Thursday, March 19, 2009

the wrong use of authority

This week the Pope, on his way to Cameroon, told people that the Catholic Church does not endorse the use of condoms to decrease transmission rates of HIV, in fact he thinks that it makes the problem worse! It is shocking to think that the leader of the largest Christian denomination (over 2 billion members and growing) selectively comments on critical public health issues. There is a body of evidence that shows that the use of latex condoms "substantially reduces the risk for HIV transmission". It also is effective for other sexually transmitted diseases, like HPV.

I thought that I would let the Pope know that I think he should reconsider his position. He supposedly has an email account: Here's what I wrote:

Dear Holy Father, I’m sure that you will be hearing from others who know about the science behind barrier protection in decreasing the incidence of HIV transmission. I wish that you and your advisers would please consider that your advocating for not using condoms is harmful. It is not informed by sound epidemiological studies. Advocating for condom use does not lead to more casual sexual encounters. Please leave your dogma behind and use your authority to speak to the pressing needs of those who still want to listen to what you have to say.

Maybe you would like to write him as well. I'll post any response that I get back from the Vatican.

3/24 update

Here is my answer:

This is the mail system at host
I'm sorry to have to inform you that your message could not be delivered to one or more recipients. It's attached below.
For further assistance, please send mail to postmaster.
If you do so, please include this problem report. You can delete your own text from the attached returned message.
The mail system
: host[] said: 452 4.2.1
mailbox temporarily disabled: (in reply to RCPT TO

So the mailbox has been "temporarily disabled". This has me thinking about the process of giving feedback. Here in the US, if we disagree with our federally elected leaders, we can go to our representatives in Congress and ask for their input. Granted this tends to be a futile effort, but we can exercises our discontent when voting comes around. To whom do we discuss our dissatisfaction with the Vatican, our local priest? I guess that is why these struggles get exercised in the press and in public opinion.

There is a connection to psychotherapy. There are a number of my current patients who are finding their "voice" and speaking up for themselves in current struggles and past abuses. They have needed to overcome their fears of retribution, relearn trust and still maintain some wariness (appropriately so) of those who have authority. The Vatican's handling important issues with blunt instruments may cause more damage than the obvious increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

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