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 7 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: mgreen32234 - May. 06, 2010 12:06 PM ET USA

    I'm hoping that he has a followup to this awful opinion. (And it is an opinion. Right?) If you look at many of the comments, we are smart NY sheep expecting that our shepherd will hear our baa-ing and continue the discussion.

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2010 2:57 PM ET USA

    Archbishop Dolan calls the bill "mean-spirited"...and progressives call the Church's position on various moral isues "mean spirited." When people want to speak out against something they tend to stumble into the same old traps of lazy speech and thought. I expected better from someone well trained in philosophy.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - May. 04, 2010 10:53 AM ET USA

    The government of the people, by the people, and for the people has one major responsibility - to secure the rights of its citizens. I wish the bishops would join the citizens of this nation in calling on our government to do its duty.

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - May. 04, 2010 7:48 AM ET USA

    The USCCB is always willing to "work with" Democrat politicians and legislation (including Obama) because they feel that Dems agree with them on 90% of the issues (ie, the wealth redistribution, open borders, welfare state expansion favored by the socialist justice crowd) except for those pesky life, marriage, and sexual morality issues. When it comes to Republicans, they ignore the areas of agreement surrounding life, marriage, and sexual morality and are not so willing to work with them.

  • Posted by: Miss Cathy - May. 04, 2010 3:57 AM ET USA

    I'm waiting for the Bishops to explain how sacrificing the human dignity of the citizens of Arizona by excusing those who traffic drugs and human beings into our country is "just". If my property, my life, my community and my family are threatened by such an activity, not only do I consider it a right, but an obligation to fight it.

  • Posted by: sky6a415 - May. 03, 2010 6:29 PM ET USA

    The Archbishop of New York should show his concern and knowledge of geography by boycotting Arizona Ice Tea (which I believe is made in Brooklyn).

  • Posted by: adamah - May. 03, 2010 2:34 PM ET USA

    I've been noticing a trend: The less a bishop knows about something the more he speaks out and the more a bishop (should) know about something the less he speaks out. Just an observation.