Friday, November 04, 2005

African Cardinal on codom use ...

(From the Tablet)

Cardinal endorses condom use for married couples.
CAMEROON’S CARDINAL has approved the use of condoms as a protective measure against HIV/Aids, provided the couples using them are married.

“If a partner in a marriage is infected with HIV, the use of condoms makes sense,” Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi, Archbishop of Douala, said in an interview with the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Condom use would be permissible only within marriage but “possibly there can be a rethink there”, said the 75-year-old cardinal. He did not expect the Vatican to stray from its official line against condom use and he agreed with its view that “loyalty and abstention remain still the best protection against Aids”.

HIV infection in Cameroon grew slowly between the late 1980s and 1996, with average incidence among pregnant women in urban areas rising from below 2 per cent to 5 per cent. However, the latest data indicate an HIV prevalence of around 11 per cent in all the West African country’s provinces.

Close to one million adults and children are currently living with HIV/Aids in Cameroon and an estimated 210,000 children under 14 have lost one or both parents to Aids.

When the Director of the United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids, Dr Peter Piot, visited the country two years ago he called upon the Cameroonian Government to improve its HIV care and prevention programmes, and one of its responses has been to urge condom use among high-risk groups.

At that time, Cardinal Tumi lamented the “safe-sex” campaigns that were plastered across billboards in Douala. His current view may have been influenced by the disappointing outcome of an international meeting held in Cameroon last week of scientists involved in the African Aids Vaccine Programme. They announced that the prospect of developing a preventive vaccine in the near future remained bleak.

Several church leaders have broken ranks with the Vatican’s position over the past two years. In February, Cardinal Georges Cottier, the theologian of the papal household, said the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” should be considered in cases where sexual activity involves a partner who is HIV-positive.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, who chairs the Pontifical Council for Health, believes the use of condoms to be acceptable when abstinence is not an option. Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, has said that opposition to condoms amounts to a death sentence for women who cannot insist on abstinence or fidelity.
BBC article on Cardinal Cottier's statement.

Cardinal Barragan's remarks in an interview with Zenit's Delia Gallagher.

Chicago tribune article on Bishop Dowling.

Dowling believes that in his diocese--and in much of AIDS-afflicted Africa--the primary effect of using condoms would not be contraception but "to stop transmission of a death-dealing virus." Under church doctrine, that is "not only allowable, it's a moral imperative," he said. "The principle is to protect life. I'm fighting for the principle here.


The bishop has little doubt how unpopular his views are in Rome. The Vatican's official representative in South Africa has indicated Dowling's outspoken ideas are "unacceptable."
Hmm. Is the resistance to this kind of pastoral application because it is feared it will lead to confusion about the contraceptive uses of condoms? Because it is feared that since many Catholics (most in the US, anyway) ignore the teaching, any kind of latitude will undermine the teaching further? I don't claim to know the motives. I admit that I'm quite sympathetic to the kinds of pastoral initiatives these articles refer to. No, I don't think throwing condoms at the issue is going to solve it (or, as some shrill voices screech, that the Church's "ban" is akin to genocide). The campaigns that show sign of success are those like Uganda's ABC (Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condoms) approach. And even that approach does have the C-word in there! But, maybe, in the face of such a horrific plague?

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