Does this count gigolos?

The Pope says condom use by male prostitutes might be “a first step.”


Apparently His Holiness B-16-Bingo! has decided that condoms might be sorta-kinda OK for use by male prostitutes concerned about spreading HIV.

How this fits in with the Pope’s previously expressed view that contraceptive use by female prostitutes would make the AIDS situation worse isn’t explained. (I wonder whether it matters whether the male prostitutes are serving male or female customers. I suspect that anything that might interfere with fertility will remain an absolute no-no. So far, couples where one partner is HIV-positive are still forbidden to use condoms.)

On the one hand, I really shouldn’t make fun of what after all seems to be a major concession to reality and humanity on the part of the Vatican. On the other hand, it’s hard to get over the fact that countless people have died, and are continuing to die, according to the weird sexual hangups of a group of (theoretically) celibate males. And his reference to contraception as “killing” the children whose conception is prevented, in addition to its outrage on logic, is a gratuitous insult to everyone who doesn’t share his peculiar morality.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

35 thoughts on “Does this count gigolos?”

  1. The actually weird aspect is that he asserts that contraception kills the children who would have been conceive and that abstinence doesn't kill the childner who would have been conceived. Mozart would be just as unborn if his parents had abstained as if they had interrupted their coitus. The unborn Mozarts in limbo don't have a god in that fight.

    Still the Pope's concession on male prostitutes is a step towards sanity and a very wonderful thing.

  2. This is actually a pretty clever way to start a major shift in policy while pretending not to change policy at all. I think it is a wholly positive first step. This is the first time the Catholic church has acknowledged that preventing the spread of AIDS is more important than the ban on contraception. It opens the door for more steps in the right direction in the future.

  3. There may be a basis in the case, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility by the Church. Of course we cannot regard it as a real or moral solution, as the larger problems of overpopulation are neglected, but there can be nonetheless in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of treating sexuality.

    For us secular humanist, post-Enlightenment types, of course, the assumption of responsibility for consequences in particular contexts and circumstances is the core of morality, not a first step toward acceptance of authoritarian prescription supposedly derived from absolute imperatives in service of the divine.

  4. Huh. It's not contraception if a man and a man are having sex.

    It's just a piece of rubber at that point.

  5. If it's condoms, it's not about the unborn in any case, as if the condom is working no oocytes are fertilized and there's no one-celled zygote with a theologically guaranteed fully human soul (never mind that about half of fertilized oocytes will never implant …) – it's about the icky nature of nonprocreative sex. Thank goodness (or whatever) Genesis has that whole bit about Sarah conceiving long after she thought herself incapable, or the Church would denounce post-menopausal women, too.

  6. Wouldn't that be I-16? Or am I missing some subtle joke being made by changing the usual bingo card partition?

  7. Yes, all those prostitutes out there hanging on the pope's teaching on condoms, wondering what they should do.

    And Mark's reliance on press reports on the book seems, well, perhaps inadvisable.

    Other than that, just Mark's usual anti-Catholic bigotry.

  8. Thomas, the Church may not influence many prostitutes – which suggests how far it has strayed from its foundation – but it has an enormous amount of power over governments. In addition, it runs the world's biggest health-care system. As to the insult, it bounces off. You and Father Donohue can pretend all you like that criticism of the institutional Church is the same thing as bigotry against individual Catholics, but it's not, any more that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. The real anti-Catholic bigots – the extreme Protestants who still think the Church is the Whore of Babylon and deny that Catholics are actually Christians, like the Ulter Unionists and some of the more unwashed among the Southern Baptists – completely agree with you about sexual ethics. Doesn't that make you proud?

  9. And Thomas, if you want to accuse Mark of anti-Catholic bigotry, it would help to cite an instance. (and arguing about condoms does not count.)

  10. Mobius, see if you can get through the first sentence of the post without seeing it.

    Mark, which governments? The world's biggest health care system? These things just aren't true. I'm surprised you haven't mentioned the treasures of the Vatican–that's usually a part of the litany for the bigots.

  11. Thomas — No one outside your particular viewpoint is obligated to view the Pope as more holy than the rest of humankind. Not bigotry not to revere him particularly. He's a public figure subject to the same kinds of parody, criticism, and yes even ridicule, as any other influential public figure. Sorry; he's human; not off limits.

