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priest's AIDs rate soars
of March 2000 article by Judy L. Thomas, Knight Ridder Newspapers
published in The Arizona Republic
blame lack of training by the church.
of Roman Catholic priests across the U.S. are dying from AIDs or
living with HIV.
appears priests are dying of AIDS at a rate at least four times that
of the general U.S. population.
deaths are of such concern to the church that most dioceses and
religious orders now require applicants for the priesthood to take an
HIV-antibody test before their ordination.
a survey of 3000 priests, most said the church failed to offer an
early and effective sexual education that might have prevented
infection in the first place. Three of four said the church needed to offer more
education about sexual issues.
priests and behavioral experts argue that the church’s adherence to
12th-century doctrine about the virtues of celibacy and its
teachings on homosexuality have contributed to the spread of AIDS
within the clergy. The church has kept priests uneducated about the
reality of a sexual world.
by treating homosexual acts as an abomination and the breaking of
celibacy vows as shameful, the church has scared priests into silence.
the years, the issue of AIDS deaths among priests has been so
sensitive that many kept their illnesses a secret.
the surprise of researchers 801 priests responded to a survey of AIDS
– a response rate of 27%. Nearly 60% said they personally knew at
last one priest who had died of AIDS.
And one in three said they knew priests who were living with
HIV or AIDS.
Rev. Tom Casey, an Augustinian priest from the Boston area, said the
church bears some of the blame for AIDS deaths. “They have created a
tremendous amount of homophobia,” Casey said.
are in the priesthood, and not all of them are celibate.
Both of these issues are explosive that superiors and bishops
don’t want to deal with publicly”, said Robert Goss, a former
say the incidence of AIDS among priest’s stems primarily from sexual
long ago as the early 1980’s, the Rev John Keenan found that
Catholic priests were contracting AIDS at an alarming rate.
looked at what was happening in the gay Catholic population, and there
was a lot of concern about the epidemic proportions of HIV”, said
Keenan, who runs an outpatient clinic in Chicago for priests.
now runs weekly support sessions for infected priests.
He believes most priests with AIDS contracted the disease
through same-sex relations. He
said he treated one priest who had infected eight other priests.
Isola, a New York City social worker and psychotherapist, said all the
priests that had AIDS that he has treated are gay men in their 40s to
early 60s who became infected through same-sex relations.
the church tries to argue they could have been infected before they
became priests. Some argue that failing to address the issue how
the priests were infected shows that the church is in denial about the
issue…the church just doesn’t want to admit it.
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