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October 24, 1997     The Message
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0 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana October How safe is "safe sex'? Vatican official joins the debate By JOHN THAVIS Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- How safe is "safe sex"? Not very, said a Vatican official, in a scholarly article on the failure rate of condoms. Not true, countered Italian condom manufacturers and anti-AIDS organizations, who castigated the Vati- cart's position as "scientific ignorance." Theensuing debate simmered in October after Father Jacques Suaudeau, a medical doctor and a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family, published a 37- page article in the Rome Catholic Journal, Medicinae Morale. Titled "Safe Sex" and the Condom, Faced with the Challenge of AIDS," it argued that in 10-15 percent of sexual acts, condoms do not prevent transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Father Suaudeau said the risk rises to 20-30 percent when the act is homosexual, when sexual promiscuity is high and when another sexually transmitted disease is involved. "Using a condom to protect oneself against HIV amounts to playing Russian roulette: The more one multiplies one's sexual experiences, persuaded that prophylactics offer protection, the higher the risk of contamination," he wrote. The only safe prevention strategies against AIDS are "abstinence and sexual intercourse with one mutually uninfected partner," he concluded, quoting from a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The church's opposition to condoms is not new. Pope John Paul II and others have underlined that when used as a birth control method, they go against church teach- ing on responsible procreation. On the use of condoms as an AIDS preventative, Vat- ican officials have been more cautious, saying that con- dom-based "safe sex" campaigns end up promoting sexual immorality without eliminating the risk. Yet some bishops and theologians have held that condoms may be considered a lesser evil to be tolerated in pre- venting a greater one w contracting AIDS. The church's arguments have primarily been moral, which made Father Suaudeau's article unusual. It was loaded with references to medical studies, public health reports and risk charts. Several of the studies he cited showed that condom use has not significantly lowered the rate of sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamy- dia. Father Suaudeau said the male condom can typical- ly fail at three levels: because of technical reasons, such as pores, rips or weaknesses in the latex; because of incorrect use; and because of mistaken timing in its use by couples. Experts have agreed that improper or imperfect use of condoms is a main cause of their failure, both in birth control and disease prevention. But the priest's article raised objections when it spoke about condoms "break- ing easily," or about the "micropores" in latex which he said are big enough to allow passage of HIV. "It is scientifically proven that the pores present in condoms do not allow HIV to pass through," replied Fernando Aiuti, an Italian immunologist. Vittorio Agnoletto, president of the Italian Anti-AIDS League, called Father Suaudeau's conclusions "scien- tific ignorance used for ideological and moralistic pur- poses." "The validity of the condom is about 98 percent if it is used properly. The virus cannot pass through the fj abused and neglected children. Another doll's name is Molly. At 7-months-old, Molly was brought to the hospital with broken arms, legs and a concus- sion. She is now in physical therapy and living in a foster home. Sandy, neglected by her alco- holic mother, wandered alone into an apartment pool but was rescued by an alert building guard. Twelve-year-old Katie was beaten by her father because she walked home from school with a male classmate. The stories are meant to mobi- lize volunteers to have an impact on public policy for chil- dren. The dolls are being dis- tributed to the offices of public officials, media, business and community leaders as well as public places like churches, restaurants, parks, hospitals and schools. Each community, according to a news release from the NCCW, is using the dolls to enhance a project for children in that corn- munity. Projects may include fund raising to help an estab- lished support agency or to start on in the community. "Child abuse is increasing by leaps and bounds," said Diane Falash, chairwoman of the NCCW's Community Concerns Commission. "We all know that child abuse'is around, but if it doesn't affect us personally we sometimes need to be made more aware of it." According to statistics from the Children's Defense Fund, Catholic hospital's sale to for-profit firm draws ST. LOUIS (CNS) -- The announced sale of Jesuit-run St. Louis University Hospital to a for-profit firm has drawn oppo- sition from Archbishop Justin F. Rigali of St. Louis, Boston Car- dinal Bernard F. Law and the Catholic Health Association. The St. Louis University board of trustees had voted unanimously Oct. 4"to approve the sale to Tenet Healthcare Corp., the