Letters: Christianity and condoms

If Rome sanctions condoms, it sanctions non-procreational sex
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The Independent Online

Sir: It should be recognised that if Rome does now accept the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV from one spouse to another (report, 3 May), then it will be skewered on a spike of its own making. The great problem has been the Catholic Church's teaching - specifically contradicted in the traditional Church of England marriage service - that sex is (or should be) for procreation only, not for pleasure. But if a spouse is HIV infected then they obviously do not want to beget infected children, so what then is the place for sex? Logically, in such circumstances, abstinence should be the only course.

To say that condoms could be used is to recognise sex for pleasure and thus pull the cornerstone from the whole edifice. It would be far wiser for Rome to openly, honestly, and immediately recognise that its policy is both humanly unreal and without any Biblical foundation, than to furtively remove the keystone and then watch the building crumble and disintegrate piece by piece.



Sir: While the Catholic Church may be in the process of re-evaluating its stance on condoms (3 May) in very restricted circumstances, it is grossly unjust to accuse the Church of being responsible for the spread of Aids in Africa or anywhere else.

Why would people who ignore the Church's teachings in other areas - sex before marriage, for instance - religiously observe its strictures on the use of condoms?

It is not the teaching of the Catholic Church which is responsible for the spread of Aids in Africa. "The reason," says Martin Ssempa, director of Uganda's Makerere Youth Ministry, "why other Africans and Ugandans are dying is because of promiscuity - that is what's killing us." Of course this does not apply just to Africans.

Unless or until a vaccine comes along the only way to keep Aids at bay is through abstinence before marriage and fidelity within it. This, of course, will be dismissed as wishful thinking by many, but it is no more idealistic than those who think Aids is going to yield to condoms.



To survive, Labour party must oust Blair

Sir: What will it take for Labour MPs to grasp the nettle? At present signatures are being sought for a letter designed to force Tony Blair to announce a "firm and fixed timetable" for his departure (report, 6 May).

But the PM forfeited long ago the right to determine the timing of his departure. Belief in his own omnipotence, in the face of what he sees as "Luddite" attitudes on his backbenches, will, given the chance, ensure another two or so years of the party's Blair-induced decline. Unless drastic action is taken it is obvious that Blair will, Thatcher-like, attempt to go on and on.

The document being circulated should be seeking signatures backing a stalking-horse candidate in order to trigger an immediate leadership election.



Sir: Tony Blair's hasty reshuffling of his cabinet, bereft of any infusion of new blood from the backbenches, exposes the lack of enthusiasm for the New Labour experiment within the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The plight of former Home Secretary Charles Clarke illustrates the deep-rooted problems for "Blairism"; Clarke has simply paid the price for abandoning all his previously held convictions in exchange for power, a factor which underpins the entire New Labour strategy.

Once a former left-wing leader of the National Union of Students, Mr Clarke, as Home Secretary presided over terror laws rather than deal with the causes of terror, and indulged in anti-crime rhetoric rather than dealing with the causes of crime.

It's hardly surprising, therefore, that when it was revealed that many previously convicted foreign criminals hadn't been deported that the Tories and much of the media went totally berserk. While such maladministration might once have been put down to human error, it was precisely because a Labour Home Secretary had adopted such a right-wing stance that he was pilloried from every quarter for failing to adhere to it.



Sir: Blair has wielded the knife to protect his Government, while Brown says Labour must learn the lessons and renew itself. What Blair seems incapable of accepting is that it is he who is the cause of Labour's collapse. His presidential style of making policy has emasculated ministers and their ability to run their departments, making them accountable to him and not to parliament.

If Brown is serious about renewing Labour, he should resign himself and force the only reshuffle that could possibly save Labour's skin. Whether it is a skin worth saving is another matter.



Sir: John Prescott got up to mischief even though he had a huge department to run. He now has the same money, cars, drivers, houses, and offices, but loads of free time. Does Tony Blair not know that "the devil makes work for idle hands"?



Wind power is the energy of a new era

Sir: Wind power's detractors are all too often sidetracked by the numbers game ("Poor results from wind power", 25 April). The simple fact is that generating electricity from wind energy does have quantifiable carbon dioxide emission reductions.

