AIDS program Still deceiving.
Letters in response asked whether she had actually heard pastors encourage their congregations to hate and abuse homosexuals. Retired Bishop Edward Troy of Saint John regretted that the columnist had shown indifference to truth: "It is ridiculous and untrue to imply that Christian teaching tolerates, let alone ferments, hatred towards homosexuals."
Not surprisingly, Gordon Fairweather, former chairman of Canada's Human Rights Commission, said that the provincial minister of education should ask for a review of the sex education curriculum "to include objective information about gay and lesbian lifestyles."
Ontario's Catholic schools, too, have fallen into the trap of "more education" with their AIDS program imported from the United States. Catholic Insight was among those who criticized the program as unacceptable (see the special section "Catholic AIDS education;' May 98, pp. 3, 11-24). That was in 1997 and 1998. We are now in 2000, the program has been "revised," it is said, and yet we seem to be no further ahead. In the following article, Dr. Ferrari reviews the revised AIDS program and finds it depressing.
The revised AIDS program promoted by the Ontario Catholic schools makes for a very depressing read, not only because of the subject matter, but because it is apparent that the authors and their collaborators either have no idea what the disease is all about, or are attempting to obscure the facts with a tissue of emotional fluff which is dangerous and can only result in tragedy. While it is true that AIDS is spreading-it killed more people than malaria in 1998--this is because for the first time in history an infectious disease is being managed like an ordinary chronic medical problem: for example, heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.
By way of illustration, let us consider smallpox, which now exists only in some laboratories. Eradication was accomplished by isolating active cases to protect others. The virus was cultivated, and a vaccine developed to immunize those susceptible to the infection. With diphtheria, scarlet fever and pertussis, again, isolation of the victims was carried out because there was no known effective treatment; and signs were put on the doors of infected houses until the disease ran its course. Now, there are vaccines against these illnesses, as well. Malaria is rampant because, although we know the causative agent which is spread by infected mosquitoes, DDT, an effective insecticide, was banned as being too toxic for humans. Now, they are dying from malaria, instead.
Face the facts to eliminate disease
With AIDS, not only do we refuse to allow people to ask about HIV status, but we deny that certain groups are responsible for harbouring and spreading the disease, and ask for compassion for those infected. Compassion we can relate to, but there is a certain compassion due to the innocent who are victims through no fault of their own; and the most effective response one can make is to try to eradicate the disease by facing the facts squarely and without prejudice.
Although many people would prefer not to admit this, violation of the natural law carries with it its own penalty. Examples include alcoholism which leads to cirrhosis of the liver; tobacco abuse to chronic lung disease and lung cancer; and the contraceptive pill to increased blood clotting and death in young women. To quote Professor Charles Rice, of Notre Dame Law School, on the natural law: "You are careful about the fluids you put in your automobile. You may choose to put molasses in your engine but oil is better. If you choose to use molasses, you will be free, pro-choice and a pedestrian." Our bodies are like smooth-running machines and we must look after them.
To address, specifically, some of the issues raised in the revised manual, I shall refer to the page number.
From the revised Manual (p.3): "Homosexuality is not the source of the AIDS epidemic." But in fact it is. As Dr. Phillip L. Sanchez told over 700 physicians at a recent Primary (Medical) Care Update (Orlando, Florida, November, 1999), AIDS is related to behaviour that has been with us for over 2000 years, and there is nothing we can do about it. Dr. Sanchez admitted that he and six partners who run an AIDS clinic in Orlando are now treating AIDS like a chronic disease, cancer, heart disease, or chronic bronchitis.
Dr. B. Camara, director of the AIDS program for the Caribbean area, stated at an International Health Conference in Ottawa in 1998 that no headway is being made against the disease in the Caribbean or in Africa because, in these areas, homosexuality is still against the law, and therefore those addicted to it are prosecuted. To hide their orientation, men often marry and raise a family while maintaining their homosexual contacts. These homosexuals form the bridge between the homosexual community and the rest of society, according to Dr. Camara. He stated that the reason Canada and the United States are making some progress in the treatment of the disease is that they can identify the groups at risk (i.e., homosexuals and drug abusers, or both) because, in North America, at least, the two often go together.
