Kenya’s Roman Catholic Church has condemned a Catholic group for a billboard and newspaper advertising campaign promoting condom use.
The US-based Catholics for Choice was planting “negative attitudes” that could destroy the nation’s “moral fibre”, church leaders said.
Catholics for Choice defend it, saying it could curb the spread of HIV.
Around 1.6 million people out of Kenya’s population of 41.6 million are living with HIV, according to the UN.
Catholics are heavily divided over the use of condoms.
A television advert urging married women to use condoms was recently pulled from Kenyan television following an outcry from religious groups.
Remember if the moral fibre of any nation is destroyed, then you have destroyed the nation as well” John Cardinal NjueKenya Catholic Church
Catholics for Choice has said its “condoms4life” campaign shows “an authentically Catholic message”.
The group has run advertisements in newspapers and billboards in Kenya showing a smiling couple with the slogan: “Good Catholics Use Condoms”.
“We believe in God. We believe that sex is sacred. We believe in caring for each other. We believe in using condoms,” the advert reads.
But Cardinal John Njue, chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the church promoted pro-life, not pro-choice.
“Catholics for Choice are not Catholics in the sense of the one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church,” he said in a statement.
Cardinal Njue called for the advertisements to be stopped.
“Remember if the moral fibre of any nation is destroyed, then you have destroyed the nation as well,” he said. “The only thing we are saying is that this is a seed that is being planted for very wrong reasons.”
Kisumu Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth maintained that it was only abstinence and faithfulness that could stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. “Condoms came in to control births even before HIV/AIDS came on and we already rejected that. Condoms are not the answer for that. We are pro life. Even if you get 10 children give us two to become priests,” he quipped.
Catholics for Choice said it launched its campaign after pressure from religious groups forced the Kenyan government to drop an advertisement in March promoting condom use in marriage.
“The campaign is vital because the bishops’ recent activities are not representative of Catholic teachings or beliefs. Catholics do support the use of condoms, and they do use them to protect themselves and their partners,” campaign co-ordinator Jon O’Brien said in a statement last month.
In recent weeks, the Kenya Episcopal Conference spearheaded a campaign to pull a television ad promoting HIV prevention, including the use of condoms. “The ad was based on good science,” said O’Brien; “more than 1.6 million people are living with HIV in Kenya, and condoms are an evidence-based method for preventing the spread of HIV.
“There are a billion Catholic around the world, and here in Kenya we represent a third of the population. On the issue of condom use the Kenyan bishops don’t speak for Catholics here in Nairobi, or anywhere else,” O’Brien said, referring to a recent international poll that found that Catholics in Ghana, Ireland, Mexico, the US and the Philippines believe using condoms for HIV prevention is prolife because they help save lives. Further, six in ten Catholics from these countries believe Catholic hospitals that receive public funding should be required to provide condoms.”
The bishops’ anti-condom claims contradict Pope Benedict XVI who, in a series of statements in 2010, supported the use of condoms. Benedict stated that “where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection” condoms can be “a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.” The pope demonstrated that Catholics could be wholeheartedly in support of any and all means of combating a deadly virus affecting people around the world, affirming that people could use condoms to protect themselves and their partners, and that this was indeed a life-giving, moral choice.
Job Akuno from the National Organization of Peer Educators in Kenya applauded the new ads. He said, “The Condoms4Life campaign targets a critical mass and is a call to action to its leadership. It’s a strong, healthy, faith-based message by Catholics and for Catholics. We need more voices like theirs.”
“The aim of the campaign,” said O’Brien, “is to ensure that Catholics know that despite what the bishops say, Catholics can in good conscience use condoms. Catholics in Kenya are no different. They can take the steps to protect themselves and their partners against HIV.”
“Unfortunately, the Catholic hierarchy in Kenya and elsewhere seems determined to threaten public health in a doctrinal tug-of-war over a question that has been settled for years. Catholics are less shocked by discussions about caring choices between partners than they are by the bishops’ prohibition on a proven method of prevention.”
- Kenya Catholics oppose condom advert (bbc.co.uk)
- Njue dismisses ‘Catholic’ condom advert (nation.co.ke)
- When Catholics Attack Catholics (Over Condoms) (moralcompassblog.com)
- Billboards in Nairobi Proclaim that “Good Catholics Use Condoms” (secularnewsdaily.com)
- Catholic Church Opposes ‘Good Catholics Use Condoms’ Advert – LMAO (lowkeytech.wordpress.com)
- HumanistLife : Billboard and Newspapers in Nairobi Proclaim that “Good Catholics Use Condoms” (humanistlife.org.uk)
- Bishops slam Catholics for Choice condom Ads (capitalfm.co.ke)