The 32m tonnes of CO 2 that could be displaced each year by wind power in the UK by 2020 is not a pitiful amount as some would have. This is one sixth of all CO 2 emitted in electricity production and over one quarter of the Government's targeted reduction of 20 per cent by 2020. It is equivalent to flying 50 million passengers from London to New York. If wind power were to displace the burning of coal rather than gas, then the CO 2 savings would be double.

We are all aware that there are greater CO 2 savings to be had from such low-hanging fruits as energy efficiency, for example. However, the development of a wind industry in the UK can bring so much more than just reduced emissions - it heralds a new era of energy generation which is sustainable for the long term and, most important of all, secure - a huge benefit to our island nation in these uncertain times.

This is a core message delivered by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) in its "No fuel" campaign. Wind power means no extraction, no refining, no geo-political risk, no external energy dependence, no energy imports, no fuel costs, no fuel price risk, no exploration, no pipelines, no resource constraints and no CO 2 emissions.



Sir: It was a tonic to read the letter from Professor Per Bullough et al on the limits of wind power.

The eco-worriers have had it all their own way for years, over-selling the virtues of wind power and at the same time carrying out a vitriolic campaign against nuclear power to the extent that it became regarded as almost immoral to declare support for it. Sadly, far too few scientists and engineers have been prepared to stand up and be counted as supporters of nuclear.

There is only one technology mature, safe and reliable enough to provide the major part of our future electric power requirements and help combat the horrors of global warming and that is nuclear. We should set about building a series of nuclear power stations as soon as possible and name the first "Lovelock One".

As for the concerns expressed by Dr Neil Lowrie (letter, 25 April) regarding supposed lack of expertise in the UK to design, build and maintain nuclear power plants, the solution is simple. We should lobby to make this an EU programme, making use of the wide range of nuclear expertise within EU countries including, of course, the UK.



What the Iranian President really said

Sir: Anne Penketh repeats the assertion that Iranian President Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" (5 May). In fact, as there is no such figure of speech in Farsi, he cannot have done so. According to noted Middle East expert Dr Juan Cole, Ahmadinejad was quoting Ayatollah Khomeini, and Cole renders the quotation as "This regime of occupation in Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time".

While Ahmadinejad is clearly no friend of Israel, or of Jews in general, what he actually said appears to be considerably more ambiguous than what he is reported as having said. Having had one war over the issue of non-existent weapons, it would surely be a mistake to rush into another based on a mistranslation.



Star spangled hypocrisy

Sir: I am not sure why George Bush feels he is entitled to complain about "The Star Spangled Banner" being sung in Spanish (report, 5 May). Francis Scott Key first published his impressions of the Fort McHenry victory as a broadside poem, with a note that it should be sung to the popular British drinking song "To Anacreon in Heaven".

Surely if a country adapts an anthem from another song it should accept it if the same is done to them?



The 63-year-old mother

Sir: Dr Rashbrook and her husband seem to have wanted a baby in order to "set the seal" on their love (report, 5 May). I find it incredible that a supposedly mature, intelligent, educated psychiatrist could subscribe to the belief that love (at any age, let alone between pensioners) requires a child to validate it.



Sir: It is humbug to criticise a woman who has become pregnant at 63. When, and where, has any person at any age had a child for the sake of the child?



Respect deserves more

Sir: The Independent, like most other papers, has devoted pages to the " success" of 11 BNP councillors in Barking, yet has barely mentioned the 12 Respect councillors elected in Tower Hamlets.

Fourteen years ago the BNP's first councillor, Derek Beacon, was elected in Tower Hamlets. This was the heart of their strength in Britain. Now they do not feature there. Why? Because there is a much better place for people disaffected with Tory policies from all three mainstream parties, than the "blame immigrants" BNP. I cannot understand why you do not feel this is even worthy of discussion.



Not-so-large Leeds

Sir: Paul Vallely states that two million people are "equivalent to the population of Leeds" (5 May). In fact the population of West Yorkshire, including the cities of Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford and the large towns of Halifax and Huddersfield, is about two million. The city of Leeds and its district has a population of about 750,000. If Leeds had a population of two million it would easily be the UK's second city. Unfortunately, despite Leeds's ambitions, this is still a very long way from the reality.



Scolari and the press

Sir: In his piece on the appointment of Steve McClaren as the manager of the England football team (5 May), Sam Wallace fails to mention that one of the reasons that Scolari turned down the possibility of getting the job was because of the unacceptable pressure of having a score or so journalists camped out outside his home. Journalists are good at blaming everybody except themselves.