Caritas has issued an apology for its slow response to the worldwide epidemic, reports Christina White THE CHURCH'S agency for international development has issued a strong rebuke against claims that it has publicly contradicted Church teaching on sex and morality.
Caritas Intemationalis, which represents 150 Catholic relief agencies around the world, issued a statement last Sunday to mark World Aids Day on December 1. The statement, drafted by Cafod, the aid agency of the Catholic bishops of England Wales, focused on eliminating the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV infection and the Aids virus. It highlighted the added "emotional burden" which children face when their parents die from the disease and acknowledged "with deep regret" that Caritas members had not always acted promptly or positively to the challenges posed by HIV/Aids.
It continued: "Caritas members have often rejected when we should have ethbraced, isolated when we should have included, judged and condemned when we should have offered love, understanding, acceptance and support." It concluded with a renewed commitment to promote in policies and programmes "equal dignity and respect for human rights" including a more just response at national and international levels to provide the resources needed for "effective care, support and treatment of people with HIV or Aids".
A report in the British press suggested that Caritas, in voicing regret, had put itself at odds with the Church, which declares the use of barrier contraceptives to "prevent" spread of HIV/Aids immoral and against Church teaching on the sanctity of life. But a spokeswoman for Cafod denied that the statement was misleading and insisted it was never intended as an "apology for or a criticism of Church teaching".
Fiona Canister said: "All the statement is about is saying that Caritas members have in the past made mistakes in their reacdon to HIV. We are not saying that Caritas members are the only people who have made mistakes ... we are now moving on to a more positive future for dealing with HIV/Aids."
She said the aid agency was "disappointed" that any interest groups should choose to misinterpret a genuine attempt to eliminate discrimination against the disease.
"We are not saying that Church teaching is wrong, or has been wrong, we are just saying that Caritas members have been guilty of discrimination and stigmatism against people with AIDS."
She continued: "If the hierarchy of the Catholic Church did not agree with this statement it would not have been put out. There is no conflict with the Catholic Church."
Earlier this month, the Catholic Institute for International Relations called for the Church to permit the use of condoms in the fight against Aids. Ms Callister warned that the reflections of a "Catholic think-tank" should not be confused with a development agency of the Church.
A report from the United Nations this week warned that the Aids epidemic is fuelling a widening and deadly famine in southern Africa. It said the "global reponse" to the epidemic was underfunded.