Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not Big Enough Questions

So again I was on The Big Questions on BBC One on Sunday. The replay function is here if you want to check it out. Although I came accross pretty well (I thought, thanks those who messaged me to say nice things) I was a bit annoyed that I didn't get a chance to answer two points relating to the debate on Mother Teresa being canonised. Of course I had my hand up and was halfway out of my seat tugging on Nicky Campbell's jacket and begging but they ignored me. Sulk.

Firstly Louise Bagshawe said that it was irrelevant that Mother Teresa opposed birth control and abortion. Her point was that as a Catholic of course she opposed these things and that as canonisation was a Catholic honour it is up to Catholic leaders (or indeed God) to make the decision on how good a Catholic she was.
But that's total rubbish. If a branch of Islam decided to canonise (or the equivalent) a suicide bomber she would be the first one on her high horse condemning that decision. Mother Teresa did not spend her life at home praying and affecting no-one else - she was deeply involved in international politics and her actions and efforts on birth control and abortion as well as the reprehensible way she ran her so-called charity caused totally unnecessary suffering and death to people around the world. In fact she caused much more human suffering and death than any suicide bomber ever did. If (when) the Catholic church chooses to canonise her any self-respecting Catholic should leave the faith and those who don't should expect to be on the receiving end of serious criticism.
Secondly the guy who claimed to have had his mental health problems cured miraculously after he prayed to Mother Teresa. Isn't it interesting how those who experience miracle healing always seem to have conditions where there are other secular cases of those same conditions spontaneously righting themselves? You show me a guy who prayed to Mother Teresa and his missing leg grew back and I will line up with the faithful!


Sandra G. said...

Impressive was Louise Bagshawe's comand of language and audience. I was carried away until that moment when she said it was all an attack on Catholicism. I realised then that her dogmatic eloquence failed to see what point was being made in the first place. One can only conclude from her perspective that speaking against female circums... beg your pardon, casteration, is a direct attack on the religion that exercises and justifies it. I am respectful of all religions, was raised a catholic and am a firm believer in God. But I'm AGAINST female casteration and the canonisation of people who oppress women in developing countries in Africa and keep them in misery and poverty, by denying them the human right of contraception and the use of a condom. That includes Pope John Paul II (sorry).

PH said...

Wow. How smug and condescending was Louise Bagshawe?

What's most unforgiveable for me is the waste and reappropriation of donations. It's inhumane.

I'd love to have more money on our project. We stretch every single shilling, and try to find ways to spend it so it comes back and we can spend it again.

I found it really unpleasant to hear the lady with glasses dismiss any bad point as "well that wasn't her mission". Did she not say from the outset that Mother Teresa took an oath of charity?

Don't worry, she only promised to care for the dying. If she'd cured them, that would defeat the whole purpose!

I can understand the pro-life stance in regards to abortion. It makes sense (to a point) - abortion is a horrible thing to happen.

When you look at any statistics though, the number of abortions is not closely related to the legality of abortion - but the safety of abortions is related to the legality of abortions.

And if you really want to reduce the numbers of abortions, you need to improve access to contraception.

Charity should not come with dogmatic strings attached.

butterflywings said...

Going by Louise Bagshawe's books, she is a self-hating female for sure. All men being 'masterful' and that crap. Ugh.
And 'well, that person is a member of religion x, of course they're going to think y' is just a non-argument. Unless you see religion as dictating what its members should think. Which it has, but...although I'm an atheist, I'd rather see reform from within religion than not. Banning it doesn't work.

Unknown said...

Just watched this on catch-up...

Louise Bagshawe is a perfect Tory candidate... posh, loud, braying, smug, condescending and arrogant. I don't like her one bit. She sneered at other debaters, she talked over them - including the man sat next to you Kate, basically denouncing what he said about the Pope as rubbish while providing no evidence of her own.

With the whole Mother Teresa thing, there seems to be two issues really. The first is does she qualify for a sainthood within Catholic rules. She probably does. She seems like she was a good Catholic in the sense that she did what most high profile Catholics do - take a strong stance against abortion and contraception, say words about how one must care for the poor while squirreling money away for themselves, etc. Fundamentally, it's up to the Catholic Church if they make her a saint.

