Department of the bleeding obvious


Last night, as per usual, I was watching Channel 4 News when something quite striking happens. There was a little discussion of Pope Benny’s current visit to Africa. But that in itself wasn’t what interested me, or Jon Snow. What Snow wanted to talk about was Benny’s restatement of official Catholic doctrine on condom use. So, in the studio discussion, some Catholic woman whose name escapes me was brought in to be harangued. Cue Snow banging on about how millions of Africans were going to die of Aids, and it was all the Pope’s fault.

Then it got entertaining, as the Catholic woman, getting visibly more annoyed by the second, put in a vigorous defence of Catholic development policy as it’s operated in the Philippines, and made a spirited attack on condom-centric development programmes. So aggressive was she, in fact, that Snow was taken quite aback, and switched his interrogatory mode for one of trying to get the Catholic woman to calm down. Evidently she hadn’t understood that her function on the programme was to be shamefaced and apologetic.

But why should she be? And, more to the point, why should any experienced journalist feign shock and horror when Benny goes around defending the official positions of the Catholic Church? The guy is, after all, the head of the Catholic Church. And, though I don’t agree with Benny on this question, I am more than a little queasy at secular liberals, who aren’t under any obligation to pay the slightest attention to Catholic doctrine, campaigning for the Church to change its doctrine. It’s a bit like a football team campaigning to change the laws of cricket.

In other dog-bites-man news, yesterday was St Drunkard’s Day. I’ll get onto the local Paddy’s Day celebrations in a second, but it was striking how far the cringe towards the States has gone. Of course Biffo Cowen was in Washington, presenting his fellow Offaly man Barack O’Bama with the traditional bowl of shamrock, although what you’re supposed to do with a bowl of shamrock beats me. And of course our own Dynamic Duo, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, were also at the White House. Indeed, so many of our political class, from both sides of the border, were stateside begging for change, that it’s possible the government of Ireland might momentarily have devolved on a dog-catcher in Cavan, or worse still, Sammy Wilson.

Although there were lots of very sizeable parades around Ireland, for most of the day they took a poor second place on the news to New York and Chicago. One can understand the London media choosing to report Paddy’s Day celebrations from America rather than those from, er, Ireland. (Next year, expect Burns Night from Australia – and, incidentally, it happened in Scotland as well.) For our local news outlets to do the same, though, tells you something about priorities.

But hey, all that was changed by the Holylands riot. Again, totally predictable. In fact, the peelers had predicted trouble the day before. So why the shock-horror at something we all knew would happen? You know what the Holylands is like. Specifically, you know the behaviour patterns of the Tyrone farmboys. I’m sure that wheelie-bin races at two in the morning are deadly crack for the students, but they aren’t much fun for anybody who wants to get some sleep in.

And now the call goes up for Queens and the NUU to take action against their riotous students. To be honest, I think it would be better for the colleges to just use the occasion to declare half-term every spring. That might minimise the presence of drunken culchies, who would be enjoying their revels in the depopulated backwaters where they’re used to doing whatever they like. It’s called managing your environment.


  1. Madam Miaow said,

    March 18, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Splinty, no …

    This secular lefty takes issue with anyone who helps the spread of AIDS by stopping the use of preventative measures, not least because it impinges on my life and that of every other human being on the planet. Those who use superstition to stop the use of condoms deserve to feel shamefaced and apologetic, which is getting off light considering the number of lives that could be saved by our little rubber friends. If Catholic doctrine is leading to killer diseases being passed on then it should change and we should be challenging it. Good for Jon Snow.

  2. neil said,

    March 18, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Well said.

  3. pope joan said,

    March 18, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    This secular lefty takes issue with anyone who helps the spread of AIDS by stopping the use of preventative measures”
    No, the Church advocates preventative measures, namely that sex takes place between faithful partners in marriage. The problem is that the secular left find this problematic, whereas the use of condoms in having sex with many partners fits in with their general philosophy of hedonism. Apart from this, the central premise of Snow’s argument – men are having sex outside marriage with several partners, contrary to Catholic teaching, but insist that condoms should not be used because the Pope says so – seems inherently unsound.

  4. Liam said,

    March 18, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    I’m with Splintered on this. It’s his job to be reactionary. The Pope. Not Splintered.

