Los Angeles Times (US), September 29, 2007
Europeans are purposely infecting Africans with AIDS -- or that's what a Roman Catholic archbishop in Mozambique alleged earlier this week. Francisco Chimoio, archbishop of Maputo, accused European condom makers of sending wares to Africa that they had deliberately contaminated with HIV. They are doing this, Chimoio asserted, "in order to finish quickly the African people."
Unfortunately, these are not the lunatic theories of a backwater nobody; they're the lunatic theories of a backwater somebody. Chimoio is not only an authority to the country's 4 million Catholics, he is respected throughout the land. His leadership is credited with helping to end Mozambique's 16-year civil war in 1992.
Almost as stunning as the archbishop's baseless allegations, however, has been the clarion silence from the Vatican. Chimoio's comments have been translated, ridiculed and lambasted throughout the world. So why haven't his superiors publicly corrected the musings of this preposterous prelate? Maybe because it's better to let him take the heat for his remarks than to remind the world that the church's position on condom use contributes to suffering across the globe.
An estimated one in six of Mozambique's 19 million citizens is HIV positive. The spread of the virus might be slowed if the Catholic Church would permit its followers to use condoms without sanction. But even as deaths mount in Mozambique and across the continent, Rome's stance is unrelenting. In that, Chimoio echoes Pope Benedict XVI: Both accept only abstinence and fidelity within marriage as brakes on AIDS. Chimoio's rant, however, veers beyond adherence to church doctrine and into an inducement to panic, one that the Vatican should silence.
Mozambique suffered 475 years of oppression under Portuguese rule, finally throwing off European domination in 1975. Yes, European colonialism bears much of the blame for the economic, political and social evils that plague the country. But for thwarting the use of condoms to halt the spread of HIV in Africa, it's not Portugal that's the knowing author of harm, it's Vatican City.
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