Letter to the Globe & Mail re. ‘Pastoral prescription for HIV/AIDS’

Father Thomas Rosica took on the unenviable task of trying to articulate the Roman Catholic Church’s response to HIV/AIDS. Alas, in many respects, it was too little, too late. I admit that my personal experience is limited to that of a gay man in North America.

While he speaks for the Church, by which he specifically means the Roman Catholic faith only, the worldwide communion of churches (Catholic and Protestant) do not speak with one voice and some have responded more robustly than Father Rosica’s beloved Church. Former South African Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, for example, has called the prohibition of condoms to prevent HIV transmission dangerously naive. Other churches, like my congregation of the United Church of Canada, honour the contributions of all members – women, men, gay and straight. This empowerment is a strong motivator, I would submit, in the development of sexual ethics and mores befitting the realities of the 21st century gospel.

I was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1989 when, and this is no urban myth, hospital staff would leave meal trays outside AIDS patients’ doors. Toronto’s largest Catholic hospital, St. Michael’s, was often singled out with this reputation. During that fear-filled era, pre-Supreme Court rulings and Human Rights Code amendments, this was made all the worse when same-sex partners fought for family status in caregiving decisions and visitor privileges. To its immense credit St. Michael’s was to become the founding affiliated hospital with the Casey House AIDS hospice.

Father Rosica states, “the threat of HIV/AIDS does not change the Church’s morality – which is founded upon the Sacred Scriptures and 2,000 years of tradition”. That would be the same morality which has continued to treat women as second-class in Church leadership, based on debatable scriptural authority, and relocated abusive priests when their misdeeds were made known. How many followers has the Church lost due to this scandal alone? In short, the Church – Catholic and Protestant – struggles for relevance these days in North America.

Of course what flows from The Vatican and what may be said in individual parishes can vary and Roman Catholic hospitals and charities have come a long way in the treatment of people with HIV/AIDS. However I feel Father Rosica’s rose-tinted retrospective of The Catholic Church’s delivery “from day one” of “health care, compassion, charity and understanding” might be just a little rhetorically rich.


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2 thoughts on “Letter to the Globe & Mail re. ‘Pastoral prescription for HIV/AIDS’

  1. Opposite that article I was really thrilled that they printed my letter to the Editor about Harpers no-show…

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