Celibacy saves lives



Regional/Kansas City

Catholic Church




(Courtesy of  Cashill Newsletter - March 17, 2000 )

By Jack Cashill

Let no one accuse The Kansas City Star of timidity. In a huge expose, four years in the making and nearly as long in the reading, its editors have taken it upon themselves to "out" the billion strong, 2,000 year old Catholic Church.

The Knight Ridder chain amplified the outing by reprinting the article in papers nationwide. Having hosted a show that week on Catholic Family Radio’s national network, I can assure you that the article struck a nerve--sort of the way a bumbling dentist might on an unneeded root canal. The network’s caller lines are still in meltdown.

The reason for this public shaming? According to a Star editorial, only "open discussion" and "honest answers" can address the fact that AIDS "has invaded all segments of American life." One particularly vulnerable segment, we are told, is the Catholic Church whose priests are dying of AIDS at a rate "four times that of the general population."

One problem here. The Star series is about as straight as a Bill Clinton deposition. Encoded, alas, in its call for honesty are the disingenuous blather and downright bunkum that have allowed AIDS to plague the land for the last two decades.

The series hinges on the claim that priests are particularly vulnerable to AIDS. Employing some of the most dubious research methodology seen since Lombroso hung up his head calipers, The Star reckons that priests die of AIDS four times more often than the "general population," a claim The Star makes repeatedly.

The problem is that the "general population"--including women and children--contracts AIDS at a rate much less than that of adult men. Why the sleight-of-hand? Well, imagine going to corporate and telling them that after four years and goo-gobs of dollars, it seems that a priest is no more likely to contract AIDS than any other guy on the street. So claims the Catholic League of New York which submitted the Star numbers to two sets of independent statisticians.

Nor would the editors have dared to compare priests to the most appropriate control group, other unmarried men. Then, the headline might have read, "Celibacy saves lives," and reporter Judy Thomas would have wasted four years promoting a religion she quietly seems to despise.

The Catholic League and others have accused Thomas of "anti-Catholic bigotry." But to be fair, Thomas seems less a bigot than the bewildered champion of a sexual revolution whose lethal consequences seem to elude her. A few hundred thousand American deaths into the scourge, she may actually believe that AIDS does indeed invade "all segments of society." It does not. In America, almost all current victims contracted AIDS through promiscuous anal sex or intraveneous injection. Not all segments of America engage in both or either.

What specifically troubles Thomas about Catholicism is that it fails to endorse the sexual fashions she fancies. Indeed, the Church still "considers homosexual relations a sin and opposes the modern practice of ‘safe sex." Da noive!

To support her own inchoate plans for a reformed Catholicism, Thomas quotes any number of liberal and/or ex-priests on the church’s presumed failure to offer, what Thomas calls, "early and effective sexual education that might have prevented infection in the first place."

The reason for this shortfall lies not only on its teachings about homosexuality, Thomas claims, but also in the "church’s adherence to a 12th-century doctrine about the virtues of celibacy." Thomas errs on this point. The tradition of celibacy dates back to the very founding of the Church. Still, the "12th century" reference serves her well. It suggests that celibacy is an afterthought, a contrivance, but it makes celibacy sound positively medeival nonetheless. Double duty. How the Church can possibly reconcile the sacred vows of celibacy with the teaching of "safe sex," Thomas never quite manages to explain. Condom machines in the seminary? I don’t think so.

In fact, neither Thomas nor her editors seem to comprehend the deep meaning of vows and thus the meaninglessness of sexual classification among the clergy. So they insist on jamming priests into two insulting, irrelevant boxes--"gay priests" and "heterosexual priests"--as if they were mere patrons of a singles bar.

To the category of "gay priest," the Star has assigned the late Rockhurst College President, Father Tom Savage. Father Savage could not have wanted it this way. He lived a private life and died a private death of AIDS two years ago.

To justify the exploitation of his death, Thomas suggests that outing Father Savage will raise awareness, something that he himself was presumably too ashamed to do. As to the message that one ought to derive from Savage’s death, Thomas pulls no punches. "Experts say that until the Church starts encouraging a more healthy understanding of sexuality," she writes, "priests will continue to die of AIDS."

One expert who does not sign on to Thomas’s naive call for "healthy understanding" is the very brave, gay, AIDS activist, Gabriel Rotello. In his 1997 book, Sexual Ecology, Rotello notes writes that in the "second wave" of the disease "AIDS awareness is nearly universal." This is true for all races and all classes, he argues, right down to street junkies.

The problem, insists Rotello, is not one of awareness but the liberal insistence on "safe sex" as the only means of prevention, what he calls "the code of the condom." As the second wave of AIDS has shown, as Father Savage’s death has confirmed, the code simply does not work. Only a dramatic change in sexual behavior can end what Rotello terms an "ecological catastrophe." This, he adds, is one truth no one wants to hear.

Certainly not Judy Thomas and her editors at The Star.



Posted: August 30, 2000
Cashill Newsletter
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Editor's note: Jack Cashill is Ingram's Executive Editor and has affiliated with the magazine for 25 years. He can be reached at jcashill@aol.com.


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