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with Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo
concerning condom use
of the Pontifical Council for the Family
Granted to KRO TV/Radio (Holland)
October 20, 2003, 11:30 a.m.
(reprinted with permission of the Pontifical Council for the Family)
1. KRO: IN THE BBC PROGRAM, YOU SAID THAT CONDOMS DO NOT PROTECT AGAINST HIV AND AIDS. WHY DID YOU SAY THIS?
I said this in a one-hour program of questions and answers. Only one of the questions referred to this theme, which is much broader... Because especially some rich countries do not have an objective view about what is happening in the world of the poor, a world literally bombarded by the condom campaign. Thousands, millions of condoms are exported to Sub-Saharan Africa. The poor nations in particular are assailed in this way by a "co-campaign" that may not only be against AIDS, but may also serve a broader purpose regarding birth control.
This is not the first time that the Vatican has spoken out about this. We have done so several times, even the "Minister", so to speak, of Health, Cardinal Barragan, and others. For the great difference is one of mentality. In fact, we see that the only way to contain this pandemic is precisely fidelity in marriage, respect for women, what we call chastity, which is not impossible.
What is happening in Africa? The Cardinal of Nairobi has spoken recently. He said, "Here they have invaded our nation with condoms. Not only has this not decreased the pandemic, but it has increased it enormously". This is because young people above all think that they have complete protection and so they seek all kinds of relations and the risk becomes greater. Not only for the problem of AIDS, but also for other sexually transmitted diseases it is very well known that the condom is of no use.
This theme is not new. In my reading material I have a Dutch review (No. 41, 1990) where we read: "Practice shows that there is a great need for a means that will prevent both AIDS as well as pregnancy" ("as well as pregnancy" seems a little strange). "Unfortunately, people have still not realized that this means cannot be the condom". The theme is an old one. I find literature by Dr. Helen Singer, of Cornell University, who is the director of the Human Sexuality Program of the Medical Center. She states this: "To have a permissive view with regard to condoms is to court death".
In our Pontifical Council we have a "Lexicon" of 900 pages in which one article deals with this theme. A physician, Dr. Jacques Suaudeau, wrote it, and it contains an abundant bibliography ... but at least it seemed to us that there was a call to attention when we read in The Guardian that the World Health Organization states, "Consistent and correct condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90%". Therefore, there is that 10% where due to different causes, a risk remains. If 10 persons out of 100 can contract an illness like this, which is mortal, what should the attitude of the Health Ministries be? And so, this is simply what I said. A warning should be put on these products, such as, "This is not safe", or "This is not completely safe". This is a responsibility, especially towards the poor countries.
Basically, however, the problem is one of a healthy anthropology, a conception of man and woman. Unfortunately, some countries have an erroneous anthropological vision, which Catholics will have to confront and show public opinion that it is erroneous, and how, on the other hand, the values of fidelity, respect for women and others count as the fundamental principle.
2. KRO: BUT YOU ARE THE PRESIDENT OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY. WHY DID YOU SAY CONDOMS LEAD TO IMMORAL BEHAVIOR?
The problem is one of "moral behavior". The problem is one of an overall attitude towards life and morality. If you find, as we often do in the mass media, the idea that everything is allowed, that everything is good, that it is necessary to experience everything, what kind of confidence will there be later for marriage if young people have lost all values? Who can promise you that you will have a faithful wife? Or a faithful mother? And a worthy one? You cannot!
Many use these contraceptives, these condoms. Perhaps this is a society that is erring, that is becoming dehumanized. And sometimes it is becoming dehumanized with the help of Parliaments because they make laws that do not help families or human dignity.
We do not believe that this is a new thing. The teaching of God's commandments has a permanent value.
3. KRO: ONE OF THE NEXT ISSUES CONCERNS A BISHOP FROM KENYA. HE SAID THAT BISHOPS IN AFRICA SHOULD DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES WHAT THEY THINK OF CONDOMS. WHAT IS YOUR REACTION?
I am not familiar with that statement. In any event, it is necessary to be well aware of what the bishops of Africa, Latin America and Asia are saying. They are saying and stressing that it is only through fidelity, not the invading promiscuity, that the problem has to be solved. And the problem of the condom is not an optional aspect from a moral viewpoint.
4. KRO: HE ALSO SAID THAT IT IS NOT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF A CARDINAL TO SPEAK ABOUT CONDOMS.
I will not speak about statements that I have not read or am not familiar with. But if it is not the Church's task to defend marriage, youth, illnesses that are spread... The experience we have shows that wherever the way of the condom has been tried, the pandemic has grown. This means many things, many things.
It is good in these cases to have basic information about the sensitivities of the different cultures and also about the dignity of peoples who do not wish to be subjected like victims to a kind of contraceptive colonialism, for which the condom is in first place. But above all I would say it is very sad that at times campaigns are carried out to give away condoms to children in schools. In so doing, sex is trivialized; moral destruction and bad consequences are brought about because spirits are sterilized.
