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CFFC in the News - 2006

Sunday observer (tanzania)

Vatican to be Asked to Lift Condom Ban

Simon Kivamwo

13 August 2006

As tens of thousands of activists, providers and concerned individuals gather for the XVI International AIDS Conference, the Condoms4Life campaign is spearheading an initiative to encourage the Vatican to drop its ban on condoms and join others in the active prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the world.

Reports reaching the Sunday Observer yesterday were that, from the opening moments of the conference, attendees would have a chance to ask Pope Benedict XVI to lift the ban on condoms and join in efforts to promote ethical, comprehensive and balanced approaches to HIV/AIDS.

The global annual AIDS conference is set to start today in Toronto, Canada.

The reports posted to this paper by Michelle Ringuette of an organization called Catholics For Choice, says that in April of this year, sources close to the new pope indicated he had requested that senior theologians and scientists prepare a document on condom use as a means of preventing HIV transmission.

Although some Vatican insiders—including Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council on the Family, who claims condoms have minute holes through which the virus is transmitted ("Sex and the Holy City,"—have insisted there will be no relaxing of the ban, Catholics and non-Catholics around the world remain hopeful that the church will change this policy.

"A change in Vatican policy is critical. You can’t keep talking about a culture of life and turn a blind eye to the suffering and dying.

You can’t tell people to love and care for one another and deny them the means by which to protect each other," said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice and founder of Condoms4Life.

"More than two dozen bishops and bishops’ conferences have asked for a change. Catholic people get it.

People spending their lives fighting this pandemic get it. Lifting this cruel and stigmatizing ban on condoms would be a positive and life-affirming move for this new pope."

Recent data from the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS indicate that since Benedict XVI became pope on April 19, 2005, 5.5 million people have acquired HIV, and 3.7 million people have died of AIDS-related causes.

The statement will be circulated for signatures at the Condoms4Life booth (F-434) in the Main Exhibition Hall at the AIDS conference.

The Condoms4Life Campaign is a project of Catholics for Free Choice (CFFC), which shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women`s well being and respect and affirm the moral capacity of women and men to make sound decisions about their lives.

Through discourse, education and advocacy, CFFC works in the US and internationally to infuse these values into public policy, community life, feminist analysis and Catholic social thinking and teaching.

Condoms4Life has made headlines and generated a critical public discussion on the Vatican’s ban on condoms in 25 countries spanning five continents.

A heated debate on the use of condoms as a preventive means of the pandemic has in the past few years dominated various podiums in the country pitting faith based organizations (FBOs) against non religious groups who oppose and favoured it respectively.

The religious groups stood firm, arguing that legalising condoms as one of the preventive means was tantamount to re-writing the Holy Book which states: "thou shalt not commit adultery."

However, critics say it would be wise to protect the congregation from the pandemic by every available means before it is all wiped out, leaving most houses of God empty.

The stance of Tanzania's stakeholders in the fight against AIDS has been that, let religious people maintain their traditional way of prevention abstinence while the rest are left to advocate and pursue ABC: Abstinence, Be faithful, Condom use.

This article originally appeared in the 13 August 2006 edition of the Sunday Observer (Tanzania).