HIV is unfortunate but two wrongs don’t make a right.
Enough is enough; there has been too much deadly righteousness already. This statement, made earlier today by another poster, is profoundly distressing, and casts a shadow over the whole mission of Christ in favour of the teaching of this unique Catholic Church.
My life, and that of countless thousands of others, has been spent in trying to stem the tide of an abominable plague such as we have not seen for centuries. We do not know when it will end - perhaps not for another century or more. It is probable that well over 100 million people have died from HIV in the past 30 years alone, and there are at least 100 million currently infected. And drugs will not cure them, but will keep the poor alive for a couple of years, the wealthy a few more. In South Africa alone, more than 1500 people are infected each day. And no, this is not a matter of immorality, where one makes a judgement about the behaviour of another.
To say that HIV is ‘unfortunate’ is a foul understatement, and reveals a level of unknowing that is profound. Please read and learn; please feel somewhat responsible for the suffering of the wretched of the earth who are those who are most affected by this pandemic.
And when we could be saving lives, every day, for young and old, by using the tools that we have to combat HIV infection, it is morally wrong not to do so. That is my opinion. It is also the opinion of others within the Catholic church:
There is a growing consensus among Catholic moral theologians that the Church’s teaching finds room for this life-saving, ‘prophylactic’ use of condoms. The condom is used to protect against lethal infection. It is not being used to prevent conception. The protection of life takes priority and justifies the condom use.
The sacred principle of the priority of life still stands. Out of this principle flows not merely the lawfulness of using a condom when there is risk of contracting or transmitting the HIV virus, but even the obligation to do so. Responsible sexuality requires that those engaging in sexual activity take the necessary effective measures to prevent the transmission of HIV and other infections. In the words of a leading Catholic ethicist, “this prevention is an urgent moral duty and not a noncommittal advice or recommendation.”
This would be the principle governing every act of sexual intercourse where there is risk of HIV infection. It does not matter whether one is talking about fornication where neither party is married or about adultery where the intercourse is with somebody other than one’s lawful spouse. It does not make any difference whether one is talking about casual sex or commercial sex, about heterosexual or homosexual activity. The situation does not change according to the age of those involved; neither does it change according to whether it is a man or boy who initiates the sex or whether it is a girl or woman. Even in an unlawful union, the protection of life is the over-arching principle, and hence arises the obligation to protect oneself or one’s partner against life-threatening HIV infection.
This proposition was published recently by my closest colleague in the battle against HIV, an eminent Jesuit (78 years old) based in Lusaka, who is a leading activist on the challenge of HIV to education systems. The Vatican is aware of his views, and those of many others with similar views within the Church.
Please read it and think. Comment if you want, but this is NOT an invitation to battle over condom use in the conventional sense. It IS an invitation to reflect on a Jesuit’s plea for reason and for right interpretation.
The complete paper is available by email on request.