The Lancet suggests that the Pope is a liar

There was an editorial in The Lancet about the Pope’s remarks on Africa, AIDS and condoms.

My emphases and comments.

Editorial
The Lancet, Volume 373, Issue 9669, Page 1054, 28 March 2009

Redemption for the Pope?
The Lancet

  The Vatican felt the heat from an unprecedented amount of international condemnation [No mention of the support?] last week after Pope Benedict XVI made an outrageous and wildly inaccurate statement about HIV/AIDS. On his first visit to Africa, the Pope told journalists that the continent’s fight against the disease is a problem that “cannot be overcome by the distribution of condoms: on the contrary, they increase it”.
The Catholic Church’s ethical opposition to birth control and support of marital fidelity and abstinence in HIV prevention is well known. But, by saying that condoms exacerbate the problem of HIV/AIDS, the Pope has publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue.
The international community  [WOW!  Everyone everywhere?!] was quick to condemn the comment. The governments of Germany, France, and Belgium released statements criticising the Pope’s views. Julio Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society, called the comment “irresponsible and dangerous”. UNAIDS, the UN Population Fund, and WHO released an updated position statement on HIV prevention and condoms, which said that “the male latex condom is the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV”. Amidst the fury, even the Vatican tried to alter the pontiff’s wording. On the Holy See’s website, the Vatican’s head of media, Father Federico Lombari, quoted the Pope as having said that there was a “risk that condoms…might increase the problem”. [You see.... people really do notice when the Holy See tries to change what the Pope obviously said in front of cameras.]
Whether the Pope’s error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science [What a stupid thing to say.  Simply to accuse the Pope of purposely lying is over the top.] to support Catholic ideology is unclear. But the comment still stands and the Vatican’s attempts to tweak the Pope’s words, further tampering with the truth[Thank you Press Office et al. for making the problem worse!] is not the way forward. 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.

Okay…. what’s it going to be.   This snarky editorial in The Lancet?  Or what that prof at Harvard said?

 

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21 Responses to The Lancet suggests that the Pope is a liar

  1. IngridAiram says:

    The Lancet has also already published articles who are in favour of what the Pope says (have downloaded a few). Think they should keep to the scientic stuff (which they are good at) instead of being involved in politics.

  2. HQD says:

    The should definitely stick to science. Although it’s ironic since science is also in pursuit of truth and Dr. Green’s studies lend themselves towards that same goal, as does the Church.

    What’s even sneakier is I can’t find a way to contact the writer or the editor to give them a piece of my mind!

  3. Bill in Texas says:

    When UNAIDS says, “the male latex condom is the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV,” the reference is to lab tests and to population studies that were limited in scope and time. In other words, what theory predicts and what is shown by carefully selected trials or studies.

    When the Pope says the African continent’s fight against the disease is a problem that “cannot be overcome by the distribution of condoms: on the contrary, they increase it,” he is referring to real life, and results that come from longitudinal studies over an extended period and for populations of entire countries. In other words, real world results.

    It’s not too hard to tell the difference, or to decide which is more reliable. It’s just that truth is not always terribly popular, especially when it is (to borrow a phrase) inconvenient.

    But I’m only a lay person, a writer and not a scientist, so nobody is going to listen to me, either. Who knew the Pope and I had something in common?

  4. Banjo Pickin' Girl says:

    I am a scientist and don’t just play one on TV.

    It is true about the efficacy of latex condoms in preventing the spread of viral diseases. However, patient compliance is the main problem here. I hope that the Pope was referring to the patient compliance issue.

    Unfortunately, people have a tendency to make pronouncements on subjects where we also have an overarching agenda and when the agenda is obvious, such as our opposition to artificial forms of birth control, we have to make it more clear that we are talking about certain facts, which we then enumerate carefully, that are separate from our agenda. Otherwise we shoot ourselves in the foot. Church issues aren’t the only area where this occurs of course, it occurs in all human discussions.

    The discussion needs to be limited in scope to issues of virology, or patient compliance, or sin, but we need to be clear what issue we are talking about and not assume our hearers can read between the lines.

  5. Steve K. says:

    Is this the same Lancet that published a bogus report on Iraq casualties three weeks before an election? I would bear that in mind before assuming a stance of scientific impartiality by the Lancet.

  6. Bill in Texas says:

    Banjo Pickin’ Girl — It’s pretty clear the Pope is referring to the facts of patient compliance — the world in which things actually happen (or don’t). I guess I should have said that.

    Either way requires massive change management. Changing behavior (forever) is always difficult. The Lancet and UNAIDS don’t see the ethical and moral problems that are the consequence of getting 100% condom use. The Church sees those problems and chooses the solution that involves getting people to be 100% chaste. Since neither path is easy (nor 100% effective in the real world), why not choose the path without the ethical and moral landmines? Seems simple enough to me.

  7. tertullian says:

    Having witnessed firsthand in Rwanda in ’94 the craven financial self-interest of some of these same UN-affiliated groups, I wouldn’t be surprised if money isn’t behind this reaction.

    Promoting monogamy doesn’t cost a lot.

  8. Darel says:

    This should be considered “necessary reading” for those looking to discuss the recent firestorm over the Pope’s words in Africa:

    AIDS/ HIV prevention conundrum: Did the Pope have a case?

  9. Jordanes says:

    Bill said: It’s pretty clear the Pope is referring to the facts of patient compliance

    He’s probably also referring to the fact that making condoms available “because people are going to sin sexually anyway” only encourages people to sin sexually. Or is it just a coincidence that sexual immorality is so common today and completely accepted, when just five or six decades ago promiscuity was much more rare and rightly seen as shameful and to be abhorred? The proponents of “birth control” adamantly denied that legalising contraception would lead to greater unchastity, but then contraception was legalised and promoted, and guess what happened.

