AS POPE BENEDICT XVI touched down in Edinburgh marking the start of a four day state visit to the UK, the National Aids Trust (NAT) and Family Planning Association (FPA) publish an open letter condemning his papal teaching on sexual health.
The two charities site the Pope’s views on condom use and same sex relationships as: “Irresponsible and discriminatory,” and that his statements and teachings on sexuality, sexual health and well-being are putting men and women’s health and lives in danger.
The letter claims that women are being killed and injured because they could not seek legal abortions in some countries and that condoms are crucial in the fight against HIV and STI’s,
They also claim that the Pope is using his position as a head of state to “incite and legitimise intolerance, prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people.”
The open letter, follows a stream of criticism from the media on how the Vatican has handled a string of child abuse scandals that have shaken the very foundations of the Catholic Church and shocked the world.
Hundreds of people are expected to attend an anti Pope rally outside Downing Street this Saturday where speakers will include: LGBT human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, Richard Dawkins, science writer, Father Bernard Lynch and Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society.
Peter Tatchell, one of the organisers of the march, said: “The Pope has attacked same-sex marriages as ‘evil’ and vilified supporters of gay equality as ‘gravely immoral.’ He has also denounced homosexual equality as a ‘deviant trend’ and condemned same-sex love as being ‘without any social value.”
Open letter from Family Planning Association (FPA) and National AIDS Trust (NAT)
We are using the Pope’s visit to the UK to highlight the discriminatory nature of his statements and teachings on sexuality and sexual health and wellbeing.
By teaching that modern contraception is ‘intrinsically evil’, the Catholic Church prevents women, including married women, from making choices about whether or not to have children, and how to plan and space their children. This leads to unwanted pregnancies, resulting in unwanted children, or abortion. Particularly in developing countries it also results in women being unable to limit the number of pregnancies during their lives, often leading to disability or premature death.
The Catholic Church’s position on abortion puts women’s health and lives in danger. Evidence from across the world and throughout history has shown that preventing women from accessing safe and legal abortion does not stop abortions. Instead, women facing unplanned pregnancies take desperate actions, including seeking illegal and dangerous abortions. Approximately 70,000 women a year die as a result of unsafe abortion and hundreds of thousands of others are severely injured and disabled.
The Pope’s teachings on abortion serve to perpetuate this situation. The Vatican has used its position in international bodies such as the UN to promote its position on contraception and abortion and to thwart progress recognising women’s sexual and reproductive rights; this impact is felt by women across the world, regardless of their faith.
We are extremely concerned about the Pope’s comments on the use of condoms, and particularly the assertion he made in March 2009 that the use of condoms increased the spread of HIV.
When used correctly and consistently male and female condoms offer protection against all STIs, including HIV. HIV remains a life-threatening illness and can be associated with significant stigma and exclusion. The use of condoms is a crucial part of the fight against the spread of HIV and it is, at best, irresponsible to oppose this.
We oppose the discrimination expressed by the Pope about same sex relationships. In 2008, the Pope used his end of year message to senior Vatican staff to argue that the world needed protecting from homosexuality in the same way it needed protecting from climate change.
As a religious leader and a head of state the Pope wields significant influence. It is unacceptable for him to use his position to incite and legitimise intolerance, prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people across the world.