The New York Times reports today that the Pope Benedict XVI was embraced by the people of Angola, in Africa. They further report that the crowd of faithful Angolans wasn’t the least bit fazed by the controversy surrounding the pope’s poo-pooing of condoms as a useful way to fight HIV (and various other STDs, unwanted pregnancy, etc…). Here’s the clincher, at least for me:
“The only people who use condoms are those with no faith,” said Simba Teresa, a 45-year-old street vendor, trying to wave away the heat with a continuing flap of her hand. She said three of her five children had died as infants, a common story in a country with one of the worst child mortality rates in the world. “Faith is everything,” she said. “You put your life in God’s hands.”
Now, we live in a world where it is no longer able to claim absolute ignorance of certain things, namely that if you want to have sex without risking making babies–and therefore ending up with too darn many of them–you can put on a rubber. Unless you are a Catholic–no, wait…unless you are a Catholic living in an underdeveloped region of the world. Italy, for example, is home to Vatican City and a healthy majority of Italians still identify with being Catholics, but all of them have recourse to condoms (and, more importantly, use them). The ones who don’t aren’t supposed to be doing the nasty anyway. So this just goes to show that while most mainstream Catholics will pay lip service to the pope, most of them realize he is full of hot medieval air when he says these things.
One thing the NYTimes article did not report that the Italian media did was Benedict’s plea to the Angolans to abandon their old time religion: witchcraft, animism and all, and get with the new. My guess is that he meant the Catholic Church, that big, democratic holy roller-rink of a faith. I, for one, don’t see much difference between the doctrine of transubstantiation and, well, lesser known forms of religious witchcraft.