The medical journal the Lancet has accused Pope Benedict XVI of distorting scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine following his remarks about condom use and HIV.

The attack — which also said that the pope did not know what he was talking about and had put millions of lives at risk — followed his statement last week during a visit to Africa that the use of condoms increased HIV infection rates. This was later amended by the Vatican, which said that condom use merely increased the risk of transmission.

The pope’s remarks, made to journalists on a flight to Cameroon at the start of his visit, overshadowed his trip and provoked condemnation from health and aid agencies, as well as protests from the UN and the governments of Germany, France and Belgium.

Today’s Lancet editorial said the Pope’s statement was “outrageous and wildly inaccurate“. It added: “By saying that condoms exacerbate the problem of HIV/Aids, the pope has publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine.


“Whether the pope’s error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology is unclear … When any influential person, be it a religious or political leader, makes a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people, they should retract or correct the public record. Anything less from Pope Benedict would be an immense disservice to the public and health advocates, including many thousands of Catholics who work tirelessly to try and prevent the spread of HIV/Aids worldwide.”

Good thing The Lancet editors don’t read the crap fountaining from the head-holes of American bible-thumpers. They’d have to increase the size of their publication just to keep up.

Thanks, K B




  1. Improbus says:

    What do you expect from a purveyor of superstition and “faith”? I just can’t figure out whether or not if he is actually believes what he says.

  2. Dallas says:

    I want to talk to the Pope’s manager. This is an outrage,

  3. qsabe says:

    The Taliban for the west. .. In the Detroit archdiocese a muskrat is considered a fish, for those who couldn’t afford Fridays fish requirements in the past. .. Whatever keeps the basket full at mass.

  4. Ah_Yea says:

    Isn’t this somewhat taken out of context?

    Didn’t the pope say that condoms increased the chances of getting aids as compared to abstinence?

    That is, most people talk themselves into falsely believing that using a condom gives you the safety to have sex with whomever you want whenever you want. They don’t consider that condom use is less than 100% safe.

    Abstinence, on the other hand, is 100% safe,

    Therefore, using a condom increases the risk of aids – as compared to abstinence.

  5. Pat says:

    A little Latin lesson. Ignoramus is Latin for “we ignore”. Not only does this modern use nounify a verb, it also implies other things…

  6. Greg Allen says:

    Was it really an “attack” by Lancet? Or just fair criticism?

    I get tired of the news media inflating honest debate into more than it is — presumably to sell newspapers.

    We saw it during the election… “Obama goes on the attack against McCain”

    You’d read the actual Obama quotes and they would all be about policy matters!

    Of course, people often _DO_ attack Catholicism bu the Lancet editorial seems like a totally fair and reasonable criticism.

  7. Gary, the dangerous infidel says:

    His Holiness later went on to explain that the only proper use for condoms is for making balloon animals in homage to God’s creation.

    Everyone knows that the best way to prevent HIV transmission short of abstinence is to wash your tallywhacker in holy water, available in the gift shop of your local Catholic Church.

  8. Greg Allen says:

    Ah_Yeah,

    Maybe you’re right that the pope was making some statistical comparison but lets be clear: he and his church are categorically against birth control, even if it would save lives.

    This points gets lost in the abortion debate in America — many anti-abortion people aren’t going to be happy only banning abortion. They won’t stop until all contraception is banned.

    Another ignored radicalism of the anti-abortion movement is that they believe:
    1) Abortion is murder
    2) Murderers should be put to death.

    I’ve gotten a few to admit (in private) that they think that millions of women and most doctors deserve to be executed.

    I know. I know. You guys are going to accuse me of over-inflating the issue. But ask your anti-abortion friend sometime if they believe both in #1 and #2 above. Then ask them to make the only logical conclusion.

  9. daav0 says:

    The Pope (and the Catholic church) ask for abstinence in all but married monogamy. They preach no premarital sex of any kind, no affairs of any kind, no sex other than sex in the marriage bed. Period. No exceptions.

    So the church is not asking people to have unprotected sex. They are asking people to have NO sex.

    This is frequently missed by the critics in a story like this.

  10. Floyd says:

    The Catholic Church also has stated that only married couples should have sex, and that only the “rhythm method” is allowed for birth control. Yeah, that’ll work.