    I made the same point at Christmas.

    Are culchies getting stupider?

  5. harpymarx said,

    March 18, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    I am with Madam Miaow on this.

    Religion has a huge huge influence…and they impose their own narrow minded, moralistic and oppressive ideas whether it is contraception, sexuality, abortion…..need i go on… how can we just ‘pay the slightest attention’ when religion sticks its nose in peoples lives… ?!?!?

    Religion is a major ideology and a political force that impacts on peoples lives negatively. It has a great deal of power, it wrecks lives….

    Liam: “It’s his job to be reactionary.”

    Then it is our job to criticise.

  6. Garibaldy said,

    March 18, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Em, the Catholic church says using condoms is a sin. The Catholic chuch says sex outside marriage is a sin. So it seems to me fair to say that if people were so concerned about Catholic docrine that they wouldn’t use a condom, then how likely is it that they would be having sex outside marriage? And if people are having sex outside marriage and that’s against the church’s doctrine, how likely is it they won’t use a condom while having sinful sex?

    In other words, the whole thing is bollocks, and demonstrates how little the western media understands the attitudes of Catholics. Lots of Catholics ignore the church’s teachings on sex. I suspect the lack of condom use is more to do with social attitudes that have nothing to do with religion. But then that would be applying logic to the situation.

  7. Niall said,

    March 19, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Well put Garibaldi. The problem is not the Church teaching on the matter and if people think that the AIDs problem is best tackled by getting the RCC to change its teaching, then they’re suffering from a logic deficiency. However that is not to say that certain members of the RCC hierarchy don’t deserve criticism and worse for their attempts to prevent access to condoms, but as far as I’m concerned that’s more of a civil liberties issue.

    What’s interesting is that those African countries with a high Catholic population tend to have lower rates of HIV while those countries with the highest availability of condoms don’t seem to have had any real success. Interestingly, one of the most successful initiatives to tackle AIDs in Africa came in the form of the one adopted by the Ugandan government a few years back, an approach the RCC largely supports. The nature of the AIDs problem in Africa is quiet different to the the AIDs problems experienced in the West.

    What’s utterly baffling is the nature of the debate. The RCC does not teach that the use of contraceptives is unacceptable because of medical reasons, so even if the church’s position was contributing to the spread of AIDs, why do some in the press think that the church should change its position? If you want the RCC to change its position on something, then you need to argue from Catholic theology, otherwise, you’re just pissing against the wind.

  8. Wombo said,

    March 19, 2009 at 1:33 am

    Oddly enough (on the “Burns Day in Australia” theme), there was a letter in the Sydney Morning Herald on January 8 this year from Richard Lochhead MSP and Angus Robertson MP (SNP), advertising Scotland, wee Rabbie and all things golf and whisky related: (conveniently placed right at the bottom, just after a discussion about David Tennant’s extra hand)…

  9. splinteredsunrise said,

    March 19, 2009 at 6:25 am

    Liam is right. It’s the Pope’s job to be reactionary. It’s our job to disagree with him. But it’s not our job to harangue him into changing the rules of his club, especially if we don’t belong to it. It would be nice if the Pope was right-on and progressive, but that’s not really the point of being the Pope.

  10. Wednesday said,

    March 19, 2009 at 7:12 am

    t seems to me fair to say that if people were so concerned about Catholic docrine that they wouldn’t use a condom, then how likely is it that they would be having sex outside marriage?

    Are you serious? As a teenager I knew quite a few girls who didn’t use contraception because they had accepted the church’s teaching about its “sinfulness”. And that’s without getting into the abortion debate again. Cognitive dissonance, certainly, but I assure you it happens.

    My theory was always that they felt if they were going to commit a “sin” anyway, they at least should not compound it by using birth control.

  11. Garibaldy said,

    March 19, 2009 at 9:13 am


    I’ve never known anyone with that attitude myself to be honest. Certainly religion impacts upon the decision over whether to abort or not, but not in my experience over the decision over whether to use condoms or not. But I’m sure it does happen if you say so. Nevertheless, I am still highly suspicious of the idea that people having sex in ways the Catholic church considers sinful are prepared to risk AIDS purely because condoms are considered sinful too. I suspect this is an excuse for other attitudes that are really to blame.

