RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND THE ART OF LISTENING

This article was published 2009 by The Eastern African Magazine

RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND THE ART OF LISTENING

If religious leaders were listening to the World, to HIV/AIDS victims and to the needs of our times. The conflict that is growing between HIV/AIDS campaigners and religious leaders; between government leaders and religious leaders could be avoided. Let us take the example of the Roman Catholic Church:

The Catholic Church’s sexual inhibition began, from the third century onwards, when its leaders deviated from the Good News of compassion and peace to adapt Christian faith to the then current sexual pessimism of the Greek and Manichean philosophies.

The Greek philosophers, since Aristotle and Plato, developed the dualism of matter and spirit. According to this philosophy, the body belonged to matter, which was finite and man’s spirit was eternal. Consequently, human sexuality belonged to the inferior world of matter and was seen as a concession to the majority, who could not practice self - control, abstinence and asceticism. Out of their medical notions, these philosophers thought human sexuality to be harmful to men because of loss of energy and semen.

This philosophical trend was rigorously continued by the stoic school of thought. This school condemned sexual passion and pleasure even within marriage as immoral.
“Nothing for the sake of pleasure” is Seneca’s principle! Husonius, his younger contemporary, a teacher of Stoic philosophy to the Roman aristocratic allowed sexual intercourse in marriage only when it was aimed at procreation: the sexual act has to be an act of procreation. Marital sex for the sake of pleasure was illicit! The use of contraceptives was obviously condemned! According to Philostratus, his biographer, and the wonder - worker Apolonius of Tyana (first century AD) kept the vow of virginity his whole life long. And the naturalist, Pliny the Elder, praises the elephant as exemplary because it mates only every two years, echoing the prevalent ideal concept of chastity.

Another movement, which advanced sexual pessimism shortly before the birth of Christ, was Gnosticism. Gnosis (knowledge), which spread from Persia to the West, held that this world of matter came from demons and was therefore evil. Only the soul of man, the spark of light, which was held captive in the body and banished into the world of darkness, comes from another world, the world light. Flight from the body and its passions is the only means of salvation.

Neoplatonism, a Greek philosophical movement in the first half of the third century, found its main proponent in plotinus (d. 270). Although Plotinus was an opponent of Gnosticism, he nevertheless became its victim through Gnostic hostility to matter and the body. “He seemed to be ashamed of having a body”, writes his biographer Porphyry (d.ca.305).

But the man, who systematically blended hostility to sexual pleasure with Christianity, was the great Father of church, Augustine of Hippo (d. 430). This greatest of the Father of the church, a Manichean turned Christian, decisively influenced the negative sexual pessimism of Christian Europe up to the present day. He developed a personal and theological sexual inhibition, which has plagued Christian sexual morality. He linked the propagation of original sin with pleasure at sexual union. He saw pleasure as a necessary evil for the sake of procreation
The ideal remained for him a joyless sexual union for the sake of reproduction, for which reason only woman was created. In this way, Augustine turned women into sexual objects of procreation and did not consider them as partners with equal rights and dignity. This became the constant litany of the Fathers of the Church, theologians and the popes, up to the present day!

The present church’s strong condemnation of contraception (Condoms) is based on Augustine’s sexual theories. Since the sexual act is meant only for reproduction, “every misplaced ejaculation that cannot lead to procreation is considered unnatural, thus onanism is a vice that, according to Thomas Aquinas, is worse than intercourse with one’s own mother” (Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven, 1991, pg 311)!

The reality facing us now is no longer about the misplaced ejaculation and procreation. We are facing a serious threat of human life. It is a matter of life and death. Globally there are an estimated 150 million persons affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, mostly in the African continent. UNAIDS estimates that there are 36 million persons living with AIDS and 70% live in sub-Saharan Africa. The scourge of HIV/AIDS has also left 42 million orphans whose care and socialization are in serious jeopardy due to the diminished economic capacity of traditional care structures and weakened national economies. Close to 400 million persons in Africa are at risk of HIV infection unless urgent action is taken to avert this looming catastrophe.

In such a situation there is a clear and strong blessing to ignore the stand of Religious leaders against the use of Condoms. If condoms can help to reduce the spread of this looming catastrophe - people should be encouraged and directed to use them properly.

Father Bernard Joinet,M.Afr. Compare AIDS epidemic with a flood. The waters keep on rising and many people are drowned. The survivors see that they will soon be overtaken by the waters themselves and they lose courage. They have however forgotten that it is possible to escape from a flood by getting into a boat. There are three boats, which can rescue people from the AIDS Floods: abstinence, fidelity and the use of contraceptive devices. The instructions are simple: do not remain in the water but get into one of the boats, the one of your choice. If you do not find the boat you have chosen comfortable, do not go back into the water but change boats.

By,
Rev. Privatus Karugendo.

1 comments:

KHAMIS said...

Peace be upon you Father P.K.
Please teach me. Is it Father or Rev? Do Catholics use Reverend as well?
I'm very happy to find you here, father.

Mataka.

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