Sunday, 1 March 2009

Schizoid CAFOD?

CAFOD (the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development - supported by the Bishops of England and Wales) has a policy statement available from its www site which states clearly:

"It is important that people understand that abstinence and being faithful to one life-long partner in marriage, when both know they do not have HIV, are the surest ways to avoid infection through sexual activity," and further: "that CAFOD neither funds nor advocates the supply, distribution or promotion of condoms."

This is all, as CAFOD proudly proclaims, because "CAFOD seeks to exercise a role consistent with its Catholic character."

All well and good, the Catholic in the pew (who funds CAFOD on the basis of its being Catholic) might think.

But on the same site, we find another document (HIV Prevention From the Perspective of A Faith-Based Development Agency by Ann M. Smith, Jo Maher, Jim Simmons, Monica Dolan) which states, inter alia:

"abstinence can be used to mean:
Delaying the age of first sexual encounter. Evidence suggests that the abstinence aspect of ABC campaigns has been most successful among young people, for whom delaying the age of sexual debut was an important risk reduction strategy
Not having sex until the person is in a more stable relationship
Choosing to have sex only within a long-term committed relationship
Not having sex until marriage
As a mutually agreed and free choice (one of a number of possible options) by and between HIV discordant couples
As a preferred option for a specified period in a person’s life ."

Be Faithful "might mean fidelity to:
A single, mutually faithful partner, whether in marriage or in a long-term committed relationship
Serially monogamous relationships (provided a degree of stability exists within these relationships. What this means for individuals will vary, depending on current practices and alternative possibilities)
A strategy of reducing the number of partners
A strategy of reducing the instances of casual sex
A strategy of consistency in condom use if this is a person’s risk reduction option, given that condom failure is more often attributable to their inconsistent or incorrect use."

"The available evidence suggests that condom promotion has been particularly effective for identifiable groups at highest risk of HIV infection (e.g. sex workers) and who may have few if any other options for reducing risk.[snip] Thus an important component of this third strand of a nuanced ABC must be that C also stands for Choice. An imperative that becomes “Choose what you can change today; choose what you want to change for tomorrow” is informed by sound epidemiology and also compatible with the gradualist theological understanding referred to earlier. "

Is it me, or is there in fact a degree of promotion of condoms in the foregoing?

And is not 'abstinence' so proudly touted in the first policy document given a wholy new - and wholy unCatholic - meaning in the second?

I'll be choosing other Catholic charities for my alms this Lent...

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