Nigeria's Bishops Weigh In on Pope's Comments
Since the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, during his recent trip to Africa made statement about condoms and the fight against AIDS in Africa, an unprecedented media campaign has been launched against that realistic reiteration of the Catholic Church's moral position on the matter. The latest of the attacks was from the Belgium Assembly. On April 2, the House of Representatives in Belgium asked the country's government to "condemn the unacceptable statements of the Holy Father on his journey to Africa and to protest officially to the Holy See."
Most of those who join the polemics over the Holy Father's statements fail to accept that the true problem in the spread of Aids in Africa is not condom; there is the issue of behavior and a way of being. And this is the centre of the Pope's statement. Therefore, to criticize him on the basis of an isolated extract from the interview is definitely out of context.
During his flight to Cameroon , March 17, 2009, the pope had said within the context of the interview that "I can say that this problem of AIDS can't be overcome only with publicity slogans. If there is not the soul, if the Africans are not helped, the scourge can't be resolved with the distribution of condoms; on the contrary, there is the risk of increasing the problem. The solution can only be found in a double commitment; first, a humanization of sexuality, that is , a spiritual and human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another; and second, a true friendship, also and above all for those who suffer, the willingness -- even with sacrifice and self denial -- to be with the suffering. And these are the factors that help and that lead to visible progress".
From the above statement of the Holy Father, it is obvious that his love for the people and the continent of Africa cannot be compromised and towers high above the other interests that may go contrary to that of the Church.
From all indications, it is obvious that those who have not seen anything good in what the Pope has said can be seen as enemies of Africa who apparently see the continent as the guinea pig of foreign business ventures and therefore do not care whatever becomes of the continent and its people.
It is easier to see that the clamor for condemnation from Belgium is premised on the financial loss of the country, if the outflow of condoms to Africa is reduced, than the love of the Belgian Assembly Members for Africa . It is unfortunate that such a realistic statement from the Pope should be taken out of context.
What Africa needs is passion and compassion on the issue of HIV/AIDS which is ravaging the continent and making the future bleak for the youths of the continent. Ever as confirmed in the scientific world condom is no full proof against HIV/AIDS. Rather, its distribution will only help to increase the sexual waywardness of the continents' youths who have access to it.
As pointed out by the Director of an African AIDS Centre in Kampala , Rose Busingye (Director, Meeting Point Kampala), those who are condemning the statement of the Holy Father, lack the full comprehension of the situation in Africa . She then stated that: "The Pope is doing nothing else but defending and supporting precisely that which will be useful for helping these people: affirming the meaning of life and the dignity of the human being" (ZENIT March 25, 2009).
As rightly pointed out by the Holy Father, without priority attention to moral and educational aspects, the battle against AIDS is futile. The Church cannot abandon her commitment to morality, upholding the truth and the protection of human dignity in Africa because of opposition from a few angles. That is exactly what Pope Benedict XVI has done when he came to Africa . And Africans have shown their appreciation to the Holy Father in this perspective.
This is evidenced by the solidarity visit of numerous African students, studying abroad to the Vatican City on March 29, 2009 and the statement of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa on the Pope's visit. The bishops of the West African sub-region declared: "[The Holy Father] came to encourage us to live as a people united and reconciled in justice and peace, so that the Church in Africa would itself become a burning torch of hope for the life of the entire Continent. We also thank him for having re-proposed to all, with all nuance, clarity and penetration, the common teaching of the Church on the question of pastoral care for the victims of AIDS" (March 28, 2009).
We the bishops of Nigeria consider the condemnation of the Pope's statement on the issue of condoms and AIDS in Africa as ever excessive in the face of the facts. Promoting sexual recklessness in the continent is an imminent doom for the future of the youths of the continent and this is exactly what condom distribution in the continent is leading to, and has led to.
The Catholic Church cannot compromise her teachings on morality and protection of human dignity on the grounds of criticism. In solidarity with the Holy Father, we wish to reiterate that the solution to the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa in not in massive distribution of condoms to the people of the continent, but the Catholic Church's teaching of total abstinence before marriage and absolute fidelity in marriage. The former will increase immorality, particularly among our youths while the Church's stand will reduce promiscuity and facilitate holiness of life. This is what the Holy Father came to emphasize in Africa and it is the best option for the continent.//Zenit.Org
Most Rev Felix Alaba Job
President CBCN and Archbishop of Ibadan
Most Rev Alfred Martins