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Priests with AIDS: A serious problem? (Canada).

The New Brunswick Telegraph Journal for January 31, 2000, carried a picture of a priest behind the altar, with arms outstretched like the arms of the risen Christ on a cross behind him. Father Dennis Rauch, a priest with AIDS, was celebrating Mass at a church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and was reported as saying, "You can survive as a priest with AIDS. Your life hasn't ended." The caption beneath the photograph said, "AIDS has become a serious problem among Roman Catholic priests and has caused the deaths of hundreds of priests across the United States, the Kansas Star reported in yesterday's editions."

The Star's news report immediately caught public attention throughout North America, especially its conclusion that "hundreds" of priests in the U.S. have died of AIDS and that they are continuing to die "at a rate of at least four times that of the general population."

What about its validity? There are 46,000 priests in the United States. The Star's report was based on a "confidential survey" of 3,000 to which only 800 responded. "Nearly 60 per cent" of the 800 respondents claimed to know at least one priest who had died of AIDS, and one in three knew priests living with HIV or AIDS. No attempt was made to discover whether several or many of the respondents were referring to the same priests. On the basis of such a survey it would be impossible to conclude that "hundreds" of American priests are living with AIDS.

The Toronto Star's ombudsman, Don Sellar, reacted with skepticism: "It's one thing to report on a questionnaire filled out voluntarily by 801 priests. But massaging such limited data and growing it into a convoluted story about hundreds of priests dead of AIDS across the U.S. mostly strains belief' (Feb 12).

The Kansas City paper published a series of three articles on this topic, and came to the questionable conclusion that AIDS in the priesthood "strikes straight at the heart of church doctrine." Needless to say, it then wondered not about the disobedience of these priests but about the reasonableness of church teaching on homosexuality, the celibate priesthood, and AIDS.

A number of seminary officials also took issue with the series repeated claim that seminarians are not given information about sexual matters. The rector of one seminary near Kansas City says: "What seminarians learn about integrating sex into their character and identity is far more advanced than is available elsewhere on the college level...." The comments on inadequate seminary sex education "focus on the '60s and came from people who are practising homosexuals."


We may never know how widespread AIDS among priests is. But let us not pretend it isn't there. When the Toronto Archdiocese was asked about the prevalence of AIDS among priests, its spokewoman, Suzanne Scorsone, said that they are not aware of any priest with AIDS: "It's something that simply has never come up" (Star, Feb 2). Her information is inaccurate; staff at Catholic Insight could have told her that at least six priests from religious congregations have died of the disease in the Toronto area over the last 15 years and three priests from different dioceses.

Scandalous as it may be, it reflects the inroads made by pro-homosexual propaganda among Catholics. Canadian Catholic leaders continue to either downplay the threat from homosexual activity or remain silent. Meanwhile, papers such as Toronto's biweekly Catholic New Times continue to hint-- in tortuous, accusing, round about language--that the Church is in "a dilemma," that its "own moralizing agenda" has failed, that it has "a monochromatic moral vision" (whatever that means), and that somehow it is to blame for "not grappling with the tough questions of AIDS." (Editorial: "Death or dogma: the Church's AIDS dilemma," CNT March 5). The CNT has been supportive of homosexual and feminist causes since its inception.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 1, 2000
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