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nothing to see here, folks

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 17, 2007

Thanks be to God, we can now speak about HIV-AIDS as an illness that is indiscriminate in its reach and impact.

Relax. He didn't mean it. That's Archbishop Wilton Gregory speaking, and his emotions, in this case, out-sprinted his diction. He wanted to express his satisfaction at the etiquette that compels us to pretend that the most easily avoidable "pandemic" in medical history is the contrary of what we all know it to be.

It has touched the lives of infants within the womb [true], patients infected through blood transfusions in hospitals [true], men and women [true], people of every class, age, race, and ethnic community [very nearly true].

Nothing heretical in the above, but by his maladroitness in evading the obvious the Archbishop reinforces the very point he is at pains to confute. The moral turpitude that often attends AIDS transmission can't be addressed -- addressed with candor, at any rate -- in polite company. Why not? None of your business why not.

But there is also a disturbing vision that we cannot ignore or deny. Some people still wish to focus exclusively upon how the HIV-AIDS is transmitted and those people who may have suffered disproportionately from its presence. Some folks still wish to withhold their compassion because of biases that continue to be a residual effect of the sin of hatred and discrimination. The world has lived with HIV-AIDS for 25 years; however we have lived with such bigotry for all of our human history.

Bias against recipients of blood transfusions ...?

Our world has been changed because of HIV-AIDS and we continue to need to change hearts to respond in love to those whose lives have been turned upside down in the wake of this new reality. The great quilt of names of people who have died from AIDS serves as a sacramental reminder of the lives that have been taken from us because of this pandemic.

Won't work, your Excellency. It's futile. The more strenuously you lay on the sugar-coating, the more surely your hearers' minds -- even against their will -- are driven to focus on the sordid reality you're trying to cover up. Moreover, the element of self-congratulation in your effusions is conspicuous enough to undo whatever chastening or edifying effect they might otherwise have.

To see more plainly what's going on, let's shift the topic. Suppose the occasion of the Archbishop's address had been a Mass for relatives of persons who had taken their own lives. Here too there's a strong emotional undercurrent of moral opprobrium to be dealt with: some cases clearly condemned by the Church, some cases clearly excused by her, many in a clouded middle-ground where the factors pertinent to free will are too deeply intertwined to make a judgment possible. In such circumstances we'd expect -- and almost certainly get -- a subdued, reticent discourse that spoke to the grief but was respectful of the mystery of human freedom. What we wouldn't hear is a hectoring and sanctimonious polemic against the bigotry of the uncompassionate: the moral reality cuts too deep for that.


Incidentally, at the Archdiocese of Atlanta's home page, whence come the remarks above, we find the following solicitation:

Archbishop Gregory is nominated as one of the most influential baby boomers by Newsweek. Cast your vote for him today!

My ballot, regrettably, is already in.

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Show 14 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Mar. 20, 2007 2:28 PM ET USA

    JChrysostom, you feel like the rest of us. No Catholic likes to see another person suffer no matter the source of the suffering.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 19, 2007 6:34 PM ET USA

    I don't know of many heterosexuals who aren't glad, based on personal experience, that their sexual sins are not -- in the US, at least -- all that likely to result in contracting a terrible and too often fatal disease. AIDS is a scourge, and despite my implicit acceptance of church teaching on homosexual acts, I cannot bring myself to feel anything but compassion for a homosexual who has the disease.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 19, 2007 10:58 AM ET USA

    We can end AIDS instantly. 1) Eliminate the tainted blood supply. 2) Those who may have been exposed to AIDS cease having sex. 3) Those who may have been exposed to AIDS do not donate to restock the blood supply. It will never happen. In today's PC environment, it is better to let typhoid mary infect an entire city than to quarantine her.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 19, 2007 8:39 AM ET USA

    My memory is pretty good and I remember what AIDS was called at first in the early 1980s: Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disorder (GRID). With that name, obtaining federal research funds was all but impossible.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 18, 2007 4:10 PM ET USA

    Spot on, as always... ...but Fr Ronald Rolheiser, whose effusions regale us weekly in the UK Catholic Herald (and, I think, in many, many Catholic papers all over the English-speaking world) has an annual piece on how horrid the Church has traditionally been towards suicides, and how the latter have all been welcomed by the loving arms of God when they wake on the Other Side. I fear that parody or reductio ad absurdam doesn't work in today's Church. It's already happened in reality.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 17, 2007 11:33 PM ET USA

    Well, his first name certainly suits him. Will we ever forget his emotional tear laden USCCB Good-Bye Speech. I also had tears in my eyes, but they were from laughing.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 17, 2007 9:46 PM ET USA

    By the way, "the sin of hatred and discrimination"? When was the last time, do you think, that the archbishop used the phrase, "the sin of homosexual activity"?

  • Posted by: - Mar. 17, 2007 9:44 PM ET USA

    "It has touched the lives of infants within the womb [true], patients infected through blood transfusions in hospitals [true], men and women [true]." Yes, and the suffering everyone has endured, including babies, can be traced ultimately to someone's drug use or homosexual activity. Maybe Gregory should be telling homosexuals and drug users the truth: that they disease they bring on themselves kills not only them, but many other people too. Oooh - that's just SO MEAN to say.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 17, 2007 7:40 PM ET USA

    Remind me never to exchange the Sign of Peace in the Archdiocese of Atlanta without surgical gloves.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 17, 2007 12:54 PM ET USA

    There's no surprise that Abp. Wilton "the scandal is history" Gregory would say this. Yet, it still disappoints & saddens me that a "successor to the Apostles," as with so many in his camp, gave yet another hectoring & sanctimonious polemic against the bigotry of the uncompassionate. He does his best, it seems, to ignore the moral turpitude that often attends AIDS transmission. Re: his home-page exaltation as Newsweek's boomer -- maybe the Abp. should re-read today's Gospel (Luke 18:9-14).

  • Posted by: - Mar. 17, 2007 12:52 PM ET USA

    How many years is it until this deep thinker retires?

  • Posted by: - Mar. 17, 2007 12:47 PM ET USA

    Where can I find a succinct statement, with statistics, of the responsibility that the homosexual community has for the spread of HIV/AIDS? They are or were the primary vector for this disease that is making orphans out of many African children, to take just one horrendous consequence. Why is it not possible effectively to lay the responsibility for this directly on their doorstep, together with the well deserved shame and opprobrium, and thus neuter them politically and culturally?

  • Posted by: - Mar. 17, 2007 9:28 AM ET USA

    Thanks be to God, we can now speak about Hell as a punishment that is indiscriminate in its reach and impact. Courage, Archbishop. Courage.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 17, 2007 8:38 AM ET USA

    This is overkill, I suppose. But would it be helpful for a cleric to say something like the following at an AA meeting?

    Some people still wish to focus exclusively upon how the liver disease is acquired and those people who may have suffered disproportionately from its presence.

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