God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Bias question?

On the flight back, a German reporter asked Francis about the use of condoms to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. The pope replied:
The question seems biased to me. Yes, it is one of the methods, the morality of the Church faces a bit of a predicament here. The fifth or the sixth commandment: defend life or a sexual relationship that is open to life. But this is not the problem. There is a greater problem than this: this question makes me think of the question they once asked Jesus: tell me Master, is it acceptable to heal on a Saturday? Healing is obligatory! Malnutrition, exploitation, slave labour, the lack of drinking water, these are the problems. We’re not talking about which plaster we should use for which wound. The great injustice is social injustice, the great injustice is malnutrition. I don’t like making such casuistic reflections when there are people dying because of a lack of water and hunger. Think about arms trafficking. When these problems cease to exist, then I think we can ask ourselves the question: is it acceptable to heal on a Saturday? Why are arms still being manufactured? Wars are the leading cause of death. Forget about whether it is acceptable or not to heal on a Saturday. Make justice and when everyone is healed, when there is no injustice in this world, then we can talk about Saturday.
I am sure this answer will not satisfy any part of the church. Those being in the conservative spectrum of Catholicism will see it as partly side-lining the official teaching, those who are battling HIV practically will feel all the shortcomings of such an answer.
There are reasons to feel the shortcomings:
First of all, millions of death people, mostly young and in the prime of their lives can never be part of a marginal question – and as we speak – more than a million people still dying every year as the result of HIV
Secondly – giving an old answer to a new question is never the right thing to do – answering the question of life and death with an answer dealing with procreation is a predicament, as the pope clearly and rightly identified.
Thirdly – “Humanae Vitae” has indeed received a very sharp and split response within the church – just think of the “Koenigsteiner Declaration” of the German Bishops and since then, it seems that this seemingly small piece of rubber became somehow in many quarters of the world a sort of litmus test on the credibility of moral teaching. Additional the question of taking seriously the sensus fidelium as a priority marker of church teaching arose and is waiting for an answer till today in this matter.
But there are also reasons to be grateful for such an answer:
Firstly – this pope does not think that popes have to have an answer on all questions – formulated nicely and to follow not taking the circumstances into account. What a difference to some of his predecessors.
Secondly he highlights the social teaching of the church, which is indeed more important than the question of a purely sexual matter.
And thirdly the answer calls for the own conscience to be followed – highlighting that at the end God’s word written into the hearts and minds of each person is the most intimate and decisive personal decision maker. Words, we have to explore more as life progresses – a dynamic, sometimes painful, but necessary way of coming closer to the personal calling as God’s son or daughter.
The pope’s answers on homosexuality, on taking communion as a Lutheran and others are all going in this direction of encouraging people to find their full Christian potential in a personal relationship with God. The church with the message of tenderness, unconditional love and mercy provides the framework and the reminder that living life to the fullest is the ultimate goal for everybody living on this earth. For this to happen, social justice and peace are prerequisite. And not to forget the freedom of the children of God – something, especially right-wing Catholics are very afraid of. Rightly so, as freedom paired with unconditional love takes away the possibility of power games – it turns the hierarchy – as Pope Francis said – upside down and transforms those in perceived higher positions into servants of all life.

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Criminalization of HIV – AIDS

Bad criminal laws...Poisoning  –  terrorist attack  – bio-attack  –  murder  — attempted murder  –  assault


the labels of law are unbelievable – sometimes even if there is no knowledge of the infection or no transmission occurred


Did you know that giving birth, breastfeeding, spitting as a HIV positive person can bring you into jail in some countries?


In Sweden, even consent is declared invalid by law if transmission occurs


It is not those who know their status who drive the pandemic but those who don’t know. But would you go for a test when you know that a positive result might bring you in jail through your sexual activities, even if it is protected sex and no transmission occurs?

