Catholics Look for New Theme in Papal Christmas Message
New Condoms Poll Shows Catholics Want Pope to Change Teaching
Washington, DC—On December 25, Pope Benedict XVI will be giving the annual Christmas message to Catholics around the world. Past topics have included violence, poverty, hunger and the deterioration of spirituality in the modern world. This year Catholics for Choice urges the pope to address solutions for a problem affecting millions of people worldwide—the AIDS epidemic.
Even in the face of a disease that costs many lives, the Vatican has stubbornly refused to lift its ban on condoms. A new multinational poll, however, shows that Catholics the world over believe that using condoms is prolife because it prevents the spread of HIV and AIDS. Christmas is the perfect time for Pope Benedict XVI to change the Catholic church’s outdated anti-condom view to better reflect modern conditions and the views of many Catholics today.
According to the poll, which interviewed Catholics living in Ghana, Ireland, Mexico, the Philippines and the United States, the support for condom use is overwhelming. When asked if “using condoms is prolife because it helps save lives by preventing the spread of AIDS,” 90% of Catholics in Mexico, 86% in Ireland, 79% in the US, 77% in thePhilippines and 59% in Ghana agreed.
Unfortunately, the Catholic hierarchy’s position holds the most sway in the countries least able to deal economically and medically with the disease. Whereas Catholics in Ireland (79%), the US (63%) and Mexico (60%) overwhelmingly agreed that “the church’s position on condoms is wrong and should be changed,” the numbers for Catholics in the Philippines (47%) and Ghana (37%) were lower. These results are not surprising, especially in the Philippines where the bishops’ conference has tremendous political influence. The results are also indicative of the fact that in many countries outside Europe and North America the Catholic hierarchy’s teachings can profoundly influence people’s behavior, even if following those teachings runs contrary to their health and that of their families. Ghana, which demonstrates the most support for the Vatican’s position, has the highest HIV prevalence rate of all the countries surveyed.
When questioned about the church’s responsibility to help prevent the spread of AIDS in a health care context, 87% of Irish Catholics; 86% of Mexican Catholics; 73% of US Catholics; 65% of Philippino Catholics and 60% of Ghanaian Catholics believe that “Catholic hospitals and clinics that the government funds should be required to include condoms as parts of AIDS prevention.”
The Catholic church is not blind to the contradiction that its policy causes. A year ago, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, presented to the pope a study on condom use in the case of married couples wherein one partner has HIV/AIDS. The document, which was originally lauded as an indication that the Vatican was considering changing its stance, however, was never published, and now sits languishing in a Vatican vault. Meanwhile, married women in Ghana are three times as likely as unmarried women to contract HIV.
Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, commented: “Christmas is a time for giving, and Catholics have shown that they want the pope to do some giving this year—giving the gift of life. As a result of the AIDS epidemic, every day, more people are infected and more people die. Catholics have spoken out again ands again and want the Vatican to come out and support the use of condoms. There are substantial theological grounds—and even more humanitarian and compassionate grounds—to change this policy. It is high time for that change to happen and no better time than Christmas.”
Notes to Editors: The poll was carried out by Belden Russonello & Stewart and is based on a random sample of Catholics over the age of 18 in five countries: 405 Catholics in Ghana, 829 in Ireland, 1,260 in Mexico, 962 in the Philippines, and 1,009 in the United States. Four questions were included as part of omnibus surveys in each country using a combination of face-to-face and telephone interviewing between the dates of August 15 and September 10, 2007. The questionnaire was translated into Tagalog in the Philippines and into Spanish in Mexico; all other countries used the English version of the questionnaire. The margin of sampling error at the 95% level of confidence is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points for Ghana, 3.4 percentage points for Ireland, 2.8 percentage points for Mexico, 3.2 percentage points for the Philippines and 3.1 percentage points for the United States. When appropriate and possible the results have been weighted to match population parameters.