Pope Arrives in Spain Amid Censorship Controversy
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International Youth Coalition Seconds Archbishop’s Affirmation of Freedom of Expression
The World Youth Day 4 All coalition welcomed the remarks from Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez of Toledo, Spain, who pointed out that the Catholic World Youth Day celebration is taking place in a country where freedom of expression is protected.
“Spain’s openness to freedom of expression is something Catholics for Choice took for granted when we arranged, months in advance, for the display of our Condoms4Life ads in Madrid’s transit system to coincide with World Youth Day,” said Marissa Valeri, a lead organizer of the coalition. “We were surprised, then, when the message ‘Good Catholics Use Condoms’ was deemed too offensive for Madrilenos. In reality, the best interests of the public was not the issue. Instead, it was a move made by ultraconservatives to stifle the many diverse voices of Catholics at World Youth Day, which should be a place where, as Archbishop Rodriguez affirmed, ‘we can all say what we want to say.’
The municipal authorities did a disservice to all visitors and to all Spaniards by stepping between the life-giving message that condoms save lives, on the one hand, and the individual’s right to make up his or her mind about that message, on the other.”
Condoms are apparently not the only topic that is too hot to handle in Madrid this August. Patrons at the Madrid public library have allegedly complained they were unable to access Web sites providing information on protests being organized against World Youth Day.
One of the hallmarks of the Catholic tradition is unity in diversity. Like the World Youth Day 4 All coalition, the event itself is made up of participants from all over the world, people who may speak different languages and come from different cultures, but who find kinship on the level of faith. The church hierarchy obviously feels that Spain’s respect for freedom of expression gives them room to express their viewpoint—Archbishop Rodriguez even decries those who think that certain points of view are “more right than others.” Spain’s civic freedoms should be able to include the voices of the Catholic people—including those who support the use of condoms—as well as the perspectives of non-Catholics. Otherwise, the “world” part of World Youth Day goes missing, and those from a tiny, easily ruffled minority within the Catholic hierarchy and the Spanish authorities are the only ones celebrating.
Luckily, diversity is not so easily squelched—the Condoms4Life message has been making headlines all week (see the blog, and pilgrims have encountered stickers and projections on walls around the city.
Condoms4Life (www.Condoms4Life.org) is an unprecedented worldwide public education effort to raise public awareness about the devastating effect of the bishops’ ban on condoms. The campaign was launched at World AIDS Day 2001 with billboards and ads in subways and newspapers saying, “Banning Condoms Kills.” According to its own figures, the Catholic church provides as much as one quarter of all care to people living with HIV and AIDS. The pope has recognized the value of condoms in the fight against HIV transmission. However, a few vocal, ultraconservative members of the Catholic hierarchy have tried to rewrite the pope’s words, and with them the truth about condom use by Catholics and in healthcare delivery by Catholic organizations across the globe. With this new ad campaign Catholics for Choice stands by the pope’s statements on condoms as an HIV prevention method that saves lives.