AIDS deaths among Catholic priests higher, newspaper says

Posted: Friday, November 10, 2000

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The Kansas City Star reports that the death rate from AIDS among U.S. Roman Catholic priests is higher than it estimated in a January series.

The newspaper originally reported that hundreds of priests had died since 1983. The follow-up, relying on 14 states where death records are public, put the total at more than 300. Since records are sealed in other states, experts said the exact AIDS toll will never be known.

In the 14 states, the Star found priests' death rate more than double that among all adult males.

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops said the original report ''extrapolated from a handful of tragic but isolated cases to manufacture a crisis that does not exist.'' In light of the criticism, The Star did its state-by-state examination of thousands of death certificates and interviewed family members elsewhere.

The bishops' conference was equally irate over the follow-up. It said the Star had ''systematically violated the privacy of deceased priests'' and violated ''the boundaries of common decency.'' It also said the Star ignored evidence that the AIDS death rate is similar for all clergy, not just Catholic priests.

The bishops said less than half of 1 percent of U.S. clergy had died of AIDS but the newspaper ''seems determined to create the image of a crisis.''

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