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The Catholic Bishops and Condoms: Statements and Actions Opposing Condom Use as Part of an HIV Prevention Strategy


Father Philip Bené, Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations

Speaking to the UN General Assembly, Fr. Philip Bené, legal attaché to the Holy See, attempted to clarify the Holy See’s position on condoms stating, “The Holy See in no way endorses contraception or the use of condoms, either as a family planning measure or in HIV/AIDS prevention programs.”

LifeSiteNews, “At UN Vatican Reaffirms Stance Against Condoms for HIV/AIDS Prevention,” November 23, 2011.

October 2011

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops cut off funding to the NYC AIDS Housing Network, a grantee of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, after an independent report revealed that the group had been distributing condoms.

LifeSiteNews, “US Bishops’ social justice arm rejects grantee caught distributing condoms,” October 21, 2011.

May 2011

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi

At a Vatican conference on AIDS, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s representative at the United Nations, quoted from Pope Benedict’s book, “Light of the World.” He chose the passage that reads, “We cannot solve the problem (of AIDS) by distributing condoms.”

Catholic News Service, “Vatican AIDS conference focuses on need to change sexual behavior,” May 31, 2011.

December 2010

Kenya Episcopal Conference

The bishops of Kenya released a statement with their interpretation of Pope Benedict’s remarks about condoms, saying, “We reiterate and reaffirm that the position of the Catholic Church as regards the use of condoms, both as a means of contraception and as a means of addressing the grave issue of HIV/AIDS infection has not changed and remains as always unacceptable.”

LifeSiteNews, “Statement of bishops of Kenya on Pope and condoms controversy,” December 15, 2010.

November 2010

Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, Madrid, Spain

Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, secretary general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, stated that the use of condoms “always” occurs “within a context of immorality” and “can never be recommended.”

Catholic News Agency, “Pope did not legitimize condom use, affirms Spanish bishop,” November 29, 2010.

March 2010

Bishop Nereo Odchimar, Tandag Philippines

Bishop Nereo Odchimar, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said that not only should condom advertisements be prohibited, but condoms should be labeled with the warning, “Condoms may fail to protect from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.”

ABS-CBN News, “Catholic bishops want condom ads banned,” March 3, 2010.

may 2009

Congolese Bishops Conference

The statement, signed by the conference president, Bishop Nicolas Djomo Lola of Tshumbe, added, "We say no to condoms!" The prelates noted that condom use is "not only an ethical disorder but above all the proof of the trivialization of sexuality in our society." They affirmed, "Instead of preventing the spread of the disease, and without even guaranteeing complete security, [the condom] heightens human selfishness, worsens the problem, and encourages people to let themselves be driven by their sexual instincts and divests sexuality of its religious and symbolic functions."

Zenit.org, "Congolese Bishops Say Condoms Breed Selfishness" May 5, 2009.

April 2009

Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia

In a recent television interview, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, repeated Pope Benedict’s attack on the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. He stated,  “The idea that you can solve a great spiritual and health crisis like AIDS with a few mechanical contraptions like condoms is ridiculous…Condoms are encouraging promiscuity. They are encouraging irresponsibility.”

Weekend Australian, "Condoms Will Not Save Africa: Pell," April 11, 2009.

march 2009

Pope Benedict XVI

On his flight to Cameroon, Pope Benedict XVI stated in response to a reporter’s question on the HIV/AIDS epidemic: “It is my belief that the most effective presence on the front in the battle against HIV/AIDS is in fact the Catholic Church and her institutions. ... The problem of HIV/AIDS cannot be overcome with mere slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, it worsens the problem.”

“Pope replies to questions from journalists.” Vatican Information Service, March 17, 2009.

February 2009

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, heartlessly asserted that “it is quite ridiculous to go on about Aids in Africa and condoms.” According to O’Connor, there are much more important things, including “education, healthcare, and abstinence.” He also furthered the myth that condoms can cause HIV/AIDS, stating that his “diocese is flooded with condoms and there is more AIDS because of them.”

Times (London), "Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor: Recession May be Jolt that Selfish Britain Needs," February 14, 2009.

