Protection racket
September 27, 2007 6:25 AM   Subscribe

Archbishop offers a view on HIV/AIDS in Africa. The Archbishop of Mozambique, Francisco Chimoio, posits a new theory about the high incidence of HIV/AIDS on the African continent. He won’t be specific about which companies he believes are poisoning the tips though. It remains to be seen whether this, along with the Church's current policy on abortion and Amnesty International, will contribute to the long-running debate over the politics of HIV/AIDS and healthcare.

I thought there was an intriguing counterpoint with the words of Thabo Mbeki, quoted in this article from 2001:

"[The West is]..."Convinced that we are but natural-born, promiscuous carriers of germs, unique in the world, they proclaim that our continent is doomed to an inevitable mortal end because of our unconquerable devotion to the sin of lust."
posted by Myeral (33 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So they make mitres in tinfoil, now?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:29 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

One more reason to hate the Church. out of countless many.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:47 AM on September 27, 2007

We were actually having a discussion on the condoms/AIDS/family planning problems in a recent thread on the Catholic Church. Given what I said over there, this doesn't surprise me in the least.

This archbishop is the head of the church in Mozambique, a country which is almost 20% Catholic. These remarks kill people. This man should be in jail.
posted by mek at 6:52 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sorry, this thread.
posted by mek at 6:53 AM on September 27, 2007

Well, I guess its time for me to be the one who says things that, while true, draw a lot of fire.

The Roman Catholic Church as an institution is taking actions which can only be described as vile, evil, and immoral.

I am not saying that individual Catholics are evil, I'm certain that they are pretty much like everyone else: mostly part of the mushy middle with a few shining examples of good and a few slimy examples of evil.

But the Church, as an institution, is apparently willing to let AIDS, and the death, suffering, and economic devistation brought with it, spread unchecked in order to coerce people into kowtowing to its sexual taboos.

This is hardly out of character for the Church. Recall that this is the same institution which aided and abetted numerous child rapists in avoiding justice; and allowed these known rapists to continue to rape children.

At this point it appears that the Church as but one goal: to increase its own power, even if that means harming or killing whole populations.

I'd also like to point out that the canard of Western doctors intentionally spreading AIDS has a proven history of evoking hystaria which then results in witchunts in the truly Calvinist sense of the word.

But, just as the Church was willing to cover up for the rapists in its ranks [1], so too the Church is willing to allow its Bishops to tell lies which will hasten the spread of AIDS in Africa and could very well result in the murder, torture, or simple exhile of the doctors doing their best to help the people the Church self evidently does not care about.

There is only one conculusion which can be drawn from the available facts: the Roman Catholic Church is an actively evil, anti-life, anti-human, organization. The only question is whether individual Catholics will have the moral courage necessary to recognize the festering evil of the Church and withdraw their support from it.

[1] A plan, I might add that had the full support of then Cardnal Ratzinger, the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI. A fish rots from the head down.
posted by sotonohito at 6:55 AM on September 27, 2007 [6 favorites]

What mek said about jail. Does this man want to kill people?

(also: I mentioned this to my SO, who's spent a lot more time in Africa than I have... and she said "Oh, that's what they've always said".. so apparently it's not that this is an original slander).
posted by pompomtom at 6:56 AM on September 27, 2007

Some 17.5% of Mozambicans are Catholic.

Not for long.
posted by felix betachat at 6:58 AM on September 27, 2007

Yes, it's not actually out of character at all for the Church's activities in Africa, but it's very frustrating because in the West this sort of thing is not talked about. The belief that condoms cause or at least don't prevent HIV is widespread in Africa and it's actively promoted by the Catholic Church.

I've had good friends travel to Africa as "secular missionaries" to build wells, teach classes, give out condoms and promote family planning, and this sort of anti-condom nonsense is constantly encountered. This may be a gasp moment for us, but it's really just more of the same. Those 17.5% probably agree with the Archbishop's remarks, because it's what they've been taught in church.
posted by mek at 7:02 AM on September 27, 2007

Some Africans believe AIDS can be cured by raping children, and some Catholics believe raping children isn't so bad when done by high ranking clerics. So if Francisco Chimoio, a high ranking African Catholic cleric, won't promote condoms as a method for halting the spread of AIDS, are we to assume he's more in favour of the child-rape method? Can we just save time and lock him up now anyway?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 7:15 AM on September 27, 2007

The whole AIDS situation in Africa is, obviously, "messed up", and thats a very polite way of saying it.

So, yes, the RC church is evil and stupid to not encourage condom use, etc.

