Was the Pope Wrong?
The Lancet rightly reflects on the global consensus that the Pope’s comments on condoms were irresponsible and dangerous.
What is especially troubling about his comments is that when an influential religious leader such as Pope Benedict speaks, we sometimes see public health policies crafted around the beliefs of that faith group.
This happened in the USA last year when politicians meekly bent their knee when faced with the lobbying efforts of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. In doing the bidding of the bishops, the US Congress stripped life-saving family planning measures from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) bill. These measures are vital in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
On a global level, we also have to be concerned that faith groups are playing an increasingly important part in the provision of health care in developing countries. It is true that the extensive networks and community relations faith-based groups have developed over the years mean they are often best-placed to deliver services. One does, however, have to question the criteria that overseas development agencies including the UN apply when granting taxpayer funds to these groups. If the required services are not clearly outlined, the damage can be extensive. A Catholic agency that adheres to the dictates of the hierarchy might not be best placed to deliver the life-saving services that so many people living with HIV in the developing world require.
I declare that I have no conflicts of interest.
Catholics for Choice
This letter was published in The Lancet.