Catholic bishops defend position on condoms
Catholic Bishops have defended their position over the use of condoms in tackling the AIDS epidemic, following suggestions that Cafod both they and a leading Roman Catholic development agency, had departed from official Vatican teaching.
CAFOD(Catholic Aid or Overseas Development) which comes under the aegis of the Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, said that campaigns to counter HIV and AIDS in the developing world had to be realistic and employ a range of methods.
In an article written for The Tablet, which followed a paper on the subject, CAFOD's HIV Corporate Strategist, Ann Smith, argued that one line solutions were "over-simplistic" and wouldn't work.
CAFOD said in their carefully worded policy paper that, while it opposed AIDS campaigns that focused entirely on condoms to prevent the disease, it recognised that many poor people had limited choices.
"For many in Africa and Asia, sex is often the only commodity people have to exchange for food, school fees, exam results, employment or survival itself in situations of violence," said the paper by Ann Smith.
"There are immense social and cultural pressures on poor men and women to conform to accepted stereotypes: there are economic pressures that result from the break-up of families as migrant workers spend months on end far from their spouse and family support, plunged into unbearably harsh working and living conditions by exploitative local or multi-national employers."
Jonathan Petre, religious correspondent at the Daily Telegraph subsequently suggested that both Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, and Cardinal Godfreid Daneels, his Belgian counterpart, had said that "the use of condoms might even be morally obligatory in certain circumstances".
A statement from the Archbishop of Westminster's office today countered such claims. It said that a letter had now been sent by Mgr Andrew Summersgill, general secretary of the bishops' conference, on behalf of its president, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, to one of the publications that had made the suggestions.
The letter states that the Conference's position had been made clear in its 2004 teaching document, Cherishing Life, Section 170, which deals specifically with the question of Aids.
The document concludes that ìthe only assured way to prevent passing on [sexually-transmitted diseases] is to express love in ways other than through sexual intercourse.î
The letter goes on to say that the Bishops "oppose artificial contraception and do not advocate the promotion of condoms as a means of combating AIDS."
"The way to combat Aids is through the Catholic sexual ethic of monogamy, fidelity and abstinence" says the letter.
"It is therefore quite misleading to seek to portray the position of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales as being at variance" with Vatican teaching, the letter says.