The Director of the Office of Information of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Isidro Catella, responded this week to critics who used World AIDS Day to blast the Church for her teaching on condoms, saying the true root of the problem lies in a culture that reduces sexuality to the exchange of pleasure.
In an article published by El Mundo entitled, “The Church and AIDS: the solution and the problem,” Catella noted that “26.7% of the world’s AIDS centers are Catholic,” and that for the Church, “every day of the year is AIDS day” because “the Church cares daily for the people who suffer.”
Catella maintained that World AIDS Day “has become a troubling event which, instead of contributing to social awareness and to the effective prevention of the pandemic, is being used for propaganda at the service of the dominant culture that seeks to spread lies and repeat them over and over with the hope that they will eventually be considered true.”
He pointed to three lies as those most significant: the portrayal of AIDS as strictly a health care issue, the one-sided informational campaigns that maintain that the condom is the only solution, and the depiction of the Church as the real problem.
According to Catella, “the first strategy is based on the spread of the idea that the disease has no relation to the one’s sexual behavior and that, as a consequence, we are all equally susceptible to infection. Society is made to believe that we are dealing exclusively with a health care problem, without recognizing that there will be no solution until the ethical dimension is addressed.”
Regarding the use of condoms, Catella lamented that despite efforts by governments to promote them as the solution to the disease, “in 2005 five million more individuals became infected, the greatest increase since the beginning of the pandemic.”
“The policies based on the myth of ‘safe sex’ have failed and we must demand that our leaders acknowledge it and are courageous in proposing other solutions,” Catella continued. The priority should be on morality and the integral education of young people in order to foster dignity and respect for life.
“Why are we told to abstain from smoking and drinking in order to prevent certain diseases and yet they dare not propose abstinence from certain sexual practices in order to prevent AIDS?” Catella wondered. The problem requires “political will,” proper formation in human sexuality and personal responsibility in rejecting drug use and other high-risk behavior, he continued.
Catella criticized those who blame the Church, saying they are “contributing to the confusion and have backward-looking and unscientific views.” He noted the “excellent results” that have been achieved in countries such as Uganda and Kenya, where programs that “coincide with Catholic teaching” are being utilized.
The problem is not that the Church is being ignored, Catella said, but rather that “people don’t even question” whether the prevailing beliefs regarding these matters are the correct or most adequate ones.
Catella noted that no one can honestly continue to say that the Church teaches abstinence and fidelity because she does not live in the real world and is not aware of today’s problems. Even the UN, he pointed out, speaks of “responsible sexual behavior, including abstinence and fidelity.”
Catella concluded his article questioning why people are not given the whole truth about the effectiveness of condoms. “Is it because our young people are not considered capable of understanding the meaning of the words ‘abstinence’ and ‘fidelity’?”
Perhaps if young people were told the entire truth, he speculated, they might begin to make their own decisions and no longer see the condom as the solution and the Church as the problem.