In March, when Pope Benedict XVI, on a flight to Cameroon, declared that the use of condoms is not the answer to the AIDS epidemic in Africa—that, on the contrary, it “increases the problem”—I thought immediately of Francis Ntowe. I met Ntowe years ago when he came to the U.S. from Cameroon. He became an elder in the Presbyterian Church.
During a weeklong visit to Africa in March, Pope Benedict XVI told journalists accompanying him on the papal plane to Cameroon that making condoms widely available “increased the problem” of AIDS. The remark, similar to the Vatican’s longstanding emphasis on sexual abstinence, revived controversy over how best to stem the global AIDS epidemic that has devastated sub-Saharan Africa.
A California constitutional amendment to limit marriage to “a man and a woman” has been approved for the November 4 general election, just weeks after the state Supreme Court permitted same-sex marriages. California secretary of state Debra Bowen on June 2 certified that supporters had submitted enough signatures for the measure to qualify for the ballot.
Pope Benedict XVI capped a six-day visit to the United States, his first as pontiff, with a public mass at New York’s Yankee Stadium in which he declared the need for U.S. Catholics to be obedient to church authority. To more than 50,000 people, the pope praised the U.S. legacy of freedom but reminded Catholics of their church loyalties.
“In hope we were saved” (Spe salvi facti sumus). Pope Benedict’s encyclical Spe salvi, released in late 2007, begins with this quote from Paul’s letter to the Romans (8:24). Benedict goes on immediately to speak of redemption: “According to the Christian faith, “redemption”—salvation—is not simply a given.
Benedict XVI has a reputation as a blunt, rigorous teacher of doctrine, so it was perhaps surprising that the highlight of his much publicized visit to the U.S. was an unexpected private pastoral act—his meeting with people who had been sexually abused by Catholic priests.