The other (more important imo) issue is whether the Catholic Church should have the power and influence that it does in our world, and whether people who are sainted by it should consequently be held up role models for the rest of us. I think not. I think the Catholic Church should have as much influence in the world as those people who believe Santa Claus is real, and that those people we are expected to look up to should be accountable for their actions.

It's very patronising of any religion to say 'We've decided this person was better than normal people' and then expect complete unquestioning acceptance of that.

PH said...

Amy, I think that the Catholic Church should be taken seriously simply because they have so much influence over so many people.

They're not especially relevant in the UK, but they are relevant in many developing countries. If you want to make progress on issues such as contraception and abortion, you need to be able to justify it in a way that causes minimum offence to Church leaders.

It's a slow process, unfortunately.

Unknown said...


Unfortunately then you get a vicious circle type scenario: the Catholic Church are taken seriously because they have influence; they have influence because their views are taken so seriously by so many.

This vicious circle can't be broken by capitulating to the Church leaders and being frightened of offending them. Catholic leaders do not show any evidence of budging on the issue of abortion and contraception, so I don't see what progress could be made by going to lengths to 'justify' to them why one would want to protect people from HIV / backstreet abortions. Etc. They do not listen to rational arguments about these issues. They are people of faith and are simply not interested in reason.

PH said...

Amy, there's a big difference between local Church leaders in a village in rural Tanzania, and the Pope and his chums in the Vatican. The difference being that the local Church leaders are much more likely to recognise the true nature of the issues in their own community, and are also the people who can potentially do the real damage to any sexual and reproductive health campaign.

Capitulation certainly isn't an option, but talk about it with them in the right way (eg by talking about protecting vulnerable women from predatory/unfaithful men) and you can get them very firmly on your side. Possibly not on the abortion issue, but certainly on condoms and HIV.

They most likely won't be all that visible in support, because they're not allowed to be, but at least they won't be routinely denouncing you as the devil once a week. It can make all the difference.

Unknown said...


You say that talking to local Church leaders 'in the right way' can get them 'firmly on your side' regarding condoms/HIV... is there any evidence of this? I'm not trying to be rude, I genuintely want to know. Because I was under the impression from what I have read that clinics funded by the Catholic Church are *not allowed* to even mention condoms as an option never mind recommend them or hand them out.

There was a African Catholic nurse on television recently (part of C4's 'Revelations' series) who said very clearly that she was not allowed to mention condoms, and all she could advise her patients was to abstain. That doesn't sound particularly like *her* local Church leader was on anyone's side other than the Pope's.

Perhaps some Catholic-funded clinics do give out condoms, but in doing so they're breaking the rules and risking their funding being taken away, aren't they? Local Church leaders do not fund these clinics - the central Catholic Church does. Unless I'm very much mistaken.

I feel that the Pope does plenty of 'real damage' in many ways, for example in his declaring that condoms don't prevent HIV infection. This is an outright lie, and many people who respect and trust his opinion as the leader of the Catholic Church just end up believing it. Not to mention the fact that his opinions directly influence where Catholic money is spent and on what.

Cruella said...

Oooh great - heated topical debate. A couple of things:

Firstly the notion that Mother Teresa qualifies for sainthood under the "rules" of Catholicism. Actually it's pretty clear what the Catholic rules on canonisation are. Two miracles. Clearly what actually happens is they pick people who they want to honour and then start digging around for miracles.

Secondly the notion that we can deal with local Catholic churches if we "talk about it with them in the right way (eg by talking about protecting vulnerable women from predatory/unfaithful men) and you can get them very firmly on your side." ... I think this is a very dangerous notion. We start telling churches that it's about protecting women from predatory men and the next time we look we will find that to keep women "safe" from predatory men they're being told to stay at home and wear burqas all the time and not have jobs or drive cars... We have to reason with people honestly or we start storing up problems for the future I think.

PH said...

Amy, I'm not saying the Pope doesn't do damage, I think he's an absolute disgrace. Nor am I saying that local Church leaders can promote contraception, publicly. They can't ("Firmly on your side" possibly wasn't the best choice of words).

And Church-based sexual health programmes can do untold damage. The very best local Church leaders steer completely clear of that sort of thing.

I'm speaking as someone who's worked on sexual health programmes in rural Tanzania. I'm saying that it's not pragmatic to dismiss local Church leaders just because you know their superiors in the Vatican are heartless bastards who place faith above suffering.

