Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic World News

Bishop Hubbard approves free distribution of needles to drug abusers

January 29, 2010

Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, who serves as chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, has approved a proposal by diocesan Catholic Charities to distribute free needles to drug abusers in the hope of preventing the spread of AIDS.

“I understand there will be questions, but this is common sense,” said Sister Maureen Joyce, CEO of Catholic Charities. “I strongly believe in this. It will save lives.”

“From a theological standpoint, we're not being faithful to our mission if we don't reach out to people addicted to drugs, too,” Sister Joyce added.

An $83,000 van filled with syringes will be parked in two neighborhoods and serve as the focal point of Catholic Charities’ needle distribution efforts.

“This is a proven method used around the country, but there has been a huge gap in this area that nobody was stepping up to fill,” said Angela Keller, executive director of AIDS services for Catholic Charities, whose web site links to the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Council. The council's mission is “to promote the well being of all gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer identified people and those affected by discrimination based on gender identity and expression.”

In a 2003 address, Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, then president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, urged abstinence from drugs to prevent the spread of AIDS. In doing so, he cited a 1987 statement of the bishops of the United States:

Even earlier, the bishops of the United States of America affirmed in their 1987 statement: “abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage as well as the avoidance of intravenous drug abuse are the only morally correct and medically sure ways to prevent the spread of AIDS” …

Prof. Lino Ciccone adds: “Therefore a true and effective prevention is above all the set of initiatives that aim at putting an end to whatever promotes sexual laxity, presented as a triumph of liberty and civilization – similar to what is being done to help youth not to fall into the slavery of drugs or to free them from them. In other words: true prevention takes place only through a serious educational effort. An education free from equivocations and widespread reductive concepts, which leads to the discovery, or rediscovery, of the values of sexuality and a correct scale of values in human life.

“Any other option that excludes such ways, or worse, that implies an ulterior push towards sexual promiscuity and/or the use of drugs, is anything but prevention, and to promote the same is tragically deceitful.”

During its 2007-8 fiscal year, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, Inc., received $17,973,859 in government grants $3,875,773 in direct public support (i.e., contributions, gifts, and grants), and $474,538 in indirect public support, according to its tax return. It also received $16,358,929 in program service revenue, including government contracts. Other revenue sources such as special events and investment income brought total revenue to $40,093,321.

Expenses for 2007-8 totaled $39,998,856, including $5,986,659 for management and general expenses and $231,234 for fundraising. The highest-paid employee was Joseph Pofit, director of long-term care, who received compensation of $148,526.


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  • Posted by: Miss Cathy - Feb. 22, 2010 12:58 PM ET USA

    Nice to see where the money goes as our inner city Catholic schools and Parishes close.

  • Posted by: aclune9083 - Jan. 30, 2010 10:00 AM ET USA

    Distributing sterile needles enables the immoral and unhealthy behavior of addicts. Treatment programs are what is needed. Let's reprogram CHD and local funds into such programs. Let's augment local funds by de-funding organizations like Planned Parenthood, which then frees up to $300 million in Federal taxpayer dollars that could be used to save the lives of suffering humanity, rather than ending the lives of innocent babies.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jan. 29, 2010 8:03 PM ET USA

    This is the start of a slippery slope of cooperation with evil. There's a lot of evil that can be rationalized on the basis that there's a remote connection to something that might save lives. Scott Roeder, the killer of abortionist George Tiler would surely agree "...there will be questions, but this is common sense." Another regrettable part of this proposal is that further aligns Catholic Charities with the same groups that undermine doctrine on family and sexuality.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 29, 2010 7:56 PM ET USA

    One may NEVER do evil that good may come of it-probably the most basic guideline in Catholic morality:sadly this principle seems to have gone out the window in this case.One must also ask the question,where will this diocese & its bishop stop?I mean,giving needles to drug users to prevent the spread of AIDS is no different to giving out contraception for the same end.The credibility of the Church has been damaged enough without bishops disregarding the principles they are supposed to defend.

  • Posted by: unum - Jan. 29, 2010 5:47 PM ET USA

    Unfortunately, this is what passes for moral leadership in the Church much of the U.S. Instead of a bishop influencing the surrounding immoral culture, we have the culture influencing the Bishop. Approving the proposal may make the Bishop may feel good, but members of his flock will be wandering without moral leadership because of his action. That is truly tragic.

  • Posted by: adamah - Jan. 29, 2010 2:22 PM ET USA

    This completely ignores the moral evil of illicit drug use as well as the impact that it has on the lives of those around them. It is the same as saying the only downside to sexual promiscuity is a sexually transmitted disease. It ignores how the act itself is degrading to the human person.

  • Posted by: jt2983 - Jan. 29, 2010 12:12 PM ET USA

    In 1999 the CDF instructed a Catholic hospital operated by the Sisters of Charity in Sydney, Australia to close a recently-opened heroin injecting room where addicts could avail themselves of clean needles and a safe environment. "The good intention and hoped-for benefits are not sufficient to outweigh the fact of its constituting an extremely proximate material cooperation in the grave evil of drug abuse and its foreseeable bad side effects." See Sydney Morning Herald 9/23/00, Zenit 9/13/00

  • Posted by: Lisa Nicholas, PhD - Jan. 29, 2010 10:57 AM ET USA

    Somebody should tell Sister Maureen Joyce about the basic moral principle that "you must not do evil, that good may come of it." Surely giving needles to drug addicts falls under that heading! The suggestion that doing so is charitable is diabolical. If that is "charity," why don't they buy the addicts "safe," clean drugs, too? Pray for Bp. Hubbard and Sr. Maureen Joyce, they are "under the influence" -- not of drugs, but of the devil.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 29, 2010 9:23 AM ET USA

    Why don't they give away free condoms too?????