Washington Express Publishes Misleading Ad by Dissident Catholic Group

The Washington Post’s fact checkers must be too busy chasing down emotionally scarred seventh grade classmates of Mitt Romney to look at ads the company accepts.

The Washington Express, a free daily publication of The Washington Post, put a four page ad on its cover by Catholic dissident group Catholics for Choice, which took remarks about Pope’s stance on condoms completely out of context and claimed that “abstinence has a high failure rate.”  

The ad claims: “In November 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said that using condoms to reduce the risk of HIV can be “a first assumption of responsibility and “a more human way of living sexuality.” In other words, the ad claims that the Pope endorsed condoms. 

The quotes, however, are cherry-picked from an interview of Pope Benedict XVI in a book called “Light of the World.” Vatican spokesman Rev. Frederico Lombardi specifically clarified the Pope’s comments concerning condoms after media confusion on the subject. Apparently, Catholics for Choice is still confused on the topic. 

Here is the full context of the Pope’s remarks on condoms, with the quotes Catholics for Choice cited in bold:

“As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of society, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of society is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable is to have a positive effect of the whole of man’s being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.”

The Pope continued: “She [The Church] does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this case or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in the movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”

So in other words, the Pope was not legitimizing the usage of condoms, but declaring that in situations where mortal sin is already present (i.e, male prostitution), condom usage represents the first sign of concern for the well-being of the other in a relationship. Catholics for Choice completely ignored the Pope’s statement that the Church “does not regard it as a real or moral solution” and that it is “not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.”  

Catholics for Choice wasn’t alone in deliberately misreading the Church’s remarks. Major media outlets such as ABC, CBS, the New York Times and the Washington Post also misreported the Pope’s remarks.

The ad also claimed that abstinence has a high failure rate, which is of course false. Those who successfully practice abstinence cannot get pregnant and are 100% protected against HIV, assuming they do not use drugs or come into contact with infected fluids. 

Ironically, condoms do not guarantee protection against HIV. The World Health Organization says that “perfect” usage of condoms have a 2 percent failure rate in preventing pregnancy, but “typical” usage of condoms have a failure rate as high as 15 percent in preventing pregnancy. Since STI’s such as the HIV virus are not spread solely through ejaculation, the rates of STI infection through condom failure would be higher than rates of pregnancy, assuming “typical” usage.

The ad also featured a poll done by Catholics for Choice, with the predictable results that a majority of Catholics in five different countries polled support condoms. Of course, since the group already lied about the Pope’s stance on condoms, their numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt.

The back of the ad also features a picture of a gay couple, which Catholic teaching forbids as well. This is unsurprising, since Catholics for Choice is well known for attacking the teachings of the Church; the group attacked the Fortnight for Freedom (against President Obama’s HHS mandate) on pro-abortion site RH Reality Check.

Note: The last sentence of the eleventh paragraph originally read: "Abstinence, if successfully practiced, is 100% effective." The language has since been clarified.