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

POZ magazine: Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga: Celibacy Is OK, Free Condoms at Concerts

While in the United Kingdom to promote M·A·C Cosmetics’ latest Viva Glam campaign, which funds HIV/AIDS prevention and support programs for women and girls, pop superstar Lady Gaga said she is practicing celibacy at the moment, and she encouraged anyone not ready for sex to do the same, MTV News reports.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this—don’t have sex,” said Gaga, 24. “I’m single right now, and I’ve chosen to be single because I don’t have the time to get to know anybody. So it’s OK not to have sex, it’s OK to get to know people. I’m celibate, celibacy’s fine.”

The “Telephone” singer added, “You don’t have to have sex to feel good about yourself, and if you’re not ready, don’t do it. And if you are ready, there are free condoms given away at my concerts when you’re leaving!”

According to the article, Gaga was inspired to take this stance on celibacy in response to the rise in HIV infections among women worldwide. The World Health Organization reported last year that HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women ages 15 to 44.

“This is a disease that affects everyone, not just the gay community,” said Gaga, who stressed that it’s a growing concern among women.

Original Post: http://www.poz.com/rssredir/articles/LadyGaga_celibacy_condoms_1_18277.shtml

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, Society and living environment, , , ,

20.12.2009 The Church’s Dilemma in the face of HIV and AIDS

An interesting article from Fr. Joseph,which I found on the net…


Reflection on informed decision-making as a strategy for the church in the light of the HIV and AIDS Crisis


