CHURCH VS SEX
Filipino Preaching Safe Sex Stirs
Juan Flavier, the Philippine Health Secretary, is a fighter. Despite his endless supply of jokes, he has emerged in the last year as the most serious foe of the Philippine Roman Catholic Church.
As he goes around the country preaching a gospel of birth control and safe sex, Dr. Flavier is challenging two Catholic orthodoxies: a prohibition against contraceptives and absolute monogamy.
The first teaching of the gospel according to Dr. Flavier is the ABC’s of safe sex: “A for abstinence. If you can’t abstain, B for be faithful and if you can’t be faithful, then use C for condoms.”
The Catholic bishops do not find this funny. In a series of pastoral letters read in pulpits throughout the country, they have accused Dr. Flavier of peddling “promiscuity and permissiveness” along with condoms and diaphragms.
Last month a church spokesman warned that the population program was putting the Government on a collision course with the church.
“We will sabotage the Government’s campaign on population control by passive resistance,” said the Rev. James Reuter, a spokesman for the Catholic bishops. “Any politician who attacks the Catholic Church is committing suicide.”
Since he became President Fidel V. Ramos’s Health Secretary last year, Dr. Flavier, a 57-year-old former country doctor, has been vigorously promoting a population program that seeks to curb the Philippines’ 2.48 percent annual population growth, the second highest in Asia after Pakistan.
By all indications, the Health Secretary is winning his crusade. He remains the most popular member of Mr. Ramos’s Cabinet and recent surveys show that 80 percent of all Filipinos approve of his campaign to promote the use of artificial contraception.
Dr. Flavier’s jokes and his public visibility have partly to do with such high approval. The Health Secretary delivers his message everywhere he goes, from television talk shows to Rotary Clubs to basketball stadiums. Even in Manila’s critical newspapers, he gets such good press that reporters joke that the initials at the end of Juan Flavier, M.D., stand for Media Darling.
But he has also been badly bruised by wrestling with the church, which has been for centuries a powerful force in the Philippines. Catholic bishops warned recently that Dr. Flavier’s population control program would lead to “the breakdown of families, the encouragement of pre-marital sex and the increased incidence of sexually transmitted disease.” They also asked Catholics working in Government programs to refuse to promote contraception.
But the Health Secretary has a staunch ally in Mr. Ramos, the Philippines’ first Protestant President, whose candidacy in last year’s elections was opposed by the Catholic Church. He also has the support of the younger generation of Filipinos demanding access to artificial contraception as well as Government planners and businessmen who worry about the Philippines’ runaway population growth.
With the bureaucracy in disarray, Dr. Flavier has had to rely on private voluntary groups to carry out his program. With Government backing, these groups have surveyed Filipino sexual habits, promoted AIDS education, even set up a factory manufacturing cheap condoms and a motorcycle delivery system for those who want their prophylactics discreetly supplied.
It is a strategy that not only encourages popular participation but also deflects criticism away from Government-sponsored programs to limit population growth.
Mr. Ramos backs his Health Secretary with a passion he rarely displays with other members of his Cabinet. “I asked the President how far he wanted me to go on population control,” Dr. Flavier said in an interview. “He said, ‘All the way.’ ”
In a defiant response to the bishops’ appeal to Catholics to subvert the Government’s birth control program, Mr. Ramos dared Government health workers opposed to artificial contraception to resign.
Barriers to safer sex practice among heterosexual GUM clinic attenders.
Clift S, Davidson E, Wilkins J.
Int Conf AIDS. 1992 Jul 19-24; 8: D446 (abstract no. PoD 5355).
Canterbury Christ Church College, UK.
