A big debate has been sparked by a recent add campaign launched in the country by the group Catholics for Chance (CFC). The US based Catholic Lobby group has produced a number of billboards and advertisements that send the message that “Good Catholics use condoms.” On the one side of the debate is the Catholic Church establishment, which remains steadfast in their position that easy access to condoms encouraged promiscuity. Abstinence is the answer, they claim, and the best way to remain pure and disease free. This position was perhaps best presented by the Catholic head in Kenya, Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki, who said “For me, a condom is not the answer. In fact, this country, I would say without fear that the use of condoms has been the greatest means of increasing the cases of AIDS. Take our university students, students in the schools of higher studies, where condoms are available upon demand. It’s like saying ‘my son or daughter, you are free.’ And they do it.”
The other side of the debate touches on many of the typical arguments. Abstinence, they say, may be a practical approach for some people, but for the vast majority it is not. They point out that 44 percent of new HIV infections in the country occurred in stable relationships, including marriage, and that the problem does not lie in casual relations. This side points out that the position of the Catholic representatives is out of date and out of touch with today’s faithful and that it runs the risk of alienating itself from its flock.
What is most interesting about this particular debate is the fact that it is a Catholic group speaking out against fellow Catholics. The point that CFC is trying to drive home is that the doctrinal interpretations of the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world is not uniform, and that there is a wide spectrum of opinions on these kind of issues. As the hear of the CFC, Mr. John O’Brien, explained, “The aim of the campaign is to ensure that Catholics know that despite what the bishops say, they can, in good conscience, use condoms. Catholics in Kenya are no different. They can take steps to protect themselves and their partners against HIV. “