the relief of those with rosary beads to stroke was as nothing compared to the excitement of those with an axe to grind. ‘Pope Benedict’s XVI’s change of heart on condoms marks a significant break with the damage done by one of his predecessors’ most romantic, wicked and wrong-headed policies’, enthused Andrew Brown in the Guardian. Over at the Telegraph, another commentator saw it as an undoubted positive move: ‘Yes, we secular liberals can hope that this is the start of a greater change, and we can regret the lives lost while we waited for it. But we should also recognise that it is a great change already, and that it will start to save lives now. And, however much some people will struggle to praise the pope, we should swallow our pride, and give credit where it’s due.’
The New Humanist, a vocal opponent of Benedict’s visit to the UK in September, felt confident enough to state: ‘There does appear to have been a change in tone from an organisation that has long given the impression that it is opposed to condoms in all circumstances.’ Such has been the near tectonic shift from blaming the pope for killing Africans to praising him for rescuing them that even the continent itself piped up: ‘Africa welcomes pope’s comments on condoms’, ran a Agence France-Presse headline.
Yet just as it was absurd to blame leaders of the Catholic Church for the problem of AIDS/HIV in Africa, so it is equally ridiculous to see the pope as the continent’s redeemer. In both cases there is an idealism at work, an idealism that would embarrass the most immaterial of philosophers. For in this idealism, ideas – Catholic ideas – are all that matter. The pope articulates one idea, people die; he articulates another, people live.
'Cause he's magic...