The Deadly Silence: AIDS and Social Censorship

We are an amazing nation. Almost daily we are reminded that we are blessed with media analysts who fear nothing and will always tell us the unvarnished truth. Nor do we lightly ridicule the media’s sacred cows. Defamation awaits anyone who speaks impiously of, for instance, the Nobel Prize, clubbing seals, Black African governments, Planned Parenthood, anti-Fascists, etc.

With such imperial powers, commentators are tempted now and again to don the Emperor’s clothes.

Consider one example. U. S. News & World Report, no partisan publication, printed (January 12, 1987) a cover story on AIDS. It exposed the fearful statistics. 29,000 Americans infected, with between 1.5 and 4 million carrying the virus at the end of 1986; by 1991, 179,000 will have died, with 91,000 dying. In twenty years, “a significant portion of our nation may be incapacitated.” Dying, that is. AIDS is 100 percent lethal.

With all that, the writers in U.S. News danced as close as they dared to the unmentionable fact that promiscuous sodomy is the root cause, not of the untraceable virus, but of incubating the virus into a plague.

U.S. News posed the question bravely. “What causes AIDS?” Answer: “AIDS is caused by a virus usually known as human immuno deficiency virus or HIV.” No one laughed. The naked Emperor stared us down. No one in the media dares ask the obvious next question: “And how did the HIV get into the bloodstreams of homosexuals who in turn sent it via bisexuals, into the bloodstreams of heterosexuals on a plague level?”

Remember that these writers are the same men and women who will track apartheid into hidden unconscious prejudice; who will track a national policy to a casual remark of Nancy Reagan; who can trace an anti-Sandinista dollar in and out of Switzerland, Zaire, and the Cayman Islands; who pursue the causes of any social horror — discrimination, censorship, anti-Semitism, fascism — right into the ganglia of miscreants. But our major publications and the networks are satisfied to trace the “cause” of this major death-dealing plague to a dumb, hitherto quiescent virus, not to any human action.

The closest the media come to mentioning real causes is to state that AIDS victims are 65 percent homosexual, 25 percent users of contaminated needles, and 4 percent heterosexual, with 3 percent transfusion victims. The unthinking might conclude that AIDS is a disease that comes, with unfair emphases, from many sources — two kinds of sex, one needle and one operation. In fact, the virus-turned-plague has only one source — sodomy. Heterosexuals are infected only from homosexuals, or from heterosexuals infected by bisexuals, the latter transmission being impossible without a previous homosexual encounter. Despite the millions of words that have been written on AIDS this simple fact is rarely stated.

What restrains the pens and stops the tongues of a news industry that otherwise revels in its fearlessness? It is time to speculate. Speculation is forced upon those who see an exception to the strongly stated ideal of intellectual integrity among American newspeople. Why this exception?

The accepted wisdom seems to be this. Talking morals may lead to a renewed popular condemnation of sodomy which, in turn, may become a vicious discrimination against homosexuals. Since the fury of a public facing death for themselves and their children may not be containable, let us never, never raise the question of the morality or ethics of sodomy and its sequellae. We may start a train of events leading to a fascism based on public health and on to the lynching of homosexuals.

Two nervous adjuncts strengthen the case. First, everyone can see an awkward parallel in the insouciant exiling of smokers from elevators, restaurants and the like, with little regard for the rights of smokers. Second, religious people, in the secular myth ever ready for more burnings at the stake, may use the terrible consequences of this particular moral failure (sodomy) to reassert faith by the sword.

The merry fascism of the anti-smoking drive — always for the good of the people, whether or not they know what is good for them — needs no comment. Anti-smoking loses its real punch once this parallel becomes clear. Soon anti-tobacco activists will be coming out of the trenches with their hands high.

But the religious factor is real and more complex. The homosexual trust, very powerful indeed, and its libertarian protectors are generally and reasonably angry with institutional religion which condemns sodomy as a serious sin. But the fact is that religion has been anything but aggressive on this question. Overwhelmingly, traditional moralists do not want AIDS victims or high-risk homosexuals to lose their jobs or housing. They support programs to care for the lonely victims and have tolerated demands for research disproportionate to all other health research. Catholics first, and many other religious groups, quickly joined in the compassionate care of dying AIDS victims. By and large, the homosexual community has done little for the victims, but that has not decreased religious commitment and generosity.

