for an unwarranted assumption. As for Dilan, et. al., I'm not entirely sure how we got to the point where sexual gratification trumps all other considerations, but that is clearly the consensus of Dilan's generation, at least, and they look determined to carry it to the grave. I pray they do not take Western Civilization with them.
3.22.2009 5:15pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
As for Dilan, et. al., I'm not entirely sure how we got to the point where sexual gratification trumps all other considerations

We aren't at that point, though I suppose it is easy enough for a social conservative to think that we are.

For instance, nobody says sexual gratification trumps consent. Indeed, the feminist and sexual revolutions actually brought about more stringent treatment of rape, especially child sexual abuse by family members and marital rape.

But that's the obvious one. Less obviously, nobody contends that people can, for whatever reason, MAKE AN INDIVIDUAL DECISION to forego some sexual gratification for some reason that seems like a good one to them. For instance, if a person wants to become a nun or a priest. Or a person who decides to stay in a sexless marriage because he prioritizes the needs of his spouse and children.

What has happened isn't that sexual gratification now trumps all other considerations, but that the dominant view of sexual gratification has changed from a sort of an accidental byproduct of reproduction which needs to be avoided in other circumstances to the dominant purpose of sex. And a view that healthy sexual gratification is an extremely important part of life, rather than something that should be routinely placed behind other considerations.

And that's what social conservatives are so resistant to. They seem to think there is something wrong with people arranging their lives in non-traditional ways so as to increase their sexual gratification while delaying or foregoing procreation. But not only is there nothing wrong with this-- it is called having a healthy sex life, and people who go to great lengths to suppress these urges to obey a religious code often create great psychological problems for themselves.
3.22.2009 5:28pm
theobromophile (www):
Dilan,

What an amazing non-apology. The apology was owed not just because you thought I was a guy (which is usually something I laugh off, and realise that my next screen name ought to be something like "surfergirlJD"), but the unholy ration of garbage that flowed from that incorrect assumption. Let's look at but one of your statements to me:
I have a theory about why an ex-girlfriend of yours would feel this way, but again, if I voiced it, it would violate the comments policy here, so I'll take the high road

Beyond the fact that one cannot imply what you did and still take the high road, that was a totally unwarranted attack on my character - an attack that is only marginally related to your mistaken assumptions about my gender. That was not the only time that you said that a proper response to me would violate VC's comment policy.

As for everything else you've said: find someone else to debate. I'm done.
3.22.2009 5:30pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Theo:

To be clear, I apologize for insinuating any conclusions from my incorrect assumption that you were a male.

But as I said, while I was busy making a few snarky comments, you were busy making spurious claims on behalf of all women that are not supported by the data and which betray a serious lack of awareness of the documented facts regarding female sexuality. And you seem to be more intent on throwing a tantrum than defending your position.

That, of course, is your prerogative. But I suspect many observers might infer that you aren't defending your position on the merits because you don't have a defense.
3.22.2009 5:37pm
theobromophile (www):
Thanks, Desiderius.
3.22.2009 5:42pm
theobromophile (www):
Thank you, Dilan.

To clear up any misunderstandings: I am more than happy to debate someone who is not Dilan on these issues. I didn't have the time, nor inclination, last night, but again, more than happy to provide citations and evidence for my beliefs, for anyone else who would like to continue the debate.
3.22.2009 5:52pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
To clear up any misunderstandings: I am more than happy to debate someone who is not Dilan on these issues.

And again, to clear up any misunderstandings, I think anyone who reads this would be perfectly within their rights to conclude that in fact you don't have any persuasive responses to my arguments. Because if you did, you certainly would not want the thread to stand as it stands now with your arguments having been demolished.
3.22.2009 5:54pm
theobromophile (www):
Perhaps. Perhaps not. One of our erstwhile, hypothetical readers could simply pose a question to me - perhaps even following your line of reasoning - and await a reply.

Maybe, though, our intrepid would-be-debater would realise that I've read Our Bodies, Ourselves, The Feminine Mystique, The Second Sex, and others; that my minute DVD collection includes a copy of "Kinsey"; and that, as I grew up in MA, I received comprehensive sex ed in middle school and high school. Possibly, this hypothetical debater will realise that it would be better to ask questions (and make points) that are predicated upon the assumption that I'm fully aware of both sides of the debate, rather than snootily telling me to do reading which I've already done.

Because that would be a person worth debating.
3.22.2009 6:36pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Theo:

If you've read those things, than why did you make the claim that a woman needs 5-10 years of sex with one partner to learn how to experience sexual pleasure? That certainly seems to be the type of claim that is directly at odds with half a century of research by sexologists.

And having read Friedan and her portrait of the utterly dissatisfied and empty lives of '50's housewives, why would you make the claim that that traditional sexual mores were more pleasurable for women and protective against exploitation?

And having learned as much about sex as you have, why would you EVER make blanket claims about sex and gender that contradict the lived experiences of so many of your fellow women?

Look, I don't claim to know what is on your reading list. But what I do know is you made a bunch of claims about sex and gender which echo the claims made by the Catholic Church but which completely contradict the emperical research that has been done on these issues. If you read all those things, bully for you-- but you certainly seem not to have absorbed what those sources should be telling you about sex and gender.

If I can speculate, perhaps you are simply unwilling to confront the implications of modern emperical research that contradicts your religious and moral beliefs? That, after all, is one of the oldest stories of religion-- Galileo, John T. Scopes, Kinsey.
3.22.2009 6:44pm
theobromophile (www):
?????????????? Seriously, WTF?