  11. MikieV says:

    I like the contrast between the two statements in the last paragraph of the story:

    “The pope’s argument that condoms do not prevent Aids echoes previous claims made by some senior clergy that the virus can pass through rubber.”

    “However, other senior Catholics, including the cardinals of Belgium and Westminster, have suggested that condom use may prevent the greater evil of infecting partners with a deadly disease.”

  12. MikeN says:

    I wish other scientific journals would act this way towards environmentalists like Al Gore.

  13. eyeofthetiger says:

    Damn that guy gives me the creeps. End the spread of AIDS in the third world. Send leaflets of the popes mug with caption. God’s right hand man says he no.

  14. MikeN says:

    What’s the difference between what the Pope said, and the later amended statement?

    Higher infection rates vs higher risk of transmission sound like the same thing.

  15. Greg Allen says:

    Daavo and Floyd,

    You both make good points.

    Vatican-line Catholicism (which millions of Catholics DON’T practice, even in Italy, even by priests!) is really extreme on issues of sexuality.

    As you point out, this fact gets lost in the debate and media coverage.

    At times John Paul inspired me but I believe he TOTALLY MISMANAGED the sexual abuse issue in America.

    For starters, he acted like it was solely a “liberal” American problem. Hardly! I think the issue is bigger here because we liberals are willing to deal with sexual realities, rather than keep them in the closet, which is the conservative impulse.

    In my mind, the abuse scandal is symptomatic of a larger sexual dysfunction in the Catholic church.

    1,000 year old sexual mores are simply dysfunction in our modern society. Best I an tell, the reason the priestly sexual abuse scandal went hidden for so long is because it thrived under the much larger cover-up of the fact that many clergy aren’t celebrate.

    If the church would just let the priests and nuns marry (straight or gay), the church could have a lot more integrity about REAL problems, like sex abuse.

  16. bobsyeruncle says:

    Ya know – sometimes you CAN judge a book by its cover – and the current pope sure looks like a Baaaad man.

  17. JimR says:

    When will the religious insanity end! The Pope is nothing but a fool in a clown suit.

  18. jescott418 says:

    Faith has nothing to do about reality. Its about teachings written hundreds of years ago when the world was very much different.
    I think as with everything else in life we need to re evaluate what those teachings were implying and try to adjust to todays life. Obviously condoms were not even invented when written teachings like the Bible were created. Now the Pope puts out rubbish which does nobody any good just to follow those teachings? Is their no common sense in religion?

  19. Gary, the dangerous infidel says:

    #17 bobsyeruncle, I think I agree. The Pope has a smile that says, “I bet your liver would be chewy and delicious!”

  20. JimR says:

    We are driven by natural instincts to have sex and reproduce. That natural instinct is more powerful than any religious dogma. The Pope has the blood of everyone who listened to His Ignorance, succumbed to the forces of nature and will die of aids or other STD.

  21. bill says:

    Catholic Doctrine? Religious Extremism? Religious Terrorists?
    Death by overpopulation, disease, ignorance?

    How is this going to save my soul? And who’s business is it? The Pope’s?

    I think NOT!

    I used to be a good Catholic.. and I still am, (at the end I’m comfortable with my life),

    but I don’t believe EVERYTHING Rome says anymore.

    I think someone ‘up there’ has a weird sense of humor.

  22. Mr. Fusion says:

    #4, Ah Yea,

    Abstinence, on the other hand, is 100% safe,

    Therefore, using a condom increases the risk of aids – as compared to abstinence.

    Just as an aside here, if you keep your mouth shut and your hands in your pockets you will never tell a lie. Therefore not saying or writing anything is 100% effective while checking accuracy is only 98% effective.

    Which ‘ya gunna do?

  23. TVAddict says:

    JImR I have to agree. Procreation is one of the strongest instincts in humans. No religion or religious dogma will change that. Even people who take vows of abstinence struggle against that instinct every day. Most cannot resist.

  24. JimR says:

    Re:#17, #20
    Evil? Maybe, but I think he just looks horny…. maybe didn’t get a chance to polish the crucifix yet that day. See how clean his hand is?

  25. Selvy says:

    Just to play Pope’s Advocate for a moment:

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    A senior Harvard research scientist confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI, who endured heavy criticism for declaring that condom distribution programs worsen the AIDS epidemic in Africa, was actually correct.

    Dr. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, told National Review Online last week that despite AIDS activists and media outlets pounding the pope for downplaying the effectiveness of condoms, the science actually supports the Catholic leader’s claim.

