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Open Letter to Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the USCCB

 Dear DignityUSA Friends,

As you may know, our USA Bishops have been meeting in Washington, DC this week.  On Tuesday November 11, 2003 the following letter was sent to Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the USCCB.  This letter was signed by DignityUSA and by many of our allies in Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR).

Please forward it to your own Bishop with your endorsement as you believe is appropriate.

C. Samuel Sinnett
President DignityUSA


November 11, 2003

Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194

Dear Bishop Gregory,

We are writing to you in solidarity with the 42 million people living with HIV/AIDS, on behalf of the millions more impacted, and in honor of the 28 million people who have succumbed to this deadly disease. Without a doubt, we share with you a common concern for those who are affected by this debilitating pandemic, and we gratefully acknowledge all of the work the Catholic church, and most especially Catholic health and social service agencies, have done to treat the millions who are afflicted with HIV/AIDS and to care for the millions more who struggle with the loss of parents, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends. In so many ways, our community has been a leader in providing compassionate, nondiscriminatory treatment to those living with HIV/AIDS, and we applaud those efforts.

However, we are deeply concerned with the politicization of HIV/AIDS prevention that has taken place within the institutional church. For years, Vatican spokesmen and other church officials have made clear the churchÍs moral objections to condoms as a contraceptive, and the extension of this position to HIV/AIDS prevention has resulted in dangerous policies that have contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS. But recent comments by church officials espousing scientifically incorrect information about condom efficacy simply cannot be tolerated.

It is one thing for church officials to state clearly their moral objections; it is quite another for them to make false claims about the effectiveness of condoms, endangering at-risk communities. In addition, such claims only further complicate the work of Catholic service workers, who on a daily basis have to simultaneously confront the HIV/AIDS crisis and the conflict between basic public health standards and the official teachings of the Catholic church.

We support the World Health OrganizationÍs response to the most recent claim: ñthese incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million.î And we appreciate that some within the US church hierarchy have responded courageously, such as Cardinal Mahoney who stated that the claim that condoms are permeable directly contradicted his own understanding of the science on this issue.

We all agree that condoms are not 100% effective. However, they are highly effective, and they are the only effective method of preventing the transmission of AIDS for those who choose to have intimate sexual relationships, and they are especially important to women, who often have no choice and who have become the face of AIDS.

We believe the world community must offer compassionate quality care to those already infected with HIV/AIDS, as well as fully support integrated prevention programs that incorporate womenÍs empowerment, sexual education, condom counseling and distribution, monogamy, and abstinence„without discrimination or stigmatization. We maintain that the most ethical approach to combating HIV/AIDS is a comprehensive and balanced approach that meets the varied needs of all people while upholding scientific and medical integrity.

As Catholic organizations, we are bound by a moral and ethical fabric that calls on us to address the global AIDS crisis with compassion, intensity, and above all, common sense. In this vein, we believe that the Catholic church should lift the ban on condoms as a moral and humanitarian matter. But, if not, should at the very least be clear that the churchÍs objections to condoms as a means of HIV/AIDS prevention are ecclesiastical, not scientific. Accordingly, we call upon you and your fellow bishops at this important annual meeting to repudiate the incorrect information that has been circulated by officials of the Catholic church, and we strongly urge you to be scrupulously honest in describing the effectiveness of condoms in the future.

Sincerely,

A Critical Mass
Kim Wayne

Call to Action of Northern Virginia
Sharon Danner
(703) 680-0860

Catholics for a Free Choice
Frances Kissling
(202) 986-6093

Catholics For The Spirit of Vatican II
Thomas J. Kerwin
(303) 221-7622

Catholics Speak Out/Quixote Center
Rea Howarth
(301) 699-0042

DignityUSA
C. Samuel Sinnett
(202) 861-0017

Fellowship of Southern Illinois Laity
Yvonne Van Horn

Greater Cincinnati Women-Church
Ruth Steinert-Foote
(513) 751-3408

Loretto WomenÍs Network
Martha Alderson

Massachusetts Women-Church
Joanne Bray
(203) 329-6570

National Coalition of American Nuns
Jeannine Gramick
(301) 864-3604

New Ways Ministry
Francis DeBernardo
(301) 277-5674

Pax Christi Æ Maine
William Slavick

Sisters Against Sexism
Ruth M. Fitzpatrick
(703) 938-0746

Southeastern Pennsylvania WOC
Regina Bannan
(215) 545-9649

WATER
Diann Neu
(301) 589-2509

Women-Church Baltimore
Erma Durkin
(410) 592-8453

Women-Church Convergence
Bridget Mary Meehan

WomenÍs Ordination Conference
Joy Barnes
(703) 352-1006