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 CNS Story:

HUMANAE-LOMBARDI Jul-25-2008 (440 words) xxxi

Papal spokesman calls Catholics for Choice ad 'paid propaganda'

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Responding to an open letter from dissident groups asking Pope Benedict XVI to change church teaching on birth control, the pope's spokesman said the letter was "paid propaganda in favor of the use of contraceptives."

The letter, sponsored by the U.S.-based Catholics for Choice and signed by dozens of its national chapters, sections of We Are Church and groups promoting women's ordination, was published July 25 in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

On the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's encyclical "Humanae Vitae" ("Of Human Life"), the advertisement asked Pope Benedict "to use this anniversary as an occasion to begin a process of reform, remaining faithful to the positive aspects of Catholic doctrine on sexuality and abrogating the prohibition on contraception to allow Catholics to plan their family life in a safe way and in good conscience."

The ad said Catholic teaching against the use of artificial contraception had had "catastrophic effects on the poor and the weak throughout the world, placing in danger the lives of women and exposing millions of people to the risk of contracting HIV."

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the papal spokesman, told Vatican Radio that the ad was "nothing new" from a collection of small groups already known for their opposition to church teaching on a variety of topics.

"In addition, the harshest accusation -- that the Catholic position is the cause of the spread of AIDS and, therefore, of suffering and death, blocking enlightened policies of public health -- is demonstrably unfounded," he said.

The spread of AIDS has nothing to do with someone's religion, he said, and policies responding to AIDS that rely chiefly on the distribution of condoms "have largely failed."

"Responding to AIDS requires interventions that are much deeper and detailed," he said, and Catholic agencies and religious orders are actively involved in those projects.

The most interesting thing about the protest letter, Father Lombardi said, was the fact that "it does not touch -- in anyway -- the true question at the center of 'Humanae Vitae,' which is the connection between spouses' human and spiritual relationship and the exercise of their sexuality as an expression of it and its fruitfulness."

"In the entire letter," he said, "the word 'love' does not appear once."

Father Lombardi said the letter does not "express a theological or moral position," but seemed to be "paid propaganda in favor of the use of contraceptives. One also could ask who paid for it and why."


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