Press Releases 2002

Reform Catholics Praise Bishop on World AIDS Day, December 1st

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Continued Vatican Ban on condoms is, however, antithesis of theme for World AIDS Day

Washington, D.C.– Catholics for a Free Choice today singled out Bishop Kevin Dowling, Bishop of Rustenburg, South Africa, for praise this World AIDS Day for continuing to speak out in favor of an end to the Catholic hierarchy’s ban on the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Catholics for a Free Choice has just launched a global postcard campaign in which they ask the public to send a thank you to Bishop Dowling who advocated a change in the condom ban at the Southern Africa Bishops Conference in 2001.

While Bishop Dowling’s proposal was defeated at that meeting, he has continued to work for change by speaking out at the United Nations first World Conference on AIDS in New York last year, in spite of the positions taken by the Holy See delegates to the meeting. Earlier this month, Bishop Dowling spoke at a meeting of the London-based Catholic Institute for International Relations which issued a statement saying that condoms can be “a life saving option” and “should not be discounted.”

The simple black and white postcard says: “Thank you, Bishop Dowling, for showing compassion, leadership, courage, and good sense in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

Catholics for a Free Choice is the organizer of the global condoms4life campaign which has placed billboards, newspaper advertisements and public transportation ads in 10 countries around the world critical of the Vatican’s ban on condoms, and in particular, the silent acquiescence of Catholic bishops who stand behind the ban while the death toll from AIDS mounts.

“Bishop Dowling’s leadership in seeking justice for those affected by HIV/AIDS and working to remove the ban on condoms makes him the sort of role model that lay Catholics want to hold up to his brother bishops. He is an inspiration to all of us working in the church for compassion and change. Most importantly, Bishop Dowling reminds us that the hierarchy’s ban is not monolithic, there is a plurality of views in the church on the use of condoms and that change is achievable,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. Kissling added: “The fact remains that bishops who continue to support the ban on condoms show a continued disregard for the sanctity of human life that is the antithesis of this year’s theme for World AIDS Day: “Live and Let Live.”

“The Vatican and the world’s bishops bear significant responsibility for the increasing death toll from HIV/AIDS. For individuals who feel compelled to follow the Vatican policy and Catholic health care providers who are forced to deny condoms, the ban has tragic consequences. Real people–men, women and children — are dying from AIDS. People should not stand by and allow the ban to go unchallenged. The Vatican policy not only spreads death but it goes against the gospel traditions of compassion and healing,” she said.

As well as urging people around the globe to send postcards of support to Dowling, CFFC is continuing its global public education campaign on HIV/AIDS and is mailing out posters from the condoms4life campaign and copies of a special edition of its magazine Conscience, which focuses on HIV/AIDS and the church.

Kissling cited some grim statistics on HIV/AIDS that the Vatican and bishops should consider:

  • 40 million people across the world have HIV/AIDS.
  • In 2001, 3 million people died of HIV/AIDS. That amounts to 8,000 people a day.
  • 14,000 new cases occur every day.
  • 95 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases occur in the world’s poorest countries.

“The church can no longer continue to ignore this crisis. CFFC and our international partners will continue to bring international pressure on the Vatican in an attempt to get them to address this crisis by lifting its ban on condoms as a way to save lives,” Kissling said.

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.