    It's telling that when called on to support your claim of Mark's bigotry, you had to speculatively attribute to him something that he DIDN'T say. Rationalism fail!

  12. Yes, let's throw around accusations of anti-Catholicism to so we don't have to grapple with the woeful moral failure that is the Church's position on the use of condoms in places where it has actual influence to see to it that the policy has an impact on actual people's lives. Thomas, the only reason why people in the U.S. can possibly see this only through the lens of anti-Catholicism instead of through the lens of the suffering and deaths of untold additional men and women and children is that THE POPE HAS NO INFLUENCE IN THE U.S. OVER THE AVAILABILITY OF CONDOMS. In places where he does, his policies should be subject to the harsh glare they deserve, without regard to their alleged foundation in theological niceties. Speaking as a mostly former Catholic.

  13. @Thomas – I suppose Monty Python – Life of Brian, Meaning of Life – are not on your Netflix queue. If we're going to talk anti-catholic, at least go for "Every Sperm is Sacred"

    @Barbara – Ah, I see that the condoms for male prostitutes serves as a wedge. Let in the sanctioned use of condoms, and thus provide availability to the rest of the population on the sly.

  14. Mobius, my point is that Catholics in the U.S. have no idea how intrusive the Church can be in other countries, and so often assume that critics are motivated by anti-Catholic bias when they are motivated by the real and substantial negative effect Catholic doctrine has in other places — something that makes the Church a far different concept in, say, Uganda, than in New Jersey.

  15. This is actually a pretty clever way to start a major shift in policy while pretending not to change policy at all. I think it is a wholly positive first step.

    This is how I view it too. Look, I think that Catholic sexual morality is complete bunk. But I also know that no organization– whether the Church or any other– is going to turn around on a dime and say "all that stuff we taught for decades was wrong". That's just not how things work.

    This is a sign that enough people communicated with Benedict that you just can't maintain a no condom edict (which was about birth control anyway, as the Pope notes) in circumstances where HIV is rampant. It's progress, and we can celebrate it as progress while continuing to contend that the Church has a long way to go.

  16. Barbara, when you catch your breath, maybe you can tell us how the Catholic Church has limited the availability of condoms in Uganda. Are condoms supplied for free by the government in Uganda? Yes, they are. Are they supplied for free by international aid groups? Yes, they are. Are they supplied for free by the Catholic Church? No, they aren't. And that last piece seems to be the problem for you. How dare they disagree! Uganda is an odd choice in any case, because it's thought to have a successful anti-AIDs strategy, but of course the relative success of any policy is irrelevant from your point of view–I mean, we still have the fact that someone disagrees with you.

  17. Thomas, if Uganda doesn't work for you, try Kenya or the myriad other countries where many places are served only by clinics run by the Catholic Church. I had a friend who worked in such a clinic. A few pass out condoms anyway, but most do not.

    And if Africa doesn't work for you, try countries like the Philippines, where access to all kinds of family planning services, including condoms, were cut back in the last two years because they were inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

    You want to talk about anything except the Church's teaching. Which speaks volumes all by itself.

  18. Thomas also want to engage in name calling too, but won't back up the accusations. (and joking about bingo does not count as anti-catholic bigotry, at least to me.)

    I would ask Mark to re-read the article though – it mentions that there is ambiguity if it was for just male ho's or all genders.

  19. Barbara, Ok, let's try Kenya. Are condoms not available in Kenya due to the Catholic Church? No, just like in Uganda, they are supplied for free by the government and by international aid groups. The US spent more than $500 million on AIDs prevention (including provision of condoms) and treatment in Kenya last year–nearly 1% of Kenya's GDP. Not only do Kenya and these international aid organizations provide condoms, you tell us they're also provided in some clincs run by the Catholic Church. One can see how dastardly these Catholics are, and the influence that the pope has over the availability of condoms. Should we take your next case too? And when do we hear about the treasures of the Vatican?

  20. Thomas, the next time we hear about the treasures of the Vatican it will likely be when Christie's and Sotheby's are retained to auction them because people like me have given up and stopped funding the church.

    If you are in a rural community in a poor country and your primary access to health care is through a clinic run by the Church, you don't have access to many services that we take for granted. Some Catholic clinics ignore the Pope and the Vatican and their own hierarchy, to their everlasting credit.