OBJECTIVES: To assess levels of risk behaviour; attitudes, beliefs and intentions regarding safer sex; knowledge of HIV/AIDS and perceptions of infection risks among heterosexual genito urinary medicine clinic attenders. METHODS: All patients attending the GUM clinic at St George’s Hospital, London during April to June 1991 were asked to complete a questionnaire. Useable returns were obtained from 531 heterosexuals. Variables assessed: risk behaviours, risk perceptions, attitudes to safer sex and knowledge of HIV/AIDS. Factor analysis used to identify principal dimensions underlying the belief/attitude data. Relationships between condom use/future intentions and knowledge, perceptions and attitudes assessed by t-tests. RESULTS: Respondents had generally high levels of knowledge about HIV/AIDS and means of self protection. Nevertheless, high levels of risk behaviour were reported, particularly in the context of established partnerships. A large majority of attenders held negative attitudes towards condoms and rated their chances of HIV infection as non-existent or very low. Four belief/attitude factors were identified by factor analysis which were significantly related to the practice of safer sex and future intentions: ‘denial of HIV risk’; ‘procrastination in acting on knowledge of risks’; ‘condoms reduce sexual pleasure’ and ‘difficulties in communicating about safer sex with a partner.’ IMPLICATIONS: The findings reinforce the need to develop educational strategies appropriate to the GUM clinic context and to evaluate the effectiveness of such strategies. Current proposals for an education/evaluation initiative at St Georges hospital are outlined.
- Meeting Abstracts
- Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
- Ambulatory Care Facilities
- HIV Infections
- HIV Seropositivity
- Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
- Safe Sex
From Meeting Abstracts
Strategies used in negotiating sex in cottages and cruising areas in the U.K.–a qualitative approach.
Green J, Keogh P, Verneals S, Church J.
Int Conf AIDS. 1993 Jun 6-11; 9: 816 (abstract no. PO-D06-3590).
Psychology Dept. St. Mary’s Hospital, London.
50 men who use public sex sites to meet their sexual partners were interviewed for 1-2 hours each. Parts of each interview were taperecorded for later transcription. Subjects were asked about their interaction with/attachment to a gay community or ‘scene’, their long term and casual sexual relationships and the relationship between their activities in public sex sites and their broader social/work/family life. Subjects were asked to describe in detail their last sexual encounter in a cottage or cruising area paying particular attention to methods used to negotiate sex with partners including negotiating group sex. The subject was then asked to determine whether he felt this encounter to be ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’ and then asked to give an account of a contrasting sexual encounter in a cottage or cruising area (‘safe’ if his first account was ‘unsafe’ and ‘unsafe’ if his first account ‘safe’). The subject was then asked to identify factors which affected his behaviour/negotiation on both occasions. The texts were content-analyzed and common post-hoe rationals for behaving in certain ways on certain occasions were identified as well as common factors which inhibit the successful negotiation of safer sex. Conclusions are drawn regarding possible strategies for safer sex training for men who meet their partners in public places.
- Meeting Abstracts
- Homosexuality, Male
- Interpersonal Relations
- Safe Sex
- Sexual Partners
From Meeting Abstracts
Why Is It Hard to Wait?
Apart from the obvious physical power of one’s sex drive, there are other equally powerful emotional factors that can make it difficult to wait. A longing to be close to someone or a yearning to express love can generate intense desires for physical intimacy. Many singles today want to wait but lack the inner strength or self-esteem They want to be loved—as we all do— and may fear losing love if they postpone sex. They are frustrated when unable to control their sexual drives or when relationships prove unfulfilling.
Often sex brings an emptiness rather than the wholeness people seek through it. As one TV producer told me, “Frankly, I think the sexual revolution has backfired in our faces. It’s degrading to be treated like a piece of meat.” The previous night her lover had justified his decision to sleep around by telling her, “There’s plenty of me for everyone.” What I suspect he meant was, “There’s plenty of everyone for me.” She felt betrayed and alone.
Written by Rusty Wright ese remarks at a university in California,
The Catholic Bishops and Condoms: Statements and Actions Opposing Condom Use as Part of an HIV Prevention Strategy
Bishop Philip Sulumeti of Kakamega Diocese, chairman of the Kenya Episcopal Conference’s Commission for Health
During the first national Catholic conference on HIV/AIDS in Nairobi, Bishop Sulumeti stated that the Catholic Church opposed all forms of contraceptives. In reference to the difficult situation faced by couples where in one partner is HIV positive, he stated flatly, “Even in the case of discordant couples [where one spouse is infected], those offering care should look at all the issues affecting the couple other than the sexual aspect. One of them will have to sacrifice for the sake of the other.”
Catholic Information Service for Africa,”Kenya: Catholics Reaffirm Stand Against Condoms in Fighting HIV/AIDS,” Africa News, June 26, 2007.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Westminster
In response to a comment made by Tony Blair on December 1, World AIDS Day, calling on the church to reassess its position on condom use, Cardinal Murphy O’Connor criticized the prime minister’s willingness to give “more and more aid, including more condoms” to Africa for AIDS prevention. According to the cardinal, African bishops he has spoken with claim their dioceses are “flooded” with condoms and “it has meant more promiscuity and more AIDS.”
