God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Synod on Family: Signs of deep divide or healthy discussion?

It was amazing to see the discussion before, during and after the first part of the Synod on Family: those discussions, interviews, reporting back, misunderstandings when being interviewed and it seems a somehow brutal gloves off discussion is going on for the time being. Reading conservative blogs or so-called Catholic news websites like the German “kath.net” every bit of news is bend up to a point of ideology and bits of events are highlighted and others completely overlooked just to make a point.
The removal of Cardinal Burke from a high-ranking position has fired up the discussion as has the remarks of Cardinal Kasper that one cannot discuss certain topics with African bishops. All this shows that the unity of bishops and the church has been enforced by a structure or hierarchy based on fear and choosing only candidates who would normally never speak up but defend even the not possible to defend as part of the deal. Those times are hopefully gone and the God’s good spirit seems to get more and more room to conquer the hearts and minds of those leading the church. And giving the spirit more room is certainly healthy for a church claiming to be guided by exactly this spirit.
I personally think it is good to see the diversity of thoughts within our church and if it is done right and with respect, a robust and healthy debate can only further our cause as it has done during the Second Vatican Council. The only difference is that in our times, the debates are public and can be followed by millions with each and everybody able to voice his or her own opinion while at the time of the council, it was fought out behind close doors and only the results were published.What is scary is the bitterness of certain so-called conservative circles even talking about a “false” pope or yesterday I even read about a schismatic pope. Here, ideology has taken over religion and a debate is not even possible any more.

Working in the field of HIV and AIDS, seeing the crisis of family and the changes happening in form and perceptions, there has to be a debate if we want to remain relevant in our days. Nobody I see wants to abolish the institution of family, but as always in life, there are many shades of grey in the realities of family life and we have to see the good and beautiful as God is exactly doing the same: Where there is love, commitment, dedication there he is present. And there are many shades of grey in the reality of sexuality and  again let’s see the good and the beautiful as God is exactly doing the same: Where there is love, commitment and dedication, there he is present. Life is getting so complicated, let’s point out all what contributes to life and the diversity of life – God’s plan is certainly not uniformity but a colorful mosaic where every different piece counts to make the whole picture beautiful.

Filed under: Catholic Church, Networking, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

29.08.2009 Religious Leaders Absent in the Anti-AIDS Fight & the POZ initiative

The following article I found today on the website “the body” – and caught my attention:
Religious Leaders Absent in the Anti-AIDS Fight  August 21, 2009
Though they exert great influence in the communities in which they serve, religious leaders are not doing enough to fight HIV/AIDS, said experts at the recent ninth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, held in Bali, Indonesia. “Many religious groups and leaders are unwilling to address HIV/AIDS and make it a priority. Their commitment level is quite low, particularly when compared to the size of their budget and the amount of work they do,” said Donald Messer of the US-based Center of Church and Global AIDS. “We’ve been talking about HIV/AIDS and the religious groups’ response for three decades now. We’re still talking too much even now,” said Fiji’s Dominica Abo. The “most powerful contribution” religious leaders can make is addressing stigma, discrimination, and biases that put groups like women at high risk for the disease. The epidemics impact on women and children needs to be addressed from a faith-based perspective, said the Rev. Youngsook Charlene Kang of the United Methodist Church in the United States, noting that women account for nearly half of all infections worldwide. “We need to call on religious leaders to educate and create new pathways within our churches for parishioners to learn the role that faith communities can play.” Messer noted that many conservative Muslim and Christian groups continue to preach against contraceptives, including condoms, believing they promote promiscuity. “[Yet] when used directly and consistently, condoms are humanity’s best protection and weapon against HIV/AIDS,” he said. “Some religious leaders are more eager to preserve the purity or correctness of theological perspectives than their task to save human lives.”
I guess, that the POZ initiative of HOPE Cape Town and the Justice & Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Cape Town will make a difference and highlight, that we take the fight against stigma, discrimination and bias serious. By working with and for priests, religious and seminarians, who are living with the virus, we address the double stigma of being infected and being infected as a “sacred” person, so to speak.  In this sense we can see a double discrimination – and of course also the bias, as many church leaders do not acknowledge that the pandemic also is amongst us, the clergy.
I am personally thrilled that we got the permission from the local Archbishop of Cape Town to work in this field – and when I will visit the papal council for health care workers end of the year, I will address it and hope that they join hands to work for a transformation from stigma to charisma.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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