You've made the following assumptions/speculations about me:

*I'm male
*I'm religious
*Apparently, I'm all into women being housewives
*I don't understand science (cf. your last line regarding Galileo, Scopes, etc)
*I've never read Friedan, et al. and am totally unfamiliar with Kinsey, Our Bodies Ourselves, etc

Did I miss any? Because, let me tell you dahlin, I'm an atheist woman with a degree in chemical engineering, who once upon a time worked in nanotechnology, believes in evolution, and has, yes, read everything you've accused her of being ignorant of.

Where does that leave you, aside from benefiting from the company of a pile of useless ad hominem arguments?

Don't speculate. You're always wrong.
3.22.2009 7:15pm
theobromophile (www):
PS - many thanks for the laugh re: Galileo, Scopes, etc. One day, you'll understand that some of us uber-nerds will forever have problems with organised religion because of its take on science, the universe, and evolution, no matter how convincing we may find their moral teachings.
3.22.2009 7:22pm
Desiderius:
Dilan,

Some reading for you. Now consider whether Catholic Doctrine more closely approximates the optimal reproductive strategies of the male or the female of the species, with bonus points for the interests of offspring.

Further consider whether your suggested improvements favor the male or female, both in theory and based on the record of 50 years of practice we now have post-Sexual Revolution. I'm no conservative, social or otherwise, but I have great difficulty seeing how your suggested alternatives benefit women more than Catholic Doctrine (at least on reproductive matters. I agree that a female pope would be a great breath of fresh air. How about Oprah?).

"And a view that healthy sexual gratification is an extremely important part of life, rather than something that should be routinely placed behind other considerations."

Extreme? I thought that was Palin. Look, I'm a libertarian, whatever floats your boat, but the reproductive process gets into creating and raising new boat-floaters, who lack the power to actualize themselves to the extent the big guys can, if a conflict arises between the little and the big. It used to be progressive to consider their interests to be the extremely important ones.

Though I could see how a social conservative like yourself might disagree.

"1. had the GOP nominated Christie Whitman for VP, do you really think she would have gotten the Palin treatment?"

Had the D's re-nominated Joe Lieberman for VP, and he rode into the convention on a unicorn, do you really think he would have gotten the Biden treatment? I'm not happy with how Whitman turned out, which is one of the reasons I'm not a Republican, but Palin's record in office is actually not that far afield of Whitman, especially on the crucial reproductive issues. Obama's record on the other hand... I think its clear who is willing to take a leap of faith, and who not.

Besides, Whitman was a known quantity. If the College of Cardinals chose Oprah as the next Pope, no, I don't think she would get the Palin treatment. If they chose a hot-shot young female African nun, complete with typical African Catholic views on reproduction, damn right she'd be crucified throughout the west, which is a tragedy on several levels.

"i see no particular reason why we should be listening to an organization controlled by a bunch of virgin males"

I'd take Carrell over Rogan and Ruud any day. Evidently, Keener agreed.
3.22.2009 7:28pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
theo:

the fact remains, you have rejected or ignored the mountains of empirical data that contradict your generalizations about what women want. whatever the reasons for doing so, that leaves you with a spectacularly unpersuasive position.
3.22.2009 7:30pm
NC Law:
Theo, I kind of hate to say this, but I think that in general you've been very unfair. You have, as Dilan pointed out, made some very broad assumptions that what works for you (whatever your religious/ethical/moral compass is) must be the best for everyone. Additionally, included in your earlier posts were some pretty offensive assumptions about what "all" people must be like, including but not limited to:

* Men only want sex without commitment;
* All sex outside of marriage is "casual" sex.

It may be that you didn't intend to imply these things but as a peruser of the entire thread, they seem to come out fairly clearly to me. Maybe you were just arguing as the devil's advocate, but that's not the impression I got reading what you wrote.
3.22.2009 7:48pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Some reading for you. Now consider whether Catholic Doctrine more closely approximates the optimal reproductive strategies of the male or the female of the species, with bonus points for the interests of offspring.

Evolution, desid, is not a prescriptive theory, it is a descriptive one. Evolution can be immoral or moral, in particular circumstances. (Lots of species reproduce through rape, for instance.) So claiming that Catholic sexual morality is consistent with one branch of evolutionary theory (and I might add that when you get into issues of sex and gender, the ground is VERY MUCH contested and lots of people think that these theories are way too influenced by background assumptions that are sexist) doesn't make it moral or correct.

Further, it isn't as if "offspring" trump everything. Every woman who has ever pursued her career even if it means putting the kid in daycare knows that. Offspring are important, but so is human happiness. And so is, not to put a fine point on it, sexual pleasure.

Further, and this is crucial-- people have every right to place much more importance on sexual pleasure than you would. The fact that you think that it would be better if some couple stopped pursuing so much sexual pleasure and focused on reproduction doesn't mean they have any obligation to listen to you.

Further consider whether your suggested improvements favor the male or female, both in theory and based on the record of 50 years of practice we now have post-Sexual Revolution. I'm no conservative, social or otherwise, but I have great difficulty seeing how your suggested alternatives benefit women more than Catholic Doctrine

Theo got pissed at me for saying this, but you really need to read Betty Friedan. Or read the extensive feminist literature on "the protection racket". If you know what life was actually like for women under the old rules, it's pretty hard to be claiming that women are worse off now.

Extreme? I thought that was Palin. Look, I'm a libertarian, whatever floats your boat, but the reproductive process gets into creating and raising new boat-floaters, who lack the power to actualize themselves to the extent the big guys can, if a conflict arises between the little and the big. It used to be progressive to consider their interests to be the extremely important ones.

Desid, the move you are making is from the uncontroversial proposition that future generations are important (unarguable) to the QUITE controversial proposition that people should routinely sacrifice things that are extremely important to them, especially sex, in order to focus primarily or exclusively on offspring, or, even worse, that government power should be used to INDUCE people to make the sacrifices that you deem important.