Ben Padley, “Drugs Better than Condoms in AIDS Fight, Says Cardinal,” Press Association, December 3, 2006.
Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki, Nairobi
During the opening of the national religious leaders’ conference on stigma, denial and discrimination in Kenya, Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki urged the government to ban advertising and distributing condoms. He insisted, “There are no two ways about it…. When condoms are provided anyhowly, chances of promiscuity increase since a majority of our people end up engaging in casual sex.”
The Nation (Nairobi, Kenya), “Stop Giving Free Condoms, Say Clerics,” November 29, 2006.
Archbishop Barry Hickey, Perth
In an interview with the Sunday Times (Perth, Australia), Perth archbishop Barry Hickey condemned those who promote condoms as a means for safe sex saying, “Society only gives false assurances to young people…because the failure rate of condoms will eventually catch up with them and the consequences of intercourse will be there…. Pregnancy is an obvious example but even as preventers of disease, condoms eventually fail…. There is another answer and that’s self-control and chastity.”
Paul Lampathakis, “Calls for Modest Dress, Less Sex,” Sunday Times (Perth, Australia), November 13, 2006.
Cardinal Alfonso Lopéz Trujillo
In an interview for a Spanish newspaper, Cardinal Alfonso Lopéz Trujillo discredits a statement made by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini that the use of condoms for AIDS prevention is “a lesser evil,” insisting that the statement was not reflective of the church’s position. Despite confirmation given late in April by the President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, Cardinal Trujillo also denied that Pope Benedict XVI ordered a study on condoms.
Néstor Pongutá Puerto, “Por ahora no hay nada sobre la aceptación del uso del preservative,” El País, May 4, 2006, and John L. Allen, Jr., “Vatican in Condom Debate,” National Catholic Reporter, April 28, 2006.
Tanzanian Episcopal Conference
Tanzania’s Episcopal Conference calls material on the Ministry of Education’s recently released school science syllabus “sinful” because it includes the proper use of condoms as one way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. In a statement issued on behalf of the conference, Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, the archbishop of Dar es Salaam, says the “introduction of the [teaching of] use of condoms in schools…is indeed justification and opening the door for immoral lifestyles.”
Africa News, “Catholic bishops reject school syllabus over condoms,” January 13, 2006.
Bishop Paul Marx, Papua New Guinea
Bishop Paul Marx of the Diocese of Kerema in Papua New Guinea insists that an Australian National AIDS Council campaign “is sending out the wrong message that promiscuity is the normal, ordinary way of life.… By distributing condoms all over the place it will facilitate even further that promiscuity, which is the main breeding ground of HIV/AIDS.” The ad, which says “No condoms, no sex,” also promotes abstinence and faithfulness. However, even Bishop Marx believes that there are times when it is morally acceptable to use condoms, as he adds, “I am not of the other extreme opinion that condoms can never be used in any circumstance whatsoever.”
Maureen Gerawa, “Bishop slams new condom campaign,” PNG Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea), August 3, 2005.
Indian Bishops Conference
The Health Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India opposes the ABC method of HIV prevention because it includes condom use. The commission issues a statement claiming, “We do not think that condoms do much to prevent AIDS.… It’s just a false promise. They say consistent and continuous use of condoms would yield results. That’s not practical. So we do not support it proactively.”
Indo-Asian News Service, “Church backs Bush’s anti-HIV formula, nixes condoms,” August 30, 2005.
Pope Benedict XVI
In a meeting at the Vatican with visiting bishops from five African nations, Pope Benedict XVI reaffirms the hierarchy’s opposition to the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, describing abstinence as the only “fail safe” method.
Associated Press, “Pope promotes abstinence to fight AIDS,” June 10, 2005.
Bishop Anthony Banzi, Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa
Tanzanian bishop Anthony Banzi, one of two spokesmen for the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) rejects condoms as a means to fight HIV/AIDS, stating during the association’s 15th plenary meeting that condoms “are one of the artificial birth control methods and the Church is against birth control.”
Josephine Maseruka, “Condoms not for Catholics,” New Vision (Uganda), June 10, 2005.
