Canadian Catholic Seminary To Screen Applicants for HIV
The Grand Seminaire de Montreal, a Catholic seminary, this fall will begin requiring all men who apply to study to become priests to take an HIV test, the Montreal Gazette reports. The Rev. Marcel Demers said that a positive HIV test will "sound an alarm bell" that an applicant could be a man who has sex with men, according to the Gazette. HIV-positive applicants will be asked how they were infected, and if they say that they were infected by having sex with a man, the seminary "will try to see what really is the person's calling," Demers said. Demers added that MSM would not be "automatically refused" admittance to the seminary, but he said that their chances for acceptance would be "slim," according to the Gazette. "It's not that Jesus wanted homophobia," Demers said, adding, "But we also realize that this profile doesn't lend itself as well to what we require of a priest." Demers added that the church believes MSM "have a harder time" remaining celibate than men who do not.
Violation of Human Rights?
Robert Rousseau, executive director of the AIDS advocacy group Action Sero-Zero, said that the seminary's requirement that applicants take an HIV test could violate the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, according to the Gazette. "They'd do well to first update their knowledge of sexual orientation," Rousseau said (Parkes, Montreal Gazette, 1/10). Ginette L'Heureux, a spokesperson for the Quebec Human Rights Commission, said that the church could be exempt from the charter because the charter makes some exception for religious and charitable organizations (Canadian Press, 1/10). Seminaries in Vancouver and Edmonton also require HIV tests for applicants and U.S. seminaries have required HIV testing for more than 10 years, according to the Gazette. Bill Ryan, a spokesperson for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that he is "virtually certain" that all U.S. dioceses require an HIV test. St. Augustine's Seminary of Toronto, Canada's largest seminary, does not require applicants to take an HIV test, the Gazette reports (Montreal Gazette, 1/10).
Zimbabwe Pentecostal Churches Require HIV Test for Pastors
In related news, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Zimbabwe, a group of 150 Zimbabwean churches, on Jan. 1 began requiring HIV tests for all of its pastors, marriage officers and couples seeking marriage, Religion News/Charlotte Observer reports. Clergy who test HIV-positive "presumably" would be allowed to continue working, and all who are tested will receive certification, according to Religion News/Observer. Marriage officers who do not have certificates will not be allowed to conduct weddings. "Although this might sound rather controversial, discriminatory and infringing on individuals' rights, we felt that the only way we could effectively fight this pandemic was through adoption of more pragmatic and practical measures," Bishop Trevor Managa said. He added, "Church leaders who daily preach to and counsel church members on various issues, including HIV/AIDS, have to set the pace and lead by example and avoid the notion of 'do as I say, and not as I do.'" Other African church leaders have "voiced support" for the testing, according to Religion News/Observer. Rev. Mvume Dandala said, "I think it is important for [HIV-positive people] to come out into the open and for us all as a church to learn how to handle one another in a responsible way" said (Religion News/Charlotte Observer, 1/10).