AIDS, economic development and population control

In the past few months, there has been some welcome yet prejudiced attention in the world press to the unprecedented catastrophe of AIDS in the African continent. The attention probably was due to recent U.N. activities. In fact, on June 29, pro-family delegations declared victory concerning the wording of the U.N. Draft Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, containing many positive verbal protections for children, women, families and other at-risk populations. The United States, several Islamic countries and the Vatican managed to insert an acknowledgment that risky and unsafe sexual behavior actually contributes to the spread of AIDS. The United States also won inclusion of language about the effectiveness of sexual abstinence and fidelity, terms usually greeted with ridicule by some Western elites.

This was no small victory since both Europe and Canada insisted that the declaration should refer to a little-known U.N. document on human rights, titled the "United Nations International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights" (1998), which mandates legalized gay marriage, promotes abortion for women and girls, provides wide-ranging "reproductive services" to children without their parents' consent, legalizes prostitution and proposes legal sanctions against anyone guilty of "vilification" of same-sex relationships.

Yet, in this flurry of attention to AIDS in Africa, one subject has been invisible: the possible role of ill-conceived and immoral population-control policies in actively fostering the epidemic. At various U.N. conferences the Church has pointed out this most insidious imperialism especially encouraged by past U.S. administrations. For decades, the United Nations has proudly become a population-control establishment which targets Third World countries with often coercive programs in which poor women have been sometimes sterilized without their knowledge or against their will. These same programs continue to advertise birth control and condoms as veritable solutions to the spread of AIDS and the health of women. The results of these programs have been catastrophic for women, for children and for families.

Not surprisingly, the story of global population control has gone largely unreported in the U.S. media. Nine years ago, Brazilian pro-family forces and population-control advocates revealed that as many as an astounding 45 percent of all Brazilian women of child-bearing age had been sterilized. The story was front-page news in Brazil, where it provoked a government inquiry into the practices and propaganda of foreign, population-control organizations, but the story made nary a ripple in the United States.

Condoms continue to be a crucial part of global population control, and condoms do not stop the HIV virus. In many instances Third World delegates to the United Nations complain that although many villages lack wells or suitable drinking water and very basic medication such as aspirin and inexpensive malaria medications, condoms and birth control pills are everywhere. Is it possible that one reason for the frightening spread of AIDS among heterosexuals in Africa was confidence in the false promises of Western population-control advocates and the government offices supporting them? If so, the West has much to answer for.

Hearts organize to save lives

Last year the national board of the American Heart Association voted to fund embryonic stem cell research. Typically, such research depends upon destroyed human embryos or the tissues of aborted babies as sources for stem cells. Thus, the research which has promised miracle cures for such diseases as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and heart disease would achieve these great benefits at the sacrifice of innocent human life. The Church encourages and supports the goal of developing cures, but not through evil means. But like the AHA, many people and organizations, less concerned about the sanctity of all life than the promised benefits, assert that the good end justifies the evil means.

When Deby Schlapprizzi of Ladue, the chosen organizer of the AHA St. Louis Division's 2001 Heart Ball, heard of the AHA's decision, she refused to cooperate with the evil. Out of respect for life she decided to discontinue her service for the AHA fund-raising event. In an article that appeared last week in the Wall Street Journal about Schlapprizzi's decision, the paper reported that other members of the local AHA board and subsequent nominees to the board also threatened to resign or withdraw from the board.

In an important and decisive step, Archbishop Justin Rigali responded to the AHA's decision with a letter explaining why, in light of the move, he would now have to discourage Catholic support for the AHA. The Archbishop wrote the association's president, William Bryant, also a Catholic, telling of the evil involved in the proposed funding and presented a fundamental principle of conscience: Never can one do evil in order that good may come of it.

Therefore, Catholics would have to be discouraged from participation in fund-raising activities because the funds would be used to support the intentional evil.

Threatened with a significant loss of funding, the AHA's national board reversed its decision and agreed to limit its funding to adult stem cell research that does not involve the destruction of innocent human beings. The primary reason for the reversal appears to be the projected loss of funding, volunteer staff and sponsors. Still, the decision means that the AHA will not be materially involved in the immoral side of stem cell research.

The truth about life firmly rooted in the conscience of Schlapprizzi is not manifested by all otherwise pro-life advocates. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson have urged President George W. Bush to support the immoral research. While Thompson considers the research very important, Hatch justifies his position by the fact that the embryos, most of which are currently frozen in fertility clinics, will eventually be destroyed, so why not take advantage of the potential?

The Gospel of Life teaches that all innocent human life from the moment of conception to natural death must be equally respected. The perspective of Hatch is one that could be shared by anyone who is not firmly grounded in an unwavering commitment to the sanctity of all human life. However, no human being is entitled to shorten the life of another innocent human individual even if the individual is hours old or imminently dying.

Absolute respect for the sanctity of life in medical research is the only realistic defense against the creation of a lottery of human destruction.

All Christians share the responsibility for ensuring that the search for cures does not result in the creation of castes of disposable human beings. We laud the efforts of Schlapprizzi and all those who helped influence the AHA's reversal.

The bread of angels

Catholics of St. Louis will long remember this month for the magnificent outpouring of faith and eucharistic devotion generated by the archdiocesan Eucharistic Congress. The shared belief in the sacramental Presence of our divine Lord created an atmosphere of genuine religious joy and pride.

The Second Vatican Council described the sacred liturgy as "the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows."

The liturgy is correctly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. The Mass is an action of Christ the priest and of his body, the Church.

In the Mass we are intimately one with Christ as were the apostles at the Last Supper. Nothing else on earth can afford us the same sublime level of union with God as the sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord. If we reflect upon it, we understand this sacrament as a sign of the supreme condescension and love of God who enters and enriches our lives in Holy Communion.