People listen to someone they respect within their own community. That includes the local priest, if they're Catholic. Similarly, the local priest is part of that community, and if they are decent human beings (which is not uncommon), they can see what is really going on.

They may not be able to preach exactly the same message as you, but they can certainly decide to go easy on some of the more contentious messages, and rephrase certain points to imply you're actually okay.

In 2004, I volunteered for Students Partnership Worldwide. A couple of the Tanzanian volunteers were pretty religious Catholics, and became friendly with the local clergy. We held a workshop with them and organised a joint concert. We couldn't promote contraception at the event, of course, but it was clear to everyone that the priests thought we were doing good work.

Equally they can decide that you're the devil incarnate and remind everyone of this each Sunday. And people will listen to that. As the priest did in one of my friends' placement village. They went to Church the first Sunday after they arrived, and were publicly damned.

Admittedly that priest had already made up his mind, but in our local villages we weren't merely tolerated - because we were friendly, we got help from them.

This despite the fact that the local bishop's hobby was apparently attacking SPW on the local radio.

I think we're just looking at this from different viewpoints - I'm thinking more locally, you're thinking more globally.

I almost completely agree with you, but I don't tend to think globally too much - it's not something I have any real control over, and I have little faith in the motives of most non-local leaders, Church-based or otherwise.

I think global leaders are far less willing to change their minds about things than local community leaders. People listen to kith and kin, and that's who local leaders are.


Cruella, I see your point, but again I'm thinking from my experiences, which has always also included gender rights issues and things like youth participation, peer education and giving loans/grants to women and youth to start businesses and become financially independent.

I do hope I haven't just horribly misrepresented myself.

Unknown said...


I can see what you're saying, and of course I respect that you have been to Tanzania and seen such things first hand (I haven't), however I think that the issue with condoms/HIV is in fact very black and white. Either people use them, and they protect themselves, or they don't use them, and they are at risk of catching HIV.

You say that you ran a sexual health clinic, but that you were not allowed to promote contraception when you did joint projects with church leaders, and they were not allowed to promote contraception *at all*. With respect, in what sense was progress made? Even if the priests etc conceded that you were doing 'good work', if condoms were not given out, how was the message to protect oneself against HIV being put across?

Maybe people do listen to kith and kin more than they do the Pope, but if those kith and kin believe in the Catholic tenet of papal infallibility (which is actually required, if you are a Catholic, never mind a priest), there is little difference. If these local church leaders are finding themselves disagreeing with the Pope, then in what sense are they actually Catholic? Seeing as the Pope is supposed to be god's representative on Earth?

I also agree with Kate in that there needs to be a very honest reasoned argument against Catholic dogma with this issue (and indeed any issue). The efficacy of condoms against transmitting HIV is a *fact*. This needs to be repeated time and again until people get it. There should be no need to try and couch it in other terms.


Two miracles - is that just in case the first one was a fluke? How very scientific of them! *rolls eyes*

PH said...

Okay, last few points on this.

"With respect, in what sense was progress made?"

We had sensible debate and then they told people to listen to what we had to say - and what we were saying was to use a condom. I understand your point, but good community relations are really important. You're likely to have to talk to the Church at some point, and you're much better off being civil. Then you can actually have sensible debate - please don't think that I'm suggesting that you shouldn't be critical. Nor do I mean to suggest that you "couch it in other terms" - you need to be extremely clear with the facts, and use them to convince, but you might also need to establish some common ground first.

Sorry, I've re-read what I first put and I worded it incredibly badly. It would have been much better to say "establish common ground" or something.

"Even if the priests etc conceded that you were doing 'good work', if condoms were not given out, how was the message to protect oneself against HIV being put across?"

Just giving out condoms isn't very effective. They run out in ten minutes and it doesn't encourage anyone to actually buy any afterwards. We weren't running a clinic, by the way, it was a peer-education programme.

"If these local church leaders are finding themselves disagreeing with the Pope, then in what sense are they actually Catholic? Seeing as the Pope is supposed to be god's representative on Earth?"

How many religious people whom you know are actually that dogmatic? If they are that dogmatic of course they might condemn you either way, but there's no point pre-empting them and making a rod for your own back. It's just not realistic to simply rage against Catholicism, no matter how tempting that may be.

In the UK, of course, it's a completely different context, and you can be far more confrontational.

Unknown said...


I appreciate that we've derailed somewhat and so I'll make these my last comments on the subject too...

