Martini mixes up truth; bishops neither shaken nor stirred

Commentary by Judie Brown

Some things appear to change from time to time, when actually they usually remain the same. Such is the world in which one finds both errant Catholic leaders and antagonistic Catholic-baiters such as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. It didn’t take long for the proponents of “sexual freedom for all” at Planned Parenthood to latch on to the dissenting comments of Vatican Cardinal Carlo Martini on the subject of AIDS and condom use.

A recent Planned Parenthood commentary misleads the reader and argues that along with this current public dispute comes a promise that “the lifesaving potential of condoms may soon be officially recognized by the Catholic Church.” And they are quick to follow with “For many, this kind of ‘condom sense’ has been a long time in coming.”

Oh my, how it would warm the cockles of Planned Parenthood’s heart if the Catholic Church would buckle under such pressure and refute its own infallible teaching with an “oops” that would be the death knell for the Church, from one end of this world to the other. I assure you that this hoped-for scenario is never going to occur; but the fiendish arguments offered by the cardinal and by Planned Parenthood are worth examination.

As this debate continues to draw some attention, what is really astounding, in my humble opinion, is not that Planned Parenthood is still taking pot shots at the Catholic Church and her doctrine; no, it is rather that far too many American Catholic bishops appear to be somewhere back in the bleachers instead of stepping up to the plate to set the record straight.

Planned Parenthood’s worldview is most assuredly askew. However, it is permitted to grow unchallenged when those in the Church who are in a position to point out the errors fail to exercise their teaching authority. In this case, it must be said that one cardinal’s viewpoint is simply one man’s opinion, which clashes with the consistent Catholic teaching that respects the dignity of each individual human person.

A similar incident occurred several years ago when Bishop Kevin Dowling of South Africa took issue with the same teaching, arguing that condoms could protect millions of vulnerable lives against AIDS. His words are still on the lips of those at Planned Parenthood. To this day his argument rings in their secularist ears: “Abstinence is fine as an ideal,” he is quoted as saying, “but it does not work in all circumstances.”

At the time Bishop Dowling made his remarks his fellow Catholic bishops resisted public comment, thus leaving the impression that legitimate dissent among Church leaders on this urgent topic was actually not only acceptable but healthy. Time has taught us that this is surely not the case at all.

As the years have passed, more and more of the poor and the downtrodden have suffered from AIDS. The efforts to promote the condom as a cure-all have failed abysmally, contributing to the misery rather than healing the broken, the sick and the infirm. Few if any make this point, however, because it would seem that it is far more useful to the culture of death to bash Catholic teaching rather than looking beneath the surface to comprehend the Church’s wisdom on this deadly topic. As Father Thomas Euteneuer of Human Life International pointed out recently:


The only country in the world that has successfully beaten back its HIV/AIDS problem is Uganda. Faced with a 30 percent AIDS-prevalence rate in 1985 Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his advisors (one of whom was a Franciscan nun) went about preaching sexual responsibility and behavior change as the only solution to the epidemic. Uganda reduced its HIV/AIDS rate to 6 percent within two decades and is maintaining a relatively AIDS-free culture despite the pressure of the population control lobby.


The World Health Organization applauded Uganda’s success, pointing out that political commitment to HIV prevention took an effort on the part of all segments of society and involved a wide range of commitment from the ground up. While it is clear that the WHO would not admit to this success as having a basis in Catholic teaching, the statistics tell the tale.

The media ignore such facts, setting aside the sound arguments that leaders in the Vatican are making, and going out of their way to avoid finding a reasonable voice on American turf who can enunciate clear Catholic teaching. All the while Planned Parenthood can have a field day poking fun at truth, regardless of the real cost in human life.

Jesuit priest Michael Czerny, who directs the African Jesuit AIDS Network and whose comments reflect the truth of Catholic teaching in the face of the deadly AIDS epidemic, has written that while the West is consumed with autonomy and individual rights in matters of human sexuality, the African experience and attitude is much different. He tells those who would listen that in Africa fertility is a primary value because it generates life and chastity is a value because it protects life and the quality of that life.

Father Czerny has studied African culture and belief. He has lived with the African people, and he has wisely written words that should be the cornerstone of any sincere desire to battle against AIDS in Africa. He has done so with a full understanding of Catholic teaching and the wisdom that flows from it: “Catholic morality faces the issue of sexuality with persons of different ages, in such a way as to do justice to this great gift and mystery. This is because the topic of morality is at the center of the Church’s fight against AIDS, of the formation of the followers of Christ, and of service to persons in difficulty.”

It is a crying shame that Cardinal Martini and others have not taken the time to study not only Church teaching but the real experience in Africa upon which wise men such as Father Czerny base their teaching, their work and their very lives. It would serve mankind so much better if all Catholic leaders took the time to explain the clear reasons why the Church cannot encourage a behavior that not only contradicts her teaching but leads to practices that are promiscuous, excessive and destructive.

While some in the West, particularly Planned Parenthood, would like to see the entire world adopt their view of human sexuality which requires nothing more than “protection,” it is refreshing to note that Catholic teaching, when understood and acted upon provides a true solution to human suffering that goes beyond latex and gets to the heart of the matter.

One can only hope that in the din created by those who revel in attacking Catholic doctrine there will come a voice of compassionate reason that will touch the hearts of those who, like Cardinal Martini, create opportunities for the culture of death to persist in their quest to dehumanize the downtrodden and eliminate any concept of Christ-like behavior in our sexually-saturated society.

Release issued: 26 May 06