‘And just to conclude, listen to these words: “over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups.” These were words by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the present Pope Benedict XVI, expressing very clearly what it means to say that conscience is the highest moral authority’. Christians in Africa have come to identify with the Church more when the church leaders and institutions talk about issues affecting them in their day-to-day life and when they (church leaders and institutions) become engaged in real life questions. Nobody can deny that HIV and AIDS is a world crisis, more so in my continent of Africa, south of the Sahara, my home region. It is a crisis in my country and painfully so, a crisis in my family. As a priest I have personally come face to face with this crisis losing two sisters, a brother, three nephews and four nieces. I have lost friends and people I have dearly served as a priest. These have left children some of whom I know are HIV positive. I still have so many relatives and friends. Some of them are aware that they are HIV positive, some are aware that they are HIV negative and some are HIV (status) ignorant. Most of these are faithful to each other as couples. Some of them are abstaining. As a priest and a friend I encourage them to do so because these principles offer the surest possible protection against HIV infection, even if their attainment seems difficult. But there is another reality that the church ought to face. The response to the epidemic has sometimes been compromised with moral issues. When it comes to the pastoral response to this crisis the church ought to come to terms with the reality. The fight against HIV and AIDS should be approached as a whole, namely, the care, treatment as well as prevention. There is already a lot that the church is doing in terms of care and treatment. As a priest from Malawi, Africa, I believe that each individual as created by God has a right to care, to treatment and the right to prevent oneself. I also believe that each individual has the right to information on HIV and AIDS, information on care, treatment as well as information on prevention on the same and thereby come up with well-informed decision. When it comes to prevention it is not a hidden truth that all the known three, namely, Abstinence, Be faithful and Condom (ABC) are there and working. The fact that we in the church circles advocate for the A and B does not necessarily mean that the C does not work. It does. It becomes easier for some ‘good’ Theologians sitting in big conferences discussing these issues and condemn the C.
In the years leading up to 2005 The Episcopal Conference Malawi discussed sensitively about the problem. In general, they tend to recognize the importance and legitimacy of sexual activity for a discordant couple. They have also brought out the importance of safeguarding the health of one’s partner in marriage, underscoring that marriage does not give one the right to endanger the health of a spouse in any way. But what they have even stressed most is that conscience is the ultimate moral rule and that the couple must act on the basis of what their conscience tells them is correct in their circumstances. This message was put in their (Bishops’) documents that were presented for the Ad Limina visit at the Vatican in 2005. No clear response as a guiding principle was given to them except the teaching of Humanea Vitae (especially § 14). From the Ad Limina visit, like the case before the visit, each Bishop has gone back and presents his own message to the people he is shepherding. Double messages have sometimes been sent thereby confusing people. In some cases some leaders have opted to remain silent on some ways of preventing or controlling HIV and AIDS but have expected an end of the pandemic.
The truth of the matter is that HIV and AIDS has not brought about a sense of immorality, but has rather highlighted existing moral challenges in within our society. The crisis has highlighted cultural practices that churches ought to address. Other issues are: the frequency of multiple partnerships, psychological and financial coercion to have sexual intercourse, the early sexual activity of the young and lack of proper sexuality education, the prevalence of sexual violence by intimate partner, etc. As a pastor doing my pastoral duties in a parish I see these issues differently. I am aware that there is a ‘law’ (teaching) in the church which says ‘no to use of condom’. I am also aware that I am a pastor who has been sent there not to break the ‘law’, but as a pastor I will sometimes do what Jesus did in Mark 3:1-6, namely to ‘break the law’ for the sake of letting some brothers and sisters out there ‘live their life to the full’. The use of C for discordant couples, for instance, is a method that has to be openly taught as a way to prevent oneself; it is a way that I will share with my sisters, my brothers, etc, so that some of them ‘may have life’. If as a pastor I cannot remove the pain from these poor ones of Yahweh, then the least I can do is never to add a gram of pain to their conscience by insisting on the wholesale condemnation to the use of Condoms with contradicting messages.
Moral discussions on the use of condom and other contraceptives as taught in the Humanae Vitae should not be confused with the use of condom in the above case. The teaching of Humanae Vitae based on the intention of God in procreation is not to be applied in the situation of HIV and AIDS. It is not a question of: when to have sex or not but rather life or death (in some instances). In other words, old answers are no longer relevant for the new questions that we have today in the face on HIV and AIDS pandemic. I am aware that some parents and religious leaders have expressed the fear that the discussion of how HIV transmission can be prevented, risk-reducing factors and similar matters with the inclusion of the C might provoke among people the very sexual behaviour that the church seeks to check. This could indeed happen if the information being provided is not positive and prudent. But it would be equally unethical to deny people the desirable alternatives of abstinence and fidelity or indeed deny people information on measures that would protect them against possible HIV infection. A couple where both are HIV negative will not sit in the house and say, “My wife there is HIV out there. We must be careful. We must use condoms to protect ourselves.” NO! What they will say is, “My wife there is HIV out there. We must be careful. We must be faithful to one another.” On the other hand a couple where one is (or both are) HIV positive, will sit and say, “My wife I am (or we are) HIV positive, let us prevent each other. Let’s use a condom. Should I not share this information (for a well-informed decision) with a clear conscience with the people I pray with, the people I serve in the church that I call mine? Many priests and other church leaders that I work with believe that Conscience is an issue of special relevance to the ethical challenges that the AIDS pandemic raises in relation to sexuality.
The Catholic Catechism teaches that conscience must be informed and moral judgement enlightened (1783). It does not stress the teaching role of the church in the formation of conscience but asserts, “In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path” (1785). “The Word of God is a light for our path. We must assimilate it in faith and prayer, and put it into practice. This is how our conscience is formed” (1802). And how many times have nuns, who are doing a very wonderful job in so many of our clinics, helped patients and clients and at the end have told these patients and clients that they (nuns and their institutions) are not allowed to give out condoms but that they go to the next institution where they can get them. All this points to the gap between policy and practice with regard to informed decision-making. Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgement in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgement that departs from them (1799). Nevertheless, a human being must always obey the certain judgement of his conscience (1800). This has been true before HIV and AIDS came and will be true after pandemic is gone. And just to conclude, listen to these words: “over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups.” These were words by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the present Pope Benedict XVI, expressing very clearly what it means to say that conscience is the highest moral authority.
Statements for discussion Ecumenical pre-conference workshop informed decision-making
1) The gap between policy and practice with regard to informed decision-making isn’t a problem as in daily practice (health) people practice – informed decision making-
2) While the church is “a champion” in care and cure it is can be an obstacle in prevention.
3) Informed decision-making is the solution for the Church dilemma’s in prevention.

Joseph J. Mpinganjira

Diocese of Lilongwe,

P. O. Box 631, Lilongwe, Malawi

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , ,

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