The Vatican & AIDS

The Vatican’s statement to the UN Conference on AIDS stressed the urgency of the situation, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. It called for more funding, and warned that the failure to provide more funding for treatment could result in a renewed spreading of the epidemic with horrific consequences.

But, the text also speaks about the need for values-based sex education to limit the spread of the disease. I am all for values-based sex education. And, I am not dismissive of the Vatican’s concern that a contraceptive mentality is bad for a culture, that the separation of sex from its consequences is a recipe for a moral universe in which women will constantly be put down and children will pay for the lack of moral seriousness in their parents. There is such a thing as a slippery slope no matter how much we wish to think we know how to stop the slide at a morally appropriate point.

That said, it is also the case that the AIDS epidemic is an existential threat to millions. When a house is on fire, you do not always have the time to analyze whether or not there is sufficient water in the pond to put out the fire, you just grab for a hose. Africa is on fire and its people should be permitted, even encouraged, to reach for a hose.

It is also the case that there is an acute moral difference between using condoms for contraceptive purposes and using them to prevent the spread of a disease. Cardinal Turkson got into some hot water for pointing this obvious fact out, but he was exactly correct. Of course, marital fidelity is the best way to prevent the spread of a disease and of course people who are sexually promiscuous may find that condoms are not the 100% method of prevention they think they are. But, something is better than nothing, an the moral good of preserving life should not be thrown under the bus because we wish for the day when moral perfection will be achieved.

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