God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

New National Health Insurance Plan

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While South Africa is considering and planing for a new Health care insurance system  which would give its citizens more possibilities to use health care in a dignified and fair way, the same has already happened in the USA. After long battles a new health care  policy is in place and more US Americans are able to get access to health care facilities and the right treatment independent of their financial background.

It is interesting to see, that despite several changes in the act, the US American Catholic Bishops Conference is still fighting the plan, as it includes family planing. To recap: In January 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services issued its mandate as part of the health care reform law that contraceptive care, such as prescriptions for birth control pills, must be fully covered as part of any insurance plan. Some religious organizations are exempt from this rule, but a number of Catholic groups say those exemptions are not enough. While the bishops have continued to oppose the mandate, other Catholic groups, such as the Catholic Health Association, have said the administration has addressed their concerns in the revisions. According to the last version of the federal mandate, which the administration released June 28, any organization that self-certifies as a nonprofit religious group with religious objections to contraceptive coverage can defer coverage of contraceptives to a separate health insurance issuer. The administration “has now established an accommodation that will allow our ministries to continue offering health insurance plans for their employees as they have always done,” the Catholic Health Association’s president,  Sr. Carol Keehan, said after the release of the last version of the mandate. The organization, which describes itself as the largest group of nonprofit health care providers in the nation, comprises more than 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities in the USA.
Well, the bishops see it differently:

The Bishop heading the commission dealing with the national health care act, Cardinal Dolan even goes so far that the bishops are concerned that the mandate does not cover for-profit businesses run by individuals who may oppose certain contraceptive services. In essence what he is saying is: If I have a company with hundreds of employees and I have certain religious conviction, then I am entitled to enforce them for all working in my company, even if they don’t share this convictions and they are irrelevant to the work they are doing. It would in practice mean that a Witness of Jehovah Shop owner can exclude blood transfusion for his employees.  It is interesting to see whether such an argument will hold for the future of the bill, and especially on a topic which is since the introduction of Humanae vitae never fully adopted by practicing Catholics and even questioned in its rigidity by Bishops around the world. During the debate phrases like “protecting the freedom of religion” were used and the treat of the end of religious liberty put onto the map.

It has to be seen what the debate in South Africa holds in store when it comes to the point, what services should be included in a new Health Insurance Policy, there are surely interesting times ahead also for us here in South Africa. But it is to hope that at the end, the fundamental right of every citizen to health care according to each and every-bodies conscience prevails. Informed decisions like it has been long introduced in the sector of HIV and AIDS and TB and cancer therapies. The church has a right to enter into such a debate but must also acknowledge that its belief cannot be binding to all citizens regardless of their faith. This trickles down from the nation to single companies where the freedom to choose health care services must be balanced against the conscience of the company owner. We as the church can advocate what we belief is right, but never force democratic nations or people to follow.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Medical and Research, Politics and Society, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pope Francis and his interview

Pope Francis met with media

Pope Francis met with media (Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales))

I am amazed to see how much is written and talked about the interview, Pope Francis gave on his way back to the journalists being able to ask all sorts of questions. There was nothing new under this sun – when it comes to substance – but there was something new in tone. First of all I have never heard a pope taking the word “gay” in his mouth – homosexual was the term normally being used by church officials. Secondly I have never seen a pope being able simply to answer all sorts of questions without council and preparation, without going through the questions especially when they are tricky.

And seeing the reaction world-wide – with all kinds of interpretation depending which camp ones belongs to – it shows only one thing: how much the good people of the church and outside the church have yearned for a trace of humanity, humility and down-to-earth in the reaction and answers of the supreme leader of the Roman-Catholic Church. One can actually hear the deep breath taken and the gasp of relief that church is touching ground again. That in itself is amazing and moving.
For me there is no doubt that this pope is not to be framed by labels like “conservative’ or “progressive” – he seems totally to be himself and enjoying what he is doing. And he seems to be able to listen – but I am also sure he can be very firm when once made a decision.
Does that mean more openness in the church and within the church? Does it mean substantial change?  I am not sure – seeing how a conservative John XXIII has triggered quite some development within the church I just want to wait and see and simply enjoy what I am seeing and hearing, even if I don’t agree with everything said. I just want to enjoy that people start talking again positively about church.