    The continent with the largest AIDS problem is Africa. We all know the nonsense that came out of the South African government over HIV and AIDS, nevermind the taking a shower as a defensive mechanism. As far as I am aware, the Catholic Church is not that influential among the South African political elite. Might we perhaps look for explanations elsewhere rather than focusing on the Pope?

  12. skidmarx said,

    March 19, 2009 at 11:00 am

    In the US much of the pro-abstinence anti-condom message comes from Protestants, so I don’t think South Africa is a special case. What the anti-condom evangelists share is living in denial that sex takes place outside marriage, which wasn’t such a deadly error until AIDS. It isn’t so much whether the sexually active consciously accept the Church’s message, it is that their influence helps to propagate ignorance of sexual health, particularly making it harder for girls to get boys to use condoms (and of course stigmatising the girls if unwed pregnancy should result).

    How nasty this can get can be seen here:

    Though it is to Lula’s credit that he has attacked the excommunication.

    I can see both sides of the “Do you really expect the Pope not to shit in the woods” argument. I don’t think we can really expect progressive ideas to win out in the Church (see my comments on the thread Liam refers to), but the Church doesn’t restrict it’s influence to Catholics when it has the chance, so perhaps it is reasonable to say that if their policies lead to the deaths of millions they should be made to shut up. I don’t have time to deal with all of Niall’s points, though I seem to recall that the Ugandan programme has become less succesful as it has become more abstinence -based.

  13. Garibaldy said,

    March 19, 2009 at 11:31 am


    I agree that South Africa is not a special case. I picked it as an extreme example of a trend to argue that there are other, and often much more powerful, factors at work than the Catholic Church’s attitude. AFAIK, Asia (including China) and India are also being hit by increasing rates of HIV/AIDS, and by and large, the Catholic church wields little influence there. I think we ought to address the ignorance of sexual health (or quite often the ignoring of it because lots of people think sex without condoms is more fun) you refer to rather than yap at the Catholic church for not doing so. It is, I would suggest, missing the wood for the trees.

  14. March 19, 2009 at 11:47 am

    I agree with Splinty, Liam, Garibaldy, Pope Joan, Pope Benny and all the blessed saints. Give the Lord’s representative here on Terra Firma a free ride, a free lunch and whatever perks of the job makes it easier for him and let him get on with the job. Liberal lefty whingers banging on about religion and how it distorts the human experience, you lot make me sick.

    So, Pope Benny’s in Africa. What’s that got to do with the price of butter?

    Gimme some of that ole razzle-dazzle religion with a nice tumbler of whiskey and may popes continue to squeeze one off in the woods.

  15. Liam said,

    March 19, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    I note that he also takes a swipe at “the growing influence of superstitious forms of religion”. As opposed to what other forms?

  16. splinteredsunrise said,

    March 19, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    It’s a bit like the Republican primaries, where a lot of people said they wouldn’t vote for Mitt Romney because he believes the Angel Moroni helped Joseph Smith write the Book of Mormon. As opposed to the unsuperstitious Mike Huckabee, who believes the universe was created in six days.

  17. pope joan said,

    March 19, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I take it you remember your catechism, Liam :”Superstition is a deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand is to fall into superstition”
    And I take it that you can distinguish between the respective contributions of St Thomas Aquinas and Mystic Meg, or a belief in the Resurrection and a belief in the Daily Mirror’s astrology columnist. And I am sure that when you are with your Muslim friends you are not in the habit of comparing their faith in the revelation of the Koran to your own possession of a lucky rabbit’s foot.

  18. babeuf said,

    March 19, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    When liberals get worked up, socialists should smell a rat.

    I don’t recall Jon Snow or his fellow liberals calling on us to share their rage in 2002, when South Africa said it would produce cheap generic-equivalant anti-retroviral drugs, and the US swiftly threatened to impose sanctions that would have reduced it to the same state as pre-war Iraq.

    It could have rendered AIDS in Africa nothing more than a bad memory, but in the face of these dire and very credible threats, South Africa had to back down. The liberal sacred cow of “intellectual property rights” was safe again.

    How comfy for liberals to blame it on the Catholic Church instead.

    Fuck the Pope and all that, but this doesn’t wash with me.