The beautiful hymn, "Panis Angelicus" reminds us that this bread of angels has become the spiritual food of the poor and humble.

Those who participated in the congress were impressed by the uplifting and instructive words of the Pope's special envoy, Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte of Belgium. The words and music will become a faint memory; even the press of tens of thousands of fellow Catholics will fade, but the spirit of faith generated here will remain. This centenary Eucharistic Congress will stand as a tribute to Archbishop Justin Rigali's vision in making this event the capstone of his efforts to renew and strengthen eucharistic devotion.

During these grace-filled days, there was a sadly discordant note reported in the eastern United States. A television ad was aired by the Lipton Co., using the Catholic Mass and the distribution of Holy Communion as the setting for an utterly tasteless and highly offensive commercial. A properly indignant Catholic response caused the ad to be withdrawn, but the incident reminds us that ignorance and insensitivity are still directed at things we hold sacred.

Happily nothing of this sort marred our public expression of love and gratitude to God for the great gift of the Eucharist.

Bishop-elect Dolan: Silver and gold

The priestly ordination classes of 1951 and 1976 have brought inestimable gifts to the Church. Last week's Review supplement honored these gold and silver jubilarians in the midst of all the men and women who, this year, celebrate special anniversaries of their religious or priestly vocations.

On Tuesday the Pope acknowledged one silver standout, calling him to a new episcopal ministry beyond what has already been an exemplary record of service to the local Church, the Church in the United States and the universal Church. Father Tim Dolan of the St. Louis Class of 1976 is now Bishop-elect Timothy Michael Dolan, to be ordained as an auxiliary bishop of St. Louis on Aug. 15. In this, his anniversary year, he is silver. In his love for Christ and his people, and in his generous and gifted priestly ministry, he has shown himself to be gold!

Here in the archdiocese, Bishop-elect Dolan has served in parish work and at the seminary. He served the Church in the United States in a distinguished and eventful seven-year term as rector of the North American College in Rome. He served the Vatican as secretary to the Holy See's Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. In his scholarly and insightful writing he has already taught many within and outside the Church.

Just days after Msgr. Dolan has returned to the archdiocese, and on the very day of his silver anniversary, the Church has called him to be a pastor in a new and extraordinary way. Titular Bishop of Natchez and auxiliary bishop of St. Louis, Bishop-elect Dolan will join our two auxiliaries as extensions of the good shepherding of our archbishop.

With Archbishop Rigali, we welcome Bishop-elect Dolan home, congratulate him on his appointment as bishop and offer the assurance of our prayerful support. He is a great gift to the Church. He is silver and gold!

A vital, vibrant local Church

Two weeks ago, the archdiocese lost two of its parishes - St. Catherine of Siena in Pagedale and St. Mary in Bridgeton. By now, parishioners of these two venerable parishes are worshiping at any one of a number of nearby parishes. Their transition to life in a new parish setting has begun.

Though the parishioners' loss should in no way be minimized - after all, one's parish provides a sense of identity; important personal events take place within our parishes - it should be noted that it is a testimony to our Church's vitality that we move forward in confident hope.

The parishes of St. Catherine and St. Mary both were located in St. Louis County. With their closures, there remain 90 parishes in St. Louis County offering more than 380 Holy Masses every weekend.

In the entire archdiocese - which covers just 10 counties plus the City of St. Louis - the priests in our approximately 220 parishes celebrate more than 830 Masses each weekend. In some parishes, the eucharistic sacrifice is celebrated in Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Croatian, Polish or Latin. Hundreds of thousands in the Archdiocese of St. Louis worship together each Sunday. Our local Church is vital and vibrant!

Archbishop Justin Rigali has spoken and written fervently about the challenges we face. We need our families to encourage their children to pursue vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We need, always, to increase our commitment to our faith. We must foster both a zeal for the faith and a genuine piety that helps build God's kingdom on earth.

The Church likewise gives us opportunities to celebrate and display our vitality. Next weekend's Eucharistic Congress at the Dome at America's Center is one such opportunity. Tens of thousands of Catholics are expected for the two-day celebration. At least 30,000 already have received free tickets to attend the Mass on June 16 at the Dome. Even if you do not have a ticket, the archdiocese wants you to join in the celebration. (More information is available at www.archstl.org/congress/.) As an archdiocesan family, let us worship our Lord together in vibrancy and vitality!

Summer places, new faces, one goal

For many of us, these early days of summer are a time of transition. Many students finish up the school year. Some get summer jobs, others attend camps and still others - our graduates - begin new adventures of work or additional schooling. Our hard-working school teachers, school administrators and school support staff get a welcome break. To all students, teachers, staff: Congratulations and have a safe and happy summer.

In these early days of summer, families prepare for vacations and we all get ready for the heavy heat of the St. Louis summer. Some among us will be hit hard by the heat when air conditioners fail (or are not available). The generosity of each of us can help those in need. Our parishes are also active these days. Confirmations are over but parish graduation Masses abound, marriages seem to happen nearly every Saturday and the parish picnic is near! What wonderful busy days!

In a special way, these days are a time of change for our priests and deacons. Ordinations traditionally take place in late spring. Just this week, a new class of permanent deacons will be ordained by Archbishop Justin Rigali. Many priests and deacons from throughout the archdiocese will receive new assignments. They will arrive to new places and see new faces and leave beloved places where they made close ties. Pray for them and welcome them.

There is much to do this summer - including the Eucharistic Congress next weekend! In all that we do, we should integrate the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through prayer, fasting, acts of mercy and constant personal renewal through the sacraments, we can sanctify our daily lives to Jesus. This goal, not easy but achievable, is one to which we all should strive. It is our summer goal.

Syndicate content