Diogenes does a GetReligion on BBC

popehopeEvery now and then, some other organization or person gets out a sharp knife and attempts to do unto some mainstream news source what GetReligion does unto others day after day. All we really have to do is show you the link and let you read it. It's like someone giving us a little media criticism gift.

In this case, the gift comes from a very predictable source and, I am sure, many readers will find its contents quite predictable as well. However, the anonymous Catholic scribe or priest or bishop or theologian or whatever who writes at the Catholic World News "Off the Record" weblog under the pen name "Diogenes" is almost always worth reading, whether you agree with him/her or not.

In this case, the target is The Lancet, via a BBC report noting the medical journal's criticism of Pope Benedict XVI on, you guessed it, condoms, AIDs and Africa. The BBC and Lancet team proclaims:

... (The) London-based Lancet said the Pope had "publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue". It said the male latex condom was the single most efficient way to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV/Aids.

"Whether the Pope's error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology is unclear," said the journal.

But it said the comment still stood and urged the Vatican to issue a retraction.

"When any influential person, be it a religious or political figure, makes a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people, they should retract or correct the public record," it said.

Do which Diogenes responds:

See if I've got this right. The "male latex condom is the single most efficient way to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS." Solid. That means Science is telling me that, if my son's an HIV-negative virgin, he positively REDUCES his risk of AIDS infection by abandoning abstinence and engaging in passive sexual relations with some gork who's outfitted with a condom. Well, that's what the man says, isn't it?

And then:

Some of us can remember when AIDS was not yet a problem, back when the public health game was to get all young women on the Pill -- ostensibly to reduce pregnancy, in reality to justify the emancipated sexuality of the advocates. In that period Science (i.e., spectacled men in white lab coats grasping Erlenmeyer flasks) was droning on about the high failure rate of the condom. Condoms were ridiculed by public health advocates as a crude backwoodsy expedient that only the naive or the unscrupulous would employ. Has the science changed in the meantime?

The problem, of course, is that the pope is basing his statement on doctrines that oppose sex outside of marital fidelity. The pope wants to oppose what he views as sin. The other side of the debate -- that would be BBC, I guess -- thinks that this is stupid and wrong, which is another perspective that must be reported.

That Diogenes is noting, of course, is that the assumption of the coverage is that condoms are the best method possible under the circumstances, since sex outside of marriage is a given. There is no debate. There is only one side to report, which means the pope must be both stupid and wrong. Who needs a debate? Who needs news coverage?

Meanwhile, those still interesting in this life-and-death subject may enjoy -- if "enjoy" is the right word -- reading a recent piece that the Washington Post bravely printed on its op-ed page. It was written by Edward C. Green, a senior research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, and ran with the headline, "The Pope May Be Right." Here's the top:

When Pope Benedict XVI commented this month that condom distribution isn't helping, and may be worsening, the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, he set off a firestorm of protest. Most non-Catholic commentary has been highly critical of the pope. A cartoon in the Philadelphia Inquirer (see it here), reprinted in The Post, showed the pope somewhat ghoulishly praising a throng of sick and dying Africans: "Blessed are the sick, for they have not used condoms."

Yet, in truth, current empirical evidence supports him.

So what works in Africa? Read it all.

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