  19. babeuf said,

    March 19, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Oops, forgot there was an actual Catholic believer in on the discussion, and I generally try not to cause religious believers unnecessary offence (as opposed to necessary offence).

    So, um, “f*** the pope”, or maybe just “**** the ****”. Sorry. Atheists from Ulster Prod backgrounds say the darndest things sometimes.

  20. Madam Miaow said,

    March 19, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    How comfy for liberals to blame it on the Catholic Church instead

    How about “as well” instead of “instead”?

    Right now Benny’s in Africa where he’s just told the people of Cameroon not to use condoms. This is the issue at this moment. It’s not and “either/or” situation; the discussion is pertinent to current events.

    The liberal sacred cow of “intellectual property rights” was safe again.

    Sorry, I’ve never heard of Snow or C4 News defending the big pharma and governments on this score, although I’ll be pleased to receive enlightenment on this if I’m mistaken.

    Jeez! How come lovely avuncular Jon Snow is the villain of the piece? Have I missed something?

  21. Fellow Traveller said,

    March 19, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I think you’ve over-estimated Jon Snow and Channel 4 news’ power if you think they can stop the US government from doing anything it wants to do through the sheer force of their liberal outrage.

    No one can stop the US government.

    No one.

    You all should have learned that much by now.

  22. Madam Miaow said,

    March 19, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Hagley Road has just picked up on this:

    Benny said that condoms ‘increase the problem’ of AIDS. So is that a faith issue or pseudo-science?

    There were also some signs of dissent within the Church.

    ‘Anyone who has AIDS and is sexually active, anyone who seeks multiple partners, must protect others and themselves,’ said Hans-Jochen Jaschke, Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop of Hamburg in the pope’s native Germany.

    Hagley Road:

  23. splinteredsunrise said,

    March 19, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Is it faith or is it pseudo-science? Why can’t it be both? As Jamie says, you have two development models – either sex with condoms or monogamy and abstinence. I suspect Benny has the harder sell in that sex with condoms is preferable to none at all, but in both cases you’re talking about changing the culture.

  24. Fellow Traveller said,

    March 19, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Putting a condom on it over no sex at all (unless married) isn’t in the same ball park, it isn’t in the same league, it isn’t even the same fucking sport.

    The Pope should aim at getting 100% abstinence from his own priests and then, once achieved, expand from there.

  25. Madam Miaow said,

    March 19, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Is it faith or is it pseudo-science? Why can’t it be both?

    If it is (pseudo) science we should definitely criticise it.

    … but in both cases you’re talking about changing the culture.

    I guess that makes me a revolutionary, then.

  26. prianikoff said,

    March 19, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    “It’s the Pope’s job to be reactionary. It’s our job to disagree with him.
    But it’s not our job to harangue him into changing the rules of his club, especially if we don’t belong to it.
    It would be nice if the Pope was right-on and progressive, but that’s not really the point of being the Pope.”

    Easy to say when you won’t be burned at the stake for saying it, but the fact you won’t is the product of several centuries of social and political struggles.
    After all, the guy isn’t just some private citizen expressing an opinion down the boozer. He also represents a conglomeration of wealth, power and traditionalism.
    Fair enough, the old nazi should be free to talk crap all day, but he shouldn’t be allowed have unquestioned political authority.
    Seperation of Church and State and all that….

  27. pope joan said,

    March 19, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    “Putting a condom on it over no sex at all (unless married) isn’t in the same ball park”
    The charge made against the Pope is that he is responsible for the death of millions of people, not that he is spoiling their fun. Look, membership of the Catholic Church is voluntary and if people find its teachings difficult they are free to leave. There is a kind of racist sub-text here, to the effect that Africans cannot make such choices or are so stupid that they are likely to garble the Papal message and combine sexual promiscuity with not using condoms. It’s garbage.

  28. Fellow Traveller said,

    March 19, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Last time I checked, the Church didn’t ask babies if they wanted baptism. I don’t think RC schools let pupils opt out either.

  29. pope joan said,

    March 19, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Babies don’t have sex or make moral choices. Schoolchildren sometimes do and they can choose whether to observe the Church’s teachings or not in their sexual activities. None of this is relevant to the case in hand. Is your implication that Africans are comparable to children?

