BY MARK GREAVES
ARCHBISHOP Vincent Nichols of Westminster has said he can see why condoms are an “attractive” option for women in the developing world.
But he argued that it was better for the Church to focus on long-term problems such as poverty and a lack of security.
The Archbishop told BBC West Midlands last Friday: “I think when it comes to Third World poverty and the great pressure under which many women are put by men, I can see the arguments, why, in the short term, [the] means that give women protection are attractive.” But he said this was only a “short-term intrusive fix” and not the real issue that needed to be addressed.
“The use of condoms doesn’t lack for champions,” the Archbishop said. “There are plenty of champions around giving and distributing condoms. I don’t think it’s the Church’s role simply to add its voice to that but rather, in contrast, to keep saying: ‘If we solve the poverty then consistently we know the birth rate comes down.’ “If we provide people with security, then consistently birth rates will come down. And they’re the radical issues that we should be addressing.” He made the comments during an interview with Steve Dyson on BBC West Midland’s Hard Talk programme. Earlier in the interview he explained the Church’s vision of sexuality as something of beauty that is open to the creation of new life.
He said that unless this vision was maintained, “we run the risk of reducing it to an entertainment or a pastime or simply a pleasure”.
The Archbishop’s comments were welcomed by the Catholic development charity Progressio. Christine Allen, its executive director, said his comments showed “great understanding” of the circumstances of women trapped in poverty.
She said: “In some countries where we work the Church hierarchy’s inability to understand the daily reality of poverty in people’s lives is a major obstacle to our partners’ efforts to help women to gain control over their lives and achieve their social, economic and political rights. While we understand why the Archbishop says it is not the Church’s role to champion the use of condoms, we hope his comments will encourage other leaders to similarly engage and understand the multiple causes and responses to poverty.” Last year Pope Benedict XVI caused an outcry in some parts of the media by saying that flooding Africa with condoms risked “aggravating” the Aids crisis.
However, his comment was soon endorsed by one of the world’s leading experts on Aids, Dr Edward Green.
Dr Green, a medical anthropologist with 30 years of experience fighting diseases in African countries, said the “best” evidence showed that widespread availability of condoms led to higher rather than lower rates of HIV infection.