  21. Barbara, you still haven't identified a single place where the the pope has influence over the availability of condoms. In the examples you've given we see that the governments actually spend public money to supply people with condoms, and that international NGOs and other governments, including the US government, spend money to supply those same people with condoms. You say that the Catholic Church is "intrusive" in these yet-to-be-identified places, and by intrusive you apparently mean, they don't supply condoms, or they do, but only in defiance of the pope.

    I think we'd all be better off if you'd take whatever funds you were going to give to the chuch and take them and buy condoms for the people in these places, and then you can go there too, to deliver them, wherever that may take you. But, please, don't stop til you get there–not until you're in that place where there are no condoms, because the pope said so. Send me a postcard from there.

  22. Perhaps, Mark, you could retract some of the snark, if reports like http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/news/2010/11/vat… turn out to be correct.

    Apparently it applies to all:

    "The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters Tuesday that he asked the pope whether he intended his comments to only apply to male prostitutes. Benedict replied that it really didn't matter, that the important thing was the person in question took into consideration the life of the other, Lombardi said."

  23. There goes Thomas again, who wants to talk about anything BUT the Church's policy. Just really, really telling Thomas.

  24. The Vatican prohibition on contraception is basically an admission that God does not exist or is not all-powerful, for if He did and was, he could easily poke a hole in that condom or, for that matter, make a pregnancy without intercourse even happening at all. In fact, isn't He reputed to have done that latter thing once about 2,000 years ago?

  25. Andrew: the answer is yes, it's an argument I have made myself many times. It's a puny God who can't tear a whole in a condom.

    Thomas: like I said above, the Philippines is an entire country where contraception has become largely unavailable as a result of church politicking. Sorry you can't accept that.

  26. It sounds like Thomas is saying that the availability of condoms is a good and desirable thing. He repeatedly invokes the widespread availability of them, and the Church's lack of influence in preventing their distribution, as a defense to Barbara's arguments. Well, Barbara, I guess we can take that as a good start, from our point of view

  27. Barbara, that isn't true at all. You're entitled to your views on condoms (though you won't extend that privilege to others), but not to your own facts. Used to be a theme around here. And the fact is, the current government in the Philippines strongly supports a policy of government provision of free condoms. And international NGOs supply condoms without restriction. I haven't looked, but I'd guess that the US government supplies condoms as well.

    Betsy, I think the important thing is to actually understand what the facts are. Some bigots like to assert that the Catholic Church is responsible for all sorts of supposed evils, and so we need to test those assertions against the facts. Does the Catholic Church have an "enormous amount of power" over governments? I suppose that's open to interpretation, but as we've seen, the Church's views haven't led any nation–even very Catholic and conservative nations like the Philippines–to legally limit the availability of condoms. Does the Catholic Church run the "world's biggest health care system"? "Biggest" is ambiguous, but whether measured by dollars or patients, the Catholic Church almost certainly does not run the world's biggest health care system. And, does the pope have influence over the availability of condoms? No, he does not. Now that we've cleared away the untruths, we can turn to other, more interesting things. Like, why do people like to tell these sorts of untruths?

  28. Thanks, Thomas. I agree it's important to understand what the facts actually say, and I don't mean that as a setup to making a rhetorical point in my favor, I mean I really agree with you there.

    There is certainly anti-Catholic bigotry in the world, and that's not helpful, and it's hard on you and other Catholics, among its other effects. At the same time, I don't agree with what is your apparent position, that asserting the Catholic Church is responsible for some evils is per se bigotry.

    (There's a lot of potential for confusion because of the term "evils" of course, since it has specific theological and philosophical meanings. Let's say "bad outcomes" or "bad policy" or even "bad theology" is what we mean by "evils," to avoid stating what would be a rather fraught if not bigoted position (that the Church is promoting of capital-E evils) — a position that's unworthy of civil discourse. So, still, I think Barbara, and myself, should be able to point to the Church's policies and its positions on issues like condoms, and say "This institution by taking the stance that it has is affecting the world in bad ways." I hope we can agree that's not bigotry.

    There is bigotry, and there is criticism of the Church plain and simple. You're going to point out that they're often commingled — I'd agree with you there. Nevertheless, it doesn't mean that criticism of the Church, its policies, its representatives or officials is bigotry.

    Well, in the spirit of trying to understand all this with wisdom and graciousness where possible, happy Thanksgiving.

  29. … and finally, "Anonymous" is me, Betsy, obviously, posting from a computer away from my regular station.

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