Should people use condoms?

Condoms, sex, HIV and religion

One Monday morning I was one of the new undergraduates who queued to register atMakerereUniversity’sSickBay. Upon registration, I, a practicing Roman Catholic was advised to attend a healthy-sex lesson.

The lesson had two objectives. One was to encourage the male students to use condoms and avoid catching sexually transmitted diseases (STDs – excluding the unknown ‘AIDS’ / ‘HIV’ at the time), which were rampant among the prostitutes within the neighbourhoods popular among university students. The other was to encourage the female students into persuading their male partners to use condoms and avoid unplanned conceptions.

The era of HIV has since then led to both an evolution and differing arguments surrounding the use of condoms. Let me dissect the different elements of the ongoing debate.

Do condoms stop STDs? Yes they do. When I came to theUKone of my nieces wrote me a letter asking why AIDS was rampant inUganda, but not in theUK. I gave her a straight answer – ‘these people use condoms’.UK’s original condom campaign was to minimise unwanted pregnancies particularly among the youth. But, it played a dual role and also controlled the spread of STDs including AIDS. That is why the current campaign targets both factors.

Scenario 1: A husband (wife) finds himself (herself) to be HIV positive. Does (s)he continue having unprotected sex with his (her) wife (husband) or use a condom?

Let me presume that this is a situation where both husband and wife have medically established that only one of them is positive. The least the HIV positive can do for the other is to use a condom – to enable the HIV negative to live on and if they have children, take care of them when the HIV positive eventually goes to rest. The utmost decision would be to abandon sex. However, this opens another dilemma, which is beyond the scope of this discussion.

Anything less than using a condom amounts to committing a sin against the sixth commandment, ‘You Shall not Kill’. It also culminates into a crime against laws and moral values set by various governance establishments.

There are people jumping left and right making reference to verses in religious books such as ‘sawing the seeds’ and ‘go and multiply’ as a justification for not using condoms even in such instances.

My conclusion is simple – anybody fronting this argument lacks common sense, and is potentially a confused hypocrite using religion as an excuse. Why? Because fortunately, the commandments are very clear and have no footnotes. We don’t need experts to (mis)interpret them. You commit a sin when you go against any of them.

However, the verses in religious books are open to people’s subjective (mis)interpretation, including these confused hypocrites. The (mis)interpretation is so subjective that even religious leaders should not claim to have better understanding than anyone else who has brains capable of examining issues in a critical context.

That is why if there is choice and/or conflict between the two, then common sense dictates that the objective commandments override the subjective verses.

Scenario 2: Should married couples use condoms? For simplicity I define marriage to include those who have undertaken any of the three, cultural/administrative/religious recognised ceremonies.

A couple comprise two mature people who hopefully love each other. So, if they jointly agree to use condoms for reasons best known to themselves, that decision should be entirely left to them. Religion has no role, and shouldn’t be allowed to play any role in that decision. Religion shouldn’t micro-manage marriage.

Another group of psychopaths advocate for the right to ‘enjoy’ the (sexual) fruits of marriage, and equate using condoms to having a bath/shower while wearing a raincoat.

I challenge you to take a practical experiment. You will find out that you achieve completely nothing when you bath/shower with a raincoat on. With a condom on the other hand, you will achieve everything except transmitting semen and disease. As the saying goes, ‘Okwelinda ssibuti’ (guarding yourself isn’t timidity)!

Scenario 3: Should the youth abstain from sex or use condoms? The answer to this depends on whether you live in a theoretical or in a practical world.

For as long as they are above the legal age of marriage, they should be treated as adults with full entitlement to their rights/choice – one of them being pre-marriage adventure before settling down if they so wish. But, those who belong to certain religions will be governed by laws therein which can override the rights argument.

In practice however, as elders and leaders in the society we have a social responsibility for these children. It is our duty to continuously make them aware of the dangers surrounding them, and to be constant reminders of the morality expected of them.

The major danger from the above full entitlement to their rights/choice is what nobody discusses – what I call the ‘magic number 3 trust rule’.

When you were younger, did any of your colleagues ever confide in you, and at the same time ‘boast’ of how (s)he first didn’t trust her (him) and had to use a condom, but after the third time started trusting and ceased using it? Where does this magic number 3 rule come from? Isn’t a medical test the only sure way of proving someone’s HIV status and hence restoring trust?

On these grounds, the safest way for our youngsters is to abstain. Condom use is as good as inviting the magic number 3 rule to the party! If this route is pursued, there will always be a ‘minute of madness’ compounded with temptation and trust down the way, which can lead to the obvious devastating irreversible repercussions. So let us use our rhetoric and ‘lock-up’ our children for their own safety. Any of them who ‘breakout’ and become victims should be used as a testimony to the surviving ‘inmates’.