  30. skidmarx said,

    March 20, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    13. Where the Catholic Church has influence, it encourages ignorance of sex. So it is hard to fight ignorance without attacking its influence.
    Cuba and China responded at first to the AIDS crisis by locking up sufferers.

    18. I can remember plenty of socialists objecting to the the US attack on Third World generics.

    On Uganda:”Shift on Condom Use in Uganda “Threatens to Undermine” Country’s Success in HIV/AIDS Prevention”

    29. When people they are told to respect can threaten them with eternal damnation, it takes a very brave person to utterly reject religious teaching.

  31. pope joan said,

    March 20, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    “When people they are told to respect can threaten them with eternal damnation, it takes a very brave person to utterly reject religious teaching”
    In that case they will practice abstention or fidelity to a single partner and these millions of lives which are allegedly endangered will be safe. The bizarre contention which you and others put forward is that Africans will ignore the Pope’s strictures re abstention or fidelity but faithfully implement them re condoms. Have you any evidence for this quaint assertion?

  32. Garibaldy said,

    March 20, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Does it encourage ignorance of sex, or does it encourage an entirely different range of attitudes to sex than those which are dominant among most people, especially within western Europe.? I would suggest the two are not the same. I have no objections to complaining about the Catholic church’s attitude to sex education, but it seems to me that from some of the media coverage you would think that the Catholic church’s policy on condoms is the main reason for the AIDS epidemic. It isn’t. Not even close to it. This is a distraction from the real reasons for the epidemic, and it is those that we should be getting worked up about.

    Pope Joan has put the point I’ve been trying to make in an extremely elegant form.

  33. Madam Miaow said,

    March 20, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    I’ve woken up in the 1950s. Life On Mars or what?!

    Benny says publicly that condoms “increase the problem” of AIDS, and yet we aren’t supposed to respond.

    At the risk of repeating myself, I’m in sympathy with the dissenting German bishop who said: “Anyone who has AIDS and is sexually active, anyone who seeks multiple partners, must protect others and themselves”.

  34. pope joan said,

    March 20, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, has said that the evidence confirms that the Pope is correct in his assessment that condom distribution exacerbates the problem of AIDS.

    “The pope is correct,” Green told National Review Online Wednesday, “or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments.”

    “There is,” Green added, “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…The Harvard AIDS Project’s webpage on Green lists his book “Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning from Successes in Developing Countries “. It is stated that Green reveals, “The largely medical solutions funded by major donors have had little impact in Africa, the continent hardest hit by AIDS. Instead, relatively simple, low-cost behavioral change programs–stressing increased monogamy and delayed sexual activity for young people–have made the greatest headway in fighting or preventing the disease’s spread.”

  35. prianikoff said,

    March 21, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Even the soft-left opponents of religious obscurantism are showing far too much respect to the arch-reactionary Pope in this thread. Such as their continual use of the folksy and endearing “Pope Benny”.

    I much prefer “Ratso” myself.

    OK, OK. He WAS conscripted into the Hitler Youth and he DID desert from the army…..

    Well, he deserted to save his skin when all was lost.

    But he was only a teenager…

    But Sophie Scholl was only 21 when she joined the “White Rose” and lost her head for her opposition to the regime, openly challenging its prosecutor in court.
    This was precisely the sort of religious-patriotic opposition that a future establishment figure like Ratso might have joined- but didn’t.

    The problem is, he’s spent much of the past few years defending reactionary dogma in the Catholic Church and reinstating racist bishops – all veiled in contradictory circumlocutions to make it look otherwise.

    I suspect that this applies to his views on birth control too, but the fact that the TV presenter acting as prosecutor-in-chief is the son of an Anglican bishop might give the case for the prosecution a certain sectarian slant in the island of Ireland.

    For those who are opposed to condom use all I can say is, no one is stopping YOU using abstinence or the rhythm method.

  36. skidmarx said,

    March 21, 2009 at 11:03 am

    31. “The bizarre contention which you and others put forward is that Africans will ignore the Pope’s strictures re abstention or fidelity but faithfully implement them re condoms. Have you any evidence for this quaint assertion?

