after gay reporter and barman Terry Higgins died in 1982, one
of the first acknowledged victims of the AIDS virus then nascent
in England, a group of his friends got together and set up a charity
trust in his memory, dedicated to promoting awareness and preventing
the spread of the disease.
years later the Terrence Higgins Trust is generally considered
as the UK's leading HIV and AIDS charity, and the largest in Europe.
It provides services on a national and local level to people with,
affected by, or at risk of contracting HIV; and campaigns for
greater public understanding of the impact of HIV and AIDS. So
it seemed right and fitting that the prestigious London Oratory
School, whose pupils include Tony Blair's boys, should choose
to donate to this very worthy charity the proceeds raised by a
gala concert on World AIDS Day this December, featuring the school's
internationally acclaimed choir, the Schola.
of Hope concert was planned and advertised months ago, and depending
on ticket sales, expects to raise a substantial sum, running into
thousands of pounds, very useful funding for the Higgins Trust
in its AIDS 'care and aware' campaign.
at the beginning of November, with less than a month to go before
the concert, the London Oratory School reneged on its offer and
dropped the charity as beneficiary of the gala.
for the Terrence Higgins Trust, whose fundraising team had spent
several months working on the concert, said they were surprised
and disappointed by the decision. "It's a shame we won't benefit,
but the school has its policies and they have to think about their
integrity. It's very challenging raising money for HIV and Aids."
for the withdrawal? The Terrence Higgins Trust advocates condom-use
to prevent the spread of HIV, and it is also the lead organisation
in the England & Wales gay men's health promotion partnership,
both anthema to the Catholic Church, which opposes any kind of
contraception and considers homosexuality a sin. And although
supposedly autonomous, the London Oratory is a Catholic school,
and directly answerable to the Vatican.
the inauguration of the current Pope, Benedict XVI, AIDS
activists called on him to ease the papal ban on the use
of condoms to prevent HIV. He
didn't. And he hasn't.
a conciliatory letter to parents, following some complaints about
the school's initial support for the trust, headmaster David McFadden
explained that there had been concerns "regarding
the distribution of proceeds to an organisation whose aims and
practices conflicted with the teaching and viewpoint of the Catholic
Oratory School will always want to make sure its charitable fundraising
work is done with organizations whose philosophy, aims and practices
support Christian values.
charity does not meet this criterion, it would be inappropriate
for the school to financially support this charity from the proceeds
of the concert."
In a statement,
the school said the proceeds from the concert would now be split
between SURF, a fund for the survivors of the Rwandan genocide,
and SOS Children's Villages, a charity which is funding a "family
strengthening programme" in Swaziland.
Callow, a patron of both the THT and the Schola choir, has threatened
to resign his patronage of the latter because of the school's
subject to that sort of pressure from the Catholic Church, then
I'd find it really hard to endorse it," he wrote in a letter
parent expressed outrage at the school's decision, but admitted
there were reactionary elements among some clergy and parents
who would be delighted by the news. The London Oratory School
has close ties to the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
which recently hosted an event to celebrate the work of a pro-life
Catholic Church's irresponsible and outrageous claims about
condoms make the spread of HIV far harder to control, and
indeed greatly help in sending the ignorant faithful to
their early graves.
the inauguration of the current Pope, Benedict XVI, AIDS activists
called on him to ease the papal ban on the use of condoms to prevent
"He has a
great opportunity to help tackle the global HIV pandemic, said
Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust
at the time. "We hope that he will take it."
And he hasn't. And, as usual, practicing Catholics follow the
dictates of the Vatican, which condemn all sexual relationships
outside marriage, and rejects the use of all forms of artificial
years after the foundation of the Terrence Higgins Trust, ignorance
about the causes of HIV remains high, even in the UK, with many
still believing that it can be caught through kissing, sweat,
or shared cutlery.
of good sex education means many young people are leaving school
ignorant about HIV and safer sex, said Nick Partridge. "HIV is
now the fastest growing serious health condition in the UK, and
there is no cure. It's time to get our facts straight. "
with the Catholic Church, whose President of the Vatican's Pontifical
Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, officially
announced the Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the
spermatozoon and can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed
by the condom, advising millions of people from Asia to Latin
America not to use them.
where an estimated 20 per cent of people have HIV - the church
condemns condoms for promoting promiscuity and repeats the claim
about their permeability. The archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi
Nzeki, said: "Aids has grown so fast because of the availability
axing the Terrence Higgins Trust as beneficiary of their
World Aids Day gala, the London Oratory School has exposed
itself as a deluded and hypocritical institution, an obedient
tool of a right-wing control-freak Pope.
priests are even told by the Vatican to say that condoms are laced
Health Organization has condemned the Vatican's views, saying:
"These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous
when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed
more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42
million." The organisation says "consistent and correct" condom
use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90 per cent.
are wrong about that, says Cardinal Trujillo. "This is an easily
Church's irresponsible and outrageous claims about condoms make
the spread of HIV far harder to control, and indeed greatly help
in sending the ignorant faithful to their early graves. The preservation
of life must be of higher importance than the preservation of
church regulations. Abstinence is not a practical option for many
the Terrence Higgins Trust as beneficiary of their World Aids
Day gala, the London Oratory School has exposed itself as a deluded
and hypocritical institution, an obedient tool of a right-wing
control-freak Pope. Any guest with half a heart choosing to sit
through the school concert next month will surely have, along
with the lovely music in his ears, a very nasty taste in his mouth.
Michael Dickinson is an English teacher working in Istanbul, Turkey.
Dickinson did the cover art for two of CounterPunch's books, Dime's
Worth of Difference and Serpents in the Garden, as well as Jeffrey
St. Clair's Grand Theft Pentagon. He can be contacted via his
or at [email protected].
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