God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

01.08.2009 Can a priest or religious be hiv positiv?

Dealing with HIV and AIDS on an ongoing base, it is interesting to note, that in our church we are always doing something for others, for those who are belonging to the flock, so to speak. But what is with those of us, the priests, the religious, the seminarians, those, preparing themselves for ordination – how do they cope with their infection? Isn’t it like having a double stigma – for seemingly having done something not allowed and this in the field of sexuality – forbidden for those who live celibacy.

Have you ever thought about those of the clergy being not able to disclose because the parishioners, or the bishop, or the fellow clergymen would reject and discriminate against such a person? Having a whole generation of youngsters born HIV positive – how if they receive a calling? Some seminaries or bishops require a medical certificate – being HIV positive excludes them for being trained to be a priest. How many orders don’t take brothers when they are infected? Does God not call people with the virus?

HOPE Cape Town and the Justice & Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Cape Town want to tackle these questions and to reach out to those who are infected and working in the fields of the Catholic Church. We are in the beginning to set up a network of pastoral care, of networking which should reach far beyond South Africa.

So if you know about somebody, make him or her aware of this offer. I will continue to report on the progress of this initiative – confidentiality is guaranteed and on the website there are the emails of different persons to contact.

Let’s brake the silence about HIV and priests and religious in our own church and let this stigma be turned into a charisma for the person concerned and for the community, he or she is working in. And let us convene the unconditional love of God to all of those, who are serving in the Catholic Church with the virus and all, what comes with it.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

31.07.2009 Why is HIV such a dangerous topic in the church?

While reflecting the last weeks on my way and my work with the German speaking Catholic Community and the HOPE Cape Town project, I once again asked myself, why HIV is such a contaminated topic in our RC church?

It is amazing because on the practical side, my church and the churches generally are doing marvellous work and without their engagement, much more suffering would occur. But as soon as you leave the known path of caring for the sick and the dying, a moral minefield seems to open up and at the end, one either shuts up and keeps silent or one has to face the consequences of jeopardizing ones career. It seems to me, that the topic of sexuality is still one of the most difficult topics to discuss in our church, as the church regards itself as the guardian of moral and good behaviour. And here a pandemic kills people of all ages and is connected with the most intimate part of human life: his or her sexuality.

It would be wrong to say that church has not moved in its views about certain aspects of sexuality in the last centuries, but all the developments in this field were done in slow movements. And there was always a lot of anxiety not to let go the higher moral grounds. Seeing the suffering of people every day, it sometimes is very difficult for me as a priest to reconcile the theory of moral teaching with the realities on the ground.  Sometimes I even ask myself, how one ever can bridge the gap between the two. But on the other hand: Should any teaching of the church not assist people to more life, to more happiness, to more joy, to more fulfillment?

At least what I would wish for is that we are able to discuss without fear all options and possibilities to combat this pandemic in all openness and seriousness. Without being put in one corner or the other – it seems to me, that one can only be a fanatic for or against the famous condom – but there is so much more we have to discuss and explore. A serious debate, that I wish for in the month and years to come, to find ways serving human mankind in the most beneficial and realistic way. And I am looking for a theology of HIV and AIDS, integrating the pandemic and finding ways to turn the stigma of HIV and AIDS into a charisma. Too much asked?

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

22.07.2009 Pius brotherhood

With amazement I am reading today the statement of Alfonso de Galaretta, one of the according to the Roman Catholic Church unlawful ordained bishops. His statement echoes the unbelievable arrogance and ignorance, with which the Pius brotherhood still maintains to be the guardian of the Roman Catholic Church and that there is no salvation outside this church. He further claims that the excommunication was indeed never valid – the only reason to ask for the lifting was to get public opinion right.
It is indeed a more and more dangerous game, our church is getting into in engaging with those, who never excepted that being a church means always to be on a way towards more understanding of God. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to God,  we always must be open to discover more and more the magnificent scope of his love, his plans, his grace and his mercy.
The debate with the Pius brother leads in the wrong direction – it gives right wingers and people with a tendency to religious fascism a platform to advertise themselves and to disturb the development of our church. Unity is important, I agree, and I am sure for most people involved in the lifting of the excommunication there was a good intention. But it turns out to  be counterproductive for the life of the church, it damages our reputation and it will lead to deeper rifts between the fractions. It shows that good intention not always produce a positive result.

Lets hope that there will be a stop sign to all of that – and if a couple of hundred thousand believe that only their faith will bring them to salvation and that they have to convert the Jews – let them live and die in their believe – also they will fall into the merciful hand of God.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

17.07.2007 clarification

I am asked many times what does it mean not being the chaplain to the German speaking Catholic Community in Cape Town in the near future? Does it mean to give up priesthood? to be thrown out of priesthood?
No – being a chaplain to an immigration community means to be assigned to that post by the local bishop on recommendation of the German Catholic Bishop’s Conference.  They organise the recommendation of such positions. As a diocesan priest, you are ordained and consequently attached to your diocese. Ending the position as a chaplain to an immigration community anywhere in the world means that you are falling back to your dicoese and that your bishop as your superior must now decided how to position you for the future.

If you are a religious, meaning belonging to an order, the same rules apply, but instead of a diocesan bishop, your superior within the order will decide on your repositioning.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

07.07.2009 Questions…

During the last 8 years working closely with people being infected and affected, one starts thinking what all this is fitting in in our faith system. Is HIV or AIDS only to be seen as a medical condition? Or as a social or moral failure to bring people towards a proper behaviour – what ever that might mean? In the beginning of the AIDS pandemic, I heard from some church leaders that HIV and AIDS are punishment for bad behaviour.. Or is the virus simple another sign of evolution – the daily struggle of nature to survive?

Are there indeed the “poor AIDS babies” and the adults “who are somehow bearing the stigma of misbehaving”?  Are there good or bad people living with the virus?

What does it mean to our theology of creation, our picture of God? What does it mean to the moral teaching of my Roman-Catholic church? Are we able to develop a theology of AIDS and turning the stigma into a charisma?

What does work in this field do with a priest, thorn apart between dogma, teaching and real life situations. The church is mater and magister, so told me a bishop last year in Rome. “Where I am working, we represent more the magisterium, where you working, you represent more the mother” Rightly said, but what does it mean in consequence?

I don’t have answers – but I am on a journey to find out..

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