Plenty of people don't want to have children. Plenty of others do want to have children but want to strike a proper and reasonable balance between their children and the other important, pleasurable, and meaningful things they want to accomplish with their life. You can certainly claim that children are important, you can even say that some people are insufficiently attentive to their children's needs. What you CAN'T say is that anyone who ever prioritizes any human desire or need other than offspring is committing some grave moral wrong. Or at least you can't say that unless you want to effectively declare much of America to be categorically immoral.

Further, let's be clear about this. If one cares about women, this sort of rhetoric is very dangerous. Because there is a cultural presumption that WOMEN, not men, are supposed to bear all these sacrifices for offspring. Women are the ones who end up giving up school or career. Women are the ones who end up handling all the childcare responsibilities and working the second shift. Women are the ones who end up stuck in loveless marriages.

This is part of why you can't really claim that religious conservativism is consistent with women's rights. Because in order to accomplish women's rights, we simply had to elevate the concerns of women to the same level as the need to provide for offspring. If we didn't do that, women got stuck with the burden, and men ran off and did whatever it was they wanted to.

Had the D's re-nominated Joe Lieberman for VP, and he rode into the convention on a unicorn, do you really think he would have gotten the Biden treatment? I'm not happy with how Whitman turned out, which is one of the reasons I'm not a Republican, but Palin's record in office is actually not that far afield of Whitman, especially on the crucial reproductive issues.

I think you missed and therefore proved my point here. My point here is that liberals' beef with Palin was not her gender, but her unpreparedness for the job and her extreme right wing ideology. Do you remember Dan Quayle? Yes, the attacks on Palin were sometimes gendered (and they shouldn't have been, I agree with that). But the basic substance was exactly the same as with Quayle-- that McCain chose an unprepared ideologue to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

That was my point about Whitman. Whitman was both qualified (she is both much smarter and well-educated and intellectually curious than Palin and also has worked in important positions in government for a much longer time) and also not an ideologue (she is pro-choice, pro-environment, and socially tolerant).

As a result, the Democrats wouldn't have been lobbing any sexist jokes towards Whitman had she been chosen. Because we would have seen her as a relatively good choice.

As I said, this no way excuses people who made sexist comments about Palin. But the basic REASON for liberal opposition to Palin is that she was an absolutely terrible choice for the job-- someone who combined George W. Bush's basic incompetence and lack of intellectual engagement with the world with an ideological temperament similar to Rush Limbaugh.

'd take Carrell over Rogan and Ruud any day. Evidently, Keener agreed.

That's a clever line, but there's a difference here. It might be fun to have sex with a virgin. (It might not, too, sex is an activity where one learns from experience, a point that is actually made in the movie with a joke when Keener and Carrell finally do the nasty.) It might be wonderful to have a relationship with one. But you wouldn't ask Carrell's character to write a sex advice column-- the guy had no idea about the activity, which was shown in a funny scene where he tries to convince his friends that he had sex before and ends up saying a bunch of wildly implausible things about the act.

The question, therefore, is not whether one might want to be the Pope's first. The point is whether you would want to listen to sex advice from a bunch of male virgins who discriminate against women and gays. I think that question answers itself.
3.22.2009 7:53pm
theobromophile (www):
NC Law: I think you're being incredibly unfair and untruthful by pretending that I ever said that ALL men or women act a certain way.

I deliberately argued "women" and "men," not "all women" or "all men."

You've got that "law" after your screen name. Did your legal training miss a few key points, or were you too busy reading Dilan's b.s. to actually think through what I wrote?
3.22.2009 11:49pm
theobromophile (www):
PS - Upon second thought.. EXCUSE ME?

Dilan said, at one point, that I am "100% wrong" on how women think. You are remarkably silent about that "unfair" language that is bound to "give the wrong impression."

Neither he, nor I, nor anyone here, ever used the words "all women" or "all men;" rather, we've used the general terms "women" and "men." Either we're all making generalisations about "all" people, without using that language, or none of us are, and, in both circumstances, your comment that called me - and only me - out was totally wrong.

Once upon a time, I bent over backwards to ensure that my words could not be misconstrued. Then, I realised that no matter how hard I try, some jerk-offs will always misconstrue them, even if other people are using them the same way. It's almost like it's on purpose!

Those were also the days when I thought it was actually my problem that people who noticed that I'm a young woman would go into a sudden attack of the vapours whenever I did or said anything that was remotely not to their liking. I get all this talk about how "unfair" I am, and how I might not "mean" something, but I'm giving off some sort of horrible "impression," and would I please back down from my non-categorical language to something more sniveling?

Such crap.
3.23.2009 12:13am
Desiderius:
Dilan,

Looks like we're back to Archie Bunker/Meathead territory (I'm Meathead), which isn't surprising since your generation got all the "fun" of your Me generation while mine was left to pick up the pieces. These things evidently go in cycles, so no doubt the generation currently entering the world will feel as stultified as Friedan due to the coming overreaction to your Playboy Philosophy. So it goes.

What makes you think I haven't read Friedan either? I grew up on Helen Reddy and Marlo Thomas, for God's sake. My (step) Dad took paternity leave to care for my brother and sister, and my Mom's a glass-ceiling-busting feminist super hero, yet she too got hosed by my biological's too keen appreciation for sexual revolution mores.

We are legion. Listen or stop your ears. Your choice.

"Evolution, desid, is not a prescriptive theory, it is a descriptive one."

You set the "good for women" bar. I'm just saying that Catholic doctrine (favoring monogamy, fatherhood, fidelity, relationships over hedonism, et. al.) is more in line with optimal female reproductive strategies than male, and surely more so than your Playboy Philosophy. Those strategies are not identical due to physiological differences that have nothing to do with sexism, one way or the other.

I don't want to even get into the Palin - suffice it to say, you've proved my point: a female pope who was true to Catholic life doctrine would be crucified for betraying her gender, regardless of her other merits (or lack thereof that might come to light in due time, time "progressives" would not allow her) or the evidence her election might offer of the progressivism of her institution.

