.- The head of a Catholic medical organization says that World AIDS Day is a time to show “effective compassion” to those affected and to recall the Church’s leadership in helping AIDS victims. Lamenting the “unfair” criticisms of the Catholic response to AIDS, he advocated charity, scientific research and a “message of conversion” to combat the threat.
Dr. John Brehany, Ph.D, Executive Director of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) spoke with CNA in a Monday interview.
He said that World AIDS Day is a time to remember those who suffer from AIDS and to reach out to them with “effective compassion.”
“The Church has been a leader on this,” Brehany commented, adding that the Church provides “not only hands-on caring, but a healing love.”
Catholics should remember that many people get AIDS in a variety of ways and compassion is needed for everyone. He added that scientific research is also important.
“The Church does affirm the legitimate and good role of human knowledge and science in preventing and effectively treating this very horrible disease.”
However, he told CNA, a religious response is needed as well.
“One of the most important things we can do is preach the necessity of converting to the truth,” Brehany said, emphasizing that a “message of conversion” is needed for everyone.
He advocated not being judgmental “in an improper way” but also called for conversion to the Gospel and not leading “the kind of life that is conducive towards either spreading or receiving AIDS.”
“I hope there will be a day we could all join together and acknowledge and support one another in these things.
“Unfortunately many times the Church’s efforts have been met by unfair criticism,” Brehany told CNA. “I hope that on a day like this the Church’s efforts can be acknowledged by everybody who is working together against this disease.”
CNA asked Brehany about the advocacy of condom use in AIDS prevention. He explained that the CMA is guided by the moral teachings of the Church and so has two points of criticism of such advocacy, ethical and scientific.
Catholics do not believe that the use of condoms is a truly ethical response to infection with AIDS, he explained.
He added that research has discredited the idea AIDS can be stopped with condom distribution, citing Harvard researcher Edward Green.
Green, the Senior Harvard Research Scientist for AIDS Prevention, in March told CNA that condom use is effective HIV/AIDS prevention only in certain limited cases. In his view, the advocacy of a reduction in the number of sexual partners, with a stress on fidelity and monogamy, is most generally effective.
Condom use is “not a prudent or practical way,” Brehany commented.
“Unfortunately the teachings and the approach of the church have been criticized and even blamed,” he told CNA on Monday.
Brehany also pointed to the African bishops’ World AIDS Day message as a good guide for Catholics.