Archbishop Orlando Antonini, Zambia
Commenting on the challenges faced by Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Orlando Antonini, the apostolic nuncio to Zambia, defends the church’s ban on condoms and asserts that the “use of condoms still constitutes a false solution” to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Chansa Kabwela, “Use of condoms is a false solution to HIV/AIDS–Nuncio Antonini,” Post (Zambia), May 5, 2005.
Bishop Elio Sgreccia, Pontifical Academy for Life
Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, questions the effectiveness of condoms to prevent transmission of the HIV virus, asserting that scientific research has not proven that a condom “immunizes against infection.”
Zenit, “Bishop Sgreccia Says Condoms Don’t Ensure Immunity,” February 17, 2005.
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, South Africa
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, head of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, criticizes the South African government for condom promotion. “There’s no medical evidence to prove that condoms prevent the transmission of AIDS and it’s only 70% to 75% effective in preventing pregnancy,” says Cardinal Napier.
Mail and Guardian, “Cardinal: Condoms ‘clearly don’t work,'” January 25, 2005.
In response to Spanish and British bishops’ statements recognizing a place for condoms in HIV/AIDS prevention, an official in Rome states: “The Vatican has always expressed its opposition to the use of condoms. The Vatican believes that the spread of AIDS is due to a breakdown in moral values.”
Daily Mail (UK), “Bishops defy the Vatican over backing for condoms,” January 20, 2005.
Swiss and Croatian Bishops Conferences
The Catholic church in Switzerland publicly announces that it does not support the Spanish bishops and “remains on the same line as Rome.” The Croatian Bishops Conference maintains its opposition to condoms, noting that abstinence and fidelity are the most effective methods of prevention against HIV.
Denis Barnett, “Vatican holds its ground over Spanish bishops’ condom stance,” Agence France Presse, January 19, 2005.
After a bishop announces the Spanish Bishops Conference’s support for condom use as part of a global HIV prevention strategy, Pope John Paul II reiterates his ban on condoms: “The Holy See…considers that it is necessary above all to combat this disease in a responsible way by increasing prevention, notably through education about respect of the sacred value of life and formation about the correct practice of sexuality, which presupposes chastity and fidelity.”
The Spanish Bishops Conference retreats from its earlier stand, stating the bishop’s comments “must be understood in the context of Catholic doctrine, which holds that use of condoms is immoral sexual conduct.”
Associated Press, “Spain’s Catholic church reverses statement in support of condom use to prevent AIDS,” January 20, 2005.
The Vatican once again misses an opportunity to revisit its ban on condoms, instead promoting abstinence as the only option for prevention. In his written message for the XIII World Day of the Sick to take place in Cameroon in February 2005, Pope John Paul II states, “As regards the drama of AIDS, I have already had occasion in other circumstances to emphasize that AIDS is also a ‘pathology of the spirit.’ In order to fight AIDS in a responsible way, its prevention should be increased through education in respect for the sacred value of life and through formation in the correct practice of sexuality.”
Zenit, “Vatican Message for World AIDS Day, Dedicated This Year to Women,” November 24, 2004.
Bishop Rafael Llano Cifuentes, Brazilian Bishops Commission for Family and Life
Bishop Rafael Llano Cifuentes, the President of the Brazilian Bishops Commission for Family and Life, claims that “using a condom to stop AIDS is like trying to put out a fire with petrol.” As many as 100,000 leaflets are distributed wherein he argues that the AIDS virus can pass through condoms “as easily as a cat through a garage door.” He is later shown on a BBC Panorama investigation saying, “I’ve never seen a little dog using a condom during sexual intercourse with another dog. Animals have natural sex. Man likes the pleasure but not the consequences.”
Panorama, “Condoms at Carnival,” British Broadcasting Corporation, June 27, 2004, and Special Assignment: BBC Panorama,“Can Condoms Kill?” British Broadcasting Corporation, November 16, 2004.
Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, Uganda
Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, the Archbishop of Kampala, publicly declares his support of the choice of a Catholic Ugandan woman to sleep unprotected with her infected husband rather than using condoms. “If it is wrong to use the condom, then she has made the right choice,” says the cardinal.
Panorama, “Can Condoms Kill?” British Broadcasting Corporation, June 27, 2004.
