Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The reason why the Pope is WRONG on condoms

[Għafas hawn għall-verżjoni bil-Malti.]

19.5.9 By Dr Ing. Patrick Attard

The Catholic Church teaches that any form of sex which is not within a marriage with the intention of procreation is a grave sin against chastity. Thus the use of condoms, sex between unmarried cohabitating couples, oral sex, anal sex, masturbation and sex between people of the same gender all fall within this category. Thus the Catholic Church cannot approve the use of condoms without a thorough revision of its teachings on sexuality.

Whilst it is understandable that Pope Benedict XVI would disapprove the use of condoms for the above reasons he should refrain from spreading inaccurate information about this life-saving aid [Video in Italian; English Audio Translation]. In fact his comments even drew strong opposition from the Lancet Medical Journal and the Belgian Parliament which passed a motion of protest on the Pope’s remarks.

But what is the fuss about?
If one were to look at the issue from a mathematical point of view, if a seat belt would be 90 to 95% efficient, one would be a fool not to wear one in the car. However if someone forgot to wear a seatbelt once last week, this would have no effect on its prevention of reducing injuries in the event of an accident next week. However, since the condom deals with contagious diseases the matter is completely different since if someone didn’t use one last month, it can have strong re-percussions on the future.

It is best to explain this with an example. Consider in the pyramid above where one man has sex with 10 woman in 5 years (numbers are used to clarify the example). In the next 5 years each woman has sex with 10 men, leading to a total of 100 men. If this pattern is repeated in the same way, in 35 years there will be 10,000,000 people in the bottom tier of the pyramid.

Now consider that the person at the top of the pyramid was infected with HIV which leads to AIDS. He used a condom which is for example 90% efficient and thus one of the 10 women was infected. The ten women in the second tier of the pyramid all had sex with 10 men, and each had a condom failure but since 9 of the women were not infected, they did not pass the virus. The 10th woman however was infected and even though she did not pass the virus to 9 of the men, the 10th man was infected when the condom failed. In this way by continuing the same pattern, a total of 8 people would be infected in 35 years.

Now in the case where no condoms where used, the infected man infected the 10 women with whom they had sexual relationships. They in turn infected the 100 men they had sex with in the next five years who in turn infected the 1000 women they had sex with in the years after that. In a 35 year span, one infection would lead to 11,111,111 infections i.e. more than 11 million infections. This is a huge difference from the 8 people infected when condoms where used.

The numbers of the pyramids above were used to illustrate the example. The pyramid would be very narrow or non-existent in case of monogamous relationships, but on the other hand it would be very wide if sex-workers get infected.

Whilst believers can repent and confess and their sins absolved, the issue is not so simple for the person infected with the virus and the health-care system of the country could be in jeaopardy if no cheap cure is found for the illness.

The Pope’s message, when he talked about the case that condoms actually increase the spread of the disease on the flight on his way to Cameroon must have been along the same reasoning that people who wear seat-belts might tend to drive more recklessly due to the added safety factor and an added sense of security. However, in the light of contagious diseases where millions of people can be infected through mis-information, it would irresponsible for a leader of such huge community not to inform himself properly before talking on such a delicate subject.


If you disagree with the Pope, write him a letter or email with your opinion:
Pope Benedict XVI
Prefettura della Casa Pontificia
00120 Città del Vaticano


Related articles:

Times: 'Stop misquoting Pope on condoms' – Mgr Anton Gouder
Times: Interview with Mgr Gouder: We're a soft target

Times: Condom use in Africa and elsewhere

Interesting Comment in the first article above:

George M Sant
It would be instructive to learn the source of the research that allegedly supports the Pope's contentions about condoms and HIV. It seems so contrary to research published in scientific journals. The WHO bluntly considered "These incorrect statements...are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic, which has already killed more than 20 million people". A leading editorial in The Lancet, one of the world's leading medical journals, questioned whether the Pope's "error" was "due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology", and called for a retraction. The director of the WHO's HIV department asserted "there is no scientific evidence showing that condom use spurs people to take more sexual risks....condoms are highly (effective) to prevent the transmission of HIV". Quentin Sattentau, Professor of Immunology at Oxford summarised the "large body of published evidence demonstrating that condom use reduces the risk of acquiring HIV infection, but does not lead to increased sexual activity". If there is evidence to the contrary, that is scientific, factual, objective and verifiable, as opposed to indoctrinated opinion, then it should be published so that a balanced picture can be obtained and any erroneous course corrected.
Further Reading:



  1. AnonymousMay 21, 2009

    The issue is not whether or not a condom is effective (90 or 95%), the issue is the people who use them, or rather, don't use them. It is a well-known fact that people who are not afraid of being infected by STD's do not use condoms even though it has been recommended. In the Netherlands, every year a study gets carried out which shows that many youngsters use condoms less and less because they are not afraid of contracting any scary disease. An array of excuses is always ready to be used why people did not use condoms.

    When condoms are just randomly handed out without those who hand them out bothering about educating those who are supposed to use them, then a problem arises. These persons might have the same (or more) promiscuous relations, not using those condoms because they kill romance, don't feel natural, because they forgot it, and all the other reasons that people can think of why NOT to use a condom. The problem is that people tend to rate their behaviour safer than it actually is, even when they have condoms and don't use it (don't ask me about the psychological reasons though).

    Looked at it this way (and I believe that the pope's words were to this extent), randomly and indiscriminately handing out condoms might not help at all and actually indeed aggravate the problem; people feel safer but actually behaving just as bad if not worse.

    It is not for nothing that in Kenya, the ABC method has proved most effective: educational campaigns in which Abstinence is firstly promoted, then "Be faithful" (or something) and then "use of Condoms". True the pope would of couse also be against this method but I have to agree that just handing out condoms does absolutely nothing to help.

  2. Carla Bruni criticises Pope Benedict XVI
    Carla Bruni has issued a scathing attack on Pope Benedict XVI saying that she has allowed her Catholic faith to lapse because of his approach to contraception in Africa.


  3. Why do we bother with this little vindictive man? He is still living in Nazi time. And they say the Holy Spirit guides the consistory of cardinals! The Holy Spirit must have surely been well and truly asleep when this little clown in prada shoes, jewelry and other fineries was elected. And what about his voice?
    Joseph Carmel Chetcuti

  4. March 19, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) -
    Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, has said that the evidence confirms that the Pope is correct in his assessment that condom distribution exacerbates the problem of AIDS.


    God bless you all :-)

  5. Your reasoning has also 1 flaw, in that you are assuming that HIV is always 100% transmissable, which is definetly not true, and there are various factors involving transmission, including whether patient is on treatment, viral load, severity of disease etc etc...

    But interesting point you manage to bring out here :) and definetly very valid.

  6. Thank you Michael. you are right but I wanted to keep it as simple as possible to explain the concept of the multiplier effect. In fact condoms are more than 90% effective and the numbers I used (a person having sex with 1+10 people in 5 years) might be a bit high but it is easier to explain with round numbers. I used conditional probability where a person had sex given that he was exposed to the danger of infection.

    My point is to show the concept that condoms do not aggravate the possibility to transmitting the disease as the Pope is saying and that if no cheap cure is found, it could ruin the health-care systems around the world in 20 years time.

  7. AnonymousJune 10, 2011

    A curious observation. If a sexually active man has sex with a 50+ lady, the incidence of procreation is nil, being in her menopause, or the odds are so. In such a case, what would the Pope's argument be? Ah, he would say that it's all in the mind.