Papua New Guinea Bishops Announce 'Conscientious Objection' to Condom Ruling

Episcopal Conference Prepared to Challenge Controversial Directive

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RABAUL, Papua New Guinea, MAY 9, 2012 (Zenit.org).- A new law on sexual education in Papua New Guinea has prompted the episcopal conference in Rabaul to issue an objection. The Ministry of Education has ordered that condoms be distributed to students in secondary schools. The measure is part of a new policy aimed at combating AIDS and HIV while providing a certain type of sexual education to schoolchildren. 

The Episcopal Conference of Papua New Guinea, represented by Archbishop Francesco Panfilo of Rabaul, has announced a “conscientious objection” to the new law and vowed that Catholic schools will not follow it.  

“Even if the document issued by the Ministry of Education has many positive points, we cannot be forced to follow a policy which contradicts with our philosophy of education," said the archbishop, who is vice president of the Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education. 

In an interview with the Fides agency, Archbishop Panfilo said that the Church is also ready to respond in court, if the state were to challenge this decision legally. The prelate explained that the Catholic Church considers the distribution of condoms as a wrong signal to students, encouraging them to attitudes of sexual permissiveness before and outside marriage, thereby risking a further spread of HIV and AIDS, which has been growing in prevalence in the school population.

James Ume, principal at a secondary school named after St. John Baptiste de la Salle, agreed. “If a school gives a ballpoint pen and a book to a student, the basic message is simple: to study. But if you give condoms, the message for students will be: go and feel free to do what you want. It is an invitation to irresponsibility," he said.

The Church leaders also emphasized how a course of sex education and the fight against AIDS for students must take into account the joint contribution of teachers and students’ parents. The policy, said Father Paul Jennings, of St. Joseph International College in Boroko, “should do more to maintain a partnership with parents” and not impose directives in the education of their children.