I still don't really understand how, if condoms were not allowed to be given out, telling people to use one will actually work. I agree that education is important, obviously, but surely not everyone can afford to buy them?

I can understand your point about community relations, but the wider issue of superstition and dogma effectively killing people needs to be addressed at a global level and then this will then filter down to communities. Our world is very uncritical of religion generally and this is the ultimate cause of the problems we are seeing.

You ask how many people do I know who are 'that dogmatic', but that's exactly my point. People very often water down the official tenets of their faith to make it acceptable for their own lives, but this is fundamentally hypocritical and cowardly. If a person doesn't accept the Pope's authority, according to the Catholic Church's own doctrine, they are not a Catholic. That's the Catholic Church's rules, not mine. A person can be in favour of contraception, be pro-choice etc and call themselves a Catholic - but by doing this, they add their support and number to the Catholic Church and give the Pope more power to promote his anti-contraception, anti-choice ideals.

If a person really gave a toss about the millions dying in Africa from HIV/Aids, they would denounce the Catholic Church. If a local priest is not willing to do this, then sorry, he cares more about his own path to a nice comfy afterlife than he does about the people in his own community.

As for 'raging' against Catholicism, I don't think criticising the Church and calling for humanitarianism based on scientific fact is 'raging', it's just common sense.

PH said...

Just on the condoms point - they are really cheap - at least in Tanzania. And ultimately if people are going to stay safe, they've got to continue to use them - there's no way that they could be given away free indefinitely. You could give away condoms for an event, and it would get someone to use them once, but they then have to go out and buy them. It's not completely ineffective, because it can get people to take the first step (like a free sample), but doing it every time would be counter-productive.

You're certainly right about just telling people to use a condom though - there are adverts all over Songea town and on the main roads out of town telling people to use condoms. They get it, they should use condoms. What they don't know is how to use one correctly.

Nice debating with you. It's been weird finding myself on this side of the argument - I'm not quite sure how I got here, aside from making my first point really clumsily. It's been really interesting all the same.

Luckily it's not really a problem with our current project - we don't have any kind of relationship with the Church - so we don't have to give it much thought.

Unknown said...


I think we can probably both agree then that education on how to use condoms is as important as giving them out and encouraging people to buy them. And we could probably agree that the Catholic Church isn't exactly madly keen to see this happen.

Nice debating with you too - I'm afraid I get rather fired up when discussing the Catholic Church...!

Ronan said...

Kate, you obviously love winding up Catholics almost as much as I do feminists. We are like anti-soulmates (if you believe in souls, that is)!

As for Ms Bagshawe, it's great to see Catholic and prolife principals stridently defended by someone better looking than John Smeaton! I just hope she keeps it up when she's elected to the House, as a lot of politicos seem to lose the appetite for prolife principals once they achieve power.

I think you rather missed her point yourself. Right up until you started banging on about abortion (and to a lesser extent contraception) you might have held the sympathy of many Catholics. Granted, it is hard to believe a lot of the mud you threw at Mother Teresa will stick, but being Catholics we do tend to have this thing about following truth, wherever it leads us. If she was, in fact, using dirty needles, needlessly increasing suffering, or barring patients from seeing their families, then that's something that should be exposed, and I for one would love to know what evidence you base these allegations on. But to criticise a catholic nun for being against abortion and contraception? Shock bleedin' horror, pet. Next you'll be telling us the pope shits in the woods!

As for the miracles brigade, I like to call them Loons for Christ. They have to belong somewhere, and Christ ensures that his Church makes room for them. I know you feminists like your loons too, and suspect you're jealous of the competition.

Cruella said...

Well the evidence about MT's horrific mistreatment of patients at her Calcutta "home for the dying" is very very well documented. You should read "The Final Verdict" by Aroup Chatterjee (who was the guy sat next to me). There is also a book by Christopher Hitchen's and a documentary called "Hell's Angel" which you can watch on youtube.

And the notion that I "can't" or "shouldn't" criticise her attitude towards abortion and contraception is stupid. The church bases it's views on these points on some frankly very debateble interpretations of obscure bible verses. Obscure bible versus have also been interpretted to justify everything from slavery to the occupation of Palestine. It is up to the church to decide what is right and humane in the modern world and support it. The bible is no excuse.