    The bahaviour of men in the last few hundred years in Catholic countries where them having sex outside marriage has been considered a venial sin easily forgiven at confession, whereas in recent times variations of the sin of Onan have been considered much more serious. The choice to use condoms is an act rather than an emission, so requires more of an active decision to defy Uncle Joe’s proscription than non-marital sex without condoms.

    There has already been informed dissent on Edward C. Green’s comments:
    “Africa: Pope’s Comments on Condoms Are Wrong and Irresponsible”

    32. The Pope is in the news and is the self-styled leader of a billion Catholics.
    He may not be the main reason for the spread of AIDS, but is certainly not an irrelevant feature.

  37. Andy Newman said,

    March 21, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    “OK, OK. He WAS conscripted into the Hitler Youth and he DID desert from the army…..”

    There was NO conscription into the Hitler Youth, it was always a voluntary association, and in most of Germany signifiant minorities of boys were not members.

  38. Garibaldy said,

    March 21, 2009 at 3:37 pm


    Elected leader rather than self-syled, no? The Catholic attitude to sex is certainly a problematic one, but I think the extent to which it is a problem over AIDS is grossly overestimated. To put it bluntly, the countries with the worst problems are not Catholic ones. Some people’s justified hostility to the Catholic church on other issues is clouding their judgment on this one, and that is unhelpful.

  39. frunobulax said,

    March 21, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    So, the UN are taking tips from Battlestar Galactica – how anyone managed to report this without using the words “cheap stunt” is beyond me. Whatever, I just hope this gets developed and, say, the surviving cast/crew of Father Ted are invited by the Vatican to give advice on a range of issues including condoms.

  40. reader said,

    March 22, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Skidmarx – you win best typo of the year award.

    The choice to use condoms is an act rather than an emission…

  41. skidmarx said,

    March 23, 2009 at 11:11 am

    38. Elected by fewer men than your average stalinist dictator, methinks.
    Perhaps you’re right that the worst performing countries aren’t officially dominated by Catholicism. But the Pope and his band of merry men are an enormous ideological force backing up ignorance around the world, so I fail to see how attacking them on this issue is unhelpful or indicates clouded judgement.

    40. It wasn’t a typo. It’s not original (the only google reference I was immediately able to access suggests it as a title for a philosopher’s porn movie) and may go back to David Lodge’s novel “How Far Can You Go?” (which is also very good on Catholic ignorance). Not like johng’s spelling of “consistent” on another thread.

  42. Phil said,

    March 23, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    This was precisely the sort of religious-patriotic opposition that a future establishment figure like Ratso might have joined- but didn’t.

    Except that if he had done he’d be dead, and the next Pope but five would have been someone else, who we would now be criticising for having failed to join those great martyrs Scholl and Ratzinger…

  43. Phil said,

    March 23, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Oops – next Pope but four (John Paul John Paul John Paul).

  44. odoherty said,

    March 23, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    You’ve missed the point. The Catholic church objection to contraception is theological and moral, not practical. For the Pope to say condom use is wrong because inefficient is like saying sodomy is discouraged because it is not as pleasurable.
    He was well outside his brief.

  45. Garibaldy said,

    March 23, 2009 at 9:27 pm


    The attack on Catholic theology is fine, as long as it is part of a broader critique. All too often it is instead of a broader critique. It’s a facile and easy alternative to the necessary critique for people like Jon Snow. It seems to me.


    Just throwing the kitchen sink.

  46. skidmarx said,

    March 24, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    odoherty – you seem to be saying it’s the Pope job to be impractical.

    garibaldy – personally I’m willing to criticise any response to the AIDS crisis from what appears to be the standard position of the international medical community (pro-condoms, pro-knowledge, pro-individuals having control over their sexual activity). I can see that Northern Ireland is one place in the world where an emphasis might need to be made that the Pope isn’t the antichrist Hoor of Babylon, but in general he runs the largest sect in the world, so if one were just to critique one group it’s not the worst place to start.

  47. Garibaldy said,

    March 24, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    I would be inclined to agree if I didn’t think the main thrust of the criticism was totally illogical.

  48. Remi Moses said,

    March 25, 2009 at 7:57 am

    On the separate note on the Holylands: you will be pleased to see that the SWP have jumped to the defence of the students and are holding a rally against police violence at QUB on Thursday: demands include ‘no riot police in student areas.’

