European Politicians Back Condom Campaign

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

London ( - Twenty-nine European politicians have given their support to an advertising campaign urging Catholic bishops to drop their opposition to condom education.

The campaign, sponsored by the dissident group Catholics For Free Choice (CFFC), accuses the bishops of exacerbating the AIDS epidemic by refusing to provide information about condoms through church institutions. The organization says that the policy, while consistent with church doctrine, runs counter to the personal beliefs of most church members.

Elfriede Harth, the CFFC's European representative, said Friday that the ad campaign has broad-based support amongst members of the Catholic Church in Europe.

"We're trying to touch the hearts of the bishops so that they understand the importance of this issue," she said by phone from Paris. "We cannot stand by and allow the Catholic bishops' ban on condoms to go unchallenged."

Harth said the bishops were refusing to directly confront the AIDS problem.

"Bishops think they need to protect a tradition, but they forget that the message is the important part of the tradition. We have problems we didn't have 20 years ago and we need new solutions," she said.

"If the faithful are dying, that is not very helpful to the church," Harth said.

The 29 politicians lent their names to an advertisement in the European Voice, a weekly newspaper on European Union affairs.

The ads ask: "Catholic people care. Do the bishops?" and include the slogan, "Banning condoms kills."

"Catholic bishops preach sanctity of life. But their ban on condoms contributes to the tragedy of AIDS and death around the world," the ads read.

"Most Catholics disagree with this policy. Yet the Catholic bishops who control 100,000 hospitals and 200,000 other social services worldwide ban both education about and the provision of condoms in their institutions."

The politicians listed in the advertisement insist they don't want to force the church to advocate contraception, but merely to end restrictions on the distribution of information.

"It is regrettable that the bishops undermine (AIDS) efforts by opposing initiatives around the world that encourage condom use as a part of public health policy for those who are sexually active and at risk," said Glenys Kinnock, a European parliamentarian from Britain.

The ads have been the focus controversy in the United States, Canada, the Philippines and several other countries.

In Washington, local bishops said the claims on the advertisements were false and asked the city's public transport officials to take them down. The request was rejected.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has denounced CFFC as "practically speaking, an arm of the abortion lobby."

In the Philippines, bishops and Catholic organizations complained about the ads to the country's advertising standards agency

Officials from Britain's largest bishops' organization, the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, declined comment Friday.

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