Access to contraception and abortion is one of the best (and indeed only) ways of lifting impoverished societies out of that poverty. Allowing women to manage their family size gives them a much better chance of educating the children they do have and working their way out of poverty.

Refusing women access to these things is also dreadfully cruel. Women who have been victims of rape, gang rape, incest, sometimes rape at the hands of the local Catholic priest being forced to carry their abusers baby to term is horrid. And being against condoms is the same as being in favour of AIDS. Condoms are the only thing that works to prevent the spread of HIV - a disease which causes millions of slow and painful deaths around the world and leaves millions of children orphaned. Anyone who goes out of their way on a daily basis to encourage that sort of torture is a dreadful person, regardless of their religion.

And having a place in your church for those with mental delusions is all well and good - but encouraging them to believe those delusions is dangerous and wrong - ask any mental health professional.

Ronan said...

No one's trying to take away your freedom to argue for child killing, nor even your right to distort Church teaching on condoms and AIDs (as you and your fanboys and girls have done in the above discussion). It just isn't a particularly clever way of getting listening Catholics on side, is all I'm saying.

Cruella said...

Wow, get a GCSE in English - abortion is about foetuses, not "children". And I'm not trying to make the choice on anyone else's behalf as to whether or not they have an abortion - I'm saying that women are smart enough and responsible enough to make that decision for themselves when it arises.

The pope himself has publically said that condoms do not prevent the spread of HIV. This is a lie and a very very dangerous one. There is no point in pretending that anyone on here is twisting the church's teaching - the church's teaching from the very very top level is wrong. Totally wrong and it's killing people in their hundreds of thousands.

And as for what I should or shouldn't be saying - I think I'll be the judge of that... Here's what you should say though "oh whoops what a great big idiot I am wasting my life pretending there's a god when even ten minutes rational thought would make me realise that there isn't and I could stop taking up other people's time spouting untrue nonsense and get on with doing something useful with my life". Repeat that three times daily in front a mirror.

Ronan said...

I would laugh at that first line if the subject weren't so tragic. I already have an english degree; the point you're trying to argue is one of biology. I do have a GCSE in that, as it happens.

The fact that you don't know (and aren't interested in finding out) why what you've said about the Pope is wrong discredits whatever valid argument you might have about Mother Teresa. I'll still investigate Chatterjee despite that, but many won't bother cos they'll be put off by the clear bigotry you express toward their culture.

Cruella said...

What the pope has said about HIV and condoms is unambiguous and very very wrong.

Secondly I have no problem with Catholic culture. I think if people want to preserve traditions like ceremonies and costumes they should be free to do so if they want. But no-one sees a young woman screaming in pain as she gives birth to her rapist's baby and thinks "oh how lovely, that's aour traditional culture". It's not about culture - it's about belief and it's about forcing your beliefs onto others (who may be of other faiths and none) against their will and putting them through nothing short of torture because of your beliefs.

If your religion tells you to do that then your religion is wrong and cruel and murderous and you should disown it.

PH said...

I'm going to have to take back almost everything I said now, and boil down the point I was trying clumsily to make to one short paragraph:

Local Church leaders can destroy life-saving programmes. Many of them are reasonable people, however, who recognise the problems in their own community, and will engage in reasoned debate and not denounce you as the devil. They may even publicly agree that you are making people safer, which is a different issue to sinning. This doesn't necessarily make them any less Catholic.

There. That's much more coherent. And looks much less like I'm siding with the Catholic Church.

Ronan, I'd like to tell you two little stories. Here's the first one. Ready?

Good. Then I'll begin.


Imagine a land where lots of women undergo a surgical procedure. It's not nice to have this surgical procedure done, but the women are generally left with little choice.

The someone comes along and introduces them to a small device. It's cheap and can help the women take control of their own lives so that they can prevent themselves being put in that difficult position of considering a surgical procedure.

Within 8 years the number of women having surgical procedures more than halves. This simple device saves a lot of people from mental and physical anguish. To use it correctly hurts no one and makes a lot of people a hell of a lot safer. Not only that, women can plan their lives better to become economically stronger and give their loved ones the best possible support.


Enjoy that? Good. That was about Eastern Europe between 1995 and 2003. They had an abortion rate of 90 in 1000. After a push to promote contraception, the rate fell to 44 in 1000.

Telling people not to use a condom doesn't stop them from having sex. It stops them from having sex with a condom. That's a fact.

