Fighting AIDS under Francis?
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Francis has become a symbol of fresh air in the institutional Catholic church. He’s been lauded in the media as a progressive pope, an environmentalist—on his recent trip to Africa, he was nicknamed the Pope of Hope. But has his more pastoral tone made any substantive change within the church? Are the Catholic bishops following his lead? On World AIDS Day, December 1, we ask how the church hierarchy is responding to HIV & AIDS under Francis.
When it comes to reproductive health and bodily autonomy, bishops are certainly keeping business as usual. Under Francis’ leadership, the hierarchy still makes statements against condom use to prevent HIV. This raises serious questions about whether people are getting the services they need under development aid even though church-controlled charities take taxpayer money.
For World AIDS Day, we call for change: Condoms are a life-affirming, positive good.
Anti-condom Statements under Pope Francis’ Leadership
Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference
The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference released a statement at the conclusion of the International Pro-Life Conference held in Accra. The communiqué, signed by Bishop Anthony Adanuty of Keta-Katsi, vice-president of the bishops’ conference, denounced “the radical promotion of abortion, the use of condoms and other forms of contraception by various international groups and organizations through international platforms and humanitarian aid.”
Catholic World News, “Ghana Bishops’ Pro-life Conference Denounces Abortion, Upholds Sacramental Marriage,” August 20, 2015
Forty-five bishops from 40 African countries signed the Common Declaration of the Bishops of Africa and Madagascar, which stated, “The billions of dollars allotted to the production and distribution of condoms and contraceptives and to the establishment of sex-education programs that do not respect universal moral norms are a scandal.”
Mark Judge, “‘This is a New Type of Slavery!’ African Bishops Denounce ‘Colonialist Spirit’ of Contraception, Abortion Agenda,” CNS News, September 22, 2015.
Aleteia.org, “Common Declaration of the Bishops of Africa and Madagascar,” June 2015
At a parish celebration in Nsambya, Uganda, Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala exhorted the faithful to avoid sexual promiscuity because “you were not created to use condoms.”
New Vision (Uganda), “You Were Not Created to Use Condoms – Cardinal Wamala,” June 29, 2015
The bishop’s office of Getafe, Spain, wrote a letter to the local authorities expressing “indignation” about the policy of distributing condoms during church feast days. The letter said, “The bishop’s office of Getafe profoundly laments the damage to young people’s consciences produced by this action” because “these types of gestures, far from preventing pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, encourage promiscuity… [and ] high-risk behaviors….”
Diócesis de Getafe, “El Obispado de Getafe Lamenta el Daño en la Conciencia Causado a los Jóvenes por la Entrega de Preservativos,” May 14, 2015
Bishop Antonio González Sánchez of Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, spoke out against the distribution of 50,000 condoms by the Tamaulipas Secretary of Health. “Where is the education in passing out condoms [to young people]?” the bishop asked. “To me it is an invitation to have sex.”
El Mañana (Mexico), “Repartir Condones… Incita al Sexo: Obispo,” March 29, 2015
Bishop Philip Egan, Portsmouth, UK
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth described a theoretical charity for the homeless that distributes food boxes. He said that the inclusion of “various toiletries and condoms” would be “gravely morally wrong and any co-operation with the third-party charity would need to both definitively exclude participation in those activities and … [make] a clear public statement distancing the confirmation candidates from these activities of the charity.”
Catholic Herald (UK), “Bishop Egan to Priests: Be Careful about the Charities You Support,” March 20, 2015
Bishop Luis Felipe Gallardo Martín del Campo of Veracruz, Mexico, expressed his dissatisfaction with the distribution of condoms at the local carnival. Speaking to Marcha.com, the bishop criticized “the donation of condoms” because it encouraged people “to have relations with anyone they meet.”
Cinthia Zúñiga, “Carnaval Promueve Crimen y Promiscuidad: Obispo,” Marcha.com (Mexico), February 16, 2015
Archbishop Javier del Río Alba, Arequipa, Perú
Archbishop Javier del Río Alba of Arequipa, Perú, opposed the Ministry of Health’s policy of distributing condoms in schools to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. He said that the more than 100 Catholic schools in Arequipa would close “before such an aberration” because “distributing condoms is not providing education.”
Zenaida Condori Contreras, “Colegios Católicos Impedirán el Reparto de Preservativos,” La República (Perú), February 19, 2015
Bishop Cesare Bonivento, Vanimo, Papua New Guinea
Bishop Cesare Bonivento of Vanimo, Papua New Guinea, reproved the education department’s decision to provide condoms to students, saying that the use of condoms is like “a gun that instead of killing the enemy, very often exploded in the hands of the one who wanted to use it for personal defence.”
AsiaNews.it, “Bishop Bonivento’s Service to the Country Recognised with National Award,” January 5, 2015
Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference
The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference released a statement about the government’s role in helping international organizations impose foreign values. The statement said in part, “We also deplore in no uncertain terms a radical and faceless culture of death which promotes among other things the supply and use of the condom in our schools….”
Ghana StarrFMOnline (103.5PM), “Stop Promoting Condom Use in Schools, It’s a Deathly Culture – Catholic Bishops,” November 16, 2014
Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, Jos, Nigeria
Speaking at the 2014 Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Nigeria said, “Now you come to tell us about reproductive rights, and you give us condoms and artificial contraceptives. Those are not the things we want. We want food, we want education, we want good roads….”
