The Religious Consultation
on Population, Reproductive Health  and Ethics
 


 revisiting the world's sacred traditions

 

 

The Guardian (London), April 4, 2005

Dissenting Voices

Wasted chance to reform and limit deaths from HIV.

Author : Sandra Laville and Suzanne Goldenberg

DATELINE: Washington

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 family planning.

"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 group

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 for all.

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 archbishops.

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 for decades.

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 more.

"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 priests.

"Like virtually every Catholic church leader, he could have addressed the crisis sooner and more forthrightly."

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 abuse.

<< The Guardian -- 4/4/05 >>


see also:

John Paul's years of unfulfilled potential

John Paul II's Unswerving Orthodoxy Wasted Chance to Limit HIV Deaths

A Divider, Not a Uniter: the Legacy of Pope John Paul II

Pope's Hard Line on Birth Control Is Demographic Time Bomb for Philippines

No Praise for Pope from AIDS Campaigners

The Paradoxical Pope


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