France's First Lady attacks Catholic approach to contraception in Africa
Carla Bruni has issued a scathing attack on Pope Benedict XVI saying that she has allowed her Catholic faith to lapse because of his approach to contraception in Africa.
In March, the Pope sparked controversy while on an Africa tour by saying that the AIDS pandemic which has crippled the continent ‘can’t be resolved with the distribution of condoms; on the contrary, there is the risk of increasing the problem’.
France’s First Lady departed from her post’s traditional religious neutrality to accuse the Pope of ‘damaging’ countries like Africa with his stance on birth control.
The Italian-born former supermodel risked angering believers in France and beyond by declaring that the Pontiff’s proclamations showed that the Church needed to ‘evolve’.
Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy said: ‘I was born Catholic, I was baptised, but in my life I feel profoundly secular. I find that the controversy coming from the Pope‘s message – albeit distorted by the media – is very damaging.
‘I think the Church should evolve on this issue. It presents the condom as a contraceptive which, incidentally, it forbids, although it is the only existing protection,’ she told Femme Actuelle, the women’s magazine.
André Roux, a constitutional historian said: ‘It’s unprecedented for a first lady to criticise the Pope. Charles de Gaulle’s wife was very Catholic and would never had taken up position, remaining very discreet. The same was true of Bernadette Chirac, who never gave her opinion on religion or international affairs.’
Mr Sarkozy wrote in a 2005 book The Republic, Religions and Hope: ‘I acknowledge myself as a member of the Catholic Church’, even if his religious practice was ‘periodic’.
When he visited the Pope in Rome shortly after his election in 2007, he left his then girlfriend Miss Bruni – a single, unmarried mother – in Paris to avoid embarrassment.