Catholics for Free Choice is an organization that has created a campaign called Condoms for Life. The campaign wants the Vatican to lift its ban on the use of condoms. This week, they are taking part in the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto. The activists say they cannot preach a culture of life and ignore the pain and suffering people endure as a result of HIV/AIDS.
Frances Kissling is the president of Catholics for Free Choice. VOA English to Africa Service reporter Angel Tabe spoke with her about the focus of the campaign.
According to Kissling, “Condoms for Life encourages people of faith, especially Catholics, who are sexually active to use condoms as a way of preventing the transmission of HIV and AIDS. We started the campaign about four years ago in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Chile, Canada, and the United States of America because we were concerned that the Catholic bishops forbid the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS and we think that that policy contributes to both death and suffering for millions of people.”
She says the Pope’s guidelines and the Catholic Church influence many people through healthcare and should promote sexual practices that would reduce the spread of disease and human suffering.
“…The Catholic Church, through its hospitals and social service agencies is the primary source of health care for 25% of those people who have HIV and AIDS…. And while the Pope himself cannot know who is using condoms, he does issue guidelines. When those guidelines are followed by Catholic hospitals who refuse to give condoms or tell people at risk about the importance of condoms, that causes enormous human suffering and disease.”
The president says she hopes the International AIDS Conference will gain the group greater recognition of their goals.
“In Toronto, what we would like to achieve is greater recognition among…people of faith that support for the use of condoms is a morally correct and compassionate approach that they can take to stem the tide of AIDS transmission. Internationally I think that our campaign has called public attention, first of all, to the fact that the Church does prohibit the use of condoms and that it is a major provider of HIV/AIDS treatment. And so it has raised the level of awareness and the number of calls upon officials in the Catholic Church to change this position. I would say one sign of the success is that just this past April, the Pope finally indicated that he is appointing a commission to study whether or not the Church can change its position, and this after years and years of saying that the position could not and would not change.”
The organization is concerned that fanatical church officials will spread misinformation that will cause pain. Kissling says one cardinal made a flawed announcement about condoms that the World Heath Organization quickly denounced.
“The Cardinal is incorrect. Condoms do not have minute holes through which the HIV/AIDS virus passes. The World Health Organization immediately criticized the Cardinal for this statement because it is untrue. And this is what we are worried about, that some church officials, in their…moral zeal to prevent the use of condoms, will give people wrong information which then damages their health.”
Let us know what you think of this report and other stories on our website. Send your views to AFRICA@VOANEWS.COM, and include your phone number. Or, call us here in Washington, DC at (202) 205-9942. After you hear the VOA identification, press 30 to leave a message. We want to hear what you have to say!