BRASILIA (Reuters) - Catholic bishops criticized on Friday Brazil’s plan to hand out millions of free condoms in the world’s largest Catholic country when its famously bacchanalian Carnival begins next week.
The health ministry will roll out a new marketing campaign for safe sex on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro and start giving away 35 million free condoms in the streets for Carnival, a festival celebrated by Catholics the world over before the strict period of Lent.
With 150 million Catholics, Brazil has a Carnival that is a five-day street party legendary for liberal amounts of dancing, drinking and sex.
“Is this going to help? I don’t think so,” Cardinal Geraldo Majella, president of Brazil’s Catholic Bishops Council, told journalists in Brasilia on Friday.
After Carnival ends this year, Pope Benedict will make his first visit to Brazil in May.
The free Carnival condoms are meant to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS after Brazil slowed transmission rates by giving out condoms in past years.
But the church is against birth control and preaches abstinence from sex before marriage.
It has long questioned Brazil’s safe-sex program, which has made condoms available for years in health centers and in some high schools. The United Nations has praised the program as a model for other developing countries.
In January the government asked students to design a better vending machine to widen distribution. The students with the best idea will win $25,000 and test machines could hit schools in 2008.
“Rules need to be established. If this is the sex education they want ... on this we cannot agree,” said Majella.
This year’s Carnival slogan is tipped to be: “With condoms, the good feeling goes on after the party is over.”