Who had thought two years ago that a pope resigns? Who would have predicted that a pope talks about “gay” priests without flushing or feeling insulted? Who would have predicted a pop asking youth do “mess” around? So, let’s not over interpret everything he is saying or doing, but enjoying the fresh air he brought to millions of believers and surely to every priest and religious who works hard to live his or her vocation every given day.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Farewell to Pope Benedict XVI

“Why did you write not about the resignation of the pope?” I was asked frequently  – you have a blog as a priest, they argue and it must be of concern for me what happens in the church on the top-level of hierarchy.

Well, the are right, it is of my interest and I follow the events unfolding very closely. But there is so much written about the pope and the resignation and the consequences for the church – and most of them are clever people; so what should I as a simple priest say to an event commented from almost all angels of life.

Well, for those who are interested:
I was not surprised, Benedict XVI had always his own mindset and he remained the theologian and professor and in my humble view never took over by heart all the demands and challenges of being a pope. This was and is not his world. Studies and books and deep thinking is different from ruling, being almost seen above human beings, having to deal with politics, human failures, ordinary administration work and demands from all sides.
I guess this is anyhow for an elderly person too much to carry in our days. So for me, he made the right decision to step down after realizing that he has not the energy to deal with it all. I take my hat off that he tried, but my feelings are somehow ambivalent. Can I take on a duty I know I cannot fill out completely? Yes, people grow with their “job description” and this applies also to a pope in a certain way. But I cannot judge it, that is between him and the Lord.

I was not surprised but I believe his eight years changed the papacy for ever. His interviews about the use of condoms, his “Regensburger” comments on Islam, his dealing with the Pius X Society and the Latin mass,  his resignation – it all changes history and if you hear some comments of bishops and cardinals after the announcement – there are suddenly some nuances in comments which are very surprising to me. It somehow seems that the church has woken up in the 21st century realizing that the train of time has gone with such a speed that it is time to catch up and face the challenges of this new era. But on the other side one sees people  in the hierarchy still believing that the train of time has to be reversed and send back to its origin. The church is somehow split by now – not only between those who are called “conservative” and “progressive” but also those who think “European” and those thinking “global”.

Disappointment on his stance regarding Africa and HIV / AIDS – yes, I have to admit there is a lot of it. But on the other hand: Did we really expect him to change the teaching which seems to be for him one of the pillars to fight relativism, his beloved subject. And anyhow: change does come from the Holy Spirit who is part of the church and the world and who is not confined to any single person. Change comes through each and every single calling in this world and we should never expect all answers from the person occupying the throne of Peter. The community of the bishops and within this as primus inter pares the Bishop of Rome and the sensus fidei  – there the future of the church is lying and the hope for a recovery from the crisis we are in.

I am sure he tried his very best – and I am also sure he is humble enough to know that there have been made mistakes. Contra all assurance from him I believe that he was a lonely man in the Vatican, trusting only a handful of people and therefore sometimes lacking the possibilities to see all sides of a subject he was considering and deciding. But that might be the case for all high-profile people giving up their freedom for a calling, a duty or even for more power.

The only thing I put a real question mark is the ordination of his secretary to become a bishop. He did that in the knowledge that he steps down and somehow it feels wrong to me. In a world, where favoritism and nepotism regarding those supporting one seems to be normal in politics and economics there shouldn’t be a taste of it in the Vatican. For me anyhow a bishop is for the people and I cannot see why there are so many bishops in Rome in administration. Cardinal is a title and not necessarily attached to someone being e a bishop. So for me, it empties generally the meaning of the word “bishop” somehow.

So what do I make of the time of Benedict XVI – it was on one hand a tough time for somebody believing that changes are necessary into the future and not into the past – but on the other hand God is writing nicely even on uneven lines – so I hope and pray that the next pope is fit mentally and physically to face the challenges of the time and to convert the papacy and the administration in a way fit for the next centuries to come, proclaiming the value of a human being and all creation and that all and everybody is loved unconditional by God. For Benedict XVI I hope for a peaceful life as he wishes to live now and enough time for his studies and music and whatever he likes to do in his retirement.

