Jon O'Brien, an Irish national who is president of the U.S. based Catholics for Choice, issued a press release on March 17 concerning statements made by Pope Benedict during the pontiff's travel to Africa.
On his Alitalia flight to Yaonde, capital of Cameroon, the pope insisted that regarding the spread of HIV/AIDS infection “You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," and "On the contrary, it increases the problem." He underscored the Church’s teaching that the use of condoms by Catholics is to be rejected while insisting that a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease.
The Roman Catholic Church rejects the use of condoms as part of its overall teaching against artificial contraception. Senior Vatican officials have advocated fidelity in marriage and abstinence from premarital sex as key weapons in the fight against AIDS.
Said the statement by O’Brien, "As the pope traveled to Africa, he chose this moment to make what appears to be his first unequivocal statement opposing condom use. In an interview on the papal plane to Cameroon, the pope acknowledged the HIV/AIDS crisis but claimed that the distribution of condoms would not resolve the problem. In fact, he said, condom use 'increases the problem.'
"The pope will find that few Catholics and even fewer medical personnel agree with his stance. Several bishops in Africa, including especially Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg in South Africa, have been outspoken in their support of the use of condoms. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that many people who work with Catholic relief agencies distribute condoms to those at risk of infection.
"While condoms are not a panacea for the problem, they are a critical part of the campaign to reduce the impact of the virus. Medical experts agree that the condom is a life-saving device: it is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission if used correctly and consistently, and is the best current method of HIV prevention for those who are sexually active and at risk.
"For the Catholic hierarchy to deny the role that condoms play in preventing the further spread of HIV is irresponsible and dangerous. Not only that, the Catholic hierarchy has lobbied governments in the global north against the inclusion of funding for condoms in development aid programs.
Catholics for Choice asserts that it “shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women's well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives.”
O’Brien has been at the helm of Catholics for Choice for 10 years and has received acclaim from the International Parliamentarians Conference on ICPD, and was also recognized as a “Key to Choice” by Planned Parenthood Golden Gate.
It forms the center of a network of likeminded organizations in Europe and the Americas which assert that teachings of the Catholic faith can actually reconciled to abortion and the use of condoms as a means of contraception or to avoid contagion by sexually-transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. On its website, it asserts that “Good Catholics Use Condoms.”
Catholics for Choice sponsored in 2003 an international media campaign “Catholics4Life.com” that asserted “We believe in God. We believe that sex is sacred. We believe in caring for each other. We believe in using condoms.” Posters produced by the campaign urged the Catholic hierarchy to “start getting serious” about condom use.