The Guardian (London), April
to reform and limit deaths from HIV.
Author : Sandra Laville and Suzanne Goldenberg
As the world's one billion Catholics mourn the
passing of John Paul ll, those whose voices
remained unheard for nearly 30 years warned
of the high price that continues to be paid
for his unswerving orthodoxy.
Revisiting some of the church's most socially
conservative doctrines, the 263rd Bishop of
Rome endorsed and strengthened teachings liberals
had hoped to reform.
Critics believe his vehement opposition to abortion
- which he compared to the Holocaust - embryo
research, IVF, married priests, gay rights
and the ordination of women, and his labelling
of contraception as an "intrinsic evil",
turned millions of Catholics away.
For a global figure with far-reaching influence
in the developing world, his refusal to acknowledge
the role of condoms in preventing the spread
of HIV has, some believe, condemned millions
to die needlessly.
Anne Quesney, director of the Abortion Rights
campaign group, said there was little hope
after 27 years of his leadership of changing
the Catholic church's stance on abortion and
"His stringent opposition of abortion shows
that the Pope had little regard for women's
lives," she said.
Although the Pope was the first pontiff to visit
the developing world, there are many who believe
he failed to capitalise on his huge influence
there to encourage the use of contraception
for both population control and to prevent
the spread of HIV/Aids.
"Millions of children in developing countries
are orphans; having lost their parents to Aids
because of the Pope's anti-condom dogma,"
said Peter Tatchell of Outrage!, the gay rights
The We are Church reform movement, which is represented
in more than 20 countries, said the pontificate
had been full of contradictions, no more so
than in his passionate advocacy of human rights
Christian Weisner, who chairs the movement, said
such human rights as gender equality, including
women's ordination and the right of priests
to marry, and the right to be respected for
one's sexual orientation, were still crying
out to be recognised by the church.
The pope's teachings had ignored the laity's
adult responsibility to make decisions about
the use of contraception for family planning
and in the prevention of Aids, he said.
In Africa, the Pope was criticised for his failure
to acknowledge the institutional responsibility
of the Catholic church for its bishops and
After the Rwandan genocide, the Pope said the
church should not be blamed for the acts of
individuals within it. He had been challenged
over the Archbishop of Kigali's refusal to
call the killings genocide or to condemn the
murders of Tutsis, and evidence that priests
and nuns had been complicit in the killing.
In the US, the scandal of paedophile priests
became the most divisive episode in the his
tory of the church there. Victims condemned
the Vatican's reluctance to force the resignation
of senior clergy who tried to cover up the
scandal. The insistence on centralised control,
promoted by John Paul, meant American church
leaders were able to keep the abuse under wraps
Although the Pope was instrumental in pressing
the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to adopt
its "zero tolerance" policy in 2002,
some of the victims believe he could have done
"He did apologise several times, but words
alone unfortunately don't protect children,"
said David Clohessy, the national director
of the Survivors' Network of those abused by
"Like virtually every Catholic church leader,
he could have addressed the crisis sooner and
In the past three years, mass attendance in America
has fallen sharply, and local churches have
been forced to close as property is sold off
to settle claims by thousands of victims of
<< The Guardian -- 4/4/05 >>
Paul's years of unfulfilled potential
Paul II's Unswerving Orthodoxy Wasted Chance
to Limit HIV Deaths
Divider, Not a Uniter: the Legacy of Pope John
Hard Line on Birth Control Is Demographic Time
Bomb for Philippines
Praise for Pope from AIDS Campaigners
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