August 2008

Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona, Spain

Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona, Spain, has absurdly claimed that the Catholic Church is leading the fight against HIV/AIDS by denouncing condom use and encouraging abstinence.  According to Fernandez, “The condom is a cork,” and is “not always effective.” He went so far as to say that in the “field of AIDS, as in all fields that include the proper use of sexuality, the Church presents the proposal of true love, which brings with it a proper education in the virtue of chastity.”

Catholic News Agency, "Church Proposes More Effective Approach to AIDS, Spanish Bishop Says," August 11, 2008.

January 2008

Bishop Hugh Slattery of Tzaneen, South Africa

Bishop Hugh Slattery of Tzaneen, South Africa, recently expressed a multi-step plan for reducing the high rate of HIV/AIDS in his country that unrealistically focuses on abstinence only.  He stated that the first step is to make everyone aware of the problem and the next involves “showing that abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage will quickly stop the spread of AIDS.”  Despite his narrow approach, he even suggested, “As a Church, we are trying to lift the veil of secrecy and denial around HIV/AIDS and get people to talk about it openly.”

Zenit, "Common Sense in Fighting AIDS," January 9, 2008.

September 2007

Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, Maputo, Mozambique

The archbishop of Chimoio has accused European condom makers of intentionally trying to spread AIDS in Africa. According to Chimoio, the condoms being sent to Africa are first contaminated with HIV “in order to finish quickly the African people.” It is estimated that one in six people in Mozambique is HIV positive. While the comments have earned attention, ridicule and reprove worldwide, the Vatican has been silent on the subject, failing to publicly reprimand the archbishop or even denounce his accusations.

BBC News, "Shock at archbishop condom claim." September 26, 2007.

june 2007

Bishop Philip Sulumeti of Kakamega Diocese, chairman of the Kenya Episcopal Conference's Commission for Health

During the first national Catholic conference on HIV/AIDS in Nairobi, Bishop Sulumeti stated that the Catholic Church opposed all forms of contraceptives.  In reference to the difficult situation faced by couples where in one partner is HIV positive, he stated flatly, "Even in the case of discordant couples [where one spouse is infected], those offering care should look at all the issues affecting the couple other than the sexual aspect. One of them will have to sacrifice for the sake of the other."

Catholic Information Service for Africa,"Kenya: Catholics Reaffirm Stand Against Condoms in Fighting HIV/AIDS," Africa News, June 26, 2007.

March 2007

Cardinal Edward M Egan, New York

Cardinal Egan chided the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for its plan to distribute 18 million condoms to the public for free in an effort to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. According to Egan, the city’s initiative and encourages “inappropriate sexual activity.”

National Catholic Reporter, “Condom Giveaway,” March 2, 2007.

March 2007

Cardinal Geraldo Majella Angelo, Brazil

In the months preceding the papal visit to Brazil, officials came under harsh attack from the country’s Roman Catholic hierarchy for the government’s support of comprehensive sex education and a successful AIDS prevention program which distributes free condoms. On the television program Fantastico, Cardinal Majella, the head of the National Bishops Conference commented, “We cannot agree with condoms because they turn life into a life without responsibility.” In a later interview he added that “the use of the condom encourages people to have inconsequential and irresponsible sex.”

Reuters, “Condom debate flares in Brazil before pope visit,” March 12, 2007.
Pravda, “Brazilian government and church argue over condoms,” March 13, 2007.

december 2006

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Westminster

In response to a comment made by Tony Blair on December 1, World AIDS Day, calling on the church to reassess its position on condom use, Cardinal Murphy O’Connor criticized the prime minister’s willingness to give “more and more aid, including more condoms” to Africa for AIDS prevention. According to the cardinal, African bishops he has spoken with claim their dioceses are “flooded” with condoms and “it has meant more promiscuity and more AIDS.”

Ben Padley, “Drugs Better than Condoms in AIDS Fight, Says Cardinal,” Press Association, December 3, 2006.

november 2006

Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki, Nairobi

During the opening of the national religious leaders’ conference on stigma, denial and discrimination in Kenya, Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki urged the government to ban advertising and distributing condoms. He insisted, “There are no two ways about it…. When condoms are provided anyhowly, chances of promiscuity increase since a majority of our people end up engaging in casual sex.”