BTW, "intellectually incurious" is the new "shiftless". Might want to find a new descriptor.

"It might be fun to have sex with a virgin."

What the fuck does sex have to do with it? If you thought Keener was after Carrell for the sex, well, there's no helping you. I'm sure she knows her way to the local health club or singles bar.

I'm not asking Benedict to write a sex advice column - pretty sure we've got that one covered - I'm looking to him for the big picture, and he seems to have it better sussed than the supposedly Enlightened West.

Here's a serious reading suggestion from your heyday:

Love in the Ruins

Take that one in and get back to me.
3.23.2009 12:36am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
sid:

1. i'm younger than you think

2. if the only thing that matters in a vice presidential candidate is abortion, you might have a point. but palin wasn't just extreme on that issue. she also had no relevant experience, had a very right wing record in alaska (not just on abortion but also on things such as the environment), and generally seemed like she thoght she could BS her way through the job interview.

being pro-life was the least of her problems, but again, even on the abortion issue, democrats tend to be pro-choice. you really think they are going to be big cheerleaders for pro-life veep candidates? again, the disagreement was overt policy and competence-- some sexist jokes that should not have been said doesn't change that

since we are on palin, i would add one more thing. as much as i am prto-choice, i would rather have qualified pro-life veep than an unqualified pro-choice one. unfortunately, i think many on the right get that equation wrong.
3.23.2009 3:33am
Mayken (mail):
theobromophile: I actually stumbled to the fact that you're a woman when you asked:

why is it that it's always men who strongly oppose calls for chastity, and do so in women's names, while women are the ones who think that a chaste world is the best one for them?

I do apologize for giving the impression that I seconded some of Dilan's less polite comments and for not giving you the courtesy of using your full handle when addressing you.
But otherwise I didn't say anything for which I am sorry. You made several generalizations about women's sexuality and the so-called protection that the Church's teachings are supposed to afford us that I felt the need to respond to them as a woman with a different point of view. I completely disagree with many of the notions you forwarded and there is plenty of science that counters your arguments.
BTW, since I, a woman, oppose "calls for chastity" (at least as an exclusive approach to sex for consenting adults) and it is the male hierarchy of the Catholic Church (among others) who seem to think that a chaste world is best, for women and men, the implication of your question above is clearly incorrect.
In addition, you did directly insult women like me who believe that consensual, adult sex outside of the narrow confines of the Church's teachings is neither morally wrong nor psychologically damaging:

You need to get to know a better class of women... but I suspect that you hang around the ones that you do because of the, ahem, benefits.


That is what I mean when I say you should hang out with a better class of women - those with maturity and introspection.

Despite your later "clarification" you implication was that the women he knew, women like me, were "easy" and that was the only reason a man would ever hang out with them. And your "explanation" is no better, implying as it does that women with my opinion are clearly immature and shallow.
I am 36 years old and I have experienced a lot of life in those years. I am well-traveled, well-read, college-educated, a technology professional and am in the process of adopting a child with my husband. I have thought, read and made decisions about sex for many years, up to and including my first time, which I approached with a great deal of thought and reason before going through with it. I am a deeply spiritual woman for whom honor and service to others is a major priority in life. I am faithful to my husband because I honor the vows we made to each other. All of this is who I am because I have made conscious decisions not because a church tells me I should a certain way. So I am a woman of maturity and introspection who completely disagrees with the idea that the only morally right or psychologically positive sexual contact must be within marriage. And I know many, many other women like me. We lack neither maturity nor introspection.
People of intelligence and deep thinking can come to different conclusions based on their own personal experiences. You have obviously come to a set of conclusions that works for you and you are more than welcome to hold them and to teach them to your children (I didn't notice if you said you did or didn't have them so sorry for making any assumptions) but that way is not right for all people. And there is a great deal of evidence that teaching abstinence to the exclusion of all else is at best no better than comprehensive sexual education at promoting safe sexual behavior.
I also don't think that there is anything wrong with a man talking about feminism or giving an opinion based on research and well-established feminist thought. In fact I am very happy to be reminded that there are feminist men out there - sometimes it feels like I married one of the only ones. I don't think modern feminism emphasizes enough the fact that both men and women have been constrained by society's rules on sex and gender and that both sexes have a part to play in building a more equal society. I think it's incorrect to say that a man cannot understand a woman's experiences and just as incorrect to say the reverse. We are not different species and we are both capable of seeing things from the other side.
3.23.2009 4:04am
zuch (mail) (www):
theobromophile:
The apology was owed not just because you thought I was a guy (which is usually something I laugh off, and realise that my next screen name ought to be something like "surfergirlJD"),...
At the risk of sounding like I'm sexist, I suspected feminine gender just from your handle [a/k/a "Chocaholic"]. ;-) But gender misattribution is common on the InterToobz; and I don't think you should take too much from it, even though a careful read of your post by Dilan might have emilinated confusion. FWIW, I've been accused (or labeled) gay by many over the years and take no offence; that I am not is certainly not dispositive as to whether I can know what's involved with being gay ... that's the wonder of communication, when people actually listen to what others are saying (regardless of their "status", perceived or otherwise) and try to be honest in their own discourse.

Cheers,
3.23.2009 2:36pm
theobromophile (www):
Mayken: whether or not you realise it, your values about sex are a hell of a lot more like the Pope's than they are like Dilan's. As Des pointed out, he's got the modern Playboy lifestyle down. You think that you're more like him; your attitude shows that you're doing the chastity thing - taking sex seriously, thinking about the emotional and other consequences, caring about your partner. Whether or not you are comfortable sticking that label on it, you're living your life in accordance with the underlying theories of chastity.