Bishop Valter Zupan and the Croatian Catholic Bishops Conference
The Croatian Catholic bishops oppose a safe-sex program in the public school system because of the inclusion of condoms as part of a broad prevention strategy. Bishop Valter Zupan draws the ire of the medical community with distortions of science, including claims that the HIV virus passes through “pores” in condoms and that the use of condoms “increases the risk of HIV infection.”
Agence France-Presse,”After yoga and Sunday shopping, Croatia’s Catholic Church targets condoms,” February 15, 2004.
Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, Pontifical Council for the Family
The Vatican promotes a new paper from Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council on the Family. In “Family Values versus Safe Sex,” the cardinal, most known for an appalling misstatement about condoms’ ability to prevent the transmission of the HIV on the BBC’s Panorama program “Sex and the Holy City,” misrepresents scientific research to advance his flawed and unjust view on the ethics of condom use.
Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, Pontifical Council for the Family
Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, says that the HIV virus is small enough to pass through condoms and promoting condom use is like playing “Russian roulette” with AIDS. He remarks further that “safe-sex” campaigns are dangerous because they increase promiscuity and give condom users a false sense of security.
Nicole Winfield, “Just what is the Vatican position on condoms to fight AIDS? Depends on who’s talking, and where,” Associated Press, March 16, 2004.
Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, Uganda
Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala of Uganda says condoms were originally made for prostitutes and “if we want to promote immorality then we shall continue advocating artificial methods like condoms.”
Africa News, “Condoms promote immorality,” September 29, 2003.
Southern African Bishops Conference
In response to a proposal to sanction condom use, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference releases a statement saying that widespread promotion of condom use is “an immoral and misguided weapon in our battle against HIV/AIDS.” Reading from the statement, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier says, “Condoms may even be one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV/AIDS. Apart from the possibility of condoms being faulty or wrongly used, they contribute to the breaking down of self-control and mutual respect.”
Australian, “Bishops attack use of condoms in AIDS war,” August 1, 2001.
Father Felice Ruffini, Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers
At a Vatican conference on AIDS, Camillian Father Felice Ruffini, undersecretary to the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, says that because the church teaches that all sexual relations outside of marriage are immoral, the question of condom use in those circumstances is superfluous. He further argues that while “it’s tough to be able to maintain matrimonial chastity,” condom use in marriages in which one partner is infected with HIV is still prohibited and moralists cannot craft “an exception to Christ’s law.”
America, “Vatican: AIDS Problem Involves More Than Condoms,” December 16, 2000.
Bonifacio Honings, Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers
A Dutch moral theologian who does consultancy work for the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, Bonifacio Honings of the Discalced Carmelites, says that a husband with HIV has no right to request sexual relations from his healthy wife. “If it is true love on the part of the husband, he will do everything possible to not demand such a dangerous relation from his wife,” he says. At the same time, the wife could choose to consent to sexual relations “to avoid worse things—her husband becoming intractable, or the husband being unfaithful to her, etc,” he says.
America, “Vatican: AIDS Problem Involves More Than Condoms,” December 16, 2000.
Father Jacques Suaudeau, Pontifical Council for the Family
Father Jacques Suaudeau, a medical doctor who is a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family, claims that using condoms during sexual intercourse will not protect against transmission of the HIV virus
Tablet, October 18, 1997.
Archbishop Norberto Rivera Carrera, Mexico
With the support of PROVIDA, a conservative prolife group in Mexico, Mexico’s Archbishop Norberto Rivera Carrera rejects the use of contraceptives in marriage. In his homily, Rivera Carrera instructs parishioners not to use intrauterine devices and condoms, arguing that they are methods that destroy the sexual unity between spouses.
Crónica, “Rivera Carrera rechaza los métodos anticonceptivos dentro del matrimonio,” September 1, 1997.
The Vatican advises parents to “reject the promotion of ‘safe sex’ or ‘safer sex,’ a dangerous and immoral policy based on the deluded theory that the condom can provide adequate protection against AIDS.”
Pontifical Council for the Family, “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality,” Origins, February 1, 1996.
Peruvian Bishops Conference
The Peruvian Bishops Conference releases a letter, “Building a Culture of Life,” that criticizes the government’s promotion of a sex education program geared toward adolescents. It claims the program is devoid of moral values and social responsibility. It asserts that the program is limited to education on prophylactics and condoms, and thus encourages recreational sex that does not take into account responsibility for consequences.