A final word from the archbishop

If only all bishops would be as speedy in responding to media crises regarding them. Archbishop Léonard held a press conference today to further explain his statements about AIDS. These should serve as the final say on the matter, but they probably won’t be enough for some. Well, the facts are out there, the archbishop has explained himself – and very reasonably so, I think –  and now it’s up to the media to run with it, which they may or may not do.

The archbishop’s words in my translation:

“Various passages from my book have appeared in the media and these passages have caused great commotion in many circles, both within and especially outside the Church. It is logical that the full meaning of a statement or sentence can only be fully understood when the entire context is taken seriously. Allow me to discuss the statement about AIDS which has caused so much commotion. Then I will answer your questions.

Regarding the oft-cited passage about AIDS, it should be noted that this is a point of view about promiscuous sexual behaviour that leads to AIDS. I do not, therefore, include AIDS caused by blood transfusion, and neither about AIDS as a disease that one can be born with, but solely about AIDS caused by different sexual contacts. About that I say that AIDS is not a punishment from God, but that at most it may be a sort of immanent justice. Further on in the book I say that I generally regard this form of AIDS as something in the order of a sort of immanent justice. I get the impression that the technical term ‘immanent justice’ has been misunderstood, as if I regard AIDS in all its forms as a disease that is a punishment. What I want to say can be compared to smoking. If lung cancer is the consequence of excessive smoking, the cancer is something in the order of a sort of immanent justice, because the cause of a consequence that in hindsight can be called a logical consequence, lies in the facts that one does consciously. The same goes for AIDS as a result of promiscuous sexual behaviour.

I want to emphasise that I say repeatedly in the book that I do not judge people, but I do judge certain actions. Jesus never judged people, but he did judge some of their actions. On the page following the of-cited passage about AIDS, it literally says: AIDS patients and seropositive people may never be the subject of discrimination. There is not a single reason to discriminate against them. These people must be treated like everyone else. Whatever the reason for their disease, they must be embraced, encouraged and respected.

My book is not supposed to shock, but it supposed to announce principles I hold to and to express my attitude of respect to every human in every situation. I regret that this has become clear enough yesterday and today, and I want to make clear to you all – and especially to AIDS sufferers and seropositive people –  that I consider them with respect and love.”



Msgr. Léonard’s statements in context

Archbishop Léonard shows an acute sense of the consequences of his words about the AIDS issue and has chosen to release his full answer to the question of the journalists, which I discussed in my previous post. Perhaps it may serve as a further explanation, although the damage is already done. It is clear that many people simply don’t read beyond the soundbite.

Here is my translation of the archbishop’s full answer:

What do you think about AIDS? Do you consider the disease as a ‘punishment from God for the sexual revolution?

“Someone once asked John Paul II if AIDS was a punishment from God. He then wisely answered that it is very difficult to know God’s intentions. I myself don’t reason in those terms at all. So I do not see this epidemic as a punishment, but at the most as a sort of immanent justice, sort of like how, in ecology, we are faced with the consequences of what we are doing to the environment. Maybe human love also responds when she is treated badly, without the need of a transcendent source. Maybe it is a sort of immanent justice, but as far as the concrete causes are concerned, doctors should some day be able to say how this disease came to be, how it was initially transmitted and then spread further… But considered more generally, I stick to something in the order of a sort of immanent justice. Badly handling physical nature causes it to treat us badly in turn and badly dealing with the deeper nature of human love will ultimately always lead to catastrophes on all levels.” Msgr. Léonard – conversations, pp. 173-174.