NEW YORK — Roman Catholic Church officials denied today that a decision has been made on reconsidering a bishops paper that would sanction teaching about condoms in AIDS educational programs.
The paper, drafted by the U.S. Catholic Conference's administrative board, had drawn criticism from several church officers, including New York Cardinal John J. O'Connor, who described it as a "very grave mistake" and said it will not be implemented in his archdiocese.
On Monday the New York archdiocese released a portion of a letter sent to the nation's 300 bishops by the president of the U.S. Catholic Conference, Archbishop John L. May of St. Louis.
In it, May wrote: "I am sure that all of us are pained by the public reception of the document. It is clear to me that the administrative board's statement needs to be addressed in greater depth by the membership. . . .
'Not Been Put Aside'
"I suggest that our meeting in June might include a full discussion of certain principles of moral theology and their specific application to the AIDS epidemic in this country. . . . We might then be able to agree on certain propositions which could be the basis for clear conference policy," he added.
The paper was released by the bishops' conference's 50-member administrative board. Bob Wonderly, a spokesman for the conference, said the AIDS paper "has not been put aside" by May's letter.
Instead, he said May was merely suggesting that "the bishops' conference as a whole might benefit from a full discussion of the issue."
It will be up to the administrative board, which meets in March, to decide whether to place the AIDS paper on the agenda when the full conference meets in June, Wonderly said.
May, in his letter, said the document had "suffered at the hands of certain headline writers. Moreover, the document may have been too long and complicated to expect those unskilled in such matters to appreciate the issues involved."
In one part of the 30-page document, the bishops reaffirmed that the only "morally correct and medically sure ways" to prevent AIDS are to abstain from extramarital intercourse and intravenous drug use.
But they said teaching about condoms, even in Catholic schools, may be appropriate because "some people will not act as they can and should."