In the face of millions of deaths each year from AIDS, the institutional Catholic church's position on condoms has starkly exposed the church's failure to live in solidarity with the poor and oppressed and its failure to be an authentic voice for distributive justice. In recent years the institutional church (hereafter the "church") has been a strong proponent for development, however its advocacy is futile. Its position on condoms undermines global efforts at HIV/AIDS prevention, which is critical to development.
At the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Peter Piot, director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), stated that, "If the world is to stand any chance of meeting its aspirations for sustainable development, then our action agenda must include a full-scale attack on AIDS." (1) HIV/AIDS impacts every sector of society, especially in the developing world: workplace, households, education systems, and of course, the health sector. To be a true advocate for justice and sustainable development, the church must speak the truth and support global efforts to provide people with comprehensive and effective tools for HIV/AIDS prevention, and that includes safe sex instruction, information about and access to condoms.
AN INSTITUTIONAL PROBLEM
Catholic moral theologians and bishops have articulated theologically acceptable arguments to justify the church's recognition that condom-use can and should be used for HIV/AIDS prevention. (2) Meanwhile, bishops' conferences and the Vatican ignore these arguments, as well as convincing scientific evidence. They erroneously claim that condoms are ineffective for HIV/AIDS prevention, while arguing that condoms promote "illicit" sex. A notable example of this was when Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, claimed that, "The use of a condom can be seen ... as a means to prevent ... the `transmission of death' to another." (3) Soon after, in the concluding statement of their semi-annual meeting, the bishops of Southern Africa issued a contradictory statement that claimed, "widespread and indiscriminate promotion of condoms [is] an immoral and misguided weapon in our battle against HIV/AIDS...." (4)
In the midst of the church's efforts to prevent …