Everything is a game, a trivialization. Dignity does not count; God's law does not count. This is a danger, especially in some countries, where everything is allowed today. This is a mentality, which you, Catholics, can surely stop with the Gospel in hand, and good information. We follow scientific and technical information. And so if there is a need to fill in the gaps in order to be informed, we can inform you very well, especially the Vatican "Minister", so to speak, of Health, Cardinal Barragan, who has spoken about this many times.
In Canada, the Fifth World Congress on AIDS was held. Several persons there expressed the doubts that we have had until now. But if you add to what I said the problem of the heat in those countries, the problem of humidity, the problem of so many risks that make condoms less safe instruments, then you understand that we have a responsibility. We have to speak out!
5. KRO: BUT IF A MAN AND A WOMAN ARE MARRIED, AND THEY DO LIVE MONOGAMOUSLY, AND ONE OF THEM HAS AIDS, WHY IN SUCH A CASE DOES THE CHURCH FORBID THE USE OF CONDOMS? ONE OF THEM IS GOING TO DIE!
This is one debated aspect. In the "Lexicon", the use of the condom in these cases is spoken about, and it is seen how the risk is many times greater. So it would be better first to consult the medical literature and then know that it is not normally (I say "normally", but I would like to say "always", because it is God's will) possible to act in such a way that there is no openness to life in a given case. But to run the risk of an illness by using these means is not morally sound or safe either. But here I rely on the study that is being done on this case in which it is shown that the percentage, unfortunately, is very high.
These discussions must also be taken up in dialogue to see where scientific research has come, and what the doubts are (doubts do exist). No one can take the liberty of saying, "The others are not right at all". No. They are persons who turn to research, have consultations, laboratories and very important centers in universities
The fight against the Vatican is a well known thing, but very many people thank the Vatican ... because the Church defends marriage, the family, fidelity, and (I would say this above all to parents), your sons and daughters so that they will not become objects and be subjected to all kinds of lack of respect. We see that everything is spreading more in these countries, despite the fact that they have strong Christian roots. It would be better -- and I hope this is done, especially by the bishops -- to go forward in this struggle for the sake of the family and faithful love.
6. KRO: ONE LAST QUESTION: A PROFESSOR IN HOLLAND SAID YESTERDAY, "IT'S CRUEL WHAT THE CARDINAL IS SAYING. THIS IS A CASE FOR THE INTERNATIONAL COURT IN THE HAGUE". WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?
7. KRO: WHY NO COMMENT?
No comment because you would have to judge hundreds and hundreds of persons. And because precisely those who defend freedom of speech are subjected to not being able to speak.
8. KRO: WHEN WILL THE TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH CHANGE, IF WE ARE TALKING ABOUT ANTICONCEPTION AND CONTRACEPTION?
Contraception is a problem in marriage that does not follow the rules of complete self-giving (that is what marriage does). Still today, Humanae Vitae is entirely in force. Paul VI's Humanae Vitae speaks about faithful, exclusive, lasting, usque ad mortem, and fruitful love.
These principles are not for 10 or 50 years; they are permanent principles. And so there ought to be great respect because the Church has experience. You see, until 15 years ago, we were attacked so much because of our criticism of Marxism. Today no one speaks about this theme any more. It is known that the Church, the pope and all real Catholics have greatly benefited humanity by saying, "A limited, poor humanism would be a defeat". Today we are saying the same thing for the problems of contraception, the problems of a very narrow bioethical vision. Wait and you will see how truth will prevail in the scientific field too.
9. KRO: BUT WHEN WILL IT BE POSSIBLE FOR CATHOLIC MEN AND WOMEN TO DECIDE THEMSELVES, IF THEY ...
This, with regard to God's law, is not a problem of conscience. It is in close connection with God's law. But often regarding contraception and the interpretation of Humanae Vitae freedom of conscience is spoken about, which is poorly interpreted. It must be before the law, and there is no doubt about this. If someone goes against the law, a good conscience must say, "This is wrong", and every bishop has to teach this.
10. KRO: ONE VERY LAST QUESTION. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE FACT THAT AT THIS MOMENT IN AFRICA MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE DYING OF AIDS?
This is a great poverty, a great problem. It is a great problem especially when there is no family cohesion. It is a great problem of Islam where one can have several wives. It is also a problem of poor people who have no work, no hygiene, and no culture
11. KRO: EXCUSE ME, THEY ARE DYING AND THE CHURCH ISN'T DOING ANYTHING.
We do so much! Perhaps the Church is the one that does more, even for the theme of AIDS. We have hospitals everywhere, homes for the sick, research ... and this is done everywhere! Here in Italy some very important research is being done at Mondo X. We are close to this suffering. We are especially close to the children who are subjected to this pandemic and the young people who are its victims.
12. KRO: IF YOU PERMIT ME, YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE DYING.
Yes, precisely. And precisely because we have this experience we also know that many sick people say, "If they had informed us in time to avoid promiscuity, to be faithful, to have a sense of dignity": this is a lament expressed by many of those whom the Church serves with great love.
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