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To the Editor:
The Catholic Church operates 1,137 hospitals, 5,375 dispensaries, and 1,285 orphanages on the continent of Africa. Catholic Relief Services, the Church’s international humanitarian agency, runs HIV and AIDS projects that serve eight million people in 62 countries around the world. None of this is enough, however, for the liking of J. Gram Slattery ’15, the author of Wednesday’s opinion piece “The Illusion of Progress,” who writes, “No matter where the next pope comes from, the Church will still be complicit in the death and mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of AIDS victims and homosexuals throughout Africa.” The reason for this alleged complicity is that the Church, for all her ministry to the poor of Africa, does not permit the use of condoms.
The idea that the Church does not do enough for the poor in Africa is dubious at best. The idea that she is complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands is absolutely outrageous. Furthermore, the Church does not oppose the use of contraception out of some sort of doctrinaire rigidity that places loyalty to ancient teachings above real human needs. Rather, it is precisely this concern for the needs of real people that motivates the teaching. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explained during his papacy that the Church does not distribute condoms in Africa because it does not believe that doing so will help solve the problem of HIV and AIDS. Slattery ridicules this position as held only by the “irrational few,” but there is good reason to believe the pope was right. Edward C. Green, a senior researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health who believes philosophically that condoms should be available to all, once said, “The Pope may be right. The marketing and distribution of condoms won’t solve the problem.” When he said this a few years ago, Green wasn’t being irrational, ideological, or doctrinaire. He simply looked at the data and found that the pope had a point.
Pope Francis begins his pontificate already widely recognized for his deep concern for the poorest of the poor; we can be certain that in the coming years the Church will continue serving those who are afflicted with HIV and AIDS. This aid will not include contraception, for out of its concern for the people it serves, the Church is not going to change her teaching on this matter. Some may disagree with her teaching on this matter, but regardless, the charge that she has blood on her hands is flagrantly unfair and unjust. The Church, as the largest private provider of care to HIV and AIDS patients in the world, deserves praise, not condemnation.
James P. McGlone ’15
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