Good Catholics Use Condoms: New Challenge to Vatican’s Misinformation on Condom Effectiveness Starts World AIDS Day 2003 with Condoms4Life International Media Campaign
New Challenge to Vatican’s Misinformation on Condom Effectiveness Starts World AIDS Day 2003 with Condoms4Life International Media Campaign
Washington, DC—“Good Catholics Use Condoms” is the message of a new global public education effort to counter Vatican misinformation on condoms, beginning December 1, 2003, World AIDS Day. The campaign, a new phase in the Condoms4Life campaign, kicks off in Washington, DC, with provocative and eye-catching ads appearing in dioramas in the most highly traveled Metro stations throughout the United States capital. Then, on a rolling basis, the campaign will move worldwide throughout 2004 with newspaper and billboard ads, internet action alerts, and educational materials all geared to reach Catholics at risk of HIV/AIDS with the truth about condoms.
Using the core message that “Good Catholics Use Condoms,” the campaign presents a positive message to sexually active Catholics about responsibility and caring for others. The ads appeal to people of faith noting that: “We believe in God. We believe that sex is sacred. We believe in caring for each other. We believe in using condoms.” The campaign aims to counter the message sent by Catholic bishops worldwide that condoms are immoral and unsafe. The campaign is a direct challenge to the cardinals and bishops who have recently claimed that condoms were helping to spread HIV/AIDS. Scientists and public health officials have told the cardinals repeatedly that condoms are one of the most effective methods of preventing HIV, but the Catholic hierarchy persists, even when their policy is called dangerous by the World Health Organization. For Catholics who follow the Vatican’s policy and Catholic health care providers who are forced to deny condoms, the Vatican’s policy on condoms is a disaster.
“We cannot stand by and let the Vatican go unchallenged with its irresponsible attitude towards condoms and Catholics,” stated Frances Kissling, president of CFFC, an advocacy organization of Catholics who disagree with Vatican positions on sexuality and reproduction. “Cardinals and bishops must promote a culture of life in which responsible sexuality and AIDS prevention are linked; not a culture of death which will result in more AIDS ravaged communities, especially in the developing world.” Catholics need to know that using condoms doesn’t make one a bad Catholic. In fact, using condoms to protect themselves and their partners is part of being good Catholics.
The initial phase of the 2003 Condoms4Life campaign is reinforcing the Metro dioramas with similar ads appearing this year in US magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post and National Catholic Reporter. In 2004, the ads will go global and appear in African, Latin American, and European press, letting Catholics around the world know that there is a Catholic perspective on condoms and HIV other than that being offered by the Catholic hierarchy.
One of the most important audiences for the Condoms4Life campaign is sexually active young people. Starting January 1, 2004, ads stating “Good Catholics Use Condoms” will go up at 46 bus shelters around Washington, DC, in areas where young people gather, including colleges and nightclubs.
In an effort to build public pressure on the Catholic hierarchy to be more responsible in their statements on condom effectiveness in fighting HIV/AIDS, action alerts at www.condoms4life.org will enable the public to send individual letters and to use the e-mail network to lobby local and national elected officials as well as international policy makers asking them to withhold funds from any church agency that does not properly inform clients about the importance of condoms in preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS. For example, an information packet on the US bishops’ effort to maintain their ban on condoms was sent to every US senator and representative serving on committees dealing with HIV/AIDS. A letter was also delivered to Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, with signatures from Catholic women’s groups and Catholic organizations working for democratic change in the church.
Going live on December 1, all of the campaign materials, including the ads, are available at www.condoms4life.org for individuals and organizations to download and use as posters or adapt for their own purposes. For example, Catholic college groups in Mexico City will be able to download a Spanish language version of the ad, print it in their newsletters, and create posters for distribution.
In addition, a first-of-its-kind publication, Sex in the HIV/AIDS Era: A Guide for Catholics, will assist at-risk Catholics who are struggling with questions around faith and conscience, sexuality and the use of condoms for HIV/AIDS prevention. A first printing of 10,000 copies of the brochure will be distributed globally and may be ordered on the Web site.
Campaign ads 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 percent.
The Condoms4Life campaign praises 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.”
On December 1, Condoms4Life ads with the “Good Catholics Use Condoms” message can be viewed at www.condoms4life.org.