Jesuit U. of San Francisco to Honor Dissident Bishop Famed for Pushing Condoms

Another commencement speaker is a leading opponent of pro-marriage California Proposition 8
Mon May 4, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Kathleen Gilbert

SAN FRANCISCO, California, May 4, 2009 ( - A South African bishop famed for his opposition to Church teaching on contraception will receive an honorary degree at the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco (USF) at commencement May 22.  Another commencement speaker will be San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, a strong opponent of true marriage in California.

Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenberg in South Africa is listed on the University’s website as the homilist at the Commencement Mass on May 21, as well as the honorary degree recipient and commencement speaker for humanities and science students’ graduation ceremony from the College of Arts and Sciences May 22.

Dowling achieved his claim to fame in 2001, when he became the first African bishop to defy Church teaching on contraceptive use and endorse the use of condoms to prevent HIV.

In November 2005, Bishop Dowling told a Chicago Tribune correspondent that in his impoverished diocese, where prostitution runs rampant, "the only solution we have at the moment is condoms." 

In an April 2007 Grand Rapids Press article, Dowlings said of the HIV battle in South Africa: "Abstinence before marriage and faithfulness in a marriage is beyond the realm of possibility here.  The issue is to protect life."

The Vatican, the South African papal nuncio, and the South African Bishops Conference have rebuked Dowling and his teachings, but the bishop has not retracted his statements. 

Another speaker at graduation this year will be San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who will give the commencement address for graduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Masagung Graduate School of Management on May 23. 

Ms. Harris was a leading opponent of Proposition 8, California’s true marriage initiative, during the campaign season last year.

Notably, the USF website highlights a research project by two of its staff positively reporting on efforts by the Spanish government to defend gay/lesbian rights in Latin America, which the USF researchers call "progressive colonialism." See .

USF did not return requests for comment made by as of press time.

To express concern:

Archbishop George H. Niederauer, D.D, Ph.D
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco
One Peter Yorke Way
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 614-5500
[email protected]

Most Reverend Thomas Curry
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Education
Diocese of Los Angeles
phone: 805 682 0442
committee email: [email protected]

Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski
Congregation for Catholic Education
Palazzo della Congregazioni,
Piazza Pio XII, 3
00193 Roma, Italia

Fr. Stephen Privett, USF President
Office of the President
LMR 415
2130 Fulton St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
phone: 415 422-6762
e-mail:  [email protected]

See related coverage:

South African Bishop Calls for Catholic "Theology" of Condoms for AIDS

Jesuit U. Faculty Union Threatens to File Complaint if Abortion Coverage Revoked

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