All that aside, I am so flipping tired of hearing everyone get all defensive about their own sex lives, and thinks that everyone who takes a stand for chastity or any conservative value is incapable of seeing shades of grey, and, as such, reads out any possible shades of grey in their words. It's both fantastically circular and fantastically irritating.

You people, in your rush to scream about slut-shaming, miss the fact that you're the biggest shamers of all. Chastity shaming is real, and it's all over this thread. And I am so sick of being told that any time, heaven forbid, that I mention anything good about the chaste lifestyle, that I'm somehow mean or offensive. Hell, I've gotten the same little lecture you gave me when I limited the discussion to MYSELF.

Oddly enough, the ones doing the lecturing are the ones who live their lives according to one set of values (i.e. that sex is special, sacred, and not something to be taken lightly), but endorse another set of values for everyone else(the modern "sex is just a good time"). Somehow, I'm responsible for this wonderful act of cognitive dissonance.

Mayken, look at the way you live your life, and then look at what the Church is saying, and what the modern hook-up culture says. Then ask yourself which is the better reflection of your values, and WHY you've chosen to live your life the way you have. Then say that you're sorry.
3.23.2009 3:08pm
theobromophile (www):
zuch: I did not make my comment in a vacuum. It appears that you skimmed through the thread and latched on to one particular point (which Mayken and NC Law also did).

Ya know, I started typing out an explanatory response as to why I said the things I did, until I realised that it's all upthread for you to read. If you missed that, go back and figure out the context, find someone else on VC with whom to chat, or just talk generally about the subject.
3.23.2009 3:17pm
NC Law:

NC Law: I think you're being incredibly unfair and untruthful by pretending that I ever said that ALL men or women act a certain way.

I deliberately argued "women" and "men," not "all women" or "all men."


If I may take the liberty of opposing your view, I believe the conventional implication when making a statement of the type "Group A displays Characteristic B" is that for most-to-all members of Group A, that statement holds true. No other meaning makes sense - if we are grouping items that way, it wouldn't make sense to apply a characteristic to a group unless at least a majority of the group displayed the characteristic. As I said above, perhaps that wasn't what you meant, but saying that you said "men" instead of "all men" or "women" instead of "all women" doesn't, to my mind, change the character of your argument very much.


You've got that "law" after your screen name. Did your legal training miss a few key points, or were you too busy reading Dilan's b.s. to actually think through what I wrote?


I gave you the benefit of the doubt about what you meant. Seems you are not willing to reciprocate.


Dilan said, at one point, that I am "100% wrong" on how women think. You are remarkably silent about that "unfair" language that is bound to "give the wrong impression."


Because, as I mentioned above, your position appears to be that a particular solution is the only appropriate solution for all times, people and places. In that, I agree with Dilan that you are 100% wrong. There are several counterexamples on this thread of women who don't share your thought process. If, as you say, you weren't really trying to speak for all (or most), then I will readily concede that you are, in fact, less than 100% wrong.


Neither he, nor I, nor anyone here, ever used the words "all women" or "all men;" rather, we've used the general terms "women" and "men." Either we're all making generalisations about "all" people, without using that language, or none of us are, and, in both circumstances, your comment that called me - and only me - out was totally wrong.

Once upon a time, I bent over backwards to ensure that my words could not be misconstrued. Then, I realised that no matter how hard I try, some jerk-offs will always misconstrue them, even if other people are using them the same way. It's almost like it's on purpose!

Those were also the days when I thought it was actually my problem that people who noticed that I'm a young woman would go into a sudden attack of the vapours whenever I did or said anything that was remotely not to their liking. I get all this talk about how "unfair" I am, and how I might not "mean" something, but I'm giving off some sort of horrible "impression," and would I please back down from my non-categorical language to something more sniveling?


Except that to at least one observer of the thread, your arguments were categorical in a way that the others were not. I did not see any arguments to the effect that "everyone should have casual sex, and people who do otherwise are wrong/stupid." I did see arguments to the effect that "people should not be told that abstinence is the only answer for all people and for all time." Discussion of your views and the logical inferences to be drawn therefrom scarecely amount to "the vapours {TM}." Welcome to the marketplace of ideas - you need not respect mine, but do not expect me to respect yours.
3.23.2009 3:49pm
Desiderius:
Dilan,

"1. i'm younger than you think"

I'm guessing 53, so Love in the Ruins would indeed have been a bit soon for your heyday. Then again, Percy was at his height around the time of the Hite Report, which was also the year I started reading Time cover to cover as a precocious six-year-old. So I go back just far enough to have missed Nixon, which actually explains a lot.
3.23.2009 4:22pm
zuch (mail) (www):
theobromophile:
Ya know, I started typing out an explanatory response as to why I said the things I did, until I realised that it's all upthread for you to read. If you missed that, go back and figure out the context, find someone else on VC with whom to chat, or just talk generally about the subject.
Oh. OK. I was just trying to make nice, and soothe the waters, but since you asked for it, I'll take some more of the "context" (that I did in fact read) and address it:
NC Law, I think you're being incredibly unfair and untruthful by pretending that I ever said that ALL men or women act a certain way.

[theobromophile]: I deliberately argued "women" and "men," not "all women" or "all men."
If you meant "some women [or men], "most women", or "women generally", you should have said so. To say that -- categorically [which is the intimation of using the bare-naked "women"] -- "women" do this or should do that leads any serious reader of your claim to assume you mean that categorical claim, which is by nature a claim as to all such group members. If there is confusion as to what you meant, the fault is all yours, and the criticism that you do not speak for every woman is warranted.

And Dilan's comment about evolution being descriptive, not prescriptive, is a valid objection to what you asserted:
[theobromophile]: It always cracks me up that the non-religious types, who presumably believe in evolution, are the first to yell and scream about how women can have sex like men. [followed by some non-sequitur pabulum about what's 'good' for the species or gender....]
Is that better now?

