The Deacon's Bench

It’s happening in Switzerland:

Roman Catholic parishes in the central Swiss city of Lucerne caused an uproar with an AIDS awareness campaign that involves giving teenagers condoms bearing the slogan “protect thy neighbor as thyself.”

The parishes started handing out some of the 3,000 condoms Monday as part of an effort to engage young people.

“We needed something to appeal to people who wouldn’t dream of talking to the church about that kind of issue,” campaign spokesman Florian Flohr said. The Catholic Church opposes the use of artificial contraception, prompting church officials to repeatedly speak against condom distribution as a way to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Officials at the diocese of Basel, of which Lucerne is a part, didn’t respond to requests for comment Monday, but a spokesman in the neighboring diocese of Chur told Swiss television that the condom campaign was “a mistake.”

A Vatican spokesman said Monday that he hadn’t heard about the Lucerne campaign but repeated the church’s position against artificial contraception, including condoms.