A Strange, Yet Powerful, Symbol of Faith

One of my seminary professors said, “Faithful people often do the right thing, even before their leaders figure out what that is.”

A great example of this truth is shown by Roman Catholic AIDS workers in Africa. Well in advance of the Pope’s recent stumbling comments about condom use by “male prostitutes,” and the clarification by Vatican authorities that this could include people who were trying to protect themselves and others from disease, these valiant caregivers have been handing out condoms.

“The people in the trenches have been allowing people to use condoms for 10 years now,” says Sister Elaine Pearton in South Africa. “We don’t hand them out [indiscriminately] for people to make balloons out of,” she said, laughing. “But if someone needs them to protect themselves from a deadly hazard, we just give them a box.”

In reality, the Roman Catholic Church is not nearly so monolithic as the Pope and the hierarchy want to believe–and hope the world believes. On every continent there are faithful Catholics gathering in house churches led by lay women and men, there are churches where priests incorporate indigenous religion into the approved liturgy, and their are women and men religious giving out condoms–not to mention the large number of laypeople who use birth control in complete disregard to church teachings.

The Holy Spirit never stops helping folks witness to their faith.