Cheers,
3.23.2009 4:27pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
You people, in your rush to scream about slut-shaming, miss the fact that you're the biggest shamers of all. Chastity shaming is real, and it's all over this thread. And I am so sick of being told that any time, heaven forbid, that I mention anything good about the chaste lifestyle, that I'm somehow mean or offensive.

Theo, you seem to be missing the message underneath all the noise.

Nobody's shaming people simply because they decide to strictly enclose sex within marriage. I happen to think, for all sorts of reasons, that this isn't a very good idea (it leads to early marriage which is often a bad idea, you don't get the chance to find out if your spouse is a good lover before committing to him or her, it is unrealistic and doesn't reflect the sexual desires of much of the population, leading to tensions that manifest themselves in nasty ways, etc.). But thinking something isn't a good idea is not the same as "shaming". Millions of Americans wait until marriage. As far as I know, they are able to get jobs, go to college, receive government benefits, get served in restaurants, get rooms in hotels, serve in the military, walk safely down the street without worrying about hate crimes, etc. If there's any "shaming" going on here, it's pretty mild. (Certainly if you compare it to the treatment of gays and lesbians in our society, to pick one example of a more disfavored sexual minority, there's no comparison.)

This argument did not start because I came on and put down everyone who attended a purity ball or joined True Love Waits or read a book by Wendy Shalit. It started because the Catholic Church endorses, as a prescription binding on all human beings, a position that anyone who DOESN'T buy into that particular lifestyle-- yes, even Mayken, with her serial monogamy with two men-- is committing a grievously immoral act. And it continued because you defended that position (at least as applied to straight people). Indeed, you not only defended it, but you made empirical claims that implied that everyone who disagreed with you is flatly endorsing libertine immorality and is rejecting the essential nature of womanhood.

So on the one hand, you have a group of people who are saying "go ahead, be chaste if you want to, it's not the choice I would make but it's a free country" and on the other hand you have a group of people who are saying "anyone who is not chaste, with chastity defined extremely narrowly, is a seriously morally disordered person who is trying to reprogram women in a way that contradicts what Mother Nature intended".

Now which of those people is shaming?
3.23.2009 4:32pm
Desiderius:
Dilan,

"anyone who is not chaste outside the marriage contract, with chastity defined extremely narrowly, is a seriously morally disordered person who is reprogram women in a way that contradicts what letting men get away with behaving the way Mother Nature intended, with grievous effects on women, their offspring, society, and, in the long run, given the alternatives, themselves. Aspiring to something better is commonly termed civilization."

Mind you this opinion is offered by an institution, like you, with no coercive power, and one that does not insinuate that people should be forced to comply any more than you do, especially in the quote upon which this thread was premised.
3.23.2009 9:47pm
Desiderius:
Theo,

"You people" statements never work.
3.23.2009 9:48pm
Mayken (mail):
@Dilan Esper - thanks for that. Eloquently put.
@theobromophile - no, you are wrong, my lifestyle is not congruent with the Pope's views on sex. I have committed many sins in that man's eyes, everything from sex outside of marriage to the use of birth control and technically adultery though my ex and I were separated at the time (takes 6 months to get a divorce in California which just blows.) As for my values, well, with the exception of some less-than-constructive insults I see nothing Dilan said that I disagree with. I believe that for consensual adults, sex in whatever manner and in whatever combination of sexes and numbers, is just peachy keen. I believe it is healthy for woman and men to express themselves sexually in whatever manner, from masturbation to well, whatever. Some of these things are not my cup of tea but I would never prescribe my way of life as the only one to say, my swinger or BDSM friends. Any more than they would say theirs is the only sex life to have. It works for them. My way works for me and my husband. And other ways work for other people. But I am all about giving people the choice to decide that. The Church has never, ever, even once in its existence, been about giving women or men freedom of choice about sex.

I disagree with your definition of "chastity" but if that is your definition and it works for you, so be it. But I will say that when the Church (both Catholic and most Protestant) talks about chastity it is NOT trying to teach people to be thoughtful about sex. It is teaching blind obedience to some narrow rules about sex and saying they are the only morally and psychologically health ways to have sex. That is just plain wrong.

On the subject of insults, I bumped on those particular quotes during the first read through because they bugged me then, but I didn't feel the need to comment on it until you included me in an offense I did not, in fact, commit. I pointed the insult out in my second comment for that reason and that reason only.

And other than the misunderstanding I already mentioned, there is still nothing in what I have said for which I owe you anything.

I will say again, you are completely entitled to decide that the best way to handle sex is to wait until marriage and only have sex with one partner for as long as you both shall live. You are free to teach your children that. You are free to abstain from certain sexual practices because you don't like 'em. But if someone tries to tell me, as the Pope and the Church do, that this is the only way sex can and should be morally right and psychologically healthy, I will continue to argue against that. Because it does. Not. Work. For everyone.
3.23.2009 10:00pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
letting men get away with behaving the way Mother Nature intended, with grievous effects on women, their offspring, society, and, in the long run, given the alternatives, themselves. Aspiring to something better is commonly termed civilization

Desid:

That's a bunch of unproven assumptions seriously at odds with empirical reality. Women and offspring (at least those who do not grow up very poor, and extreme poverty is lower than historical levels) have never had it better.

And anthropologists would sneer and laugh at your implication that the concept of "civilization" is centered on controlling people's sexual behavior.