    From the practical aspect, no one who is really serious about fighting the spread of AIDS or other such diseases will promote using condoms as a preventative. They only increase promiscuity, which then leads to an increased risk of infection, because most people who are sexually loose don’t use condoms and condoms also break or leak. And from the moral aspect, giving an HIV carrier a condom instead of telling him to be chaste or abstinent is like telling a murderer to use a pillow to smother someone instead of shooting his victim in the head.

  10. Bruce says:

    “the male latex condom is the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV”.

    This reminded of something I read recently:

    ‘C. S. Lewis and Huxley observed the quasi-religious character of technology. It has its own meaning and nature. In contrast to the widely held view that technology is only a means to an end Lewis and Huxley believed it had its own intrinsic character. In Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and Lewis’s The Abolition of Man (1943), the concern is the ultimate dark irony of technology—while promising freedom in the end it actually takes it away. Huxley could see a new world where technology removed individuality, community, and meaning leaving a flat, undifferentiated mass of people easily controlled by the state. Are the inhabitants of the Brave New World free? Not at all. They are controlled by mass appetites, mass production, and mass technology. Preference is given to the artificial, not to the real or natural.
    C.S. Lewis’s main point, that technology without moral absolutes will eventually “abolish” man. As the title of his book indicates, the “abolition of man” will be accomplished by those who control technology without moral, spiritual limits.’

    Joanne Tetlow, J.D., Ph.D.

  11. Bart says:

    The Lancet is lying.

    1. The Pope did not use the word “condom”. He used the word “contaceptives”.

    Indeed, it is not about AIDS, it is about contraception!

    2. The Belgian government did NOT release a statement criticising the Pope’s views.

    Some political parties (socialist and liberal) wanted to do that. But the ‘Catholic’ party with the Prime Minister stopped them.

    I am not sure about France and Germany. But who cares about Merkel and Sarkozy?

    So, The Lancet lies!

    This whole madia storm à la Williamson was started by Reuters press agency.

  12. This periodical said the same thing Pope Benedict said in their article, “Condoms and Seat Belts: the Parallels and Lessons,” by John Richens, Volume 335, Issue 9201.

    Why have they not accused themselves of lying and tampering with Catholic theology? How hypocritical.

  13. Mark says:

    If the editors at Lancet view certain human beings as primarily driven by their sexual impulses, with no possibility of any meaningful control, then the defeatist “condom” solution may seem rational to them. If this is the case, their anthropology is very different from that of our Church, which teaches that we have the capacity (and a responsibility) to control our id drives.

    In a nutshell, we seem to have two contrasting views of a human being – one, as a driven animal, which at best is only occasionally rational, and the other as a being with a free will and soul, who most definitely has the capacity to control his drives. The strident tone of this editorial makes one wonder what kind of dismal materialist ideology is Lancet promoting here. Self appointed “guardians of science” indeed…

    Three cheers for our Pope for speaking truth to “power” !

  14. alipius says:

    “Okay…. what’s it going to be. This snarky editorial in The Lancet? Or what that prof at Harvard said?”

    Isn’t common sense enough? Does the HI-virus get transmitted because of the absence of a rubber skin or because of sexual intercourse?

    Since it has been proven that condoms aren’t 100% safe, who cares less about peoples’ lives? The one who encourages them to have sex and use condoms or the one who encourages them to be abstinent?

  15. Martin T. says:

    Whether the Popes error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science

    Father, they are not accusing him of lieing. They are accusimg him of heresy.

  16. brady says:

    What irks me the most about this, besides the implication that the Pope lied, it the last bit:

    “…[the Pope] 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.”

    This not only suggests that the Church must reverse its teaching on contraception, but that not doing so is undermining the good work the Church has done on this issue! It is an attempt to create division within the Church.

  17. Mike says:

    Perhaps this article had the financial help of ueber-liberal George Soros.
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,322417,00.html

    Just a thought.

  18. Sharon says:

    The BBC published an article commenting on the Lancet editorial.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7967173.stm
    Pope ‘distorting condom science’

    In the article the correspondent says “The Pope said “the traditional teaching of the Church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids”.”

    Did the Pope actually say this? I have been unable to find a translation of what he said on the aeroplane which includes this comment? Did the pope say ‘condom’ or ‘contraception’?

    The article concludes “Our correspondent says the [Lancet} article shows how far the Pope’s attempts to justify the Vatican’s position on condoms have misfired. ”

    I can only conclude that ‘our correspondent’ knows nothing about research because a few clicks of the mouse will bring up numerous articles which support the pope’s comments. Two of which are by scientists in the field.

    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MTNlNDc1MmMwNDM0OTEzMjQ4NDc0ZGUyOWYxNmEzN2E
    Director Aids Prevention Research Project says Pope is correct.

    Reassessing HIV Prevention
    Malcolm Potts,1* Daniel T. Halperin,2*† Douglas Kirby,3 Ann Swidler,4 Elliot Marseille,5 Jeffrey D. Klausner,6 Norman Hearst,7 Richard G. Wamai,2 James G. Kahn,5 Julia Walsh1

    . http://www.hvtn.org/media/ReassessingPrevention.pdf

  19. Delia says:

    This article is well worth reading, I think:

    http://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/20090325_1.htm

  20. Londiniensis says:

    Diogenes has an excellent take on the Lancet article. Go to http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otr.cfm and scroll to “simon says, the pope distorts science”

  21. TerryC says:

    To contact the lancet:
    The editorial staff
    editorial@lancet.com
    The Lancet editor:
    richard.horton@lancet.com

    I sent a nice note pointing out the scientific evidence which supports the Pope’s position. I also included a politely worded accusation that they are ideologically rather than scientifically driven.