8 Ugly Sins of the Catholic Church
Continued from previous page
4. Lying about contraceptives to poor Africans. Of all the mortal sins committed by the men of the cloth, the most devastatingly lethal in the last 30 years has been the Catholic hierarchy’s outspoken opposition to condom use in Africa. In 2003, the president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family publicly lied about the efficacy of condoms in preventing both pregnancy and HIV: “The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom.” The archbishop of Nairobi told people that condoms were spreading HIV. Some priests told parishioners that condoms were impregnated with the virus.
The motivation for such flagrant falsehoods? The Church has practiced competitive pro-natalism for centuries, but lately anti-contraceptive edicts have been ignored by most educated European and American Catholics, and Italy has the second lowest birthrate in the Western World, at 1.3 per woman. The bishops see this as a “catastrophe” and are looking to Africa as “ a reservoir of life for the Church.” They wrap their opposition to contraception in lofty moral language such as that offered by Pope John Paul II: It seems profoundly damaging to the dignity of the human being, and for this reason morally illicit, to support a prevention of AIDS that is based on a recourse to means and remedies that violate an authentically human sense of sexuality. As late as 2009, John Paul’s successor, Benedict, continued to tell poor African Catholics that condoms were “ wrong” and even suggested that they were making the epidemic worse. With god-knows –how-many lives lost and children orphaned, he finally softened his stance in 2010.
5. Obstructing patient access to accurate information and services in secular hospitals. In rural Arizona near the Mexican border, women delivering babies by cesarean section were refused tubal ligations because their independent hospital was negotiating a merger with a healthcare network run by Catholics. Worse, when a woman arrived at the same hospital in the middle of a miscarriage and need a surgical abortion to complete the process, she was forced to travel by ambulance to Tucson, 80 miles away, risking hemorrhage on the way. All over the U.S. secular and Catholic-run health systems are merging, and patients are quietly losing the right to make medical decisions based on the best scientific information available and the dictates of their own conscience.
Even when the Catholic-owned hospital is a small part of the merger, administrators insist that Catholic directives apply to the system as a whole. These directives prohibit not only abortions but also contraceptives, vasectomies and tubal ligations, some kinds of fertility treatment, and compliance with end-of-life patient directives. Ectopic pregnancies cannot be handled in keeping with the medical standard of care. As biotechnologies and treatments relevant to the beginning and end of life advance, we can expect the list to grow longer. Patients cannot trust that they will be told other options are available elsewhere.
One of the bitter ironies here is that even wholly “Catholic” hospitals and charities are staffed primarily by non-Catholics and largely provide services to people of other faiths or of none, paid for with tax dollars. In healthcare much of the money flows from Medicare and Medicaid. In 2010, non-medical affiliates of Catholic Charities received 62 percent of annual revenue from the taxpayers – nearly $2.9 billion. Only 3 percent came from church donations, with the remainder coming from investments, program fees, community donations and in-kind contributions. And yet all of those dollars get directed according to the dictates of bishop conscience rather than individual conscience.