17 October 2003

Vatican opens to world [but not condoms]

More controversial questions were raised by Scotland's new cardinal, Keith O'Brien of Edinburg, who told reporters Sept. 29 that he felt the Catholic Church should be open to discussion on priestly celibacy and contraception. He also signaled that he had no problem with gay clergy so long as they remain celibate.

In one signal of the tensions surrounding these questions, however, O'Brien on Oct. 7 recited a Profession of Faith in his cathedral pledging that he would 'accept and intend to defend' church law and teaching on precisely the same questions -- celibacy, contraception, and homosexuality.

In another sign of the unfinished business that awaits John Paul's successor, two cardinals clashed in the days leading up to the sliver jubilee on the hot-button issue of condoms.

Colombian Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, who heads the Pontifical Council for the Family, told the BBC in early October that condoms may not be effective in blocking the transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. This reiterated a long-standing position in Lopez Trujillo's office, which was laid out in a 2003 Lexicon published by the Council for the Family under the heading 'safe sex.'

Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels, Belgium, widely considered a leading candidate to succeed John Paul II, rebuked Lopez Trujillo.

'It does not befit a cardinal to deal with the virtue of a product ... I don't know if what he said is reliable,' Danneels said, adding that a cardinal should instead raise the ethical, religious and spiritual dimensions of the AIDS issue.

Brazil also picked holes in Lopez' argments:

[Brazilian Health Minister] Costa said he himself was a Catholic and that the church had a right to believe sex should be just for procreation, but "I disagree profoundly with this view" on condoms.

He said Brazil's AIDS program and all scientific evidence had found the most efficient way of preventing the spread of the disease was to encourage the use of condoms.

"The policy of free distribution of condoms was one of the big reasons for our success," the minister said. "Brazil's program is an international success and ensured that instead of the predictions that we would now have 1.2 million (AIDS cases), we have half that number.

I have reread the Sermon on the Mount but I can't find anything about attacking public health programs for ideological reasons.

Interesting that at least two cardinals, Daneels and O'Brien, are not toeing the party line on this and other issues.

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