The most vulnerable group to HIV in sub-Saharan Africa is girls aged 15-24. They often have relationships with older men, who are more experienced and more likely to have contracted HIV. This facilitates the passing of HIV from one generation to the next.

Young women are also more vulnerable to HIV if their reproductive systems are not yet fully mature.

How financially independent are young women in Africa, do you think? Whose decision do you think it is with whom they have sex? The Catholic Church would deny these women the confidence and means by which they could afford themselves some protection.

Now please tell me who contraception hurts. No, not offends. Hurts.

PH said...

Ready for the second story?

Well, I'm starting anyway.


If you've read my other comments, you'll know by now that I volunteered in Tanzania a few years ago. What a few friends did then is set up a charity in my friend's village.

One of the things we do is sponsor secondary school children. When I heard about this particular story, it made me very angry indeed. You have been warned.

When the local secondary school wants to check whether any of its pupils are pregnant, it calls in two nurses. They take the pupils into the hall, and grope them. They're looking to see whether their bellies or breasts are showing any signs of pregnancy.

On this particular occasion, they thought three girls were pregnant. One of them was one of our sponsored students. The next thing the nurses do it to make doctor's appointments in town, for confirmation. This can take two to four weeks, and so the girls had plenty of time to make a choice.

If found to be pregnant, the girls would certainly be kicked out of school, and never allowed to return. By the time they went to see the doctor, only the sponsored student was pregnant. She was the only one out of three who was more scared of dying from an unsafe abortion than she was of not finishing school.


In those years 1995 to 2003, the number of abortions fell worldwide. Safe abortions fell at a much greater rate than unsafe abortions because of the promotion of contraception in countries where abortion is legal and safe.

All these statistics, and the following quote, come from the Guttmacher Institute:

"Legal restrictions on abortion do not affect its incidence. For example, the abortion rate is 29 in Africa, where abortion is illegal in many circumstances in most countries, and it is 28 in Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds. The lowest rates in the world are in Western and Northern Europe, where abortion is accessible with few restrictions."

So, there seems to be a simple choice. Allow legal safe abortion, or let millions of women put their lives at risk, and let thousands of them die, in unsafe practices.

As a Catholic, where do you stand on this matter?

PH said...

Sorry, I didn't put that in the context of Mother Teresa.

The Pope and Mother Teresa would argue that they do no agree with the first option, so by default they would side with the second.

It is not black vs white, good vs evil. The world does not work that way.

With their lack of compassion or any attempt to truly understand the real problem, they have condemned millions of women to pain, suffering, poverty. They'd rather take the view that people have a complete control over their own lives and what they do. There is nothing spiritual in this approach. There is nothing saintly.

Ronan said...


Yes, Church teaching on HIV and condom use is unambiguous, if you cite it in full. You've fixated on the "don't use condoms" bit for the purposes of your thought-stopping polemic. Do you know what the rest of the church policy in Africa is? Or are you genuinely that ill informed?

About culture: by your logic feminist culture is just crewcuts and sensible shoes. Are you really saying feminist beliefs, books & ideas aren't part of the culture? Catholic culture has more to offer than smells & bells & silly hats, and any episco-pagan can play dress up. You do have a deep problem with Catholic culture, so why pretend otherwise?

Oh, btw, when my wife and I visited the maternity ward today, the sonographer and midwife called our 20 week old fetus a 'baby'. I didn't ask them if they had an english GCSE, but I'm pretty sure that's one of the minimum entry requirements for health professionals' degrees.

Thats an awful lot of text, i'll see if i can respond succinctly.

Bearing in mind I'm no Africa expert, and not directly involved in the specific cases you cite, it seems to me a sensible solution to the problems you describe is the promotion of fidelity through the institution of marriage. That would be good for women and good for their children (certainly better than the 'choice' these women are coerced into by, for example, a school policy of expelling pregnant girls). It may be something of a struggle for the horny old men you talk about, but it's what real men do.

As for the Guttmacher stats, that doesn't really help your credibility. A quick look up shows it is a part of Planned Parenthood, so those figures hardly come from an independent and objective source. They also appear to be cheerleaders for the UNFPA who fund China's forced abortion/sterlisation policy. And you guys wonder why I'm dubious about your Mother Teresa claims...

Cruella said...

The rest of the church's policy on sexual health is irrelevant because thousands of studies have shown that the only thing that prevents the spread of HIV and AIDS is condoms. The rest is irrelevant.

