|Melinda Gates with some of the women she hopes to give a helping hand in making a fundamental life choice--when to have a baby. The Vatican is not thrilled with Melinda's choice to do so.|
In my last post I wrote that I feel the particular culture war issues the Vatican has chosen to do battle over are really a message for Africa and not the West--well other than to more or less tell Western progressives to go to hell. Yesterday the Vatican Insider ran an article dedicated to a front page article in L'Osservatore Romano. In that front page article, Bill and Melinda Gates are attacked over Melinda's self stated mission to provide birth control for those women who want it in the developing world. It's Melinda who launched the program the Vatican objects to, but of course she can never be acknowledged with out dragging in her husband--and listing him first. The following is the entire article from Vatican Insider. I couldn't find a link for the L'Osservatore Romano original article.
L’Osservatore Romano attacks the Gates’
The Pope’s newspaper has criticised the philanthropic contraception initiative launched by the wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, referring back to Nestlé’s “cunning” operation in AfricaAndrea Tornielli - Vatican Insider - 7/28/2012
L’Osservatore Romano, the Holy See’s official daily newspaper, has taken up arms against Bill Gates and Nestlé. The Pope’s newspaper has launched a tough and clear attack against the two on the front page of this afternoon’s issue: an editorial by Giulia Galeotti on “birth control and disinformation” entitled “The risks of philanthropy”, defines Bill Gates’ wife as being “slightly off the mark and confused” as well as “misinformed”. Melinda Gates announced to the CNN that over the next eight months she wants to spend 450 million Euros on research into new birth control methods, improved information on contraception and providing access in the planet’s poorest countries, primarily Africa, to such services and instruments. Speaking to the CNN, Mrs. Gates confided the difficulty she faced as a believer, aware that her initiative challenges the leaders of the Catholic Church. (Melinda Gates has spent far more time on the ground in Africa bringing medicine to sick babies, talking with their mothers, and providing funds to keep their babies healthy than most Vatican clerics, but she is the one who is misinformed, slightly off the mark, and confused.)
In an attempt to erase the idea of the Catholic Church as a promoter of the deaths of women and children as a result of the misogynous intransigence shown in its aversion to contraceptives, an interpretation it defines as “unfounded and cheap”, L’Osservatore Romano recalled that the Church “agrees with natural birth control methods, that is, with methods based on reading the signs and messages sent by the body.” Here it refers to the Billings method which is “considered 98% effective.” “L’Osservatore Romano points out that “in some parts of the world” the Billings method “is seen as a double disadvantage” because since it is a simple method that is easy to adopt, women, including the illiterate among them, use it independently and consciously, without the need for mediation.” “The unforgivable original sin inherent in this method is that it is a solution that is completely free. This makes it highly unpopular in the pharmaceutical industry which makes huge profits from the administration of chemical contraception. And this will be guaranteed through Mrs. Gates’ philanthropic actions.” (Oh yes, I can certainly see a good Catholic woman or girl insist their panting rapist wait until she can take her temperature and examine her vaginal mucus. Oh and the perception of the Church 'as a promoter of the deaths of women and children as a result of misogynous intransigence' is not that unfounded.)
But the Vatican newspaper also packs a mighty punch at multinational company Nestlé. On its front page, L’Osservatore Romano writes: “The multinational company notoriously and in a cunning and improper manner supplied African women with free packs of dried milk for their newborn children. These lasted just enough time for the mothers to lose their natural milk. Mothers were then forced to purchase the dried milk, lured by advertisement campaigns which presented breast feeding as barbaric and the artificial method as the modern and civilised alternative; the campaign was furthered through various forms of psychological pressure exercised by elusive doctors and nurses. A need was therefore created in the name of charity and with profit in mind.” (Nestle has been embroiled in this issue for almost forty years. The Roman Catholic Church has not been a major player in getting Nestle to change it's practices. It was the UN and World Health Organization, amongst other secular NGO's that were at the forefront of this campaign. Nestle is still being boycotted world wide over this issue. It's nice though that the Vatican has finally noticed, even if it is only to slander Melinda Gates by association.)
I find it deliciously ironic that one of the richest, if not the richest practicing Catholic woman, is using her wealth to promote the very religious freedom issue the USCCB is trying to manipulate in an effort to throw the US presidential election to Mitt Romney. And she is doing this for the women of the very continent the Vatican is bending over backwards to keep in the patriarchal fold mostly for the benefit of their own continued exclusively patriarchal existence.
I love the attack on Melinda Gates as a lackey for pharmaceutical companies. I am still waiting for the Vatican itself to admit it's stock portfolio has made millions off of ED drugs, and that Pfizer PR people waited breathlessly for the Vatican to give it's OK to Viagra as a morally neutral drug before pushing it in US TV commercials. The cynic in me wonders how large the 'donation' was for that Vatican stamp of approval. But I digress.
The single largest killer of girls 15-19 in the developing world is pregnancy and giving birth, but as we are all, endlessly reminded by 'real Catholics' pregnancy is not a disease and shouldn't be treated like a disease. That maybe true, but it's also true pregnancy is the number one killer of young women. For some reason we aren't supposed to look at that Truth. Melinda Gates is saying it is time we look at that truth.
Lets look at some more truth. The thirty one countries with the highest infant mortality rate are all in Africa with the lone exception being Afghanistan. A child born in Chad is 70% more likely to die by age five than one born in Sweden. The Gates foundation has pumped enormous dollars into evidenced based solutions for the largest killers: vaccinations for the usual childhood diseases, mosquito netting for beds, antibiotics, clean water, and micro nutrient supplementation amongst others. The single biggest factor in dropping these numbers in other global areas has been reliable birth control. It's easier for poor women to take care of their children if they don't have ten of them and they are spaced out. No woman wants to watch her young children die. Not even to 'save her own soul'. Melinda Gates has finally said it's time to deal with real facts and to ignore the clueless clerical men and their silly politics around this issue. Thank God she has the financial resources to do just that. She may not be the Pope, but she doesn't have to be when she can put 650 million dollars where her heart lies.
Melinda Gates is not talking about forcing artificial forms of birth control on anyone. She is promoting education and choice, and making sure the choices are available. The Billings method has advantages, at least in theory, in more rural areas just for distribution reasons. The problem is getting the men to go along with the necessary periods of abstinence in cultures which don't facilitate women having any power in determining when they will or will not have sex, or in cultures that use rape as a weapon of war. Artificial forms of birth control go a long way to solving those kinds of problems.
Ultimately birth control is about empowering women to make their own determination as to how many and how frequently they will give birth. That is not acceptable when the religious mentality is absolute about all things involving women's reproductive biology and when it's coupled with a sexual moral theology that says women are their reproductive function. It doesn't even matter that reliable birth control has had a huge impact on reducing the numbers of abortions. Bishops like Cordileone lie outright about that when they claim birth control increases the abortion numbers. The real data support just the opposite, and it's time more Catholics called out these bishops for these kinds of lies. It is absurd to think you can 'evangelize' truth through spreading lies. Well, maybe not in the Vatican.
Melinda Gates says she has gotten an out poring of support from women all across the globe--even many nuns. Shock. For what it's worth she has my full support as well, because this issue of empowering the women and children in developing worlds has been a big concern of mine--especially as Roman Catholicism has been involved in it. Africa will be the final battle ground with mindless entitled murderous patriarchy and the Vatican has chosen it's side. Thank God women have their own champion. This woman doesn't carry a sword, just a large checkbook, a pen, a lot of brains, and a heart large enough to dream of a different world for the women and children of an entire continent---and lest I forget, a husband who agrees with her. A formidable combination indeed.