Friday, September 3, 2010

Sometimes hell is the lesser of two evils

I loved this story from MetaFilter:

A decade or so ago I worked for a Catholic NGO in a desperately poor little country with terrifyingly high rates of HIV. I taught disabled slum kids. Some of them found it necessary to earn their families' incomes through sex work. Others were married, or planning on getting married, and really could have used a little education about birth control. But, given the religious position of the organization, it was absolutely off limits for me to mention anything except abstinence.

One day, in a fit of frustration and anger, I took this up with my boss (who was a priest). He hmmmed and hawwed a little, then provided the diplomatic but entirely unsatisfying response "I know that for people with no other joys in their lives except sex and raising children, it must be incredibly hard to pursue abstinence as a birth control method, but we try to follow what we believe is god's will, and we ask that you do the same." I had a bit of a hissy fit about HIV and stomped out of his office.

A few days later, I was visiting one of my student's families, and I saw a nun from the organisation pulling up outside a brothel down the road. I wandered over, and asked what she was doing with the enormous box of condoms that she was untying from her bike rack. She managed to simultaneously glare and grin, and said (in a classic Irish nun accent) "You know, Ahab, sometimes hell is the lesser of two evils..."

(off topic, I know, but I've been wanting to tell someone that story for 11 years now.)

posted by Ahab at 10:34 PM on September 2 [168 favorites]