Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Catholic Inconsistencies over Epidemics

Last month the Diocese of Plymouth (southern England) sent out letters to its priests advising them to stop offering wine at communion in a bid to help fight the swine flu epidemic.

The Plymouth Diocese has 93 parishes stretching from Penzance and the Isles of Scilly in the west to parts of Bournemouth in the Dorset.

The step was apparently taken in response to the World Health Organisation upgrading the seriousness of the epidemic risk. According to the BBC, at the time, there were no cases of the flu in the area covered by the Diocese and only 18 cases have been diagnosed since then (source).

This morning, the chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, told BBC Radio Four's Today programme that, at present, swine flu appears to be less severe than previous pandemics and "broadly similar" to seasonal flu - which kills between 5,000 and 7,000 each year. There have so far been 17 swine flu-related deaths in the UK.

All information both at the time of the Diocese's letter and now points towards a need for calm. There appears to be no need to panic.

In the meantime the Catholic Church seems to be much less in a hurry to do something about another pandemic which has proved its ferociousness over the past two decades.

The Vatican's official policy, despite every evidence and in total negation of human nature which it prides itself of knowing so well, is to forbid the use of condoms, which could help fight AIDS. Further than that, they have even claimed (again, despite all evidence) that condoms do not work against HIV.

Because of its limited scope (Catholic church goers in the South West), the Diocese of Plymouth's initiative will have very little impact on the swine flu epidemic. However, a change of the policy which to be fair several Catholic bishops seem to be ignoring, from the Vatican would go a long way..

It doesn't even have to be a full endorsement of the use of condom. The Church could easily stick to its dogma of abstinence as the best way to fight the epidemic. It could simply repeat its message and include the caveat that if people can really not stop themselves from having sex outside of marriage, then they should use a condom.

This would not in any way undermine the doctrine but would show a much deeper and compassionate knowledge of the human psyche and would help the Catholic Church stop probably being indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundred of thousand of people, mostly in Africa.

Unlike with the Plymouth story, we are however talking about sex and sexual morality here which is and has always been one of the main tools used by the church to assert its power over people. A change of tone and a show of responsibility by the Vatican is therefore sadly less than likely.

With thanks to @RichieInLondon for the tip off.
This article was published in PinkNews on 15 July 2009.

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