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Catholic Educators Cautious on AIDS Education

February 18, 1987

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Roman Catholic schools in Oakland, Calif., plan to discuss condoms when teaching children about AIDS, but most other Catholic educators believe such information violates doctrines against artificial birth control and extramarital sex, according to an independent Catholic newspaper.

″If we’re afraid to talk about condoms and all the other issues AIDS raises, then we’re really missing it,″ Sister Rosemary Hennessey, superintendent of Oakland’s Catholic schools, told the National Catholic Reporter. ″And in the meantime, people are dying.″

The newspaper, published in Kansas City, said educators in other large Catholic school districts believe traditional Catholic sex education ultimately holds the right answers: celibacy for single people and monogamy for married people.

″What we need to do is to be more forceful and forthright about what we’ve always been teaching,″ said the Rev. Tom Gallagher, education secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference. ″If our teachings had been followed all along by everybody, we wouldn’t be in this mess.″

U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, among others, has advocated that children be taught that condoms are a way to avoid the deadly disease. Celibacy and monogamy are even better ways of avoiding AIDS, but educators should recognize that not all people will follow that advice, Koop argues.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome destroys the body’s immune system. The disease, spread by sexual contact or sharing of contaminated blood, has no known cure and has spread beyond the main risk groups - male homosexuals and intravenous drug abusers.

German Maissonet, medical director of the Minority AIDS Project in Los Angeles, criticized the stance of most Catholic educators.

″As a physician, and as a Catholic, I cannot sit by and watch people die when information can make a difference,″ the newspaper quoted him as saying.

″We’re not going to stop kids from having sex. God knows we’ve tried,″ Maissonet said. ″So I’m in favor of providing the information because this virus does not forgive and does not forget.″

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