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AIDS and Gay Bathhouses

February 10, 1988

This is in response to "AIDS Stand: Bishops Meld Moral, Real," (Op-Ed Page, Jan. 13).

Bernard Cooke gently puts his finger on the still-stinging nerve of the controversy regarding Catholics, condoms and AIDS, placing the entire issue delicately in context regarding the comprehensive sexual ethics of Catholicism. Without condoning the use of condoms for Catholics, the bishops admit that condoms have a place in fighting the disease. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.

The bishops and all Catholics have much to learn in this area. We have to balance the ideals of our own moral perspective with the reality of the secular and pluralistic world, affirming the basic goodness of that world in its secularity and pluralism while holding to the authentic though somewhat controverted nature of contemporary Catholic moral teaching. The duty to teach includes the duty of taking into account the receptiveness of one's listeners. Catholics are called upon to develop a two-story morality. They must articulate a tradition of teaching as best discerned out of the past, and they must apply this in a loving way to living individuals. We have not learned how to do this latter thing well.

The deeper issue involves not just condoms, but the row of dominoes regarding homosexuality itself, divorce and remarriage, birth control and abortion. Catholics are involved in a moral struggle in which more and more of them find themselves at loggerheads with traditional teaching.

To be Catholic today is to wrestle on the stairway between these two moralities that somehow must be made one. To give up the struggle is to stop being Catholic. The biggest sin is not to give up the ideal, but, as Cooke intimates, to avoid or neglect the melding of the ideal and the real. Kudos to our bishops on this one, with a request that they maintain the same attitude in treating other issues.

ROBERT E. DOUD

Glendale

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