(Also, since when is the issue men behaving "as mother nature intended"? I thought you were telling me earlier how Catholic sexual morality conferred an evolutionary advantage". Both claims cannot be true.)
3.23.2009 10:05pm
Mayken (mail):
@Desiderius: No coercive power? The Church has the ultimate coercion - you are damned if you don't follow the narrow vision of the world we lay out. Mind you, I understand this only works on Catholics but that is over 1 BILLION people. The Church has a lot of power in this world. There are still morality laws on the books in many countries, our own included, that are directly a result of Catholic Church power. Many of them are very, very difficult to overturn because of the power of the Catholic Church. Prop 8 was passed in California partially as a result of the power of the Catholic Church and the LDS Church as well... who also preach the same ideas of "purity." Certainly Catholicism has generally less power than they did say in the middle ages but please don't try to argue that the Church is incapable of coercing behavior.
3.23.2009 11:39pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Mind you this opinion is offered by an institution, like you, with no coercive power, and one that does not insinuate that people should be forced to comply any more than you do, especially in the quote upon which this thread was premised.

One other thing about this. The Catholic Church has a tremendous amount of power, which is one of the reasons that its crazy teachings about sex matter more than, e.g., the Mormons or Orthodox Jews.

If the Church's position truly was "you have to do these things to be a member, but we won't interfere in the lives of non-Catholics", that would be a lot less objectionable. But it isn't. Benedict doesn't simply declaim on the subject of sex and gender without knowing his butt from third base. He controls a massive organization that uses its power to lobby governments to enact policies that force non-Catholics to obey the nonsensical rules that his church espouses.

That, in fact, is what this is all about. Imposing legal restrictions on gays. Making divorce, birth control, and abortions harder to get. Preventing stem-cell research. Restricting fertility clinics.

There's a whole agenda of things that the Catholic Church and many evangelical Christian churches want to use the law to coerce nonbelievers to obey.

The reality of the situation is that conservative Christians and Catholics are attempting to use, and in some instances successfully using, the awesome coercive power of the state and its weapons and force in order to make non-believers submit to the orders of their God. Put that way, it doesn't sound particularly innocent.

That's what I mean when I say the Church should be irrelevant, not an enemy. The Church should not have any political power. It shouldn't have a seat at the UN. The Pope's statements on sex and gender should be ignored and dismissed by elected officials.

But there's no reason why a BELIEVER might treat the Pope's statements as more authoritative. That is the believer's right. Just don't try to impose it on the rest of us.
3.23.2009 11:48pm
Desiderius:
Dilan,

"(Also, since when is the issue men behaving "as mother nature intended"? I thought you were telling me earlier how Catholic sexual morality conferred an evolutionary advantage". Both claims cannot be true.)"

Au contraire. Mother Nature is not the only player in this game. Arnold, like myself, was in no sense a conservative.

Anthropologists sneer at many things they might better approach with greater epistemological humility. The proper study of mankind may well be man, but anthropology is not the only means whereby such study can be properly conducted.

As for control, I don't see that as the issue, but rather shared aspiration. I don't share your sanguinity regarding the evolutionary advantageousness of hedonism, given, you know, history and such. YMMV, though I don't get the sense that history much interests you.
3.23.2009 11:51pm
Desiderius:
Mayken,

"The Church has the ultimate coercion - you are damned if you don't follow the narrow vision of the world we lay out."

How many divisions has the Pope? Do you contend that those billion are not free to leave if they don't like being "damned"? That the church doesn't teach that Christ washes away all sin regardless for those who believe in him and faithfully follow his way? If you want a little more allowance for personal conscience in that process, we Protestants are waiting with open arms.

Some coercion. Piffle.
3.24.2009 12:19am
Desiderius:
Dilan,

"He controls a massive organization that uses its power to lobby governments to enact policies that force non-Catholics to obey the nonsensical rules that his church espouses."

Welcome to a democracy. As if there aren't hugely powerful organizations arrayed against it. Again, no coercion, only persuasion, and not much success at that of late.
3.24.2009 12:21am
Mayken (mail):
Desiderius: I don't believe you are that ignorant of the psychological power that religions hold over their adherents, especially people who have been taught from the cradle to follow that particular brand of religious teaching as the one true way. It's often hard even for people who are well educated and have real issues with some of the doctrine to leave the Church. Of course there are a number of people, like myself, who do chose to leave, but the the coercion is real for those who cannot or those who don't see that there is reason to leave.
You also are ignoring the political power that the Church exerts in many countries. Granted it is on the wane in much of Europe and North America but still has great influence in Latin and South America and increasingly in Africa.
I'm quite happy with my current religion, by the way. It gives me a far larger allowance for personal conscience than any Judeo-Christian one I have had experience with.
3.24.2009 2:01am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Welcome to a democracy.

1. It is necessary to limit the power of majorities (and powerful minorities) to protect individual freedoms. Conservative Christians simply do not believe in that bargain-- they think that the state exists to serve what they believe to be God's commands. That isn't democracy, at least not the Western, rights protecting sense of it.

2. In any event, we are not just talking about in the United States. The United Nations isn't democratic by any real measure, and there's no reason on earth why the Catholic Church should get special treatment there. The Church uses its power to influence less democratic regimes too. In each case, the goal isn't to further democracy or to protect minorities-- it's to make sure that non-Catholics can have guns pointed at them and forced to do things that they reject.

Again, don't defend a bunch of people who have no interest in the democratic rights of those who disagree with them as furthering any sort of democracy.
3.24.2009 3:23am
Desiderius:
Dilan,

"Women and offspring (at least those who do not grow up very poor, and extreme poverty is lower than historical levels) have never had it better."

Wow, does the progressive union know you're a closet Julian Simon? Not sure you'd get your union card renewed - Ehrenreich particularly might wish to have a word with you. I'm actually more with Julian than Barb, so good to have you on board, I just don't think the cultural piece bodes particularly well for the future, but that may be changing, as it regularly has, in response to events. Perhaps better to say that cultural mores of the recent past have made the present more difficult than it needed be.