Let's also see this from the perspective of Joe-African-on-the-street: You have this deadly disease, apparently spread by natural and enjoyable sex, for which even vaunted Western medicine has no cure. The only answer that the West seems to have are these expensive pills (which still don't cure it) and these emasculating Western devices called "condoms" which his local parish priest says don't even work.

I'm not saying that its right, or that we should just accept this state of affairs, but it's easy to see how conspiracy theories would blossom in an environment like that. People feel powerless over their situation -- even over their own bodies -- so Catholic Bishops, folk healers and other assorted hucksters rush in to offer fake cures, or, at the very least, some kind of alternative explaination for whats going on. The whole "condoms are infected with HIV" is the same sthick as "Jewish doctors infecting infants with HIV", "Missionaries causing my penis to shrink" or [in the United States, mostly] "Satanic cults are abusing my children" that you see crop up once in a while when people are scared, threatened and have no easy answers.

Of course, I am a white American living in the suburbs of Houston, so I could be completely wrong about how Joe-African feels, but thats the sense that I get. My personal feeling is that the traditional culture in much of Africa is just incapable of dealing with such a widespread epidemiological crisis. Not that their culture is "bad", of course, but merely that it's ill-equipped to deal sucessfully with such a disease. All cultures have their blind spots -- areas or problems to which they can't respond effectively without radical change.

Maybe I'm completely wrong about all this, but I think there will have to be a massive cultural revolution in most of Africa before this problem can be better dealt with. Of course, we also have the RC church here exacerbating the cultural problem, which doesn't help either.
posted by Avenger at 7:19 AM on September 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

Any crazier and he could run for government in South Africa.
posted by yerfatma at 7:30 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hey, now, let's keep some perspective. Plenty of well regarded religious leaders have encouraged the deaths of their parishioners. Jim Jones, Joseph Di Mambro and Marshall Applewhite come immediately to mind, and we don't consider them to be insane or evil, do we?

Wait, what?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:33 AM on September 27, 2007

An interesting counterpoint.

I'll momentarily withdraw my judgment until I see the interview, and what the Archbish' has to say in his defence.
posted by Skeptic at 8:46 AM on September 27, 2007

Hardly a counterpoint. Of course they want to appear compassionate by providing medication. cf Mother Teresa and suffering.

They just don't want to do the actual good work of preventing the infections in the first place.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:54 AM on September 27, 2007

They just don't want to do the actual good work of preventing the infections in the first place.

Its a secret that the pharmaceutical companies have long known: There's no percentage in curing a disease.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:58 AM on September 27, 2007

These remarks kill people. This man should be in jail.

And what of Mbeki? His government is responsible for countless HIV/AIDS deaths in South Africa thanks to his beliefs and policies.
posted by dw at 9:01 AM on September 27, 2007

They just don't want to do the actual good work of preventing the infections in the first place.

One thing that really frustrates me with these arguments is that people think condoms = cure. The real problem is deeper -- a vicious cycle of economic exploitation and political corruption that drives prostitution.

The Church is taking the long view -- promote families, promote economic justice, promote abstinence. The rest of the world takes the short view -- slap condoms on their wieners, throw some ARV drugs at the problem, and all will be well.

And neither solution, in itself, is right. They have to link together. Reduce the vectors, but transform society so that vectors can be reduced permanently.
posted by dw at 9:15 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is news?

Many people are ignorant. Big deal. Lots of people are evil, too. That's alright with me, as well. Realistically speaking, most people have "unsafe" sex. What are you going to do? Stop having sex?

Whatmore, while I'm on the subject, subjugating people with enforced ignorance seems to be an ordinary practice here on Earth Planet Human, so even that is rarely going to be news.

Why not (discover and) FPP a post about efforts to transform HIV into something at least benign but possibly even helpful? Then everyone could get back to making whoopee as a full-time (pre)occupation.

Now that would be news!
posted by humannaire at 9:44 AM on September 27, 2007

@dw: The only problem with that, is that there's absolutely no evidence that the Church's strategy, you know, works. It hits a lot of great warm-fuzzy-feeling buzzwords (justice! family! abstinence!), but it's an ass-backwards way of solving the problem. It only makes sense if your primary goal is to convert everyone to a very particular way of life, not save them from AIDS.

From the Church's perspective, HIV/AIDS is pretty neat. You couldn't ask for a better disease, really: homosexuals, drug users, fornicators ... and the occasional innocent, but hey, that's how you keep people paying attention. If you eliminate the technological solutions and position your ideology as the keeper of behaviorial practices that can prevent it, you really can tell people to convert or die.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:55 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Church is taking the long view -- promote families, promote economic justice, promote abstinence. The rest of the world takes the short view -- slap condoms on their wieners, throw some ARV drugs at the problem, and all will be well.