Joshua J. McElwee, “African Archbishop Frankly Criticizes Western Attitudes at Synod,” National Catholic Reporter, October 8, 2014
Archbishop Héctor Aguer, La Plata, Argentina
Archbishop Héctor Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, characterized condoms as a “gadget” that allows people to go against the Commandments because “the condom is used to commit adultery.” He further stated that promoting the use of condoms to prevent disease was a “manipulation of sexuality.”
Diario Uno (Argentina), “El Arzobispo de La Plata Criticó la Utilización del Preservativo: ‘Se lo Usa para Cometer Adulterio,’” September 21, 2014
Bishop Jaime Fuentes, Mina, Uruguay
In his blog, “Desde el Verdún,” Bishop Jaime Fuentes of Mina, Uruguay, responded to a pamphlet on sexuality produced by the National Administration of Public Education, which contained information and diagrams on how to use condoms. The bishop, who is also head of the Pastoral Commission for Family and Life for the Uruguayan Bishops’ Conference, depicted discussions of condom use as “gender ideology, whose pretention is to change the Judeo-Christian concept of the family and sexuality.”
Bishop Jaime Fuentes, “La Hilacha Majestuosa (Cómo enfrentar un tsunami-5),” Desde el Verdún Blog, July 23, 2014
Bishop Crispin Varquez of the Borongo Diocese, Philippines, commented about relief organizations distributing condoms to typhoon-affected areas: “We must be extra careful in dealing with NGOs, which promote artificial reproductive devices. They are taking advantage of the vulnerability of the victims.”
Jocelyn R. Uy, “Bishop Slams Agencies Distributing Condoms, Pills to Women in Yolanda-hit Areas,” Philippines Inquirer, May 14, 2014
In an interview with Radio 780 AM Paraguay, Bishop Gogorza Izaguirre of Encarnación said that the church “does not allow” the use of condoms and “will not change” this position because “there are ecclesiastical norms that we cannot contradict.” The bishop further stated that “celibacy and monogamy” are the best ways to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
Paraguayan News Portal (PPN.com.py), “Preocupa Aumento de Casos de Sífilis en el País,” March 11, 2014.
Radio 780 AM, “No Variará la Prohibición de la Iglesia Católica sobre el Uso del Condón,” Mons. Ignacio Gogorza,” Twitter.com, March 11, 2014
“The solution is not condoms but change of lifestyle, abstinence and fidelity. They have not learned from the experience of Africa,” said Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila. “Sex education of the government and loose morals in the media promote promiscuity and these are fertile grounds of HIV.”
Jocelyn R. Uy, “Bishop Says Condoms Not Effective against HIV/AIDS,” Philippines Inquirer, March 18, 2014
Bishop Dorick Wright of Belize City and Belmopan, a prominent figure in the Central American church, singled out several programs for condoning condom use. The Red Cross and the National AIDS Commission came under fire because, according to Wright, they “foster programmes that ultimately undermine our Catholic values.”
Jon Stibbs, “Bishop Wants Pro-condom, Pro-choice Groups out of Schools,” Tablet (UK), March 18, 2014
Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Commission on Family and Life for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, called for condom ads to be removed from television networks. “These ads are corrupting the minds and hearts of our young people. And these are being shown in the prime time so the children will be able to watch it,” Castro said over Radio Veritas.
CBCP News, “CBCP Exec Seeks Stop on Condom Ads,” February 11, 2014
Bishop Raúl Vera López, Saltillo, Mexico
Bishop Raúl Vera López of the Diocese of Saltillo, Mexico, responded to a proposed law that would require schools to offer condoms to students, stating that Catholic schools would not participate because “we are very sorry, but we have freedom of conscience.”
María Eugenia Alvarado, “‘Escuelas Católicas No Distribuirán Condones,’” Vanguardia (Mexico), September 10, 2013
Bishop Gabriel Reyes, Bishop of Antipolo and chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, compared Catholics paying for condom subsidies to making Muslims support pork consumption: “The Muslims would get angry and that’s like what they’re doing to us. They should also respect Catholic beliefs.”
Philip C. Tubeza, “Lay Leader Asks Why Catholics Should Subsidize Condoms,” Philippines Daily Inquirer, July 23, 2013
Archbishop Peter Kairo, Nyeri, Kenya
Archbishop Peter Kairo of Nyeri, Kenya, said to a congregation in Othaya, “As the Catholic Church we are not promoting use of condoms. I don’t agree with the advertisements on the billboards and newspapers that say Catholics believe in sex which is sacred and that they believe in using condoms,” referring to advertisements sponsored by Catholics for Choice.
James Ngunjiri, “Church Affirms Stand against Condom Use,” Daily Nation (Kenya), April 28, 2013
The Catholic church in Samoa is opposed to a health authority initiative to distribute free condoms on the campus of the National University of Samoa. Spokesman Fr. Ioane Ono said on the air, “There’s no guarantee that these condoms protect the passing on of diseases. And on the other side of the coin, it is promoting promiscuity and promoting fornication.”
Radio Australia, “Samoan Catholic Church Gives Thumbs Down to Free Condom Plan,” April 25, 2013.
Faced with a memorandum of agreement with provincial authorities that would require condom distribution at all health facilities, Bishop Rolando Santos created a diocesan policy on condoms.
The guidelines call the use of condoms “intrinsically evil” and say that they “may even be one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
Catholic Church of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, “Diocese of Alotau Rejects Government Policy on Condoms,” April 3, 2013
Catholics for Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women's well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives.