Thursday, March 19, 2009

Letter From the Editor: Vatican Has Its Head Buried in the Sand Over Condoms

Pope Benedict's Declaration That Use of Condoms to Halt the Spread of AIDS Virus and Other Sexually-Transmitted Diseases 'Increases the Problem' Is Backward Thinking That's Dangerously Out of Touch With Reality

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives at the basilica for afternoon ...

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives at the basilica Wednesday for afternoon mass in Yaounde, Cameroon, the first leg of his tour of Africa. The Vatican defended the pontiff's opposition to the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS as activists, doctors and politicians criticized it as unrealistic, unscientific and dangerous. Benedict, continuing the Vatican's longstanding condemnation of condoms, said on Tuesday that their use "increase the problem" of AIDS. (Photo: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Thursday, March 19, 2009)


Dear Readers,

It's becoming increasingly obvious by now that whatever Pope Benedict XVI says, controversy is likely to follow him.

Just as he was arriving in Cameroon on the first leg of a papal tour of Africa Tuesday, Benedict said that condoms "increase the problem" of AIDS. The solution to the deadly disease, he said, lies in a "spiritual and human awakening" and "friendship for those who suffer."

In other words, limiting sex to within a marriage between a man and a woman -- and even then, only for the purpose of procreation. That has been, and remains, the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that Benedict heads. As far as the church is concerned, you should not engage in sex, period, if you're not married -- and especially if you're not heterosexual.

This teaching is woefully out of touch with the real world -- and, along with its rapid erosion of moral authority in the United States following the priest sex-abuse scandal -- is one of the reasons why the church is in decline in the West.

Not surprisingly, scientists, politicians and AIDS activists immediately blasted the pope's declaration.

"My reaction is that this represents a major step backwards in terms of global health education, is entirely counter-productive, and is likely to lead to increases in HIV infection in Africa and elsewhere," Professor Quentin Sattentau, professor of immunology at Britain's Oxford University, told the Reuters news agency.

"There is a large body of published evidence demonstrating that condom use reduces the risk of acquiring HIV infection, but does not lead to increased sexual activity," Sattentau added.

That's putting it mildly. The church also teaches that the use of condoms leads people to engage in more risky sexual behavior. This is utter nonsense.

Kevin De Cock, director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS department, said there is no evidence showing that condom use spurs people to take more sexual risks.

To the contrary, the evidence is overwhelming that using condoms cuts down the likelihood of risky behaviors and reduces the spread of AIDS and other STDs.

Just what planet is the pope coming from, for it certainly isn't 21st-century Earth. The sad truth is, the pontiff has absolutely zero credibility on the subject of preventing the spread of AIDS. Zip, zilch, nada. Benedict's pronouncements are actually dangerous to the cause of protecting the public health.


Benedict's stance drew sharp denunciations from around the world. The latest furor comes just weeks after his reinstatement of a renegade archconservative Roman Catholic bishop who is a Holocaust denier -- a move that has severely damaged relations between the Vatican and the Jewish community.

The pope's condom remarks drew sharp criticism even in his native Germany. "Modern development cooperation must give access to the means for family planning to the poorest of the poor. And the use of condoms is especially part of that," the country's Germany's health and development ministers said in a joint statement.

"Anything else would be irresponsible."

That Benedict would continue his church's condemnation of the use of condoms should surprise no one, for the church has condemned the use of condoms for over 40 years. Long before the rise of the AIDS epidemic, Pope Paul VI condemned condoms as part of his 1968 encyclical that denounced all artificial forms of contraception.

Just weeks after his rise to the pontificate, Benedict in 2005 listed several ways to combat the spread of AIDS, namely abstinence from sex and fidelity in marriage. His predecessor, John Paul II, reaffirmed Paul VI's 1968 encyclical on its 30th anniversary in 1998, making it clear that condoms were not to be used by Catholics for any reason.

This is not the first time that the pope has generated controversy; indeed, this is the latest in a series of controversial statements made by Benedict since his ascension to the throne of St. Peter following John Paul II's death in 2005.

He angered Muslims in 2006 when he delivered a lecture which touched on Islam at the University of Regensburg in Germany. In it, Benedict quoted the 12th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, one of the last Christian rulers before the Fall of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottoman Empire, who wrote: "Show me just what [the Prophet] Mohammed brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Benedict triggered a deep schism in relations between the Holy See and the Jewish community in January when when he lifted the excommunication of Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson -- even sparking a rare but forceful public rebuke of the pontiff in his homeland by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But in an act that effectively repudiated a more than century-old Vatican doctrine of papal infallibility, Benedict sent a letter to Catholic bishops in which he admitted to making a mistake, explaining that insufficient checks on Williamson had been made before he was reinstated.

Williamson was one of several bishops who were excommunicated 40 years ago by then-Pope Paul VI for their rejection of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, including the celebration of the Mass in the local language, rather than in Latin.

If Benedict can be human enough to admit to having made a mistake in reinstating Bishop Williamson, then he's human enough to admit that he made a mistake in continuing to oppose the use of condoms to fight the spread of AIDS.

But I'm not holding my breath that he will. Rather than admit that he's wrong on the use of condoms to save lives, the pontiff, much like an ostrich, has chosen to bury his head in the sand.

Skeeter Sanders
Editor & Publisher
The 'Skeeter Bites Report

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Volume IV, Number 22
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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Monday, March 16, 2009

What's In a Name? Plenty, If You're Named After Adolf Hitler

Firestorm of Controversy Erupts for Parents of 3-Year-Old New Jersey Boy They Named After History's Most Evil Barbarian; His Two Younger Siblings Also Bear Nazi-Inspired Names; Parents Swear They're Not Pro-Nazi, But Local Paper Says the Father Is a Holocaust Denier

Heath Campbell (left) of Holland Township, New Jersey, with his wife Deborah and their three-year-old son Adolf Hitler, pose in this photo taken in December. The Campbells attempted to buy a birthday cake for their son at a nearby supermarket and were told that the store would not inscribe "Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler" on the cake. When word got out about the cake incident and their son's provocative name, state child-welfare officials stepped in, taking away all three of the Campbells' children -- each of which bear Nazi-inspired names. (AP file photo)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Monday, March 16, 2009)


What's in a name?

Normally, it's not a big deal, unless you're the namesake of a famous person -- or an infamous person, as the case may be.

It's not uncommon to have the same name as a celebrity -- or even a fictional character. For many years, New Yorkers knew that there was a real-life Clark Kent listed in the Manhattan telephone directory who, despite being made famous by his comic-book namesake -- the mild-mannered alter-ego of Superman -- refused to have his name removed from the directory. So the listing stayed until the real-life Kent died in 1979 at the age of 85.

Everyone knows who James Brown was: "Soul Brother Number One," "The Godfather of Soul," "The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business." But the R&B superstar, who died in 2006, has a namesake who's just as well known: He's the football announcer who co-hosts the Fox Network's "Fox NFL Sunday" pre-game show. Fox's James Brown goes simply by his initials, J.B.

There are even two famous Brian Williamses, both of whom work behind a TV anchor desk. One is the "NBC Nightly News" anchor and the other is the chief sports anchor for Canada's CBC network.

But for Heath and Deborah Campbell of Holland Township, New Jersey, having the same name as an infamous person can be a very big deal -- especially when it's their three-year-old son who has it.

The Campbells named their son after the most infamous person in the history of our planet -- which could potentially subject him to years of social ostracism as he grows up.

Their son's name? Adolf Hitler Campbell.

No, you're not reading a typographical error; it's actually on the child's birth certificate. The Campbells actually named their three-year-old son after the most evil barbarian the world has ever known.

And that's not all. Little Adolf's siblings also have Nazi-inspired names. His one-year-old sister, Joycelynn, bears the full name Joycelynn Aryan Nation Campbell and his 11-month-old sister, Honszlynn, bears the full name Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, apparently named after Heinrich Himmler, the infamous head of Nazi Germany's secret police, the Gestapo, and its military arm, the SS.


The Campbells swear that they’re neither Nazi sympathizers nor white supremacists. They denied being members of the Aryan Nations, despite giving Joycelynn that moniker as one of her middle names.

But according to a local newspaper, Heath Campbell, 35, who said he is of German descent, is a Holocaust denier and sports a Nazi swastika tattoo -- and the Campbell's living room is decorated with Nazi swastikas, war books and World War II-era German Army knives.

About 12 people attended little Adolf's birthday party last December -- including several children who were of mixed race, Heath Campbell told Philadelphia's WCAU-TV. "If we're so racist, then why would I have them come into my home?" he asked.

"He [Hitler] did this stuff, yeah, but that was in the past. America had slavery and everything else,” said Deborah Campbell, 25. The couple have been married for three years.

So why did the Campbells give their children such highly provocative names?

They claim they simply like the names. "I think people need to take their heads out of the cloud they've been in and start focusing on the future and not on the past," Heath Campbell told the TV station. "There's a new president and he says it's time for a change; well, then it's time for a change," he continued. "They need to accept a name. A name's a name. The kid isn't going to grow up and do what [Hitler] did."

