Global Campaign to End Catholic Bishops’ Ban on Condoms Comes to Canada
Toronto billboards stating “Banning Condoms Kills” are part of massive mobilizing effort in U.S., Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America to change Vatican’s condom policy.
The first global campaign to end the Catholic bishops’ ban on condoms arrived in Canada today with Toronto billboards carrying the message “Banning Condoms Kills.” Placed at two prominent spots by Catholics for a Free Choice-Canada (CFFC-C), the billboard advertisements are part of an unprecedented worldwide public education effort aimed at Catholics and non-Catholics alike to raise public awareness of the devastating effect of the bishops’ ban on condoms. Canada is the first country in which the global campaign is to appear outside of the United States. Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), who launched the campaign in Washington, DC on World AIDS Day 2001, said there is nothing controversial about saving lives by encouraging people who are sexually active to use condoms. The Archdiocese of Washington felt differently and launched a campaign to ban the ads. The Archdiocese failed in this attempt. In fact, the campaign proved so successful that CFFC extended it for another month on city bus shelters. The ads, which will appear in a dozen countries throughout the year, invite the public to join a global campaign to end the ban—Condoms4life at www.condoms4life.org. People who join the campaign are asked to contact local policy makers, expressing support for the availability of condoms and concern that Catholic bishops not undermine responsible public health policy on HIV/AIDS.
“The Condoms4Life campaign comes to Canada at a time of grave concern over increased risk for HIV infection in Canadian youth,” stated Kathleen Howes, coordinator of CFFC-C. “With Toronto hosting World Youth Day this summer with 750,000 young people from around the world, what better time for the Canadian bishops to publicly urge the Vatican to endorse the use of condoms in order to save lives.”
The two Toronto billboards will go up on February 1st on Jefferson Avenue and Liberty (140’ x 16’) and on Front Street at Blue Jay Way (40’ x 10’). Similar billboard advertisements will appear throughout February in countries with a significant Catholic population or AIDS crisis, including Mexico, Belgium, the Philippines, Italy, Bolivia, Kenya, South Africa, Chile and Zimbabwe, with newspaper ads reinforcing the message, “Catholic People Care—Do Our Bishops? Banning Condoms Kills.” (Ads can be viewed at www.condoms4life.org) This public education effort is the first phase of a sustained mobilizing effort to change the Vatican’s policy and its aggressive lobbying against the availability of and access to condoms, especially in areas of the world where HIV transmission and AIDS deaths are rising dramatically.“The Vatican and the world’s bishops bear significant responsibility for the deaths of thousands of people who have died from AIDS,” stated Frances Kissling, president of CFFC in Washington, DC, who initiated the campaign. “For individuals who follow Vatican policy and Catholic health care providers who are forced to deny condoms, the bishops’ ban is a disaster. Real people are dying from AIDS. Real bishops are silently acquiescent. We can no longer stand by and allow the ban to go unchallenged.”
The effect of the bishops’ ban on condoms—the only technology available that can prevent sexual transmission of HIV—has been noted by world leaders in the fight against AIDS. UNAIDS director, Peter Piot, stated in June 2001, “When priests preach against using contraception, they are committing a serious mistake which is costing human lives. We do not ask the church to promote contraception, but merely to stop banning its use.”
The Condoms4life campaign ads point out that many of the 4,435 plus bishops worldwide actively lobby governments and the United Nations to restrict access to condoms claiming that condoms cause AIDS, not prevent it. For example, the South African Catholic Bishops Conference said:
“Widespread and indiscriminate promotion of condoms [is] an immoral and misguided weapon in our battle against HIV-AIDS. … Condoms may even be one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV-AIDS.”
The Condoms4life campaign is particularly important in Catholic countries. “When the head of the Mexican Red Cross, responding to pressure from the Catholic bishops, came out and said that condoms cause AIDS, the impact was devastating,” stated María Consuelo Mejía, director of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, México. “With 150,000 Mexicans living with HIV, we cannot afford any confusion about the best way to prevent HIV transmission—use a condom every time you have sex.”
The Condoms4Life website contains facts on HIV/AIDS as well as details of the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to condoms around the world. There is also an online signup form for individuals and groups interested in the campaign.
For more information: www.condoms4life.org