Anti-Catholic Bias in Georgetown AIDS Report

Deal W. Hudson
January 14, 2008

On January 9, Ray Ruddy, president of Boston’s Gerard Health Foundation, wrote a letter to Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia asking him to disavow or retract a Georgetown report entitled “Faith Communities Engage the HIV/AIDS Crisis.”

The report, published in November by Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs, criticizes faith-based approaches requiring changes in sexual behavior in fighting HIV/AIDS.

Ruddy asked a Harvard expert on HIV/AIDS prevention, Dr. Edward C. Green, to review Georgetown’s document, which promotes condom usage – in spite of Church teaching – over behavioral changes. Dr. Green, a former condom marketer, is the author of Rethinking AIDS Prevention and is neither a member of any religious denomination nor attends any church.

Green was stunned by the way the Georgetown University report, as Ruddy puts it, “castigates the Catholic Church in particular and the faith-based community in general.” Green concludes that the authors of the report – Lucy Keough and Katherine Marshall – express an anti-Catholic bias.

According to Green, Keough and Marshall ignore the scientific evidence showing it is behavioral change, not condom use, that has prevented an HIV/AIDS epidemic. That a change in sexual behavior is the key to limiting the spread of HIV/AIDS was also the conclusion reached by Dr. Norman Heart in his 2003 UNAIDS study of condom effectiveness.

Tragically, Green predicts that if the recommendations of the Georgetown Report are followed, millions more will be infected, and perhaps die, of HIV/AIDS.

In asking President DeGioia to disavow or retract the report, Ruddy’s letter concludes, “It seems incredible to many of us that the Catholic Church in general and the Jesuits, in particular, would permit such an inaccurate and misleading report to be published.”

Ruddy’s request to DeGioia should also prompt him to review the three future reports on children, shelter, and education already announced by the Berkley Center authors: This is the “first in a series of reports to illuminate the little-understood role that religious actors play in global development.”

Green finds that Keough and Marshall do not present “the perspective of faith communities, but rather their own view, a view that is frequently drastically out of sync with the faith communities whose perspective they claim to present.”

The Georgetown authors are so uncomfortable with faith-based approaches to HIV prevention that they fail to recognize that changes in sexual behavior, not condom use, are responsible for the decline in HIV in over ten countries around the world (most notably Uganda).

Regarding Uganda, the Georgetown report gets “the story all wrong: they emphasize the role of increasing condom use in bringing down Uganda’s HIV rates and downplay the dramatic increase in the number of people reporting abstinence and faithfulness behaviors.”

Whereas the scientific evidence points to the success of the faith community’s message about behavioral change, the Georgetown report criticizes these messages for stigmatizing those with HIV/AIDS as suffering “retribution” for “sinful behavior.”

Keough and Marshall don’t see faith-based efforts in a positive light. Why? According to their report:

Faith hierarchies, leaders, and communities have in the past often been promoters of the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, partly because of their difficulty in confronting aspects of human sexuality and partly because they often assume a link between AIDS and what they regard as sinful activities.

Green thinks that authors Keough and Marshall, in failing to appreciate the importance of behavior changes, support the “financial self-interest of contractors and grantees that benefit from the multi-billion dollar global AIDS industry.”

For Green, the scientific evidence shows that it is not medical products, such as condoms, that can be credited with limiting the spread of HIV/AIDS:

If AIDS prevention is to be based on evidence rather than consensus, ideology, or bias, then fidelity and abstinence programs, in that order, need to be front and center in AIDS prevention programs for general populations.

But these kinds of behavior-based programs have been “mysteriously absent in programs supported by the major Western donors and by AIDS celebrities.” To these donors and celebrities, we can now add Georgetown University, unless President DeGioia responds to Ruddy’s letter and disavows the report or asks the Berkley Center to retract it.

As Dr. Green puts it, the Church has an advantage in “promoting the needed types of behavior change, since these behaviors conform to the moral, ethical, and scriptural positions and teachings of virtually all religions.”

Yet, Georgetown University, a Jesuit institution, has issued a report that markedly rejects not only the scientific evidence that behavior changes are the best way to fight HIV/AIDS but also the moral teaching of its professed faith.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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