World AIDS day, the 1st of December, in Italy garnered much the same news time as the preparations for International Mountain Day (“an opportunity to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life”).
News reports on the State broadcaster RAI focussed on the growth in HIV infection worldwide, in the main in third world countries. A footnote was added that the profile of the disease in Western Europe was changing – that infections were growing amongst heterosexuals.
That items compete for time in a news broadcast is a given, and one could hardly complain about the brevity of coverage on HIV yesterday. It is, after all, a news worn topic, and there were other important stories to broadcast – the weather in Italy has been particularly bad this week.
What might be less easy to understand was the uncritical inclusion of remarks by il Papa, Benedict XVI. The Pope, we were told, spoke about fighting AIDS with the promotion of chastity, faithful matrimony, education, and aid to the world’s poor.
That the Pope has the right to speak out on any topic he so chooses is reasonable. That the media covers his remarks is also reasonable, given that he has so many sheep in his flock, so to speak. That the Church’s active campaigning against the use of condoms is criticised by many of the scientists and medics working to contain the disease is surely worth a line or two as well?
The Pope is right, though, that, in an ideal world chastity is the only surefire protection against the sexual transmission of the virus. The fact is that we don’t live in an ideal world, and campaigning against the use of condoms is to ignore the reality of human sexuality. Indeed, the Church itself seems, albeit in a different context, to accept that human sexual desire is in many cases uncontrollable. With its recently announced ban on homosexuals*, practicing and chaste, entering the priesthood, the Church, it seems to this theologically impoverished monkey, is suggesting that with the best will in the world, sex often overpowers the human being.
But we digress. If the Church wants to turn a blind eye to human desire, that’s its perogative in an open society. When the media reports this stance without qualification, then the news becomes dogma.
And you thought Berlusconi controlled the Italian airwaves…
*It seems that, despite its profound knowledge on all matters sexual, the Church is still having difficulty in distinguishing between homosexuality and paedophilia.