You'll have a hard time defending the proposition that having the clergy spread dangerous myths and the encouragement of post-colonial conspiracy mongering actually help the church promote its "long view" approach. Unless your long view also involves a return to a medieval, insular worldview in which the only arbiter of trans-national cosmopolitanism is the ecclesia itself.

"You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free"...remember?
posted by felix betachat at 10:04 AM on September 27, 2007

Wait--the clergy is spreading dangerous myths?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:26 AM on September 27, 2007

@dw: The only problem with that, is that there's absolutely no evidence that the Church's strategy, you know, works.

There's no evidence that condoms are going to transform Africa, either. You still have to wear them. You still need ARVs. You still have the same cycles of poverty, exploitation, and corruption. You seen what China is doing in Africa lately?

It's the problem of a bad road. Condoms patch the potholes, but it's still a bad road. Building a new road is better, but in the meantime the potholes continue for years while the new road is built, and there's closures and detours and shifting. One solution maintains the status quo, the other continues the generational decimation in the name of "something better."

Meanwhile, you have Mbeki denying that the potholes even exist.

From the Church's perspective, HIV/AIDS is pretty neat. You couldn't ask for a better disease, really: homosexuals, drug users, fornicators ... and the occasional innocent, but hey, that's how you keep people paying attention.

So, the Church == Fred Phelps?

Twenty years ago, the above sounded pretty good to a sizable spectrum of the Christian church. But that changed in the mid-1990s, as Baptist missionaries came back from Africa talking about how AIDS was ravaging villages, how children were raising children, how the cycle of prostitution was propagating HIV. And the evangelical wing of the church woke up.

I'm not saying the Catholic/evangelical dislike for handing condoms isn't bad. What I am saying is that condoms themselves won't solve anything. We got to this point, where an entire generation of Africa is dying with no end in sight, because of what Africa has become, thanks to the West (and now the East).

I'm just tired of this attitude that condoms are some sort of magic panacea. They're not.

You hand out condoms, you're a hero. You ask why people need condoms, you're a theocrat. (With apologies to Dom Camara)
posted by dw at 10:53 AM on September 27, 2007

Your hypothetical "good road" is never going to exist. Humans simply cannot control themselves that well. The obvious evidence for that is all around you.

Stop throwing stones, unless you are free of sin.

I'm not kidding.
posted by zoogleplex at 11:44 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Why do people need condoms? Because they're going to have sex. Maintaining a head-in-the-sand mentality towards that is why we have an AIDS crisis, and why teenagers are getting pregnant.

The answer of course, is not just condom distribution. But that's an important component. More important is education and empowerment. But, again, recognizing the reality as it is on the ground necessarily entails that one implement the short-term solution while working on the long-term.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:07 PM on September 27, 2007

Precisely, dnab.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:13 PM on September 27, 2007

dw: You hand out condoms, you're a hero. You ask why people need condoms lie to people and tell them that condoms cause AIDS, you're a theocrat.

Fixed that for ya.

And, snark to the side, you are spouting bullshit. The Church isn't taking a long view dedicated to bringing about a betterment in Africa, the Church is actively building its own power in Africa and spending a shitload of money that could be used for actual humanitarian efforts on multimillion dollar phallic symbols.

Face facts: the RCC, as an organization, is contemptable, does *not* have the betterment of any humans as its goal, but *does* actively seek political power, and huge symbols of its dominance, and is willing to ruin countless lives to achieve those goals.


The fucking Pope played an active part in keeping priests who rape children from justice, how much more evil does the leadership have to get before you'll admit that they're evil?

Or were the rapists and their protectors also, somehow, in the broken fragments of your mind, working for the long term good if only us poor poeple were able to see how much good, in the long run, all those rapes will accomplish?

How many children have to be raped, how many people have to die from AIDS to satisfy the Chuch's lust for blood before you'll stop defending the evil childfuckers? Is a million rapes/deaths enough? Will it take ten million? Or are you so deeply in denial that you can never be convinced of the simple truth that the RCC is evil to its fucking core?

If I weren't a historian I'd advocate that the RCC be outlawed. That the Vatican be razed and the mafia calling itself the "College of Cardinals" be rounded up and executed for crimes against humanity, along with everyone over the rank of parish priest. That the the riches it has swindled out of billions of poverty stricken people used for good instead of gold plating the pope's child sized bondage gear.