  49. prianikoff said,

    March 25, 2009 at 8:29 am

    #42 “…the next Pope but five would have been someone else, who we would now be criticising for having failed to join those great martyrs Scholl and Ratzinger…”

    Even in a counterfactual history where Ratzinger dies an anti-Nazi hero, the Second Vatican Council still occurs. This opens the door to supporters of Liberation Theology in Latin America.
    As a result a right-wing backlash occurs;
    The traditionalists regard Pope John XXIII as a communist sleeper
    In much the same way that James Jesus Angleton of the CIA denounced Harold Wilson and Henry Kissinger.
    i.e. While there are many practicing Catholics who are left wing radicals, the institution of the Papacy is inherently conservative and bureaucratic.

  50. skidmarx said,

    March 25, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    47.In what way? Is it dogmatic as well? The projection cannae take it captain!

  51. Garibaldy said,

    March 25, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    In the way discussed above, that Catholics who ignore teaching on sex are just as likely to ignore teaching on condoms (notwithstanding Wendesday’s schoolmates).

  52. skidmarx said,

    March 26, 2009 at 11:40 am

    I don’t have a lot of time now, but they are more likely to ignore teaching on condoms, or it wouldn’t be so important for sex ed classes to promote their use.

  53. skidmarx said,

    March 26, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Having sex without condoms involves letting natural urges take their course, negotiating their use (or even buying them in the first place) involves an embarrassing detour from the issue at hand. No one prefers sex with condoms (as far as I know), so I think your belief that Catholics are as likely to ignore the Church’s position on condom use as that on non-marital sex in general is wrong in a number of ways.

  54. splinteredsunrise said,

    March 26, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Remi, I should have predicted that response. Let’s be the loudest advocates of whatever’s popular with the students!

  55. Garibaldy said,

    March 26, 2009 at 5:45 pm


    So the problem is not then Catholicism saying don’t use condoms but the natural urge to mate without interference, laddish culture etc. My point precisely. Hammering the Catholic church is missing the more important causes, especially in cultures where Catholicism has very little influence. Breaking down the “like showering with a mac on” attitude seems more important to me.

  56. skidmarx said,

    March 26, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Garibaldy – I think you’re playing fast and loose with the process of logical argument. But you are being quite precise which is a blessing.

    We seem to be agreed that use of condoms is vital in the fight against AIDS, but disagree over two things:whether Catholics are more likely to obey the Church’s dictates on this than on other issues, and whether the Catholic Church is a major player in this matter. I think yes in both cases. I’ve made what points I can on the first in 36. & 53., I could restate them if you want but I don’t think I can get much clearer. On the second the Vatican has been a major ally of the last US administration in international fora diverting funding from planned parenthood to abstinence programmes. It is no accident that the Pope’s comments were so newsworthy or that we are discuusing them here. As he is a major part of a major problem – the societal pressures that militate against condom use and the deaths that result(the deaths of women whose husbands have had unprotected sex with carriers of HIV is …blah,blah,blah) cannot be disconnected from the Pope because much of the world is not Catholic. He is at the forefront of the Society for the Promotion of Catholic Ignorance, which backs up other sources of ignorance worldwide.

  57. Garibaldy said,

    March 26, 2009 at 9:48 pm


    I’m not really sure how I am playing fast and loose with the process of logical argument. I agree that we are disagreeing on those issues, although I would change it to “the major player”, and not “a major player”; in so far as I think the media quite often gives the impression the Catholic church is the major problem. The comments were so noteworthy precisely because the media is fixated on the wrong idea. And, as SS, said – Pope states Catholic theology. Shock horror.

  58. Remi Moses said,

    March 27, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Approx. 15 students at SWP Holylands protest, plus 3 cops and a few on-lookers. Perhaps the Holyland warriors have enough shame to know that they weren’t brutalised by the PSNI?

  59. skidmarx said,

    March 27, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Garibaldy – Now there’s been a change of US adminstration I don’t see a bigger ideological player.And if the Pope’s position is an accurate statement of Catholic theology: “The horror! The horror!” I don’t see that the media are fixated on the wrong idea.

