Coffee condomAn AIDS charity working in Ethiopia has come up with a rather novel way of encouraging the use of condoms. DKT International received a lot of complaints about the latex smell of conventional condoms, so they found a solution: java-scented & flavoured condoms for a nation of coffee-lovers. Already 300,000 have sold in the first week of being introduced. So, it looks like the plan is working, while at the same time giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “wake up and smell the coffee.”

My thought for the week was in praise of the Blind Boys of Alabama, who represent much of what is good about religion. Unfortunately issues of sex and contraception often bring out much of what is worst in religion, suicide-bombers aside. I’ll be writing later this week about a feature on Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme in which Free Presbyterian minister David McIlveen expresses his opposition to the granting of licences for sex shops in Belfast. Much of what McIlveen said implied – if not explicitly stated – that sex was dirty and largely bad. Unless it’s between a husband and wife, and probably missionary position only, then the God McIlveen believes in would undoubtedly disapprove. I’ve often been bemused that God would care so much about consenting adults having sex when there’s so much more important things going on in the world seemingly without divine care. I’m fairly sure that coffee flavoured and scented condoms would be roundly condemned by McIlveen and other killjoys of that ilk. But, I’ll resist the urge to take him to pieces just yet.

Much more worrying than Protestant prudes are crazy Catholics. The official Roman Catholic line is that condoms are bad. Despite condoms proving vital in the fight against AIDS the church retains its ban on a little piece of rubber.

I share the views of comedian Billy Connelly. Why on earth would anyone listen to the views of a bunch of celibates when it comes to sex? Lets face it, this is a church that gave us the rhythm method of birth control – to which comedian Billy Connelly claims to owe his very existence. In fact, Billy Connolly is worth quoting a little more at length: “Only a celibate could come up with the line: ‘at the point of ejaculation withdraw.’ Oh yeah!?! Is that right Father!?! Well let me tell you something: At the point of ejaculation there isn’t a bloody herd of wild horses that could make my arse go in that direction.”

Unfortunately people do listen to the Catholic church, and some of its pronouncements on the matter have been downright absurd. I don’t like the word evil, but I’d be tempted to use it to describe their moral position. Some of the more loony figures within the RCC have gone so far as to claim that condoms actually contribute to the spread of AIDS. Rafael Llano Cifuentes, Auxilliary Bishop in Rio de Janeiro, put it like this: “using a condom to stop AIDS is like putting out a fire using petrol.” I suppose umbrellas make you more wet, Father?

Condoms, or any method of contraception, don’t get a mention in the Bible. Regrettably there’s no verse in which God tells Moses: “Rubber up my servant, there’s far too many bloody Israelites and I may have to smite a few.” Nor is there a sentence telling us “covering thy willy is an abomination unto the Lord.” So, this is where theology enters the fray: when in doubt, make it up yourself and claim God said it. The Catholic Church holds to a natural law ethic. According to their ethics the use of condoms offends the natural law that we all should obey. Under this scheme of things sex has a natural function – procreation. Condoms interfere with this and are thus “unnatural.” Bishop Cifuentes puts it thus: “The church is against condom use. Sexual relations between a man and a woman have to be natural. I’ve never seen a little dog using a condom during sexual intercourse with another little dog. Animals have natural sex.”

No, he’s not taking the piss. Firstly, it may indeed be true that dogs do not use condoms, but does that mean that humans must not use them? Since when was the behaviour of dogs the arbiter of what is right and wrong for a human being? Incidentally I’ve also never seen a little dog take a vow of chastity, or commit itself to one other dog for the rest of its life. In fact, if little dogs are a prime moral example then I guess I’ll nip out into the street, piss against a few lamp-posts, chase the mailman, hump someone’s leg, try to shag the first female that comes along, and then freak everyone out by barking aggressively at things that aren’t there. Secondly, it would also be quite difficult to advocate monogamy on the basis of ‘natural sex.’ Thirdly, just what is ‘unnatural’ about using a condom? Is it any more unnatural than wearing warm clothes on a cold day to avoid hypothermia? And, whilst we’re on the subject of “natural law,” what about celibacy? Doesn’t that offend the natural law? What do priests think the natural purpose of their bollocks is: decoration?

I’ve spent too long already critiquing a moral theology than really should be ignored by everyone on the planet. So, in case a more lengthy discussion of the matter should lend it credibility, I’ll cut short the comments.

Getting back to the java-condoms, I have to admit that I think it’s a wonderful idea. I’m glad they never got the idea the wrong way around at the brainstorming session, otherwise the market may have been flooded with cock-flavoured coffee. And if it encourages more people to use condoms, lessen their chance of catching fairly nasty STDs, and have a bit of fun while they do so, then it has my support: and to hell with every protestant prude and crazy catholic who disagrees.

I think the idea is great example of thinking outside the box. And hey I reckon we may be on to something here. How about tea & biscuit flavoured condoms for the English, Guinness flavoured for the Irish, or bolognese flavoured for the Italians. Stay away from Indians though – Vindaloo flavoured?