following criticism of Christianity comes from within. As a child, I
learned the foundations of morality and personal responsibility from
Christians (the Church of
England and Presbyterian/Uniting Church in Melbourne, Australia). I am
grateful to Christians and Christianity for a large part of my music
a musician and musicologist, I know how much of the wonderful music of
the past was enabled and promoted by Christian churches.
Image this fictional scenario: A corona vaccine is found but a
religious group forbids it, claiming that it is immoral. Death from
corona is God’s will, they say. God doesn’t do
things without a reason. We have no right to intervene. Besides, it is
more reliable to wash your hands, keep your distance, and wear a mask.
This “vaccine ban” indirectly causes thousands of
That’s more or less what happened with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s,
except the consequences were much worse. Not thousands, but millions
died unnecessarily. The Catholic church had banned the most reliable
way to stop AIDS
transmission, the condom, in the 1960s. In the 1980s, as the AIDS
pandemic gathered speed, it was clear
the ban should urgently be lifted, and innumerable experts in
medicine and international development called for just that. But
even when it became clear the ban would indirectly cause
millions of deaths, the church stuck to its guns. A series of
Popes stubbornly refused to solve the church's most serious problem.
If not for
the Catholic condom ban, many (10%?) of the 30 to 40 million
who died of AIDS would never have contracted the disease. In terms of
the likely death toll, and if we regard every human life as equally
important ("equally sacred", as the church might say), the Catholic
condom ban may be the worst human rights atrocity of the late 20th
mega-deadly consequences of the Catholic condom ban have become one of
history's greatest taboos. We are talking about an even bigger
scandal than Catholic
sexual abuse and pedophilia. This is not genocide, because no-one
ever intended to kill anyone. But the case is legally similar to gross negligence.
U.K., a conviction for gross negligence manslaughter requires that the
prosecutor prove the existence of a duty of care, breach of that duty
by the defendant resulting in death, and a risk of death that would be
obvious to a reasonable prudent person in the position of the defendant.
The case is also related to crimes
against humanity, given that the perpetrators were well informed
about the mega-fatal consequences but proceeded anyway.
From that perspective, the case should be considered by the
International Criminal Court -- even if the crime was strictly not
"purposely committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack
directed against any civilian or an identifiable part of a civilian
population", to quote the Wikipedia definition of crimes against
humanity (in August 2020).
The Wikipedia page on the Catholic
church and AIDS disguises the problem by focusing on the positive
contribution of the church to AIDS treatment. I have tried in the past
to remind readers of this page of the arguments presented here and in
particular that prevention is better than cure, but it was not easy to
negotiate with pious Catholics, of which there are very many. Jesus
would have been horrified. Perhaps others will have more luck by
inserting links to published literature.
The church argues that any
form of contraception is immoral
-- an idea that has nothing at all to do with the documented teachings
of Jesus Christ. The church also argues that the best way to avoid AIDS
is to avoid sex except within marriage. Fidelity is certainly a good
strategy, with or without condoms. But that raises some big questions.
Why have thousands of "celibate"
priests failed to avoid sex? And why is the church so obsessed with a
topic that Jesus never mentioned? That, of course, is an old argument,
dating to the reformation.
Astonishingly, hardly anyone seems to care about this. Probably no-one
will comment on the present text, no matter how I
present it. It is not often that one finds an accurate and honest
on this topic by someone who actually cares about human rights
has the courage to present something close to the truth.
How might we explain the almost total
failure to address one of the biggest human rights violations of our
possibility is that almost everyone is one or more of the
following five things: racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted (by
which I mean blindly devoted to Christianity and intolerant of anything
else), or afraid. Implicit
stereotypes are a well-known and
well-understood phenomenon in psychology. Many AIDS victims
were gay (at least at the start of the epidemic), black (the epidemic
started in Africa, and the church pushed the condom ban harder in
Africa), or female (many women are
forced by poverty into prostitution). Regarding "bigotry": however you
look at the church's standard arguments on this topic, they are closer
to superstition than common sense, and they contradict expert
opinion in both medicine and international
development. But people still accept them! Regarding fear, are we still
afraid of suffering the fate of Galileo?
Surely freedom of speech has never been greater than it is today in
Western countries -- in particular, Western Europe?
Be that as it may: Anyone, religious or not, who admires and aspires to
the moral courage of Jesus, as so powerfully portrayed in the gospels
— especially when he directly criticized religious authority (woes
of the Pharisees) —
should be speaking out against the Catholic condom ban. The right to
life is the most important human right. Lest we forget.