I have a huge problem with any belief system that deliberately and knowingly exposes people to the risk of dying painfully and completely unnecessarily. But belief systems and cultures are different things. Cultures are optional things that you can dip into and out of at your leisure.

Feminism is a campaign for equality. It's not a culture. You could argue that there is something of a culture that goes alongside it and you could certainly attend feminist events, but that wouldn't make you a feminist, nor would not doing so make you not a feminist.

Ronan said...

Condoms work better than not having sex?

Cruella said...

Telling people not to have sex doesn't work. Study after study has shown that no matter how many times you tell them not to - people carry on having sex.

Ronan said...

Are you regularly gagging for it with a HIV infected hunk? Oh go on, you'll be fine, that rubber sheath makes you INVINCIBLE!!

Cruella said...

Condoms, used correctly, do protect against transmission of HIV. This is a fact. Another fact is that abstinence-based programs have been shown not to have an effect on the spread of HIV. Condom-based programs have been shown to be highly effective. These are all facts.

And your other remark is really unpleasant and ill-informed. Firstly do you think everyone who is HIV positive knows that they are? Secondly do you think you can tell who is and isn't HIV positive? And that those who "you can tell" are HIV positive are less attractive?

Furthermore do you think that people have to be "gagging for it" to want and choose to have sex? You clearly have some big hang-ups around sex. No surprise given some of your other views but has it occurred to you that sex is a normal part of life, people have been doing it for a long long time and there doesn't seem to be much chance they'll stop anytime soon however loud you shout about it.

Ronan said...

Who said anything about folks with HIV being less attractive? You're projecting, cos you just have to convince yourself I'm the Big Bad Catholic. I have huge problems with what you seem to be implying abt African folk, which is that they just can't help themselves.

As for your 'facts', they're all highly disputed. For example, the Church claims Uganda & the Phillipines as a success for their monogamy and fidelity approach. They compare the approaches there with the promotion of condoms in Botswana and Thailand respectively.

Quite aside from that, even the condom manufacturers will not claim their product protects 100%, and merely reduces the risk. Basic statistics tell you that the more risky sex you have, even with a condom, the more chance you have of contracting something nasty.

Your obsession with condoms as THE solution to AIDS also does nothing to address the situation of a woman who wants to have children. (Sex does have a practical use as well as being a toy for you sexually 'liberated' folk.)

Cruella said...

"Who said anything about folks with HIV being less attractive?" You did, you asked a rhetorical question based on the inference that no-one would want to have sex with someone who was HIV positive.

"I have huge problems with what you seem to be implying abt African folk, which is that they just can't help themselves."

I'm not, and have never been, talking about "African folk". I'm referring to clear evidence from around the world which shows that promoting abstinence without encouraging the use of contraception does not work as an effective means of fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS.

"As for your 'facts', they're all highly disputed. For example, the Church claims Uganda & the Phillipines as a success for their monogamy and fidelity approach. They compare the approaches there with the promotion of condoms in Botswana and Thailand respectively."

Yes the church also thinks there's a big guy in a toga on the clouds and mother teresa was a nice person. On the other hand scientists have established that this is not the case and that the only way to fight the spread of HIV effectively is through the use of condoms.

"Quite aside from that, even the condom manufacturers will not claim their product protects 100%, and merely reduces the risk. Basic statistics tell you that the more risky sex you have, even with a condom, the more chance you have of contracting something nasty."

Well choosing not to have sex isn't a 100% guaranteed way of not getting HIV either - remember that many women are victims of rape. They may not be able to fight off their attacker but in some cases they may be able to convince him to wear a condom. So it would make sense to give everyone condoms.

"Your obsession with condoms as THE solution to AIDS also does nothing to address the situation of a woman who wants to have children."

Of course there are those who want to have children. Here's the rub though - if a person remains entirely abstinent until they want children they can still catch HIV - from the person they are trying to have children with. However if everyone uses condoms for any sex they have until they want children then there is a much lower risk of either of them catching HIV.

PH said...

Okay, last comment because you clearly didn't read the whole thing before:

"it seems to me a sensible solution to the problems you describe is the promotion of fidelity through the institution of marriage."

I refer you to my previous quote:

"How financially independent are young women in Africa, do you think? Whose decision do you think it is with whom they have sex?"