The reaction of religious persons to AIDS victims is not important to homosexual activist tacticians. What bothers them is their suspicion that believers in the Ten Commandments, rattled by the sexual revolution, are now regrouping and saying to themselves, “Ha! We were right all along. Sexual promiscuity is wrong, and homosexual practice is heading us toward Sodom and Gomorrah.” In dirty talk among themselves, homosexuals say that religious people across the nation rejoice in the extermination of homosexuals as a display of God’s anger against sinners. Such a mind exists perhaps among a few fevered fundamentalists and cocktail-party wise guys. But homosexual activists will not relinquish the rhetorical weapon of anticipated persecution.

It may be important to say here that Christians and Jews, in contemplating any sin, do not pass judgment on the guilt of individuals. That is exclusively God’s province. The media choose not to understand this. Maybe they cannot.

It is a critical distinction. To equate the objective wrongness of any act with personal guilt is an error that paralyzes moral reflection. Personal guilt is established in the unfathomable relationship between God and a human person. If we accuse anyone of moral guilt, we err. We act ultra vires. But we can and should discuss the objective moral meaning of any significant act, in this case the protection of some or exploitation of others in a plague situation. This can be done without pretending to know any individual’s guilt.

Annoyance that religious believers may be strengthened in their moral convictions runs deep in many circles today. It revealed itself in the U.S. News piece. The only allusion to a moral dimension in the spreading of HIV was this: “As in those (Dark Ages) now there are calls for quarantines — social exile — especially from the religious right, whose members see AIDS as God’s rough justice for the sin of homosexuality.” In eleven pages, that was the only reference to Christianity’s contribution to the question. Nor was there a reference to any moral or ethical question that practicing homosexuals, bisexuals or dying AIDS victims might address in so grave a situation. Remember that this article appeared in one of our three leading news weeklies that handily discuss the ethics and moral stature of political leaders, C.E.O.s, pressure groups, Sandinistas and contras, and many others, as if readers were begging for their moral and ethical judgments.

The terror of any editor today seems to be that through a careless phrase, he or she might appear to consider a religious view of AIDS as less dangerous than AIDS itself. To be safe, writers must avoid anything like a moral or ethical approach to AIDS. If the dread subject must be raised, let someone else handle it. And try not to think of how one deals with smoking.

Is this censorship? No, it would be said, only the condition for survival in the world of publishing. But of course it is censorship, however voluntarily submitted to.

This raises another question for religious believers. Why is that people who do care about morality and who are mandated to love homosexuals (and probably do) do not speak more precisely about AIDS as a moral and ethical problem? The question invites reflection on the plight of religious spokesmen in our time.

Mainline Christians, accustomed to a marginal role in public life, do not often enter the major debates. There are two unhappy results of this. First, the debates engage the views of only half the nation. For example, the exchange between rationalist evolutionists and fundamentalist creationists should have been joined by intellectual Christians with informed views on both evolution and the meaning of the Bible. As it took place, the debate was perfect for the media, but the fault for that lies in good measure with thoughtful Christians who were lethargic about addressing a tired question.

A second and more disturbing result of this marginality is the dilution of moral commentary in general. Today Christians and Jews of traditional conviction often fall silent on moral issues that affect individuals. They speak volubly enough on community morals, but rarely speak at all of individual morality. The reason is clear. Moral norms for individuals suggest moral authority and discipline, both unacceptable to many.

Consider the weak Judeo-Christian response to the reality of AIDS and the anger of homosexuals.

Has any minority reaction ever silenced logical discussion as effectively as the current fury of the homosexual community? If, conscious of that anger, most media commentators have said everything they can about AIDS except to mention its cause, mainline religious commentators have not said much more. Writers in the religious press and spokesmen for the Church have concentrated on good works toward the dying victims. But that sympathetic response cannot excuse religious writers if they too bury the truth.

It is a classic red herring and harmful to homosexuals to speak of the plague of death-dealing AIDS as if it were equally a problem of heterosexuals or even drug users. This is the rhetoric of the media and of public health officials. Surely, they know this is not the case. They know that there would be no AIDS threat in this nation if it were not for homosexual acts performed voluntarily and promiscuously by so many. Who has spoken or written this central fact? Have our moral theologians and bishops? Homosexuals did not, of course, invent the deadly viri that are normally kept at bay by the wonderful balance of created life. But the imbalance that led to AIDS in this country (and soon in the world) was not caused by mysterious developments in Africa and Haiti. The plague (not the virus) was caused by the promiscuous performance of an essentially unsanitary sexual act. I use the words carefully. Such activity continues to be the source of the plague. Does any thoughtful religious person think that homosexuals are helped by clouding that fact?

