BY FREDDY GRAY
CARDINAL CORMAC MurphyO’Connor has been awarded a “Condoms4Life” prize by a controversial group which claims to be Catholic.
Cafod, the overseas aid agency of the bishops of England and Wales, was also praised for “continuing its work to provide a comprehensive and compassionate prevention strategy [against Aids] through its services”.
Condoms4Life is a project of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), an international organisation that promotes abortion and condoms. The group has offered the award — a small rectangular statue — to the Archbishop of Westminster for his remarks on condom use in the fight against Aids earlier this year.
In an interview with The Independent in July, the Cardinal, who is the president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said: “While we can say that, objectively, the use of condoms is wrong, there are places when it might be morally licit, or allowable, as when there’s a danger of intercourse leading to death. It would be wrong to take a special case and make it a universal law.”
CFFC has also nominated the bishops of India, Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels and Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, as recipients of the Condoms4Life award. In a statement, the “good shepherds” were praised for their “courage in promoting life saving prevention policies for people at risk of HIV and Aids”.
In another extraordinary announcement, the CFFC went on to attack senior clergy for their opposition to condom use, describing them as “lost sheep”. Targets included Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, Archbishop of Kampala, and Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council on the Family, and the Croatian bishops’ conference .
Efriede Harth, European representative of CFFC, said the awards would be handed out annually until the problem of Aids had been resolved. She said: “Even when the Vatican changes its policy to favour condoms as part of a comprehensive program of treatment and prevention, it will be valuable to honour those in the hierarchy who take actions that really promote a culture of life regarding HIV and Aids – and to single out those whose actions contribute to a culture of death.” On the subject of the “lost sheep”, she asked: “How can the Catholic Church maintain people in leadership positions who abuse their authority and contribute to a culture of death?” Many Catholics are furious that such a group should have given an award to the spiritual leader of England and Wales, and others are fiercely critical of Cafod’s policy on condom use.
“This is one of the most shameful days in the history of the Church,” said Eric Hester, a retired Catholic headmaster. “I have no doubt that Cafod thoroughly deserves the applause that it receives from such a group.” He added: “The bishops of England and Wales must step in at once, use their authority, and order Cafod to keep to Catholic teaching on abortion and contraception. Otherwise, English lay Catholics must organise a pilgrimage to Rome to protest directly to the Holy Father.” The Cardinal has declined to comment directly on the award. However, this week his public affairs office released a statement to clarify the position of the bishops’ conference on contraception in response to a barrage of letters from lay Catholics concerned that the national Church, and particularly Cafod, were at odds with the Magisterium.
In a letter to one of the publications that has attacked the bishops’ attitude to the use of condoms, Mgr Andrew Summersgill, general secretary of the conference, said it was “misleading” to portray the bishops’ position as contradictory to magisterial teaching.
He said: “In order to clarify any misunderstanding, the Cardinal would like to make clear: the bishops oppose artificial contraception and do not advocate the promotion of condoms as a means of combating Aids. The way to combat Aids is through the Catholic sexual ethic of monogamy, fidelity and abstinence. The Magisterium of the Church always maintains the objectivity of the moral law, while also recognising the particular circumstances in which individuals endeavour to live her teaching.” The Catholic Church in America has repeatedly condemned CFFC for claiming Catholic status.
In 2000, Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, then President of the American bishops’ conference, said: “CFFC is not a Catholic organisation, does not speak for the Catholic Church, and in fact promotes positions contrary to the teaching of the Church as articulated by the Holy See.”