Row in Rome as school installs condom machine

Vaticant digest

Amid national controversy, the Kepler scientific secondary school on Thursday became the first in the Italian education system to install condom vending machines for students. The machines, in the girls’ and boys’ toilets, will sell cut-price condoms just a few miles from the Vatican; the Kepler is in a lower-middle class district of Rome, just outside the city’s ancient walls.

Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who stands in for the pope in his capacity as bishop of Rome, deplored the initiative as “trivialising sexuality”.

The head of the capital’s doctors’ association said he too disapproved of the project. “This is like recognising you can have sex at school,” said Dr Mario Falconi. “I would not want a scholastic use of the condom to be authorised in this fashion, especially considering there is no problem of availability of prophylactics in our country.” The condoms went on sale at €2 (£1.82) for a packet of three — less than half the usual retail price.

The Kepler’s headteacher, Antonio Panaccione, invited other schools “not to take fright, and do the same”. His comments and those of others reflected the continuing influence in Italy of Catholic teaching on sexual matters.“At the outset,” Panaccione said, “there was some hesitation among some of the parents and teachers. But then, by discussing it, that was all got over.”

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