The Nation (Nairobi, Kenya), “Stop Giving Free Condoms, Say Clerics,” November 29, 2006.

november 2006

Archbishop Barry Hickey, Perth

In an interview with the Sunday Times (Perth, Australia), Perth archbishop Barry Hickey condemned those who promote condoms as a means for safe sex saying, “Society only gives false assurances to young people…because the failure rate of condoms will eventually catch up with them and the consequences of intercourse will be there…. Pregnancy is an obvious example but even as preventers of disease, condoms eventually fail…. There is another answer and that’s self-control and chastity.”

Paul Lampathakis, “Calls for Modest Dress, Less Sex,” Sunday Times (Perth, Australia), November 13, 2006.

may 2006

Cardinal Alfonso Lopéz Trujillo

In an interview for a Spanish newspaper, Cardinal Alfonso Lopéz Trujillo discredits a statement made by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini that the use of condoms for AIDS prevention is "a lesser evil," insisting that the statement was not reflective of the church's position. Despite confirmation given late in April by the President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, Cardinal Trujillo also denied that Pope Benedict XVI ordered a study on condoms.

Néstor Pongutá Puerto, "Por ahora no hay nada sobre la aceptación del uso del preservative,” El País, May 4, 2006, and John L. Allen, Jr., “Vatican in Condom Debate,” National Catholic Reporter, April 28, 2006.

january 2006

Tanzanian Episcopal Conference

Tanzania's Episcopal Conference calls material on the Ministry of Education's recently released school science syllabus "sinful" because it includes the proper use of condoms as one way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. In a statement issued on behalf of the conference, Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, the archbishop of Dar es Salaam, says the "introduction of the [teaching of] use of condoms in schools…is indeed justification and opening the door for immoral lifestyles."

Africa News, "Catholic bishops reject school syllabus over condoms," January 13, 2006.

august 2005

Bishop Paul Marx, Papua New Guinea

Bishop Paul Marx of the Diocese of Kerema in Papua New Guinea insists that an Australian National AIDS Council campaign "is sending out the wrong message that promiscuity is the normal, ordinary way of life.… By distributing condoms all over the place it will facilitate even further that promiscuity, which is the main breeding ground of HIV/AIDS." The ad, which says "No condoms, no sex," also promotes abstinence and faithfulness. However, even Bishop Marx believes that there are times when it is morally acceptable to use condoms, as he adds, "I am not of the other extreme opinion that condoms can never be used in any circumstance whatsoever."

Maureen Gerawa, "Bishop slams new condom campaign," PNG Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea), August 3, 2005.


Indian Bishops Conference

The Health Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India opposes the ABC method of HIV prevention because it includes condom use. The commission issues a statement claiming, "We do not think that condoms do much to prevent AIDS.… It's just a false promise. They say consistent and continuous use of condoms would yield results. That's not practical. So we do not support it proactively."

Indo-Asian News Service, "Church backs Bush's anti-HIV formula, nixes condoms," August 30, 2005.

june 2005

Pope Benedict XVI

In a meeting at the Vatican with visiting bishops from five African nations, Pope Benedict XVI reaffirms the hierarchy's opposition to the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, describing abstinence as the only "fail safe" method.

Associated Press, "Pope promotes abstinence to fight AIDS," June 10, 2005.

june 2005

Bishop Anthony Banzi, Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa

Tanzanian bishop Anthony Banzi, one of two spokesmen for the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) rejects condoms as a means to fight HIV/AIDS, stating during the association's 15th plenary meeting that condoms "are one of the artificial birth control methods and the Church is against birth control."

Josephine Maseruka, "Condoms not for Catholics," New Vision (Uganda), June 10, 2005.

may 2005

Archbishop Orlando Antonini, Zambia

Commenting on the challenges faced by Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Orlando Antonini, the apostolic nuncio to Zambia, defends the church's ban on condoms and asserts that the "use of condoms still constitutes a false solution" to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Chansa Kabwela, "Use of condoms is a false solution to HIV/AIDS–Nuncio Antonini," Post (Zambia), May 5, 2005.

february 2005

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, Pontifical Academy for Life

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, questions the effectiveness of condoms to prevent transmission of the HIV virus, asserting that scientific research has not proven that a condom "immunizes against infection."

