17 March 2009

Idiot of the Week Nominee: Joseph Ratzinger

Ratzinger is the supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church under the name Benedict XVI. Although he is also officially the Bishop of Rome, he is a German and the successor of a Pole. Elderly but active, he's currently visiting Africa, where he told reporters that distributing condoms would not alleviate the continent's AIDS epidemic. Condoms, he suggested, would actually make conditions worse.

The Vatican's position is that the only foolproof way to avoid sexually-transmitted AIDS is to abstain from sex. While this may be true, it is also intellectually convenient for "Benedict" and other traditionalist Christians who oppose non-procreative sex regardless of its public-health consequences. From their mouths, the argument sounds more self-serving than practical. The Pope's bias against casual sex also explains his otherwise inexplicable protest against condoms. Africans already have a hard enough time getting men to use condoms, from the reports I've read, without this interloper sticking his mitre into their intimate affairs.

Ratzinger has made some clueless calls lately, like revoking the excommunication of an unrepentatnt Holocaust denier, but he denies that his age or his office isolate him from the realities of the world outside the Vatican. Still, his is a presumptuous job based on a mythical assertion of authority, conferring upon him powers whose reality depends on faith. Sometimes the thoughts that emanate from that office coincide with common sense, as when Benedict and his predecessor have spoken out against the Iraq war and the excesses of modern capitalism. But most of the time a Pope making sense is probably a matter of pure luck -- a miracle, one might say. It didn't happen this time.

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