"The United Nations isn't democratic by any real measure, and there's no reason on earth why the Catholic Church should get special treatment there."

Again, I wish you luck convincing your fellow progressives of the former proposition, with which I whole-heartedly concur. I also agree with the latter, but don't see them getting treatment any more special than any other of a myriad of NGO's there.

Mayken,

Call me crazy, but I consider the guys with guns to be more coercive than the ones with mind-control rays.
3.24.2009 6:49am
Mayken (mail):
Desiderius: I guess it is all in one's definition of coercion. But psychological coercion is very real. I know it is hard for people who have whatever attribute it is that allows them to ignore or overcome this type of coercion to understand why others cannot. But one's lack of understanding doesn't make the power that a religion can have over its adherents any less real.
Also, as Dilan pointed out above, the political power of the Catholic Church to influence actual governments with actual guns - or, just as importantly, the force of law to throw them into jail or otherwise curtail their lives for "immoral" behavior - is very, very real.
I am not against all religion or even Catholicism in particular. I would just like churches of all stripes, including the Catholic one, to stop trying to force their particular brand of morality onto people who are not their adherents.
3.24.2009 12:43pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Again, I wish you luck convincing your fellow progressives of the former proposition, with which I whole-heartedly concur. I also agree with the latter, but don't see them getting treatment any more special than any other of a myriad of NGO's there.

They aren't treated as an NGO. They are treated as a member state (based on the fiction that Vatican City is a separate country, rather than a district in Rome).
3.24.2009 1:27pm
Desiderius:
Dilan,

"They aren't treated as an NGO. They are treated as a member state (based on the fiction that Vatican City is a separate country, rather than a district in Rome)."

Once knew that, and have forgotten. Apologies. Though I'm not sure that member state status is an advantage over NGO these days.

;-)

And in those third world states where the Vatican enjoys more sway, surely you're aware of some of the alternatives that would fill that vacuum absent that influence? The alternatives on offer do not include all peace, love, and understanding, after all.
3.24.2009 1:48pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Desid:

Surely the Church has played a constructive role in some countries, e.g., Poland. But the Church has no consistent role in standing up for human rights and democracy. Rather, it tends to lobby for legislation on the social issues as well as religious freedom for Catholics to practice their faith (and by the way, I have no problem whatsoever with the Church fighting for the rights of its adherents). The Church has cooperated with numerous oppressive regimes over its history in exchange for power and influence.

Yes, the Church isn't the only malign force in particular countries-- Chile could do without the public policies resulting from the Church's opposition to birth control and divorce, but it could also do without the revanchist Pinochetista views of much of its military as well. But I don't think it is a "vacuum" so much as it is the Church pushing in various ways for maximum capitulation of non-believers to its views of the social issues.
3.24.2009 3:48pm
Desiderius:
Dilan,

Poland and Chile. I see. Any bigger fish you care to fry?
3.24.2009 5:11pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Desid:

Ever hear of examples?
3.24.2009 6:18pm
Desiderius:
Of course. Those two seem particularly unrepresentative, both in relative significance to, say, Africa, and regarding the general behavior and influence of the church, one easily lionized, the other bizarrely demonized, neither saying as much as those pointing them out might wish.

As for counter-influences, I'm thinking of things, like, I don't know, say, Islam for starters. I don't think the Janjaweed are shooting condoms out of those barrels or restricting themselves to Mayken's mind control rays. It's a bitch having to settle for the good when the perfect seems so fine, but such is life.
3.24.2009 8:36pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Desid:

In Africa, the Pope interferes with the fight against HIV/AIDS by telling people they shouldn't / can't get divorced and that condom use is a sin. He and his predecessor have the blood of millions on their hands.

In Spain and Latin America, the Church has consistently been allied with the most repressive governments for hundreds of years. Hundreds of thousands of people died violent deaths, and great civilizations like the Inca and Maya were destroyed by the direct action of the Church.

In Europe, the Church was responsible for the Inquisition and capital punishment for heresy, as well as for the defrauding of millions of worshippers through the selling of indulgences.

In Ireland, the Church obstructs women from getting divorces or having reproductive rights.

In Germany and Italy, the Church cooperated with the Axis powers. As a direct result of the acts and omissions of the Holy See, thousands of Jews, Gypsies, and gays were slaughtered by the Nazis. The Church was more interested in gaining converts than saving Jews.

In the Middle East, the Church sponsored several crusades that caused the deaths of millions of innocent people and "infidels" killed because they refused to convert to Christianity.

There are plenty more examples where those came from.

And the fact that many Islamic leaders are no bargain when it comes to these matters does not in any way excuse the Catholic Church.
3.24.2009 9:51pm
Desiderius:
Dilan,

"In Africa, the Pope interferes with the fight against HIV/AIDS by telling people they shouldn't / can't get divorced and that condom use is a sin. He and his predecessor have the blood of millions on their hands."

Given Rwanda and Darfur, this statement is obscene. I'm sorry, but we're done here.
3.24.2009 10:01pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Desid:

I didn't say that the Pope had anything to do with Rwanda and Darfur. But you can't look at the atrocities of Rwanda and Darfur and say that this excuses a wealthy virgin who knows diddly squat about sex making pronouncements from his golden palace in beautiful Rome about how the poorest women in Africa who are most susceptible to HIV aren't even allowed to ask their husbands to use a condom OR get a divorce.

Simply put, the Pope is a jerk who doesn't give a crap about human life. Seriously. He's more concerned about not admitting that he is wrong than he is about the lives of the people whom his pronouncements actually affect. The fact that there are worse jerks in the world-- which their clearly are-- or even worse jerks in Africa in no way excuses his reckless behavior. He should go back, enjoy the trappings of his wealth and never say another word on the subject of sex. At least until he gets some.
3.24.2009 10:16pm

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Account:
Password:
Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.