Zenit, "Bishop Sgreccia Says Condoms Don't Ensure Immunity," February 17, 2005.

january 2005

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, South Africa

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, head of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, criticizes the South African government for condom promotion. "There's no medical evidence to prove that condoms prevent the transmission of AIDS and it's only 70% to 75% effective in preventing pregnancy," says Cardinal Napier.

Mail and Guardian, "Cardinal: Condoms 'clearly don't work,'" January 25, 2005.

january 2005

Vatican Statement

In response to Spanish and British bishops' statements recognizing a place for condoms in HIV/AIDS prevention, an official in Rome states: "The Vatican has always expressed its opposition to the use of condoms. The Vatican believes that the spread of AIDS is due to a breakdown in moral values."

Daily Mail (UK), "Bishops defy the Vatican over backing for condoms," January 20, 2005.

january 2005

Swiss and Croatian Bishops Conferences

The Catholic church in Switzerland publicly announces that it does not support the Spanish bishops and "remains on the same line as Rome." The Croatian Bishops Conference maintains its opposition to condoms, noting that abstinence and fidelity are the most effective methods of prevention against HIV.

Denis Barnett, "Vatican holds its ground over Spanish bishops' condom stance," Agence France Presse, January 19, 2005.

january 2005

Vatican Statement

After a bishop announces the Spanish Bishops Conference's support for condom use as part of a global HIV prevention strategy, Pope John Paul II reiterates his ban on condoms: "The Holy See...considers that it is necessary above all to combat this disease in a responsible way by increasing prevention, notably through education about respect of the sacred value of life and formation about the correct practice of sexuality, which presupposes chastity and fidelity."

The Spanish Bishops Conference retreats from its earlier stand, stating the bishop's comments "must be understood in the context of Catholic doctrine, which holds that use of condoms is immoral sexual conduct."

Associated Press, "Spain's Catholic church reverses statement in support of condom use to prevent AIDS," January 20, 2005.

november 2004

Vatican Statement

The Vatican once again misses an opportunity to revisit its ban on condoms, instead promoting abstinence as the only option for prevention.  In his written message for the XIII World Day of the Sick to take place in Cameroon in February 2005, Pope John Paul II states, "As regards the drama of AIDS, I have already had occasion in other circumstances to emphasize that AIDS is also a 'pathology of the spirit.'  In order to fight AIDS in a responsible way, its prevention should be increased through education in respect for the sacred value of life and through formation in the correct practice of sexuality."

Zenit, "Vatican Message for World AIDS Day, Dedicated This Year to Women," November 24, 2004.

june 2004

Bishop Rafael Llano Cifuentes, Brazilian Bishops Commission for Family and Life

Bishop Rafael Llano Cifuentes, the President of the Brazilian Bishops Commission for Family and Life, claims that "using a condom to stop AIDS is like trying to put out a fire with petrol." As many as 100,000 leaflets are distributed wherein he argues that the AIDS virus can pass through condoms "as easily as a cat through a garage door." He is later shown on a BBC Panorama investigation saying, "I've never seen a little dog using a condom during sexual intercourse with another dog. Animals have natural sex. Man likes the pleasure but not the consequences."

Panorama, "Condoms at Carnival," British Broadcasting Corporation, June 27, 2004, and Special Assignment: BBC Panorama,"Can Condoms Kill?" British Broadcasting Corporation, November 16, 2004.

june 2004

Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, Uganda

Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, the Archbishop of Kampala, publicly declares his support of the choice of a Catholic Ugandan woman to sleep unprotected with her infected husband rather than using condoms. "If it is wrong to use the condom, then she has made the right choice," says the cardinal.

Panorama, "Can Condoms Kill?" British Broadcasting Corporation, June 27, 2004.

february 2004

Bishop Valter Zupan and the Croatian Catholic Bishops Conference

The Croatian Catholic bishops oppose a safe-sex program in the public school system because of the inclusion of condoms as part of a broad prevention strategy.  Bishop Valter Zupan draws the ire of the medical community with distortions of science, including claims that the HIV virus passes through "pores" in condoms and that the use of condoms "increases the risk of HIV infection."

Agence France-Presse,"After yoga and Sunday shopping, Croatia's Catholic Church targets condoms," February 15, 2004.


Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, Pontifical Council for the Family

The Vatican promotes a new paper from Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council on the Family.  In "Family Values versus Safe Sex," the cardinal, most known for an appalling misstatement about condoms' ability to prevent the transmission of the HIV on the BBC's Panorama program "Sex and the Holy City," misrepresents scientific research to advance his flawed and unjust view on the ethics of condom use. 

october 2003

Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, Pontifical Council for the Family

Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, says that the HIV virus is small enough to pass through condoms and promoting condom use is like playing "Russian roulette" with AIDS. He remarks further that "safe-sex" campaigns are dangerous because they increase promiscuity and give condom users a false sense of security.

Nicole Winfield, "Just what is the Vatican position on condoms to fight AIDS? Depends on who's talking, and where," Associated Press, March 16, 2004.

september 2003

Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, Uganda

Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala of Uganda says condoms were originally made for prostitutes and "if we want to promote immorality then we shall continue advocating artificial methods like condoms."

Africa News, "Condoms promote immorality," September 29, 2003.

august 2001

Southern African Bishops Conference

In response to a proposal to sanction condom use, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference releases a statement saying that widespread promotion of condom use is "an immoral and misguided weapon in our battle against HIV/AIDS." Reading from the statement, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier says, "Condoms may even be one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV/AIDS. Apart from the possibility of condoms being faulty or wrongly used, they contribute to the breaking down of self-control and mutual respect."

Australian, "Bishops attack use of condoms in AIDS war," August 1, 2001.

December 2000

Father Felice Ruffini, Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers

At a Vatican conference on AIDS, Camillian Father Felice Ruffini, undersecretary to the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, says that because the church teaches that all sexual relations outside of marriage are immoral, the question of condom use in those circumstances is superfluous. He further argues that while "it's tough to be able to maintain matrimonial chastity," condom use in marriages in which one partner is infected with HIV is still prohibited and moralists cannot craft "an exception to Christ's law."

America, "Vatican: AIDS Problem Involves More Than Condoms," December 16, 2000.

december 2000

Bonifacio Honings, Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers

A Dutch moral theologian who does consultancy work for the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, Bonifacio Honings of the Discalced Carmelites, says that a husband with HIV has no right to request sexual relations from his healthy wife. "If it is true love on the part of the husband, he will do everything possible to not demand such a dangerous relation from his wife," he says. At the same time, the wife could choose to consent to sexual relations "to avoid worse things—her husband becoming intractable, or the husband being unfaithful to her, etc," he says.

America, "Vatican: AIDS Problem Involves More Than Condoms," December 16, 2000.

october 1997

Father Jacques Suaudeau, Pontifical Council for the Family

Father Jacques Suaudeau, a medical doctor who is a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family, claims that using condoms during sexual intercourse will not protect against transmission of the HIV virus.

Tablet, October 18, 1997.

September 1997

Archbishop Norberto Rivera Carrera, Mexico

With the support of PROVIDA, a conservative prolife group in Mexico, Mexico's Archbishop Norberto Rivera Carrera rejects the use of contraceptives in marriage. In his homily, Rivera Carrera instructs parishioners not to use intrauterine devices and condoms, arguing that they are methods that destroy the sexual unity between spouses.

Crónica, "Rivera Carrera rechaza los métodos anticonceptivos dentro del matrimonio," September 1, 1997.

february 1996

Vatican Statement

The Vatican advises parents to "reject the promotion of 'safe sex' or 'safer sex,' a dangerous and immoral policy based on the deluded theory that the condom can provide adequate protection against AIDS."

Pontifical Council for the Family, "The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality," Origins, February 1, 1996.

FEbruary 1996

Peruvian Bishops Conference

The Peruvian Bishops Conference releases a letter, "Building a Culture of Life," that criticizes the government's promotion of a sex education program geared toward adolescents. It claims the program is devoid of moral values and social responsibility. It asserts that the program is limited to education on prophylactics and condoms, and thus encourages recreational sex that does not take into account responsibility for consequences.

Catholic World Report, March 1996

Please cite as:
Condoms4Life, "The Catholic Bishops and Condoms: Statements and Actions Supporting Condom Use to Prevent the Spread of HIV," Washington DC: Catholics for Choice, 2011.

read The Catholic Bishops and Condoms:
Statements and Actions Supporting Condom Use as Part of an HIV Prevention Strategy