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Vatican criticizes U.N. on sex issues

The Vatican harshly criticized a U.N. manual for handling sexual issues in refugee camps, saying that it raised "serious and numerous concerns" for the Catholic church.

The manual promotes "without reserve" the so-called morning-after pill for contraception, presents sterilization as "simple birth control" and takes a "nonjudgmental" attitude on extramarital relations and homosexual relations, the Vatican asserted Thursday.

Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which published the manual in 1999, said the handbook "is basically a manual for workers in the field on how to limit the danger posed to those, especially women, in messy refugee situations."

"We are not advocating the morning-after pill, we are not advocating contraception as such. Basically we are telling our people in the field they need to give options to those exposed to rape and AIDS," he said.

"We cannot impose a moral solution. We're just trying to save lives and protect people, trying to make their lives less miserable."

The Vatican's criticism came in a document prepared in September by Holy See offices dealing with issues regarding immigrants, families and health.

In it, the Vatican said the Inter-Agency Field Manual on Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations promoted individual freedom while "neglecting the corresponding duties, both individual and social."

The Vatican also decried what it said was young men and women "being introduced to the world of individualistic and irresponsible sexual pleasures which increases the risk for expanding the HIV/AIDS epidemic."

The Catholic church permits sexual relations only between husband and wife. The only method approved by the church for controlling births is abstinence during a woman's fertile periods.

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