Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

March 19, 2009


My last posting commented on President Obama's statement when signing his directive on stem cell research: "We make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology." I observed that decisions of every kind were based not only on facts, but on values and principles that have developed out of our human experience. Furthermore, decisions purportedly based on facts alone, invariably are selected and placed in a context according to an agenda or ideology of the decision maker. Obama cannot insist that facts alone can shape decisions. But he was right on target when he pointed out that exaggerated dependence on ideology can ignore, deny, or contradict the facts.

Regretably, Pope Benedict XVI provided a graphic example of how his ideology denied and even contradicted the facts. On his recent flight from Rome to Africa, he was questioned about the legitimacy of condom use to prevent AIDs. He responded by stating that condom use, not only did not prevent AIDs, but actually increased its risk. It was as though B16 had become a B29 as the bomb he had dropped exploded in a storm of protest from the scientific, media, non-Catholic and Catholic populist ranks. Immersed in his long and foresquare opposition to condom use for what he judged were moral reasons, he was found to be, not only denying facts,but actually twisting them to support his position. The storm blew back to the Vatican, where damage control efforts hurriedly got underway, reaching even to some twisting in Vatican editing and translation of the pope's remarks.

This phenomenon is encountered frequently in human affairs. It is not unknown that research scientists can be so convinced of a conclusion that they reject or distort incompatible facts. It has not been unknown in the history of our Church, most notably when pope and Vatican curia accused Galileo of heresy for denying that the sun revolved around the earth. After all, they said, the Bible tells of how the sun stood still to allow Joshua more daylight to fight on to capture Jericho. Scientific facts from Galileo's telescope were rejected for a misplaced deductive reasoning process from a misunderstood biblical passage.

Denial of facts by force of ideology is unfortunately too commonplace in our Church. In the condom dust-up,B16 insists that the African tribes practice sexual abstinence as the only effective way to combat AIDs. The pope has not even been able to succeed in having the African clergy successfully walk on the hot stones of celibacy. Remember the scandal of a decade ago when the religious superiors of nuns in Africa demanded that Rome do something about priests sexually abusing and even raping members of their congregations of nuns! Is Benedict not living in an unreal world when he dismisses scientic facts to support his moral view about condoms? The much- needed reform in our beloved Church will come only when those in charge accord experiential reality its due recognition and acceptance instead of worshipping before
the constructs of their own deductive processes. Like "Jesus was a man; therefore only men can be priests." Please!