World Youth Day, a “great worldwide encounter with the Pope,” is starting tomorrow in Madrid. Catholic youth from around the world will gather to attend concerts, tour museums, have catechesis sessions with bishops and celebrate Mass with the Pope. For the past few years, the U.S.-based organization Catholics for Choice has run advertisements on billboards and in subway stations as part of their campaign, Condoms4Life, in the cities where World Youth Day is held. This year, however, the ads were banned.
Catholics for Choice, an organization which “strive[s] to be an expression of Catholicism as it is lived by ordinary people,” had put together a series of ads thanking Pope Benedict XVI for acknowledging, however bizarrely, that condoms can do good. The ads, which were intended to run in the Madrid transit system, were rejected by Publimedia, a Madrid-based advertising agency.
In a press release, CFC president Jon O’Brien defended the ads. ”As Catholics, we were supporting Pope Benedict’s claim that condoms can save lives,” he said. “This was a major breakthrough in the hierarchy’s position on the use of condoms. How can it be offensive for Catholics to support the position of the pope?”
The anti-choice website LifeSiteNews, however, had a different spin. ”The efforts of the U.S.-based pro-abortion group ‘Catholics for Choice’ to subvert Catholic sexual teaching,” writes Patrick Craine, “at next month’s World Youth Day in Madrid experienced a major setback this week when their ads were rejected by a local advertising company.”
The debate hinges on the Pope’s confusing comments last November, when he declared that condom use, which has long been condemned by the Catholic Church, was sometimes morally acceptable, if it was used to avert a greater moral evil (i.e. the transmission of HIV). The comment was confusing and ultimately inconclusive, but it doesn’t detract from the power of Catholics for Choice’s message, which underscores the fact that many devout Catholics use contraceptives, regardless of the church hierarchy’s position on the issue.
It’s unclear why Madrid is rejecting the ads when they have run successfully during other World Youth Day celebrations. But one thing is certain: good Catholics do use condoms (at least in the United States), and Catholic youth should know it.
Photo from Catholics for Choice.