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Catholics around the Globe Urge Pope Benedict XVI to Lift the Ban on Condoms

November 30, 2006

LETTER TO POPE BENEDICT XVI Asks the Vatican to Change Policy, Help Prevent the Spread of HIV and AIDS

Vatican City – In recognition of World AIDS Day, Catholics from around the globe are calling on the pope to lift the ban on condoms in order to help stem the spread of HIV and AIDS. On December 1st, Catholics for a Free Choicewill deliver a Letter to Pope Benedict XVI signed by thousands of individuals from more than 110 countries which asks the pope to recognize the negative effects the Vatican’s opposition to condoms has on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and calls on him to act quickly and overturn the ban. Signatures to the letter will continue to be collected until the Vatican changes its teaching on condoms.

The Letter to Pope Benedict XVI takes on more significance with the recent announcement by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, that a working group assembled in April has recently delivered its findings on “contraception in the age of AIDS” to the pope and the Committee for the Doctrine of the Faith for further action.

Speaking about the Vatican’s investigation into condom use, Jon O’Brien, executive vice president of Catholics for a Free Choice, said, “Pope Benedict XVI has a great opportunity to set forth a life-saving path for the Catholic church. As the church plays a large role in how AIDS is perceived and treated in many parts of the globe, officially lifting the ban on condoms is vital to stemming the spread of HIV and AIDS.” O’Brien also has a podcast about the issue available here.

The Catholic church and its related organizations currently account for more than 25 percent of AIDS care globally, making it the largest single provider of such services in the world.  Moreover, in many areas, they are the only provider of AIDS and HIV care and treatment.  In addition to the church’s role as a care provider, the Catholic hierarchy is outspoken on moral and scientific matters, and its influence is often very significant on these issues, especially in poor and developing countries.

Given its parallel roles, as service provider and outspoken moral arbiter, the Vatican’s ban on condoms is having severely detrimental effects: many AIDS care workers are forced to hand out condoms under the table, thus risking their jobs. While many bishops have spoken out in favor of the use of condoms, others still counsel that abstinence is the only solution for preventing the spread of AIDS.  Some bishops have gone so far as to cast doubt or outright deny the efficacy of condoms, further contributing to misinformation about the fatal disease. In fact, the Vatican’s most recent official statement has been from Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council of the Family, who erroneously claimed in an interview with the BBC“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 WHO rejected this claim outright, calling it “dangerous” given the spread of the pandemic.

The Letter to Pope Benedict XVI is available to read here and already has signers from more than 110 countries, including 38 Members of the European Parliament. Many signatories have appended poignant stories about how the ban affects them and their communities. The effort to add signatures will continue until the pope rescinds the ban.

The petition is a project of the Condoms4Life Campaign, which was started in 2001, and is an unprecedented worldwide public education effort to raise public awareness about the devastating effect of the bishops’ ban on condoms and to put pressure on bishops and the Vatican to change the church’s teaching on the matter.

Speaking about the ban and the letter to the pope, O’Brien continued, “The injunction against condoms was created at a time when AIDS did not exist. A leader’s first commitment should always be to those he serves, not to a dated ideology.  By lifting the ban on condoms, he will enable couples and families the world over to protect themselves and their loved ones from the ravages of AIDS, and choose a truly prolife path.”

A copy of the letter and statements from bishops who support condom use is available on our Web site,

For more information, please contact Erin Smith, Press Officer of Catholics for a Free Choice, at +1 (202) 986-6093 or +1 (202) 340-1207.