  60. Garibaldy said,

    March 27, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    I guess Skidmarx it’s a question of how influential we think Catholic teaching on sex is; and on how likely it is that those who would ignore the injunction to not have sex outside marriage are to simultaneously obey the injunction against contraceptives. Seeing as I doubt the importance of these ideas, I do think the media are fixated on the wrong idea.

  61. skidmarx said,

    March 30, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Garibaldy – Can you think of anyone who obeys the Church’s teaching on extra-marital sex, but not on condoms? Surely you can see that the former injuction is easier to ignore.

  62. Garibaldy said,

    March 30, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I can think of lots of Catholic married couples who use contraception the church doesn’t approve of. In fact, I would say it’s the overwhelming majority.

  63. skidmarx said,

    March 31, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Presumably the Pill or diaphragms, where some possibility of conception is retained (though why the chance of condoms splitting doesn’t fall into the same category I don’t know), rather than condoms. The point I half made in 56. is that many women have died because their husbands have contracted HIV from prostitutes, but it has been socially unacceptable for them to insist on safe sex within marriage, something the Pope’s position, and his missionary evangelising of it, has backed up more than anything else I can think of.

  64. Garibaldy said,

    March 31, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Condoms too. All forms of ‘artificial’ contraception are equally wrong in the eyes of the church let’s remember. Do you really believe that the husbands who have been having sex with HIV-infected prostitutes are not using condoms because the Pope said not to? As for the wives not being able to insist on safe sex, there may well be something in what you say, although again I think there are a lot of other factors involved far beyond what the Pope says.

  65. Neil said,

    March 31, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Lets get back to brass tacks here and leave the speculation to one side for a moment.

    This is the situation confronting us at the moment. A deadly disease is putting millions of lives at risk. The two main vectors of this disease are unprotected sex and sharing of needles and other intravenous devices.

    Any effective strategy to combat this disease will revolve around two things, medical treatment to aid those already suffering from the disease and a program of harm reduction (prevention is better than cure).

    It seems to me a harm reduction strategy for diseases like HIV/Aids where one of the key vectors is sexual transmission must focus on sexual behaviour. Now it is an indisputable fact that persons who engage in unprotected sex with multiple concurrent partners are putting themselves and others at greater risk of infection.

    If your primary goal here is to save lives then a credible harm reduction strategy must put out the message that monogamy plus condoms is the must effective method of doing so. This is in effect a double lock because an honest person lives in the real world and realises you can’t always take the word of someone else when your life could be in danger, even if you are in a relationship with someone you trust who goes to church everyday and reads Ratzinger’s encyclicals before going to bed.

    Therefore given the scale of the global Aids crisis it is incumbent on all people and institutions with the capacity to influence people that certain types of behaviour will reduce the chances of becoming infected to put out that message. Morality about sexual behaviour is secondary to saving lives.

    Let me reverse the situation to illustrate what I mean.
    I have said before that monogamy reduces the risk of infection. I think monogamy should be part of a harm reduction strategy. I have no particular opinion about the morality or other wise of monogamy v multiple sexual partners. However it would be completely wrong for say a feminist or libertarian group running a sexual health program to condemn monogamy as immoral as it is an invasion of a persons right to choose their sexual partners. (I’m not saying a feminist or libertarian group would do that mind you, just using it as an example)

    In this context the Catholoic Churches failure to advocate the use of condoms is wrong and it’s out right condemnation of them is criminal.

    It really is that simple.

  66. Neil said,

    March 31, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    And can I also say to any hard core Catholics that (for whatever quixotic reasons) may read this blog, that the morality of contraceptives being ‘anti-life’ is also secondary to saving the lives of already existing people.

  67. skidmarx said,

    April 1, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Neil – I largely agree with you. But monogamy is often seen as an alternative to condoms, and the failure of any public health strategy assuming universal sexual fidelity means condoms are the issue.

  68. Neil said,

    April 1, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Skidmarx: I would agree.

    Like I said, I make no judgements on the morality of monogamy. I am saying that monogomy cuts down the risk of infection and condoms even more so. The two must go together in any sexual health campaign aimed at combatting the spread of HIV/Aids. Whether people choose to heed all the message, some of the message or none of it is really up to the person themselves, for good or ill.

    To counter-pose one to the other on ‘scientific’ grounds is factually incorrect and to do so on moral grounds that are secondary to saving people lives is recklessly and willfully evil.

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