But a psychologist in nearby Allentown, Pennsylvania said the Campbell children's names -- particularly Adolf's -- would cause problems for them later in life.


The controversy erupted a few days before little Adolf's birthday on December 14, when the Campbells asked a Shop-Rite supermarket in nearby Greenwich, New Jersey, to put "Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler" on the toddler's birthday cake.

The store, apparently thinking that the cake was for the Nazi leader -- who was born in Braunau, Austria on April 20, 1889 -- refused, saying it was "inappropriate." The Campbells demanded an apology from the store, but its management refused.

The Shop-Rite store also refused to make a birthday cake bearing Joycelynn's full name. Joycelynn turned 2 in February. The youngest Campbell child, Honzlynn, will turn 1 in April.

A Wal-Mart store in Lower Nazareth Township, Pennsylvania ultimately honored the Campbells' request, but apparently that didn't sit well with some shoppers at the store, for word quickly got out and complaints were filed against Wal-Mart, prompting the management there to review their cake-decorating policies. Until then, Wal-Mart had banned only obscenities.

Ultimately, the story about the Campbell children made the local newspaper, the Lehigh Valley Express-Times, which published a story on December 14 and posted it on its Web site.

After that, all hell broke loose.


The authorities were contacted, apparently out of concern that the Campbell children were being abused. Officials of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services -- accompanied by two Holland Township police officers -- went to the Campbell home on January 9 to investigate a complaint related to the children and subsequently ordered their removal.

The nature of the complaint was not disclosed, although Sergeant John Harris of the Holland Township Police Department said he was told that it had nothing to do with the children's names. "There were other factors that we were not privy to," Harris told WCAU-TV. Based on his personal dealings with the father over the past decade, Harris said he had no idea what could have led to the decision.

"I've never known him to abuse his children and when he has talked about his children he has been very much into his kids. Very loving,” Harris said, adding that his department had not received any reports of abuse or neglect.

A spokeswoman for the DYFS insisted that the state would not remove children from a home simply because they were given highly controversial names. "Just to be clear: Removal of a child from a family is only done when there's an imminent danger to a child and that wouldn't include the child's name alone," said spokeswoman Kate Bernyk.


Four days after their children were removed from their home, the Campbells were stopped by police in nearby Raritan Township while en route to a hearing in Hunterdon County Family Court.

Deborah Campbell told the Express-Times that police referred to her husband, who was behind the wheel, as "the Nazi guy," questioned him about his tattoos -- which include a swastika -- and, after apparently smelling alcohol inside the car, ordered Heath Campbell to take a sobriety test.

A Raritan Township police spokesman confirmed that officers ordered Campbell to pull over, but ticketed him only for failing to make repairs to his car, a charge stemming from a state inspection of the vehicle that found "deficiencies" that Campbell apparently had never corrected.

Deborah Campbell says it was her mother, not her husband, who was intoxicated. Deborah's mother, whose name was not disclosed, was sitting in the back seat of their car. She was accompanying the Campbells to the hearing on the chance that authorities would release the children to their grandmother if not their parents, Deborah Campbell said.


Two months after they were taken from their parents, the Campbell children remain under state custody. Following a hearing last Thursday in Hunterdon County Family Court, the Campbells' attorney, Pasquale Giannetta, said he was "pretty confident" the children will be reunited with their parents.

A decision by the court was still pending as this edition of The 'Skeeter Bites Report neared its Sunday-night deadline for posting on Monday morning.

State officials have remained mum on why the DYFS ordered the children's removal from the Campbell home, citing state confidentiality rules governing Family Court cases involving minors.

That official silence has prompted prompted persistent speculation that the children were taken from their parents precisely because of their names, amid concerns that the children, particularly Adolf, would inevitably be subjected to taunting and harassment over his name when he grows older and attends school -- unless his parents plan to home-school him.

"In three years, they've [DYFS] never been involved with us," Heath Campbell said. "They said it's not about the newspaper articles, but they took them because of their name. I don't care what anybody says."

If the Campbells are guilty of anything, it is of supreme naivete at the very least. No matter how hard his parents try to shield him, Adolf will inevitably face social ostracism from his peers; there is simply no way that a person who bears the name Adolf Hitler can escape it.

Ironically, had they lived in Germany, the Campbells would never have been allowed to name their son after Hitler, for the German Constitution strictly forbids promotion of anything associated with Nazism. In the U.S., however, the Campbells were well within their First Amendment rights to give their son any name they wished.

Nevertheless, why on Earth would any loving parent condemn his or her child to years of ostracism by giving the child the one name that, more than any other, is inextricably associated with the most horrible chapter of human history?

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Volume IV, Number 21
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders.All rights reserved.


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