Skip to comments.Bishop Objected to AIDS Walk
Posted on 12/06/2003 7:08:18 AM PST by ninenot
Madison - The bishop who pressured several Catholic lawmakers to adopt church views on abortion has ordered a church-based AIDS ministry to stop raising money in an annual AIDS walk, saying some participating groups promote homosexuality.
La Crosse Bishop Raymond L. Burke, named this week by Pope John Paul II as archbishop of St. Louis, ordered the diocese-supported Central Wisconsin HIV/AIDS Ministry Project in Stevens Point to stop organizing a delegation to march in the annual AIDS fund-raising event.
In a letter obtained by the Journal Sentinel, Burke told ministry coordinator Marge Schumann that her organization should no longer participate in the walk because two other groups that benefit from it - the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center and the YWCA Rainbow Alliance for Youth in La Crosse - promote homosexual activity.
"What is of graver scandal, they both promote homosexuality among young people," Burke wrote.
"By participating in AIDS Walk Wisconsin, the Central Wisconsin HIV/AIDS Ministry would be cooperating materially with groups that act against the moral law."
Diocese officials made it clear that if the ministry did not stop participating in the Milwaukee AIDS Walk, the group would not be allowed to apply for future funding from the diocese's Catholic Campaign for Human Development charity.
The Ministry Project had organized a group to participate in the AIDS Walk and had raised about $5,000 a year in pledges through the fund-raiser, which is the largest such event in Wisconsin, Schumann said. After Burke's letter of May 2002, the group did not participate in the walk last year or this year.
Schumann said Friday that she regretted losing the money, which helped pay for the care and support of people with HIV and AIDS, especially those who are Catholic.
"But I needed to look at the bigger picture and the importance of the work we're doing. And if I was going to make a stink about this, I could have prevented myself from doing the work I'm doing," she said.
"So we agreed to disagree, and we moved on."
She stressed that overall Burke has been supportive of the ministry.
Asked Friday about his order to the Ministry Project, Burke said the diocese continues to provide about $17,000 annually to the group and also asks every parish in the diocese to contribute $250 each to the ministry.
"We've been very supportive; they do excellent work," Burke said after a news conference in La Crosse.
But he said he could not allow the ministry to participate in an activity that he viewed as promoting a homosexual lifestyle because the church teaches that homosexual acts are contrary to moral law.
During the news conference, Burke said he wrote the abortion-related letters to two state legislators and a member of Congress not to lobby or influence their votes but as the man in charge of their pastoral care.
"I have no regret whatsoever. It was my duty as bishop to write those letters," he said. "The letters address the good of the soul of the legislators and the souls of those who may be scandalized by their votes against the teachings of the church."
Burke said that he was calling on them to be honest to their faith and was not suggesting that they leave the Catholic Church, although he said earlier this week that he intended to ask them not to present themselves for the sacraments if they did not comply. He said he regretted that the letters had been made public.
Arthur Hippler, director of justice and peace for the La Crosse diocese who also sent a letter to Schumann on the AIDS Walk issue, said Friday that the ministry may have lost some of its funding in the short term because of Burke's order.
But it was better off in the long term, he said, because it would no longer participate in events that are contrary to church teachings - just as the church would not associate with racist organizations or with groups that promote prostitution.
Patrick Flaherty, director of community relations for the Milwaukee LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Community Center, said the organization does not promote homosexuality among young people, but it does operate a program for gay youths that has 750 members and focuses on AIDS prevention.
"We think keeping young gay people HIV-free is a laudable goal," he said. "It's unfortunate that the bishop does not feel the same."
Burke had made a great leap of logic in thinking that by participating in the Milwaukee walk, the Stevens Point ministry was affiliating itself with groups that promote a homosexual lifestyle, said Doug Nelson, president and CEO of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, which organizes the AIDS Walk.
All types of people participate in the event, including church groups and employees of major corporations, he said, noting that the walk raised $502,000 this year.
"I've never heard anything like this before, this argument that by being in the walk with thousands and thousands of people the Ministry Project would be somehow materially cooperating with the LGBT Center and the YWCA," said Nelson.
"It's just astonishing that they would be ordered not to participate. We miss them. This is an organization that does wonderful, wonderful work in support of people with AIDS and HIV."
Nelson said he felt strongly enough about the issue that he wrote to Burke asking him to reconsider his order. Burke's response was blunt.
"The AIDS Walk raises money for organizations that actively and publicly promote homosexual activity, thus cooperating in the activities of these organizations and giving them a kind of legitimacy in the public forum," Burke wrote to Nelson. "This is completely unacceptable."
Father Michael Hammer, director of Catholic AIDS Ministry for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, said he does not see his participation in the AIDS Walk as promoting a homosexual lifestyle but as a way to help pay for compassionate care and support of people with AIDS and HIV.
Every year, Hammer helps organize a team to line up pledges and walk. "We send them out from the Cathedral (of St. John the Evangelist) with a blessing," he said.
Hammer said he did not agree with Burke's reasoning.
"I don't understand why homosexuality is an issue in relation to the AIDS Walk - it's for people who are infected and affected by AIDS - but somehow the bishop of La Crosse, who is more conservative in nature, has taken that stand," said Hammer.
"There are 680,000 Catholics in the Milwaukee Archdiocese and, you know, we all don't think alike. And not all bishops think alike, either."
This is a priest defying Biblical teaching.
The brass balls challenged members of the American Conference of Bishops needs to understand they are passengers on a sinking degenerate laden ship. It the likes of "Father" Hammer who are intentionally scuttling His ship. This heretic should be defrocked - and would have been - fifty years ago. Today, he walks the path of decay strewn by Vatican 2.
May His judgment be swift and merciful.
'Long term' justice is justice minus an execution.
If I knew as a kid that the consequences of disobedience would be put on hold, the door to hell would be more easily open for me the second, third, and forth time around - until my behavior was viewed as normal and commonplace - blowing consequences out the window.
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