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Campaign to End Catholic Bishops’ Ban on Condoms Targets US Bishops Meeting in Washington, DC

November 11, 2003

Congress, AIDS advocates, and public urged to protest Catholic cardinals’ and bishops’ lying about condoms’ effectiveness to fight AIDS.


Washington, DC—A campaign to end the Catholic bishops’ ban on condoms is targeting the US bishops’ meeting this week in Washington, DC, and today is running a Washington Post federal page ad with the tagline GOOD CATHOLICS USE CONDOMS. The multi-pronged public education campaign is asking members of Congress, AIDS advocates, and the public to protest blatantly false claims by Catholic cardinals and bishops that condoms do not prevent HIV transmission. Sponsored by Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), this week’s campaign is part of a larger global campaign to end the Catholic bishops’ ban on condoms—Condoms4Life at

Using a mix of on-line action alerts, print advertising, Congressional information packets, and public sign-on letters, CFFC is seeking to stop the Catholic church hierarchy from further endangering people at risk of HIV/AIDS infection. Campaign materials cite Cardinal Alfonso Trujillo’s claim on a recent BBC program that “the AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the ‘net’ that is formed by the condom.” The World Health Organization immediately declared, “These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million.” WHO maintains “consistent and correct” use of condoms reduces transmission by 90%.

Frances Kissling, CFFC president, states in a November 11th letter to Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops,

As Catholic organizations, we are bound by a moral and ethical framework that calls on us to address the global AIDS crisis with compassion, intensity, and above all, common sense. In this vein, we believe that the Catholic church should lift the ban on condoms as a moral and humanitarian matter. But, if not, the church should at the very least be clear that its objections to condoms as a means of HIV/AIDS prevention are ecclesiastical, not scientific. Accordingly, we call upon you and your fellow bishops at this important annual meeting to repudiate the incorrect information that has been circulated by officials of the Catholic church, and we strongly urge you to be scrupulously honest in describing the effectiveness of condoms in the future.

The information packets sent to Congress contain news stories on the Vatican’s recent statements and a cover letter cites examples in the long history of the church making irresponsible comments regarding the use and efficacy of condoms. In Kenya, where an estimated 20 percent of people have the AIDS virus, the Archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi Nzeki, said, “AIDS . . . has grown so fast because of the availability of condoms.” Even in the US, Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, DC, made a statement to the press that “Condoms too often fail in preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.”

The Condoms4Life campaign has praised those bishops who support a change in church policy. For example, Bishop Kevin Dowling from Rustenburg, South Africa has spoken out in favor of condoms as an AIDS prevention tool. In the current issue of U.S. Catholic, Bishop Dowling has written an article entitled “Let’s not condemn condoms in the fight against AIDS,” in which he states, “I believe our credibility as a church is on the line here . . . . For me, the condom . . . question is not simply a matter of chastity but of justice.”

CFFC’s campaign targeting the US bishops this week includes the following elements.

  • Advocacy Advertising
  • Federal page ad in the Washington Post on Tuesday, November 11th
  • Full page ad in the November 17th issue of National Catholic Reporter
  • Ads will be accessible at
  • Information Packet on the bishops’ ban on condoms sent to every US senator and representative serving on committees dealing with HIV/AIDS
  • Sign-On Letter delivered during meeting to Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, head of US Conference of Catholic Bishops, with signatures from Catholic women’s groups and Catholic organizations working for democratic change in the church
  • Action Alert on enabling the public to send individual letters and use the e-mail network to lobby the bishops to end their ban on condoms

The letter to members of Congress highlights how dangerous the Catholic cardinals’ and bishops’ false claims about condoms can be and states:

CFFC believes that no agency which provides false information regarding condom effectiveness or that refuses to offer education about all available methods of preventing the transmission of the virus should receive any government support. The information about condom leakage and ineffectiveness is blatantly false and should not be part of any educational, preventative, or treatment program that receives US government funds.