    “The pope is correct,” Green told NRO, “or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments.”

    “There is,” Green added, “a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by ‘compensating’ or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.”

    Aboard a plane traveling to Yaounde, Cameroon, last week, a French reporter told Benedict that the Catholic approach to combating AIDS – encouraging monogamy within marriage and abstinence before – was often considered unrealistic and ineffective.

    According to transcripts released by the Vatican, Benedict responded, “This problem of AIDS cannot be overcome merely with money, necessary though it is. If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help [by responsible behavior], the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it.”

    Benedict immediately came under fire in the international press for proclaiming just what Green says the studies support: Encouraging fidelity in sexual relations decreases the spread of AIDS, and condom distribution programs increase it.

    Rebecca Hodes, head of policy, communications and research for the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, blasted the pope for not advocating wide access to condoms as a means of combating AIDS.

    “His opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans,” Hodes told the Associated Press.

    “We call on the Pope to revisit the teachings on condoms with a view to lifting the ban at the earliest possible moment,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “In his review, we want him to include experts who are unequivocal that condoms do in fact help prevent the spread of HIV.”

    Syndicated columnist Roland Martin writes on CNN.com that the pope’s position demonstrated “ignorance of reality.”

    “For the church,” Martin writes, “to continue to ignore the definitive research that condoms play a huge role in decreasing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is mind-boggling.”

    Even the Vatican, according to a report in the London Times, backtracked slightly on the pope’s remarks, adding a word to Benedict’s remarks, stating he said distribution of condoms merely “risked” increasing the spread of AIDS.

    According to Green, however, the pope’s critics have bought into a common myth about condoms and AIDS.

    “We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates,” said Green, “which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working.”

    Instead, Green noted, the pope’s encouragement of Africans toward monogamous sexual relationships has proven to be a much more effective strategy:

    “The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates,” Green said.

    In Uganda, according to a report in Science magazine, teaching about AIDS and promoting monogamy has led to a dramatic turnaround in the country’s AIDS epidemic.

    “Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is preventable if populations are mobilized to avoid risk,” states the report’s summary. “Despite limited resources, Uganda has shown a 70 percent decline in HIV prevalence since the early 1990s, linked to a 60 percent reduction in casual sex. The response in Uganda appears to be distinctively associated with communication about [AIDS] through social networks. Despite substantial condom use and promotion of biomedical approaches, other African countries have shown neither similar behavioral responses nor HIV prevalence declines of the same scale. The Ugandan success is equivalent to a vaccine of 80 percent effectiveness.”

    Green further told NRO, “More and more AIDS experts are coming to accept the above. The two countries with the worst HIV epidemics, Swaziland and Botswana, have both launched campaigns to discourage multiple and concurrent partners, and to encourage fidelity.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    So, while it’s correct that the Pope and the Vatican are against condom use because it allows for promiscuity, etc., it is also a valid point that people often think of condoms and other forms of protection as a license to take more risks.

    A condom is better than nothing, but changing one’s behavior is just as important.

  26. sargasso says:

    That ‘ole, fava beans and chianti, smile.

  27. JimR says:

    Also from Science Magazine…

    Article: UTTING INDIA’S HIV TALLY, January 2007
    “The report is in line with a March 2006 paper in The Lancet by Rajesh Kumar and Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto in Canada, who reported a one-third decline in new HIV infections in the worst-hit regions of India, thanks to condom use and AIDS awareness programs.”

    Article: Twenty-Five Years of HIV/AIDS, July 2006
    “Even without a vaccine, HIV remains an entirely preventable disease in adults; and behavior modification, condom use, and other approaches have slowed HIV incidence in many rich countries and a growing number of poor ones.

  28. Sister Mary Hand Grenade of Quiet Reflection says:

    I think the Pope is in serious need of a beej.

  29. MikeN says:

    So it’s like if you have a bicycle helmet law, it encourages kids to be more reckless in their riding.

  30. bobbo says:

    #30–Mike==this is a good example of how using the name and number of the post you are responding to is NECESSARY for good communication/thread development.

    You’ve made an excellent analogy to Post #26. I hope he returns to give an answer.

    Was the Pope “right or wrong?”–all depends on what the EXACT question is. Hardly matters when the Poop is anti-sex, and anti-condom. He should be ignored as bat shit crazy to begin with.


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