BY ANGUS MACDONALD
A WHITE FATHER missionary has called for "open discussion about the use of the condom" to help prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa.
Fr Francis Carey, writing in the latest issue of Minion Outlook, the quarterly review of the Pontifical Missionary Union, said the Church had largely failed to promote chastity in Africa, where nearly six million adults are carrying the AIDS virus.
And he added: "There is certainly an argument... for suggesting that we promote open discussion about the use of the condom. The reality is that the condom is being promoted anyway. We ignore this fact at our peril."
AIDS is rapidly becoming Africa's biggest health problem, with more than 70 per cent of the worldwide deathtoll from the disease in Africa.
Though Catholic missionaries and aid agencies do not provide or promote condoms, the World Health Organisation puts condom distribution at the top of its list of strategies for combating the disease. Fr Carey suggested that the Church's efforts to educate about HIV prevention in Africa meant that it had to face up to the question of condom-use. "In educating for chastity there would probably be no question of mentioning the condom, still less of suggesting that there are circumstances in which it might and should be used. In educating about HIV prevention, the question, alas, is different," he wrote.
Last year Sr Ursula Sharpe, a Uganda-based medical missionary, caused a furore when she told an audience at CAFOD's Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture in Leeds that she had "a moral responsibility" to inform people about condoms. Sr Ursula said she would not tell people to use condoms, but would advise them about the pros and cons of their use.
Sr Maura O'Donoghue, the head of CAFOD's AIDS section, warned this week that it was "foolish" to "get stuck" on condoms when there were so many other issues contributing to the spread of the disease.
She questioned the effec
tiveness of the WHO's condom campaigns and suggested that "a technological solution may not be the most appropriate".
The Pontifical Missionary Union founded in Rome in the 1920's is one of four Pontifical Mission Societies whose aim is to stimulate interest in mission work amongst priests, religious, catechists and seminarians. In recent years the publication of Mission Outlook has become the organisation's main activity in the UK.
Meanwhile, delegates at an international AIDS conference in Glasgow were warned this week that the world faced "a pandemic of vast proportions".
According to the World Health Organisation, which is sponsoring the conference, up to six million more people are likely to die of AIDS by the end of the millenium, the majority from developing countries.
In the first public projections of the global death toll from the disease, WHO said between 30 and 40 million people would be HIV positive by the year 2000.