VATICAN CITY – African cardinals denounced the "cultural imperialism" of wealthy countries in their aid, trade and health care policies for Africa, saying Wednesday that Western influences were destroying the continent's moral fabric.
African prelates attending the three-week meeting on the role of the Catholic Church in Africa said their countries needed economic development partnerships that are based on trust and fairness, not ones that exploit Africa's natural resources and put conditions on aid.
"We want to be helped, but helped in the name of truth, with respect of what we are and what we want for ourselves," Cardinal Theodore-Adrien Sarr of Dakar, Senegal, told a news conference.
He and Cardinal Wilfred Fox Napier of Durban, South Africa, denounced "hidden" agendas of international aid groups and countries that promote abortion rights and condoms to fight HIV, saying the West was trying to impose its views on Africa.
Their arguments have been echoed during the synod, with repeated criticisms of institutions that promote "reproductive health care" for women. The Vatican has warned that such programs — often supported by the United Nations — are really just a cover for promoting access to abortions and birth control.
The Vatican opposes abortion and artificial contraception. It has come under heavy criticism for its opposition to condoms as a way of fighting HIV, particularly in hard-hit Africa.
"There are certain cultural norms that are inherent in Africa," Napier said. "One of them is that sexual activity is for bringing babies into the world. It's not so much for enjoyment."
But he said the "cultural imperialism" imported from the West "is saying 'no, it's for enjoyment, and pregnancy is almost a disease."'
Napier also cited the practice by some aid groups of conditioning their aid with terms that are unacceptable to the Catholic Church, such as requiring a part of funding for anti-HIV programs to be set aside for condom purchases.
"Western populations think that their life is the model for everybody, but it's not the case," Sarr said. "If they have some ideas, they can put forward these ideas, but these shouldn't be imposed on all the populations in the world."