So a manual purporting to teach Catholic students how to avoid AIDS by befriending homosexuals and allowing them into their homes and schools is an anachronism. As indicated earlier, the authors are either ignorant or have an agenda. I prefer to think that they are ignorant, in which case they should go back to the drawing board.
Again, lip service is paid to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and selected sections of On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, followed by an emotional appeal for compassion for homosexuals for the next two pages. True compassion would attempt to help them to overcome their inclination in order to avoid the inevitable damning effects both spiritual and physical. No one is suggesting that this be done violently-this would certainly be against Christian charity-but by condoning this type of behavior one is giving tacit approval, and contributing to the epidemic that is AIDS.
On p. 5, "Orientation is not freely chosen and is therefore not sinful." At least half of that sentence is correct: orientation or a tendency to sin is not, in itself, sinful. Neither is a tendency to alcoholism or gluttony, but we do not condone either, and are quick to point out their harmful effects. We help the alcoholic avoid his weakness; and there are groups set up to help those with the inclination to homosexuality to overcome their problem; e.g., Courage, for one. Where in the Manual is Courage cited?
On p. 7, the Manual finally states that "the disease is not transmitted easily." So why does one need a program in the Catholic schools about AIDS when it would be sufficient to give a good general course on diseases that, for the most part, can be avoided: lung cancer (avoid smoking), esophageal varices and cirrhosis (avoid excessive use of alcohol), and arteriosclerotic heart disease (adopt a regular program of exercise and a healthy diet).
On p. 8, the Manual makes a point of stressing that "HIV is not limited only (sic) to homosexuals." This has been explained earlier: homosexuals do not confine their activities to people of like minds, and are thought to form the bridge between their group and the normal. The Manual then goes on to describe, in intimate detail, various sexual practices that could result in infection. Some normal children with a healthy curiosity will try to explore these new and very strange types of behavior so frowned upon (apparently) by teacher.
P. 10: "(P)retending that condoms do not exist can undermine the credibility of an AIDS education program." The credibility of this AIDS program is almost non-existent, and this statement deals it the final blow. Mentioning ''that condoms might provide some barrier to HIV contamination by an infected partner" is all the reassurance some young people require to make the purchase. They will totally ignore the warning that follows for two full columns about the condom's unreliability. Not only are condoms unreliable, but it is precisely because they are available that sexual activity and the incidence of pregnancy in the young have risen so dramatically. Earlier this year, one very frank 12-year-old boy admitted that it was the sex ed program in his school that was responsible for his impregnating a 10-year-old girl.
There is some improvement in the Kindergarten to Grade 2 programs, in that there is more reference to the child's relationship to Jesus, but it is like a gloss added on. One gets the uneasy impression that the child is being encouraged to become more and more self-centered. The gift of life is our greatest gift because it gives us the opportunity to get closer to Jesus; otherwise this life is wasted.
The prayer on p. 22 might have included a prayer for all homosexuals to have the courage and strength to resist the temptation to yield to their sexual urges, and thereby to avoid becoming infected or infecting others. To repeat, the most effective way to demonstrate compassion is to help children to stay pure.
P. 51: "Scientists all over the world are working hard to find a way to stop people from getting AIDS..." Wrong. Scientists already know that the only way to stop AIDS is through abstinence, and through avoiding drugs which can also disable the immune system. In addition to the two specialists quoted earlier, Dr. T. McIlhaney, Jr., director of a sex institute in Dallas, told a group of physicians at the 1995 Primary Care Update in Orlando that the only way to eliminate AIDS is by abstinence. For a hopeful note, teachers might suggest to their students that they pray that those using drugs and indulging themselves in other harmful practices will have the strength and grace to overcome their disordered inclinations. The correct sentence here would be: "Scientists all over the world are working hard to find a treatment for AIDS, as well as a vaccine that will allow persons to practise an unhealthy life style, in relative security at least from AIDS. The other sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia, can rage on."
P. 53: "I can do many safe and fun things with a friend who has the AIDS virus" ... unless we are in a serious accident where he gets hit on the head or has a compound fracture and bleeds, and I get his infected blood into the cuts on my hands, or whatever.