In recent decades, many homosexuals quietly dismissed the cautions of nearly every culture and the strictures of the Judeo-Christian revelation against the homosexual act. Homosexuals dealt with morality in their own way. Then nature reacted to the violation of its ageless requirement that healthy organisms be protected from noxious elements. Research has not yet pinpointed the chemistry of AIDS, but it is glaringly clear what activity brought about and daily expands the base of the plague. It is the act of sodomy. Without promiscuous sodomy, the plague would cease to be fueled and would die back, slowly and perhaps painfully, but it would die back.

A similar paragraph can be written about heterosexual promiscuity. Forbidden by Judeo-Christian morality, sleeping around is now also proscribed by diseases that emerged after the wisdom of nature and her Creator were dismissed by many.

After reading the escalating projections of death among homosexuals, among the innocent wives of promiscuous bisexual men, and among babies born deformed and dying, why are Jews and Christians reluctant to ask the homosexual community to rethink its destructive practice? Does homosexual preference stand irresistible against their own group suicide? And where are the moralists? Persistent sodomy kills friends, wives, babies, and pathetic prostitutes. Does this not involve objective moral questions homosexuals must deal with? Do thoughtful Christians and Jews serve them well in not urging these thoughts upon them?

There is a body of Judeo-Christian thought regarding homosexuality. Sodomy is not a birthright. Like adultery and running a red light, it is a voluntary act. And like them it has consequences.

The obscurantism of homosexual activists and the relative silence of Christians and Jews are not made worse by the number of victims. But it is important to know that we are just at the beginning of a plague that could become genocidal. We know that the killer viri have entered our society through and because of promiscuous sodomy; they are transmitted only by sexual contact or dirty needles or contaminated blood. All heterosexual victims can trace their illness back to a homosexual source. But — and this is the latest horror — these facts do not mean that the viri, multiplying geometrically, will continue to confine themselves to a sexual transmission belt. Public health officials are well aware of this hideous potential.

With determination and some gusto we told alcoholics, drug-abusers, air and water polluters, and smokers that only abstention from their health destroying habits would allow nature to restore health. We gave them honest sympathy, but we did not deceive them. It is unlikely that expensive research will cure AIDS any more than it did venereal disease, of which there is a richer variety today than before penicillin. The manufacturers of condoms will now add to the lies, despite the fact that the protection they market provides much the same odds as Russian roulette. An active homosexual will be infected in August instead of July. Predictably, the facts are not deterring manufacturers, advertisers or publishers.

The truth is writ large. Every AIDS victim diagnosed in 1982 and 1983 is now dead. Soon those of 1984 will be dead — all of them. The only way to protect the next class of potential victims, of whatever year, is homosexual abstinence. Only sodomy is the primary cause of AIDS. Was a moral imperative for abstinence ever clearer? Neither accusations against others nor “promising research,” any more than “safe sex,” will save thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, in the next class. Only homosexual abstinence in 1987 will save them.

Other sticky moral questions arise and need careful reflection. Since AIDS kills 100 percent of its victims, does a known HIV carrier have a right to marry? A right to sexual acts with another person, knowing it is more than probable that he or she will transmit the lethal virus? We forbid marriage of first cousins for the safety and health of progeny. But we have yet even to ask the question: May a known AIDS carrier be allowed to acquire a right to sexual intercourse with a non-infected person or sire an infected baby? Will the AIDS carrier enjoy the protection of civil rights in bringing about the death of spouse and child? Perhaps of contributing to genocide? If so, why do we still ban marriage of first cousins?

Denouncing the heterosexual community, hospitals, Congress and Mother Teresa are ways for homosexuals and their protectors to run away from the truth, away from the law of God that thou shalt not kill — not even for sex. Christians and Jews must enter the public debate and say that sodomy, even for unbelievers, is wrong, profoundly wrong, because it ineluctably punishes practitioners and threatens millions of innocents with a terrible death.

If we do not say this, who will?

Homosexuals deserve the nation’s sympathy and the love of those who believe in the Gospel and all the help they need in this exceedingly difficult decision. But we will not help them by cooperating in the burial of the truth.


  • Eugene V. Clark

    Eugene V. Clark (1926 - 2012) was a prelate of the Archdiocese of New York. He was a vocal and prominent proponent of traditional values and practices in the Catholic Church.

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