second-largest for- profit hospital chain in the Unit- ed States, with 131 hospitals in 22 states. Tenet's reported $300 million bid was more than $100 million over a joint bid by two Catholic groups, SSM Healthcare and Unity Health System, a bid Archbishop Rigali .favored. In making the sale decision, Jesuit Father Lawrence Biondi, SL Louis Universi0ys president, "has acted without:my Support, d and, to this point, without the approval of the Holy See," Archbishop Rigali said in a statement. St. Louis University had been seeking a buyer for the 64-year- old hospital for some time. "Business cons}derations must not take precedence over mission," said an Oct. 9 state- ment from Cardinal Law, who is the chairman of the U.S. bish- ops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities. He added that the hospital's sale "jeopardized the commitment of the university to its Catholic identity." Cardinal Law said, "Perhaps the intervention of the father general of the Society of Jesus and the Holy See can reverse this lamentable decision." The CHA, which has its head- quarters in St., Louis, said in an Oct. 8 announcement it was "deeply disappointed" with the sale to Tenet. "Tenet may make the hospital more efficient and profitable it can't and won't make the institution more Catholic and Jesuit," said CHA's executive vice president, William J. Cox, in a statement. "Once Tenet takes control of St. Louis University Hospital, the institution will in effect be owned by Tenet's shareholders. These shareholders will proper- ly and primarily be concerned about one thing -- the hospital's profitability," Cox said. "We can expect two things to happen when Tenet Takes con- trol of the St. Louis University ldospital: Hospital prices will increase and uncompensated care will decline," Cox said. He based his statement on what he said has occurred at Omaha, Neb. Michael F. chairman of St. Louis ty's board of trustees, will adequately caJ Catholic "Tenet has agreed ally the same level as St. versity has in the han said. Tenet to continue pastoral patients and their to comply with the U.S, 1994 "Ethical and Directives for Catholic Services." Archbishop Rigali that. uIn sible for a 'for-profit' to maintain ues of the what Contractual another hospital purchased by ma) Tenet; St. Joseph Hospital in . negotiaons, , he said.i, I ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) -- Her name is Chloe. She was represented by a cardboard and cloth doll at the National Council of Catholic Women convention, but Chloe is a very real person. So is Alex and an unnamed girl. More than 100 cardboard dolls, each dressed in new tod- dler's clothing, were on display during the NCCW 1997 biennial convention in Orlando Oct. 5-8. They are part of the national organization's "Children Mat- ter" doll campaign. Each doll represents a specif- ic child who has been a victim of neglect, violent crime or abuse. His or her true story is written on a card anchored with a ribbon or yarn around the doll. One little girl wears a red dress with a flower pattern. She has dark brown, curly hair with a red ribbon that matches her rosy cheeks. The doll has a smile, but her story is that of a 3- year- old victim. The card on the doll tells about how the toddler remains on life support at a children's hospital with irreparable brain damage. Apparently her father beat the child with a club for sneaking candy a day before Halloween. :,  organization's Commu- : nity Concerns Commission started the campaign .last year.,, Its  is to make NCCW. members and tl'publicmore -. aware o!the growing p.light of three children die of neglect every day States. More than are born without health ance children live in At the end of the vention, the clothes dolls were donated nizations t women and children Orlando area. Contributing to Steve Paradis in Doll campaign highlighted at women's pores of a condom because it has a larger thousands of studies show this," he added. !! But Father Suaudeau cited indicate transmission be possible. He said the problem is created small size of the HIV organism -- about smaller than a sperm cell -- and the ic testing of the latex used in condoms. He referred to one study of latex barriers ommended doctors wear two overlaying ber gloves to reduce the risk of er expert encouraged the same strategy condom use. A few days after Father Suaudeau' an Italian magazine ran a lengthy feature  Bologna factory of Hatu, Italy's largest ducer. A Hatu expert illustrated the control tests performed on condoms, allows the company to weed out the thousand that are not up to grade. The article was meant to be reassurm in where the condomjs the most popular birth control, the method of choice of 21 ples. Yet even the Hatu expert, Emilio Ulivi that latex quality varies, depending on the said that overall, a 1 percent failure rate is best that can be expected from condoms. : That may be optimistic. U.S. agencies 1993 that latex condoms, properly used, percent effective in preventing the transmission.! Everyone seems to agree on two things: are not 100 percent safe in preventing use of condoms has saved some lives. Within those parameters, the debate on will no doubt continue.