In a press conference held a week ago, Puebla Archbishop Rosendo Huesca Pacheco (right) announced that all those who wish to become priests by joining the city's seminaries will be tested for HIV and rejected if the test comes back positive, a practice that was now in effect.
"They undergo tests including HIV, so that someone who is sick can't get in through the cracks," he said, "We pay attention to this, we are not asleep, but sometimes things get past us, but if you are sick we do not accept you" (Proceso, Jan. 26, 2009).
He reiterated that gay men were banned and said that those who wished to become priests would have to undergo a series of "psychological" tests as well to make sure they were fit for priesthood.
Archbishop Huesca was responding to an initiative by Violeta Lagunes Viveros, a legislative representative from the region, who said she would introduce a bill to modify the Civil Code of Puebla to define pederasty as a crime - and include aggravated charges for church ministers or educators who are found to have abused children.
"The crime of pederasty does not exist in the legislature, as such, since there is a designation for crimes of corruption of minors, human trafficking, child pornography, rape and kidnapping", Lagunes said while asking for the Archbishop's support of the bill (Milenio, Jan. 20, 2009).But wait! What does child abuse have to do with HIV positive men who seek priesthood? Or gay men for that matter? Ah, never mind, this is the leadership of the Mexican Catholic church we are talking about. They think all of it falls into the same basket.
Which brings us back to the Archbishop's actual response to the petition that he back a bill that would punish pedophiles:
“I do not have that data [on numbers of members of the priesthood that have abused children], it seems to me that it's a topic on which I have no knowledge nor do I master it, this being criminal law, I have no idea how penalties are determined, in terms of canonical law, pederasty is indeed punished, the first step of punishment is suspension, where [a priest] cannot lead mass or anything, but continues to be a priest, and the next is to completely remove him from the priesthood" (Periodico Digital, Jan. 25, 2009).In other words: No, he will not support a bill that condemns pederasts.
The archbishop's statements have caught the attention of civil rights leaders in Mexico. Brahim Zamora Salazar, director of the non-profit organization Democracy and Sexuality, says that the church in Puebla is violating federal laws that prevent discrimination against HIV positive individuals.
“It is irresponsible for the priests to conduct a discriminatory act defined by the 'Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination' and by the 'Mexican Official Norm 010-SSA2-1993 for the Prevention and Control of Infections by HIV'," he said, "Worst of all is that, then, with what moral quality will they ask that there be no corruption, impunity, if they are the first to disrespect the law?" (NotieSe, Jan. 29, 2009).
Zamora said that a group of leaders from non-governmental organizations be traveling to Puebla to personally hand a copy of the law to Archbishop Huesca since "it is obvious he doesn't have knowledge of it".
He also said that, with access to appropriate treatments, someone who was HIV positive can be as healthy as others and engage in any activity or lead his or her life as anyone else does and questioned defining anyone who is HIV positive as being sick or ill.