P. 84, repeated on p. 89 and quoted from the Fully Alive program. This section on homosexuality is grossly inaccurate. There is no gene for homosexuality, and some homosexuals are happy about this, because their mothers might have been tempted to abort them. Homosexuality is learned behaviour, and because some people find it pleasurable they become addicted. In support of this it may be noted that many homosexuals have been converted, are married, and are raising families. These have formed groups to help other homosexuals achieve peace of mind through giving up an unhealthy lifestyle. None of this appears in the several paragraphs on homosexuality, obviously intended to soften the students' attitude toward this abnormal lifestyle which should not even be condoned. Christ forgave the woman taken in adultery and saved her life (now, that's compassion), but He also told her: "Go and sin no more." We show compassion for homosexuals not by throwing stones, but by helping them to overcome their vice.
Effects of homosexuality
Homosexuality practised weakens the will and leads to other vices: drug abuse, alcoholism, and eventually death. The life span of homosexuals is 39 years as opposed to that of normal males--67 years in North America [Editor: 78 in Canada]. The suicide rate among homosexuals is much higher than among normals matched for age and other factors. It is an unhealthy state which the schools should not be promoting either actively ("homosexual people need acceptance") or passively--by failing to condemn it. Since this section is quoted from Fully Alive, it is apparent that Fully Alive also requires a major revision.
Cardinal Basil Hume's statement reported in the London Times is referred to but never addressed. He says, in part, "Refusal to address the moral issues is itself a moral statement. ... The fact to be faced is that all of us in society have to learn to live according to a renewed set of values." This includes--but is not limited to--homosexuals. They will not be cured by 'compassion', but they may be helped to live the little time remaining to them in a more fruitful and productive way, and avoid infecting others.
In spite of his sympathy for people suffering with AIDS, Cardinal Bernardin, too, enjoined: "As persons concerned about the well-being of all our sisters and brothers, we should do all we can as we minister to the broader community--to encourage people to live in a way that will enhance life, not threaten or destroy it." Then, he reminds us of the Rite of the Anointing and Care of the Sick: "The one who is seriously ill needs the special help of God's grace in this time of anxiety, lest she (he) be broken in spirit and subject to temptations and the weakening of faith."
A masterpiece of contradictions
This AIDS curriculum is a masterpiece of contradictions. First, it stresses the importance of a disease that is the result of abnormal behaviour by a vocal minority. It denies repeatedly that the disease is related to homosexuality in spite of all the evidence and reliable scientific statements to the contrary. Repeatedly, in the Manual, the authors advise that this disease is not easily contracted by children, but it insists on dwelling at great length upon the mechanics of its spread. While pretending to promote chastity, it describes intimate sexual behaviour that even normal adults are not required to know, thus stimulating the curiosity of young people with avid minds who often are in the rebellious stage of their development. It damns condoms for two long columns, but only after making a statement that would encourage one to think that they are better than nothing.
While it is true that there are innocent victims of AIDS--those who were infected through contaminated blood, or whose mothers had the disease, and others who were infected by a needle prick in surgery--the fact remains that the disease was originally diagnosed in the homosexual community which was--and still is--responsible for its spread. Those who abuse drugs are the next largest segment of society to harbour the disease. Now that AIDS has been introduced into the heterosexual community, it is more important than ever that continence be the rule, and chastity adhered to, with the grace of God. However, in order to teach this, it should not be necessary to resort to graphic descriptions of sexual acts which remain abnormal; or to promote or condone a life style that is not only basically immoral but also lethal.
Incidentally, in the Glossary, 'Mycobacterium infection' is said to be a newly emerging infection that most commonly affects the gastrointestinal tract. The mycobacteria most commonly affecting humans are Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae. Both diseases are ages old: the former causes pulmonary tuberculosis; the latter, leprosy. AIDS victims may acquire, also, Mycobacterium avium because of their compromised immunity. Strains resistant to the usually effective drugs are now emerging, and the incidence of tuberculosis is rising to alarming levels, just when we were beginning to think that it was under control.
Dr. M. J. Ferrari has been active in public health matters for many years. She retired as the Medical Director of Canada's immigration health department in 1992.
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|Author:||Ferrari, M. Jeanne|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2000|
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