The Church, in fact, has spoken clearly and powerfully about HIV/AIDS. Based on the Bible and on the Church’s long tradition and especially on the life of Jesus, the Church’s teachings have stressed (1) the value and dignity of every person, (2) the rights and responsibilities of society, and (3) the love and compassion of God.
The message is clear: every human being is created in God’s image, redeemed by Jesus, and called to everlasting life. Accordingly, all persons have worth and dignity, rooted simply in who they are (and not in what they do or achieve). This conviction about the preciousness of every life grounds the Church’s teachings about HIV/AIDS.
“People living with HIV/AIDS face discrimination which is dehumanizing and suffering which strips the person’s sense of worth and dignity. Of course, this worth also needs to be cherished and protected by all of us, by individuals and organizations, especially the Church. All forms of discrimination are wrong, whether in housing, jobs, insurance, health care, or religion.” ~ Kenneth R. Overberg, S.J
“As members of the Church and society, we have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with and reach out with compassion and understanding to those exposed to or experiencing this disease. We must provide spiritual and pastoral care as well as medical and social services for them and support for their families and friends.” ~ The Many Faces of AIDS – A Gospel Response
“While preaching a Gospel of compassion and conversion, Jesus also proclaimed to those most in need the Good News of forgiveness. The father in the parable of the prodigal son did not wait for his son to come to him. Rather, he took the initiative and ran out to his son with generosity, forgiveness, and compassion.” ~ The Many Faces of AIDS – A Gospel Response
The various Church statements about HIV/AIDS always affirm the love and compassion of God. Jesus has revealed a God who loves each of us unconditionally, a God who forgives our sinful actions. God is not vengeful. God respects human freedom, calling us to love and responsibility, but not interfering even with destructive choices.
HIV/AIDS IS A HUMAN ILLNESS; NOT A PUNISHMENT FROM GOD.
CATHOLIC BISHOPS IN AFRICA REJECT THE MYTH THAT AIDS IS A PUNISHMENT FROM GOD
“AIDS must never be considered as a punishment from God. He wants us to be healthy and not to die from AIDS. It is for us a sign of the times challenging all people to inner transformation and to the following of Christ in his ministry of healing, mercy and love.”
A Message of Hope to the People of God from the Catholic Bishops of South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland. July 30, 2001.
A Statement of the Administrative Board
United States Catholic Conference November 1987
On November 14, 1987, the Administrative Board of the United States Catholic Conference approved the statement The Many Faces of AIDS: A Gospel Response, and thus, it is authorized for publication by the undersigned.
Monsignor Daniel F. Hoye General Secretary NCCB/USCC
December 7, 1987
Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Lord, and All People of Good Will:
In the life of society, as in the lives of individuals, there are events of significance and moments of decision. Today our society is experiencing a significant event and a decisive moment: the ominous presence of the disease known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
Whether this infection exists as an unrecognized HIV virus in a pregnant woman or in a small child; whether it weakens the body of a person with ARC (AIDS.Related Complex); or whether it comes as the likelihood of a more imminent death from the disease itself, AIDS is a reality that we all must face.
The Church confronts in this disease a significant pastoral issue. The etiology of this deadly epidemic, its prevention, and the care of those stricken present society with serious moral decisions. How are we to relate to those who have been exposed to the virus or to those who have the disease? What are our responsibilities as members of the Church and society with regard to their care and support? What can and ought we to do in order to prevent the further spread of the disease? How we make these choices with their moral implications will affect both the present generation and, most likely, future ones as well.
In order to help make these and similar choices, we have decided to issue this statement, The Many Faces of AIDS: A Gospel Response. We invite you to read it with care and attend to its recommendations.
Our reflections may be summarized in this way:
- As with all other diseases, AIDS is a human illness to which we must respond in a manner consistent with the best medical and scientific information available.
- As members of the Church and society, we have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with and reach out with compassion and understanding to those exposed to or experiencing this disease. We must provide spiritual and pastoral care as well as medical and social services for them and support for their families and friends.
- As members of the Church, we must offer a clear presentation of Catholic moral teaching with respect to human intimacy and sexuality.
- Discrimination or violence directed against persons with AIDS is unjust and immoral.
- As a society, we must develop educational and other programs to prevent the spread of the disease. Such programs should include an authentic understanding of human intimacy and sexuality as well as an understanding of the pluralism of values and attitudes in our society.
- Those who have been exposed to the virus are expected to live in a way that does not bring injury or potential harm to others.
Catholic Bishops of the Philippines 1993
“In announcing the Good News of salvation, in healing the sick, in forgiving sinners, in being compassionate with the multitude, Jesus showed what the Church must do. God’s people must be at the side of those who suffer. Especially for the needy and suffering today, the Church must be the Compassion of Jesus.”
Pastoral Letter on AIDS : In The Compassion of Jesus, 23 January 1993