by Gail Quinn
January 4, 2002
In the Nation's Capitol the Pageant of Peace surrounds the national Christmas tree. But ride the subway or stand at a bus stop and the message of peace is no more. In its place are signs accusing Catholic bishops of contributing to the deaths of millions.
Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) launched an ad campaign recently charging that the bishops "ban condoms" and don't care if millions die from AIDS. The statement is ludicrous on its face. In fact, it might be called Stupid Statement #1. When was the last time you saw a bishop demand the pharmacy shelves be cleared of condoms? The ads are laden with anti-Catholic bigotry. They would be laughable, as most CFFC statements are, if people too busy to be informed did not take them seriously.
CFFC is funded generously by foundations pleased to help undermine the Church's teachings here and abroad. Its president Frances Kissling is known for her cynical statement: "I spent twenty years looking for a government that I could overthrow, without being thrown in jail. I finally found one in the Catholic Church" (Mother Jones, May/June 1991, p. 11). With overthrow of the Church as an agenda, disinformation campaigns are the norm. That's what CFFC accepts big money to do.
But to claim that the bishops don't care if millions die from AIDS is to expose one's ignorance. The Catholic Church provides over 25 percent of the care for AIDS patients worldwide. Its teaching, urging sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity within, is the only sure way to avoid contracting the disease sexually. Condoms, on the other hand, have a 15 percent failure rate.
D.C. Metro transit officials reportedly saw the ads as simply an "opinion." Yet the system is tax supported, and many Metro riders are Catholics who were deeply offended by the ads. Would it post ads mocking and misrepresenting another faith group? I can't imagine seeing Metro ads that claimed the NAACP's actions or beliefs were a cause of harm, even though someone somewhere might hold that opinion.
Maybe there's an anti-Catholic bacteria in the waters of the Potomac. In 2001 the City Council passed an ordinance to force employers with prescription drug coverage to provide employees with coverage for all contraceptives, including those that act as abortifacients. The Council refused to exempt the Church, although to comply with the law the Church would have had to violate its own beliefs.
Ridiculing Catholic bishops or the Church seems to be taken lightly in Washington, as ridicule of politically correct issues and groups is not. But selling ad space to charge that Church teaching kills and the bishops don't care is beyond the pale. It is irresponsible and an abuse of the public trust.
Gail Quinn is Executive Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.