2 responses to “Should people use condoms?

  1. bedsidereadings

    October 22, 2011 at 9:00 am

    I loved this article. This morning they were talking on the radio about a 14 year old who left her classroom to go outside and do things to her boyfriend no 14 year old should be doing. The friends did a facebook saying there was nothing wrong with this.

    They do not have a clue as to the consequences of their actions. They see so much on television or movies or grown ups who think nothing about having a boyfriend (girlfriend) in their home every week. This is the normal for the kids. They have to realize this “normal” will be the death of them. STDs and AIDS will steal their life forever. That is why I’m constantly talking to my grandkids. I don’t hold back nothing because if you do you lose them. Hopefully they will listen. They have forgotten about God and have made this world their god. Who do you think will last longer? Something to think about.

    So thanks for the article.

    Deb (Atlanta Georgia)

  2. bedsidereadings

    October 20, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I am glad that Clerical Whispers, are not just whispering about condom use, but shouting loud and clear over the blogosphere, in a loving, caring and realist manner. Kudos to you all.

    Previously, I had tried to contact a Catholic Church Newspaper, and the least I can say is that it was “discouraging” as you may read for yourself.

    This is a reply I got to my e-mail:

    The Pope disagrees with you. But thank you for your input.

    The Remnant Press
    P.O. Box 1117
    Forest Lake, MN 55025
    Tele: (651) 204-0145

    The following was my e-mail:-

    Dear Joseph A. Neumann,

    I come from Uganda.

    When I read your article “The Pope and Prophylactics” dated November 23, 2010; which was posted on the Online Remnant Newspaper, it disturbed me for several reasons.

    Among those reasons, here are some:

    1. The choice of whether to use or not to use a condom, may be as grave as choosing between life and death. You don’t seem to appreciate the gravity of this matter, because you don’t see the difference between the theoretical world, and the real practical one. It is all one to you, however, I think you choose to live in the former rather than the latter.

    For some of us, we speak from first hand with the family scars and some vacuum left within our communities, because in many cases some people thought like you, until reality set in.

    2. The message the Church sends is supposed to be clear and consistent with the biblical teachings. Though different people may not agree on the exact interpretations word by word of the bible, however, the bottom line should be that the knowledge gained should carry a message of understanding and consistent with the biblical teachings as a whole and not of confusion by just taking a few words and coming up with a different scenario.

    Mr. Neumann, you say that- “It is immoral for a man to use a prophylactic in order to prevent the transmission of seed in order to prevent conception from occurring”.
    Therefore you conclude that:-

    “Now, in regard to a man using a prophylactic to prevent the spread of a virus like HIV, although it is good to not wish to infect another, it is not morally permissible to use a prophylactic to accomplish this end”..

    Why not? Because by using a prophylactic, the man necessarily excludes the transmission of seed as mentioned above”.

    What I can’t understand is that you believe it is practical in the real world that a married couple where one is HIV positive, then the couple will say- okay, here we are, NO MORE SEX.

    And you go ahead to say: “Furthermore, there are cases in history where saints were married; however, they never engaged in sexual intercourse. One thinks of Saint Joseph and Our Lady, for example”.

    But because you know this is not practical, you add:” However, if the abstaining is an occasion of sin to either the husband or wife or both, then they ought to engage in sexual intercourse”.

    Mr. Neumann, I think that someone forgot to remind or inform you that, it is not a sin for a married couple to have sexual intercourse without intending or having a possibility of getting an offspring. Otherwise why do you treat sexual intercourse between a married couple as something they should only do when their abstaining from it becomes an occasion of sin to either of them or both? Please, elaborate on that one.

    Now, for the healthy married couple, you say: “if the abstaining is an occasion of sin to either the husband or the wife or both, then they ought to engage in sexual intercourse”, but for those where either of the couple is HIV positive, you tell them that they must resist and never have sexual intercourse whatsoever; what makes you think this is a practical choice for those couples where one of them is HIV positive to resist sexual intercourse, while it wasn’t possible for the healthy couple?

    Then you conclude that:

    1. Is it morally permissible for a husband infected with HIV to use a prophylactic before sexual intercourse with his wife to prevent the transmission of HIV to her? No.

    Why not? Because by using a prophylactic, the man necessarily excludes the transmission of seed as mentioned above.

    Here is my conclusion:

    1. Mr. Neumann, I think that someone forgot to remind or inform you that, it is not a sin for a married couple to safely have sexual intercourse without intending or having a possibility of getting an offspring.

    2. When a condom brings that safety to a married couple, there is every reason why one should use a condom or what you call a prophylactic.

    Remember, your responsibility to life when you give advice; give practical advice that doesn’t contradict with the bible as a whole.

    by Sam


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