Care, Not Judgement, For AIDS Victims

A statement by the national office of Catholic Communications with the approval of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops. 

The Catholic Church is deeply concerned about the AIDS epidemic, and especially concerned for the people exposed to and afflicted by this illness. The Church makes no distinction between AIDS victims and people suffering from other serious or terminal illnesses, and urges the strongest compassion be shown towards them.

Our concern is no less for the unknowing and unsuspecting potential victim of AIDS - women, children, teenagers approaching maturity and heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.

The Church's spiritual and pastoral resources will be freely offered in ministry to AIDS victims and their families.

Against a tendency to ostracise or condemn a person with AIDS, the Christian community must offer support and understanding; care not judgment; practical assistance not self-righteous avoidance.

In the face of ignorance, and the temptation to see AIDS as a horrendous scourge from a vengeful God, Christians must confirm their faith in a God of love and forgiveness, and pray earnestly for the world and all people that a cure will be quickly found.

The Catholic Church, together with many other Christian and non-Christian groups, does not accept that the use of condoms will diminish or check the spread of AIDS.

To promote this idea is a grave injustice to both social life and the good of the individual person. On an entirely practical level, the condom is not 100% effective as a birth-control method. If it is possible to become pregnant using a condom, the same would hold true with regard to contracting AIDS. The community needs to be wary of accepting, by implication, that a serious problem like AIDS can be simply remedied through a product. At the moment the only gain likely to come from the AIDS scare may well be financial gain for people in the condom manufacturing business.

The most blatant profit-motivated comment, arising out of this terrifying problem, must surely be that of John Silverman, president of Ansell Americas, the sellers of Lifestyles condoms. TIME magazine (Feb. 16, 1987) quoted him as saying: "AIDS is a condom marketer's dream".

Values cannot be separated from health, whatever people's religious beliefs may be. The public is seriously misled, if the impression is given that technical means alone can solve problems that require profound changes in human attitudes and behaviour.

Encouraging the use of a technique, rather than the development of personal responsibility will further weaken people's ability to experience the deepest joys of love and friendship.

AIDS is a public health problem. Given our present knowledge of the problem, everyone is a potential AIDS victim.

An educational campaign that proposes the use of condoms without a more comprehensive attempt to inform and educate, is grossly inadequate.

Needing special emphasis in such a campaign, is teaching that the only sure way to stop the spread of AIDS is responsible sexual behaviour - behaviour that requires self discipline and avoidance of extramarital sexual activity.

In the presence of AIDS and the unknown future direction this epidemic may take, every person has the opportunity to accept the challenge to examine their personal values and lifestyle, and to faithfully fulfil their responsibilities to the community.

Christian faith and our heritage of compassion from Jesus Christ compel us to take up this challenge.