Six Questions for the Kenyan Bishops
Do the Kenyan bishops reject statements in support of condoms by their brother bishops in Africa?
Following the release of a report showing that among all religious people, Catholics are the most supportive of the use of condoms for contraception and preventing sexually transmitted diseases, Mombasa Archbishop Boniface Lele said, “With some counseling—and this is something we don’t tell everyone—you can ask couples to use condoms, so that the rate of reinfection goes down.”
Cameroon’s Cardinal Christian Tumi supports the use of condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV between married couples, saying, “If a partner in a marriage is infected with HIV, the use of condoms makes sense.”
Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson acknowledges the role of a Catholic’s conscience when counseling a person about whether use a condom; he said priests should “help the [person] to take the decision which [he or she] will be at peace with.”
Do the Kenyan bishops honestly believe that we should stay silent about HIV?
At his news conference this week, Cardinal John Njue, archbishop of Nairobi, called for the ads to be withdrawn and banned. Yet a 2006 publication from the Kenya Episcopal Conference, “This We Teach and Do” talks at length about the importance of reducing stigma and talking openly as ways to fight the epidemic. Stigma has a significant impact upon testing and treatment for HIV & AIDS according to a 2008 Human Rights Watch report on Kenya.
Do the Kenyan bishops not agree with Pope Benedict?
Cardinal Njue felt that the Condoms4Life ads were “deliberately ridicul[ing] the Catholic teaching on responsible sexual behavior across all ages.” But in addition to Pope Benedict’s affirmation that the use of a condom to prevent HIV can be a moral choice, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi followed up on Benedict’s words by saying, “This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point. The point is it’s a first step of taking responsibility, of avoiding passing a grave risk onto another.” And Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau from the Vatican’s bioethics advisory board characterized the transmission of HIV as “absolute irresponsibility.”
Do the Kenyan bishops not agree with what Bishop Kevin Dowling is doing in Rustenberg, SA?
The Kenyan bishops’ insist that abstinence and faithfulness are sufficient to prevent HIV, but Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenberg, South Africa, has said that “the promotion of these ideals does not meet the need” of the population.
He has advocated the use of condoms, explaining, “The issue is to protect life. That must be our fundamental goal.” He continued, “what is the best available means we have to protect life? and at the moment it is only the condom…. You’re using it to prevent the transmission of a deadly virus, and to me that’s essentially ethical and moral.”
Do the Kenyan bishops not agree with the WHO, the Kenya government, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Gates Foundation?
The World Health Organization has called condoms “a key component of comprehensive HIV prevention.” The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, one of the world’s largest donors to HIV & AIDS initiatives and the developer of delivery mechanisms to make condoms available everywhere, refers to a position paper from WHO/UNFPA/UNAIDS: “The male latex condom is the single most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.” The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation thinks condoms are so important that they are investing funds in the “Next Generation” condom.
Do the Kenyan bishops believe they should continue to take public funds, domestically and from international aid agencies, while refusing to provide comprehensive care for those living with HIV & AIDS?
The Kenyan bishops, and other bishops’ conferences around the world receive millions of dollars to provide care to people living with HIV and AIDS. The stance by the Kenyan bishops highlights their refusal to provide condoms to the many international development agencies that send money their way to help in the fight against the spread of HIV. What should our colleagues in SIDA, DANIDA, DFID and NORAD—among others—think when the Kenyan bishops want to ban ads from government and NGOs that educate the public about HIV?
Condoms4Life is an unprecedented worldwide public education effort to raise awareness about the importance of condom use in the fight against HIV. The campaign was launched on World AIDS Day 2001 with the display of billboards and ads in the US, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, Kenya, Chile and Zimbabwe. It was the first phase of an effort to change the Vatican’s policy and challenge its aggressive lobbying against the availability of and access to condoms in areas of the world most at risk. The ads pointed out that Catholic bishops around the word lobby governments and the United Nations to restrict access to condoms. The campaign is sponsored by Catholics for Choice, its partners in Europe and Latin America and colleagues in Africa and Asia. Most recently, the campaign ran ads in Nairobi.