Washington, D.C., Archbishop Urges Roman Catholics To Support Fight Against AIDS, Questions Condoms’ Efficacy
Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the Washington, D.C., Archdiocese yesterday issued a pastoral letter urging Catholics to offer "a more loving and compassionate response to the reality of HIV/AIDS," the Washington Post reports. In the letter, McCarrick said that Catholics should "affirm the right to health care for every person"; encourage the federal government to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic by eliminating poverty and making medicine more affordable; and promote early testing for the virus. Susan Gibbs, spokesperson for McCarrick, said that the letter lays the groundwork for future church initiatives including increasing the availability of HIV testing in Catholic hospitals and service agencies and establishing parish-based ministries for HIV-positive people. The letter, a common way for Catholic leaders to offer guidance to Catholics, also states that "condoms too often fail" in preventing HIV transmission and reaffirms the church's teaching that condom usage "contradicts our faith's understanding of sexual union as an expression of spousal love" in marriage.
Condom Language Criticized
Some Catholics criticized the letter's position on condom usage. "Condoms do not often fail. They sometimes fail. ... It is one thing to say that the institutional church is opposed to condoms because they violate the sexual teachings of the church. It's another to give incorrect medical information," Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, said. Frances DeBernado, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian Catholics, called the letter an "important contribution to the moral response to the epidemic." He added that he was happy the letter made "no mention of linking HIV to homosexuality [since] ... [i]t's no longer affecting primarily the gay community" (Murphy, Washington Post, 5/23).