Open season on Benedict


The attacks upon the Roman Catholic Church following the Pope’s comments about the dangers of condom use in Africa in the attempt to prevent AIDS have been an extraordinary lesson in applied ignorance and the survival of prejudice.

Talk-radio hosts who have long callously and naively blamed Africans for all of Africa's sufferings suddenly become champions of the continent. Doctors and academics who have shown no previous concern for the plight of Africa are instantly transformed into experts and partisans. It is enough to make one weep. The weeping, however, should be for Africa rather than a bunch of anti-Catholic hypocrites.

Some context first. AIDS had smashed its way through Africa for almost two generations before many people in Europe or North America had even heard of it. It was killing poor black people many miles away and nobody matters less to the wealthy whites than poor blacks many miles away. It was only when the disease was brought into the male homosexual community of the United States that the likes of Elizabeth Taylor became so emotional on television and numerous actors, politicians and public figures made AIDS one of the most fashionable causes in modern times.

Indeed, AIDS is a fascinating case-study in itself in that, while politicized statistics and agenda-driven activists try to tell us otherwise, AIDS in the West is still largely a concern for gay men and intravenous drug-users. Remember the dramatic announcement from Canadian health officials that the AIDS rate had doubled in the mainstream community in one particular area? It had. From one person to two. But it is the suffering itself rather than the nature of the sufferer that should motivate us. Problem is, this philosophy was not applied when it was Africans rather than Californians in need.

That, at least, was the attitude of the Western elites -- the very people now condemning the Roman Catholic Church. Yet it was the Church that was in Africa caring for people with AIDS when Hollywood and the Western media were more concerned with puppies and kittens. Even today, almost half of all Africans with AIDS are nursed by people working for the Roman Catholic Church. A Church, by the way, that has also called for all African debt to be forgiven and for a radical redistribution of wealth from north to south.

None of this is mentioned when Pope Benedict is attacked for his condemnation of the condom fetish. If we read the man's statements, however, what we see is a sophisticated deconstruction of Western double-standards and a thoughtful critique of the failed attempt to control AIDS.

First, it's not working. In countries where condoms are state-distributed, free and ubiquitous AIDS has not been controlled and is often spreading. Second, even where AIDS is less of an issue, such as in North America, the increased availability and use of condoms has coincided with an annual increase in STDs and so-called unwanted pregnancies. Third, one failure of a condom to work -- and the failure rate is significant if not overwhelming -- is not a mere mistake but a death sentence. Fourth, condoms enable promiscuity rather than encourage abstinence. And sexual activity is about more than mere intercourse; a cut finger or a small body wound can allow infection to occur.

It appears these days to be open season on Pope Benedict XVI. In that he leads an organization that is supposed to be a mirror held up to the world to reflect society's failures and absurdities, the man must be doing a great deal right.

Fifth, how dare we treat black people as if they were children. They are capable of self-control and all over Africa, most successfully but not exclusively in Uganda, there are elaborate, empathetic and extraordinarily successful abstinence programs that emphasize humanity rather than lust -- a philosophy that runs directly contrary to the sexual gratification cult so favoured by some of the people in the West now so apoplectic at Pope Benedict's comments.

Of course, there is more to this anti-papal neurosis than television comedians making jokes about celibate clergy and commentators assuming that they know far more about reality than a priest who has worked in an African city slum for forty years. Conventional wisdom has it that Africa has a population problem and that Africans can become "more civilized" if they have fewer children. It's an organized and sometimes quite sinister campaign. Africa is, if anything, underpopulated and the problems of the continent have far more to do with Western greed, colonization, resources exploitation and arms sales than with family size. The Church has spoken out on these issues for decades and was, for example, one of the leading voices at the United Nations that persuaded the multinational pharmaceutical companies to make their anti-AIDS drugs generic and thus affordable in the Third World.

Paradox and lack of understanding rules the day. We applaud an obscenely wealthy American actress when she takes a black baby from Africa, but forget that the Hollywood values she epitomizes encourage loveless sex and treating one another as sexual objects rather than distinct individuals -- the precise phenomenon that encourages the spread of AIDS. More than this, the solution to children living in poverty in Africa is not to remove the children but to remove the poverty. But there is never a camera crew around for that sort of thing.

It appears these days to be open season on Pope Benedict XVI. In that he leads an organization that is supposed to be a mirror held up to the world to reflect society's failures and absurdities, the man must be doing a great deal right.


Michael Coren. "Open season on Benedict." National Post, (Canada) March 31, 2009.

Reprinted with permission of Michael Coren and the National Post.


Michael Coren (born January 1959 in Essex, England) is a Canadian columnist, author, public speaker, radio host and television talk show host. He is the host of the television series The Michael Coren Show. His articles and speeches often include stories of his own personal spiritual journey. Coren is half Jewish through his father.


He converted to Evangelical Christianity after a conversion experience as an adult, greatly influenced by Canadian televangelist Terry Winter. In early 2004, he embraced Catholicism. He cites St. Thomas More, C.S. Lewis, Ronald Knox and his God-father Lord Longford as spiritual influences, but remains connected to the ecumenical scene in Canada and beyond. He is the author of twelve books, including Mere Christian: Stories from the Light, Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis: The Man Who Created Narnia, J.R.R Tolkien: the Man Who Created 'the Lord of the Rings'. He is published in many countries and in more than a dozen languages. He is currently writing a book entitled Socon, A Handbook for Moral Conservatives. Michael Coren is available as a public speaker. Visit his web site here.

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