.- The Catholic bishops of the Philippines, discussing efforts to reduce the spread of AIDS, have reiterated the importance of premarital chastity and spousal fidelity. They charged that condoms, promoted by a new government campaign, should carry warning labels because they create a false sense of security and encourage promiscuity.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) passed a resolution condemning the government program. The bishops also advocated a ban on condom advertisements in newspapers and magazines and on radio and television.
A CBCP statement written by Conference President Bishop Nereo P. Odchimar said that the Church has shown “love and compassion” towards those who suffer while holding that formation in “authentic sexual values” is the only effective way to curb the spread of AIDS.
“Given its high failure rate, the condom cannot really put a stop to AIDS,” the CBCP commented.
Studies indicate that under ideal conditions condoms can be 99 percent effective in preventing HIV infection. However, studies such as one presented at a June 2001 workshop held by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have reported an effective prevention rate as low as 85 percent.
The Philippines bishops said the condom actually contributes to the spread of AIDS by condoning promiscuity outside of marriage. They suggested the Department of Health require a warning label, like those on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages, saying “condoms may fail to protect from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.”
The bishops cited a 1993 pastoral letter on AIDS which said the Church “spares no effort to help prevent the spread of AIDS.”
Philippines Health Department records say there are 629 confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS in the country, out of a population of about 93 million, the AFP reports. Experts say many cases go unreported.
Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral recently reacted to the bishops’ criticism of her department’s free condom distribution campaign by blaming the Church for hindering efforts against the spread of sexually transmitted disease.
The CBCP questioned whether a condom campaign was the best use of resources. The prelates advised that funding for condom promotion instead be used to fight diseases that affect millions of Filipinos, such as diarrhea, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis and influenza.
Basic needs such as food, medicine, education and work also require resources, they added. The bishops further charged that it was unjust that Catholics were taxed for purposes against their moral beliefs.
According to the CBCP, the “condom business” is a multi-million dollar industry that targets adolescents “at the expense of morality and family life.”
Condom ads should be banned because they desensitize the consciences of youth and “weaken their moral fiber as future parents,” the Conference statement argued.
“We urge parents, professional associations, civil society, youth organizations, the government, and the mass media, to be vigilant and take positive steps in guarding the total health and welfare of our people, and to form families in real loving and responsible relationships,” the bishops’ statement concluded.
“Parents in particular should stand for their constitutional right to rear their children according to their values, and not allow any ideological, commercial, political or international strategic interest to stand in their way.”