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Degenerate Priests — Deal With the Problem, Please!

In its January 29, 30, and 31 issues, The Kansas City Star reported on a major study it conducted on homosexuality and HIV/AIDS cases in the Catholic priesthood (the series ran in Knight Ridder papers nationwide). The Star’s verdict, based on death certificates of priests and other sources, is: “it appears that priests are dying of AIDS at a rate at least four times that of the general U.S. population….” According to The Star, this is a conservative estimate, for other statistics and experts put the rate at seven, eight, and even eleven times that of the general population.

The Star also sent a confidential survey to 3,000 priests, of whom 801 responded. Of the 801, about one in 114 said “they either have HIV or AIDS or might have but haven’t been tested,” which is close to three or four times that of the general population.

Should Catholics be alarmed? Not really, according to the National Catholic Register. In its February 13-19 issue, in both a front-page news story and an editorial, the Register pooh-poohed The Star’s study -— as did Our Sunday Visitor, whose Feb. 20 news story carried the blame-the-messenger headline, “This Year’s Attack on the Catholic Priesthood.”

About The Star’s survey of priests, the Register editorial says: “The problem is that almost three-quarters [73 percent]…never responded, which indicates the survey wasn’t a reliable sample.” In this regard, the Register’s news story quotes a statistician as saying that since the survey was about homosexual issues, heterosexual priests would likely have been disproportionately disinclined to reply — thus queering the results. Of course, this is just speculation, and you don’t need to be a statistician to speculate. It’s equally likely that homosexually-inclined priests would have been disproportionately disinclined to respond for fear that their answers would not really be kept confidential.

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