Condom Roulette

Your observation that using a condom to prevent AIDS when having sex with someone who is infected provides about the same odds as playing Russian roulette with one bullet in a six-shooter may be overstating the effectiveness of condoms (“The Church Is Right on Condoms,” Editorial, Sept. 9-15).

For two decades the U.S. government, despite contrary scientific evidence, has insisted that condoms are 98% effective in preventing AIDS. But in July, the National Institutes of Health, after being threatened by a Freedom of Information Act request, released a report indicating that condoms were “highly effective” in preventing AIDS. “Highly effective” to NIH means that condoms are only 85% effective in preventing AIDS (“No Protection: Federal Study Highlights' Condoms' Ineffectiveness” Sept. 2-8).

But according to Dr. Willard Cates, formerly of the Centers for Disease Control, condoms are only 70% effective. Dr. Cates' conclusion verified the findings of Dr. Susan Weller of the University of Texas, who said, in 1993: “It is a disservice to encourage the belief that condoms will prevent sexual transmission of HIV.” Her studies show condoms are only 69% effective in preventing HIV infection.

If a condom is only 69% or 70% effective in preventing AIDS, that is roughly equivalent to playing a game of Russian Roulette with two bullets in a six-shooter.

It is noteworthy that, according to the Washington Post, the Catholic Church, through its hospices, hospitals, orphanages and parish outreach, provides more direct care for people with AIDS, their families and communities, particularly in Africa and Latin America, than any other institution.

The Church is correct, on pragmatic as well as moral grounds, to reject condoms as a solution to AIDS.

Carolyn Naughton

Silver Spring, Maryland

Priorities for Bishops

It is wonderful that the bishops are working to develop an ad campaign to promote the sanctity of human life (“U.S. Bishops Test-Market Anti-Abortion Ads,” Sept. 9-15). I fully support the campaign, which seeks to inform people that abortion is legal for all nine months of pregnancy.

While the bishops' ads are a worthwhile project, there are several other items of a higher priority for the bishops.

A highly visible and perpetual campaign of prayer to stop the killing in the world beginning with the killing in the womb would be the first preference.

The second preference would be for priests to preach the Gospel of Life to parishioners with the urgency that the wholesale killing of abortion demands. Life must be respected from the moment of conception and people need to hear that abortion kills God's highest creation—human beings.

Third would be to prevent Catholic institutions from giving honors and awards to those who promote killing the preborn.

Praying, preaching and preventing are higher priorities, but the ads are certainly a welcome activity.

Richard Aretta

Rockville, Maryland

Spiritual Works, Too

The tragedy of Sept. 11 has resulted in an outpouring of generosity on the part of Americans who want to help those suffering from the disaster. This is certainly in keeping with the corporal works of mercy (“Works of Mercy” Sept. 23-29).

Regarding the dead, we entrust their souls to the infinite mercy of god and pray that they were in a state of grace when they died: “Watch therefore, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come. But of this be assured, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would certainly have watched and not let his house be broken into” (Matthew 24:42).

St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, said before her death: “Lay this body wherever it may be. Let no care of it disturb you: this only I ask of you, that you should remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.”

As Catholics we should also perform the spiritual works of mercy of praying for the living and the dead—especially for those thousands, of whatever beliefs or ethnic backgrounds, who died tragically when “the thief” took their lives. I would urge all your readers to request of their pastors that the Holy Mass be offered for the souls of the victims of the attack on America. The Sacrifice of the Mass is of infinite value, and the most important charitable benefit that any soul can receive. What better way can we Catholics help than to join with Christ's Sacrifice in the Mass for the repose of their souls?

Laurette Elsberry

Sacramento, California

As a new reader of the Register (via my mother's checkbook!), I have only had the opportunity to read about three of your publications and can no longer contain my excitement and praise.

Now a graduate of the popular Catholic teen magazine YOU! to present-day “voracious-reader” status with L'Osservatore Romano and Our Sunday Visitor, I am thrilled with your multi-faceted coverage of the Catholic faith.

You have expertly blended the local, national and international aspects in your paper so that it gently refuses to let me be complacent in my Catholicity on any level. I wish to thank you for this.

Furthermore, my sixth-grade students (at a local Catholic grade-school) and I have been keeping abreast of the current stem-cell research issue (among others) and how we can respond in ways right now in accordance with our beliefs for a positive impact to society.

The Register has been a priceless resource to our class not only during our religion classes, but current events as well. Some day my family may get the chance to actually read the copy that comes to our home!

Please know of our continual prayers for your ministry and may God abundantly bless all of your staff and those you reach.

Anna Nabhan

Creve Coeur, Illinois

Ben Wiker's criticisms of the new PBS series on evolution (“You Say You Want an Evolution?” Sept. 9-15 ) were useful in pointing out the series' bias against scientific critics of Darwinian evolution. He also deplored the appearance of biblical literalist Ken Ham as the only critic of such evolution. Wiker mentioned some scientific objections to Darwinan evolution and its strong critics in the “intelligent-design” movement. That was important, but what about a correct, well-founded interpretation of Genesis 1-3?

Your readers would appreciate a solid critique of Ken Ham's literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-3. Polls have shown that 44% of Americans believe God created man at one time within the last 10,000 years or so—39% of Catholics believe that!

A positive Catholic interpretation of Genesis is needed, showing the absurdities of the literalist interpretation from a textual and scientific point of view. Also, sketching the background of Genesis 1-3 in Mesopotamian creation accounts and how man's creation, original sin, grace and redemptive promises are found objectively in Genesis and other parts of the Bible related to it.

The so-called “creationist” position flourishes because a well-based Catholic interpretation of these vital early chapters of Genesis is still too little known.

Father Jerome F. Tracy, S.J.

Clarkston, Michigan.

In your Aug. 5-11 issue you had an article in the Inbrief section about a simplified version of Karol Wojtyla's (now the Holy Father's) book, Love and Responsibility. You did not, however, give a publisher, title or any information for those of us who might want to purchase this book.

Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Alice Bolster

Nashville, Tennessee

Editor's Note:Pope John Paul II's Love & Responsibility—Simplified Version is published by Key of David Publications, Wynnewood, Pa. For information, call (610) 896-1970.