Says Hundreds of Priests Have Died of AIDS
The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - AIDS
has quietly caused the deaths of hundreds of Roman Catholic priests in
the United States although other causes may be listed on some of their
death certificates, The Kansas City Star has reported.
In the first of a three-part
series, the newspaper reported that its examination of death certificates
and interviews with experts indicated several hundred priests have died
of AIDS-related illnesses since the mid-1980s and hundreds more are living
with HIV, the virus that causes the disease. The death rate of priests
from AIDS is at least four times that of the general population, the newspaper
Church leaders in the United
States and at the Vatican declined requests to discuss the findings, the
Star said, and the Vatican referred questions to local bishops.
Bishop Raymond J. Boland
of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said the AIDS deaths show that
priests are human. “Much as we would regret it, it shows that human nature
is human nature,” Boland said.
The Star sent confidential
questionnaires to 3,000 of the 46,000 priests in the United States last
fall, asking about AIDS and other issues, and received responses from 801
priests, a 27 percent return rate.
Six of 10 priests responding
said they knew of at least one priest who had died of an AIDS-related illness
and one-third knew a priest living with AIDS. Three-fourths said the church
needed to provide more education to seminarians on sexual issues.
Asked about their sexual
75 percent said they were
15 percent said they were
homosexual and 5 percent said they were bisexual.
The Star said exact numbers
of priests who have died of AIDS or become infected with HIV is unknown,
partly because many suffer in solitude. When priests tell their superiors,
the cases generally are handled quietly.
The newspaper cited the case
of Bishop Emerson J. Moore, who left the Archdiocese of New York in 1995
and went to Minnesota, where he died in a hospice of an AIDS-related illness.
His death certificate attributed the death to “unknown natural causes”
and listed his occupation as “laborer” in the manufacturing industry.
After an AIDS activist filed
a complaint, officials changed the cause of death to “HIV-related illness,”
the newspaper reported, but the occupation was not corrected.
Farley Cleghorn, an epidemiologist
with the Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore, said he has treated
about 20 priests and religious-order brothers with AIDS, all of whom had
kept it a secret.
“The church and religious
orders need to acknowledge that there is a problem - that priests have
sex and they are susceptible to all sexually transmitted diseases, including
AIDS,” he said.
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