As people like David Rothkopf continue to accuse Benedict XVI of furthering the pain and suffering of Africa by not advocating condoms as the best way to prevent AIDS, Ross Douthat asks where exactly they see the evidence for this Catholic malfeasance:
Do religious Africans have higher infection rates than the irreligious? Do heavily-Catholic populations contract HIV in higher numbers than Muslim, Protestant, or animist populations? Are frequent mass-attenders more likely to contract the disease than infrequent churchgoers? Do graduates of Catholic schools have higher infections than their peers? Are Africans who seek treatment at Catholic hospitals more likely to pass the disease along than people who get their medicine from secular institutions?
“The most striking thing about these articles claiming the Vatican makes Africans die from AIDS is the dearth of factual material,” Brendan O’Neill wrote during the last spasm of outrage on this front. His cursory look at the data suggested that no, there was no correlation between being the sort of African most likely to listen to the Pope about sex and being the sort of African most likely to contract HIV. But that was several years ago: Perhaps some new evidence has come to light that Rothkopf would like to share with us. If he has any, I will happily publish it.
In the interim, though, I would suggest that take a step back and consider that Benedict XVI is the head of an international institution that does as much to fight disease and poverty as any NGO in the world. The Church runs hospitals, clinics, and schools; it channels hundred of millions of dollars in donations from the developed world to the wretched of the earth; it supports thousands upon thousands of priests, nuns and laypeople who work in some of the most difficult and dangerous conditions in the world. And it does so based on the same premises—an attempt to be faithful to the commandments of Jesus Christ—that undergird the Pope’s insistence on preaching chastity, rather than promoting prophylactics.