You are living in a dreamworld if you think that all people will choose to abstain, or that the people they have sex with have much choice in the matter.

Come back when you've lived in destitute poverty and the only chance you have of an education - an opportunity to improve your life - is a seedy businessman who's promised to pay your fees for you.

Unknown said...


Here's a scenario (quite common in rural Africa):

A man and a woman get married in a rural village. There is no work for the man there, so he travels into a town to get work. While there, he has unprotected sex with a prostitute, and becomes infected with HIV. He then comes home, has unprotected sex with his wife, and infects her with HIV.

The wife has been abstinent until marriage, she has not been unfaithful, she has followed the Catholic doctrine to the letter, and yet she has become infected with HIV. Do you see how this works? The health of one person should not depend on the ability to be faithful of another person. Not when a simple device (i.e. a condom) could protect said person's health.

As an aside: I saw a Catholic aid worker on C4 news a few months ago actually try and argue that prostitutes should be abstinent. The ignorance on display there is just astounding.

Insisting that the only way to treat the problem of HIV/Aids is abstinence and fidelity is just extremely naive. Saying that 'the institution of marriage' promotes fidelity is laughable.

Any moral issues surrounding fidelity should have nothing to do with whether people are allowed to die of a preventable disease.

Ronan said...


Your example is disingenuous. It doesn't make sense that a man willing to break marital fidelity should come over all devout when it comes to using a rubber johnny with a hooker. There is certainly an argument that he *should* have used a condom, if going with a prostitute is a given (which it isn't, as we all have this thing called free will). However, it's not the place of the Church to make that argument or to give advice on the commission of a sin.

As for condom use within marriage, again, it doesn't address the situation of a woman who wants children. Condom use between man and wife makes a mockery of the institution of marriage, which is about the creation of a safe environment for the raising of children.

Yes, naive, idealistic, blah blah blah, but the magic bullet theory of condom use, without addressing the underlying risky sexual behaviour behind the infection rates, is just nonsense, and a recipe for societal instability. Marriage helps build a stable society; condoning and promoting promiscuity only undermines it.

If the c4 news thing was the same one I saw, the aid worker was explaining that his charity works to give ladies a route out of prostitution, a laudible goal. Perhaps you were watching something else, but it shouldn't surprise you there are stupid people on TV.


I don't agree with you so, clearly, I must be lacking in GCSEs or reading comprehension skillz, or sommat. Sorry I didn't pay enough attention to those questions, but they were rather rhetorical so didn't need me to answer. I was more concerned with the bad stats you were marshalling in favour of infanticide.

By the way, small world, a friend of mine works for the Coco charity which supports the Hoja project that you volunteer for.

Unknown said...


I would argue with you, but you are already doing a fantastic job of showing up the Catholic faith for what it is - a wackaloon institution dangerously out of touch with reality. You are a perfect example of a good Catholic - believing in arbitrary made-up concepts such as 'sin' whilst ignoring human wellbeing.

People like to have sex for pleasure (and they use their free will to choose to do it!). This is a fact so unpalatable to the Catholic Church that they have to constantly try and put the fear of hellfire into people about it in an attempt to control their sexual behaviour. Your comments are absolutely typical of this attitude. According to you, even married couples shouldn't use contraception - presumably, women should just keep on having babies until they drop dead from exhaustion?

The attitudes of the Catholic Church toward human sexuality go beyond the issues of HIV in Africa, contraception and abortion (not to mention Mother Teresa which some time ago was the original subject of this post!). Their business is essentially shaming people - especially women - for being human, and being sexual.

Now isn't it good that the Catholic Church don't have any power and influence in the world to push their wacky agenda - oh, wait.

Ronan said...

Hi Amy,

For somebody who does not believe in sin you are certainly doing an excellent job of cataloguing those of myself and the church!

Unknown said...

What I'm doing, Ronan, is pointing out how the dogma of the Catholic Church is at odds with human wellbeing. I don't need to believe in 'sin' to do this, I just need to use observation, reasoning and empathy.

The concept of 'sin' is arbitrary like I've said. If I wanted to accuse the Catholic Church of sinning I would make up some random rule like, for example, it is sinful for men to wear white because my deity doesn't approve of men wearing white. Then, as the Pope wears white, he would be a sinner according to that rule. Because that's all sin is - a made-up rule backed up with the apparent disapproval of a made-up supernatural entity.