German priest to continue condoms work in Africa

TRIER, Germany -- A German priest who distributes condoms to help stem the spread of HIV/AIDS can continue working at his South African clinic but must give up the pulpit at a local Catholic church under a new deal with his bishop.

Fr. Stefan Hippler, who has worked in Africa for 12 years, served a German-speaking congregation in Cape Town, and also initiated an AIDS charity project called "Hope," which caters for HIV-positive children and parents.

In a 2007 book, God, AIDS, Africa, co-written with journalist Bartholomaus Grill, Hippler urged a reconsideration of the Catholic Church's ban on condoms, saying the church's theology on AIDS is more than 40 years out-of-date.

Last March, Hippler helped establish an organization to care for priests and nuns who are HIV-positive. Two months later, the German Catholic Bishops' Conference, which employed Hippler in Cape Town, announced it would not renew his contract and recalled Hippler to the Diocese of Trier.

However, in a deal with newly-installed Trier Bishop Stephan Ackerman, Hippler was granted a new five-year contract in Cape Town, paid for by the Trier diocese. Hippler will give up his pulpit at the Cape Town church.

Under the new arrangement, Hippler's work will be financed by his diocese, not the German bishops' conference.

"It is really good that a solution was found where both parties are content," Hippler said.

Shortly after taking office last May, Ackermann praised the "great commitment" of Hippler's work. "For his efforts I am thankful. That is regardless of some statements of Father Hippler regarding questions of sexual ethics that are not in accordance with the teachings of the church."

Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here