But I'm a historian. I know that it wouldn't work, that attempting to do that would bring even greater than what the Church does. So all I can do is hope that some day, maybe when the Church has killed enough people, that the rank and file Catholics, who I'm sure are mostly good people, will stop supporting the evil childfuckers.

I don't feel very hopeful though.
posted by sotonohito at 1:21 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

And God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. Without fucking the woman. So priests (Fathers) can't fuck women. Then, even an involuntary nocturnal emission becomes a major guilt trip for those who can fuck women (as long as they're married to that woman). If that woman becomes pregnant, it is purgatory or hell for her (and the child) should she have an abortion.

I don't want to even start on the other stuff - rape, incest, child abuse, you name it.

I am 100% sure that Jesus, whoever the hell he was, didn't want this shit.
posted by Myeral at 1:48 PM on September 27, 2007

I am 100% sure that Jesus, whoever the hell he was, didn't want this shit.

Nah, it's pretty much all Paul's fault.
posted by felix betachat at 2:15 PM on September 27, 2007

One more reason to hate the Church.

Because as history proves, the more we hate, the quicker we solve the problem.
posted by zennie at 2:18 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

That's one of the half or so of the letters of Paul in the New Testiment that are later forgeries.

Paul is important. Far more so than is usually acknowledged. Most importantly because his letters (which are letters damnit, not scripture) are the only bits of the entire NT where the author is known.

They are also the only bits of the NT that were written prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The destruction of the Temple and its aftermath is what created Christianity as we know it. All of the gospels, Acts etc... that comprise the rest of the NT were written by different generation in a completely different political and spiritual world than the one which Jesus and Paul lived in (note that while Paul never met Jesus he did, eventually and with reluctance, receive the support of James and the other pillars of the Jerulsalem church).
posted by Riemann at 3:15 PM on September 27, 2007

That's one of the half or so of the letters of Paul in the New Testiment that are later forgeries.

Now, I'm by no means a New Testament scholar, but I have never heard it suggested that 2nd Corinthians is deutero-Pauline. In fact, the Paul scholars I've read make a great deal out of the "thorn" in his flesh, seeing it as a window into his psychology and the means by which he appropriated the narrative of Jesus' death into his own self-understanding.

You're going to have to cite some sources here, or make a good goddamn textual argument. It's not often that one sees arguments against canonicity articulated from Sinai.

Also, I'm not going to enter into an argument here about authentic Christianity. I'd be a lousy interlocutor on such a subject. I will stand by my (snarky) point, however, that a great deal of the hatred of embodiment and the fetishization of suffering which becomes constitutive for Christianity gets its start here. Paul knows nothing of Jesus. His God is a dying and rising one; he worships what Nietzsche called "the obscene paradox of god crucified."

The church's modern day contempt for the embodiment of Africans, their fear of the sexuality that comes with that embodiment, and their moral inadequacy in the face of this horrible plague, all these depend fundamentally on interpretive choices made by Paul and embraced by his non-Jewish followers.
posted by felix betachat at 4:40 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

The argument that condoms are "only a bandaid" is similar to the anti-needle exchange argument with regard to IV drug users and just as stupid.

For the particular person whose infection is prevented, the clean needle or condom is the difference between life and death-- or at least, the difference between life with a chronic illness requiring expensive and sometimes debilitating drugs and death. For the partners of that person and the children of that person... and who knows, perhaps it will be that one person saved who finds a cure...

The bandaid anology is nonsense. The idea of not giving people the tools to protect themselves-- even actively denigrating those tools with falsehoods in order to take some kind of "long view" is the worst kind of paternalistic, insidious so-called reasoning.
posted by Maias at 8:35 PM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Whether it was Paul or whether it was some other interpreter of the texts is largely irrelevant, imho. (I am
endeavouring to study the Bible, but it's a gargantuan task)

What matters - I think - is that the Church (along with Bushco's political and reiligious proscriptions, among others) is actively contributing to the suffering and death of millions of people - not only by discouraging the use of condoms, but also by forbidding abortion - even in the most extreme circumstances of the sufferers of violent rape.

I do feel the need to tread carefully and not patronise those who actually live or work in Sub-Saharan countries, and the issue of the politics of health care provision and aid is, I'm increasingly discovering, an extremely complex one.

All I would say, and I hope this doesn't come across as patronising, is that education makes a huge difference. I found some stats from the Population Research Bureau, which showed that even a relatively basic level of education equates to a large drop in the number of childbirths per woman. I feel that these figures speak for themselves.
posted by Myeral at 1:51 AM on September 28, 2007

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