Washington, D.C., Catholics React to Catholics for a Free Choice Ad Campaign Targeting Bishops’ ‘Ban’ on Condoms
In response to November's Washington, D.C., launch of Catholics for a Free Choice's global ad campaign "accus[ing]" Catholic bishops of aiding the spread of HIV by banning condoms, some Washington-area Catholics have stated that the campaign's message is "false," saying that the Catholic Church is "one of the largest AIDS-related care providers in the world," the Washington Times reports (Shaffrey, Washington Times, 12/24). The campaign, which features billboards, newspaper ads and ads in subways with the slogan "Banning Condoms Kills," will also be launched in other cities throughout the United States and in countries that have either large Catholic populations or high rates of HIV/AIDS infection, such as Mexico, the Philippines, Kenya, South Africa, Chile and Zimbabwe (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/29). Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, a not-for-profit Catholic antiabortion organization, called the campaign "defamatory," adding that "the bishops teach; they do not ban" (Washington Times, 12/24). In a Times letter to the editor in response to the article, Catholics for a Free Choice President Frances Kissling called Euteneuer's statement "somewhat surprising." Catholic bishops "do" ban condoms, Kissling writes, adding, "All 100,000 Catholic hospitals worldwide and all 200,000 Catholic schools and social service agencies are prohibited by local bishops as well as Vatican policy from teaching about or providing condoms to HIV/AIDS patients, clients or students" (Kissling, Washington Times, 12/29). Michael Scott, the Archdiocese of Washington's HIV/AIDS pastoral minister, said that the ad campaign "made him sad." The campaign "conditions people with misinformation that hurts," he added (Washington Times, 12/24). Kissling writes that Scott should "instead be saddened by the unnecessary transmission of HIV/AIDS caused by a church that neither educates HIV/AIDS patients about how to save lives nor provides them with the means to do so when abstinence is not a course they choose to follow or are able to follow." Kissling concludes, "We are all human -- even our priests and bishops have difficulty following church teaching on abstinence. For such people to tell ordinary people in desperate circumstances that they cannot use condoms to prevent the spread of a deadly disease is to preach a culture of death. Catholics expect more from their bishops, and our ad campaign is one way of calling them to accountability" (Washington Times, 12/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.