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

… what an insight…

Coming closer to the World AIDS Conference, you can read in all Catholic and specially more right-wing Catholic articles about the conference that the expert of Caritas Internationalis, Msgr Robert Vitillo proclaimed that condoms don’t solve the problem of AIDS.  I am amazed and it reminds me lots of sermons I have heard in my life where questions are asked or statements are attacked which nobody really ever had in mind. So I am not sure what drives the media to repeat in sensational ways a statement nobody is anyhow interested in or has ever claimed to be the only solution to the pandemic. Well, it might be that there is the intention to show that the anti-condom Catholic teaching is at the end the right point of view when it comes to AIDS. And it seems that repeating this “insight” makes it one day coming true…
The battle against the pandemic needs all tools we have at hands and when we will look back at the pandemic once the tide is turned we as the church will feel ashamed for rejecting one of the most important tools for “here and now” to prevent new infections. And we might even laugh to see how important that little bit of rubber was, so much so that moral theologian could get into trouble because of it. And I am sure God might laugh too…  –  but we all in the church have to take responsibility for those having followed the rules of the church and got into deadly trouble as a consequence. Life is precious and we are not allowed to bargain with it as cost for a teaching which we all know can and will and has changed over times.

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

Arrogance, Condoms and Stupidity

As usual I read through all the headlines of news various news agencies and news services send to my email box.  Even though the news are from all around the world and from totally different topics I am interested in, sometimes one can draw lines between the different headlines and it makes sense or bring at least some meaning to these combinations. To give an example:
The new head of the congregation of faith demanded yesterday the resignation of Markus Löning in Germany. He is not only a Facebook user but also the representative of the German government for human rights. On his Facebook page he posted: to stupid to understand science – then try religion. A clear insult, so felt Bishop Müller and stated, that the man is not right for the task he is asked to perform by the German government. The entry is meanwhile deleted by Löning.

Well, right I though first of all watch out, Facebook can be a dangerous place and easy bring someone into trouble, but coming to the core of the matter: faith and science should be compatible – they are both ways of discovering God’s great plan with us and everything living on this planet.

Reading on I discovered an interview of a very Christian radio station with a Bishop in South Africa, debating the difficulties of Christian Faith and African tradition and also the differences between different tribes. Actually very sensitive answers from the Bishop till the question of HIV and AIDS arises. Of course no question about HIV without the “c” question and the good bishop turns on the heat:
I think the international community is always arrogant to us Africans. They come with readymade solutions. They don’t ask. They know what is right for us as Africans and the condoms are part of that arrogance. I think because people, in their minds, they think that condoms prevent the sickness. It helps spread it because every young person even those who are not aware of sexual activity are taught in the school about this condom in sexual education. They try it and that is why you still have a high rate of people being infected with this AIDS epidemic.

Well, besides all the bad feeling of the bishop against the international community: Science tells us clearly that condoms don’t help spread the pandemic and looking into the very area he is talking about earlier. It is exactly this area where condoms brought down teenager pregnancy almost to zero which means that students can complete their school and have a fair chance in life to get a proper education. Of course condoms are only part of the solution and changing the hearts and minds and behaviour of the youngsters has to be added, but unfortunately this is a long-term goal and we need the students alive and in good health and with a good education to be able to achieve behaviour change.

This interview also let me think of the situation in Uganda and other countries, where right-wing evangelical preachers advise government and tell them, what it means to be “African”. And there nobody is complaining that this is done by outsiders, mainly US Americans.

So, drawing lines between all those news what remains as a conclusion to the reader?

First, I realise that Facebook is read in the highest circles of the church or at least summaries are being brought to their attention.
Secondly, and this is much mor serious, the pain and the feeling of being overpowered by the international community – I guess by the white international community  – has to be taken seriously and into account when we talk about the solutions of problems like HIV and AIDS but also many others.
And thirdly there must be much more exchange between science and faith to bring both on the same level so that they can see in each other eye without feeling superior or inferior.
And last but not least there is more to see to the “African identity” and I agree, the world financial and economic system we have is not always listening or even giving time to consider other concepts of living and the experience of reality.

Quite a lot to think of and to consider for one morning’s news intake…

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

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
5 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2019

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 18th, 2019

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