Bishop tells Wisconsin AIDS ministry to skip AIDS walk
Bishop Raymond Burke, a La Cross, Wis., bishop recently appointed archbishop of St. Louis, has ordered a Milwaukee church-based AIDS ministry to stop participating in an annual AIDS walk because he believes some of the groups that benefit from the fund-raiser promote homosexuality, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Burke wrote to the church-supported Central Wisconsin HIV/AIDS Ministry Project, telling the group's leaders that they were no longer permitted to promote or receive funds from AIDS Walk Wisconsin because two other walk beneficiaries, the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center and the YWCA Rainbow Alliance for Youth, condone homosexual activity. "By participating in AIDS Walk Wisconsin, the Central Wisconsin HIV/AIDS Ministry would be cooperating materially with groups that act against the moral law," the letter said. Burke also threatened to pull future funding for the group if it did not abide by his order.
HIV/AIDS Ministry Project coordinator Marge Schumann said she regretted losing the funding the walk provided to her organization but said the group has withdrawn from the walk.
Doug Nelson, president of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, which holds the annual AIDS walk, contacted Burke and asked him to reconsider his decision. But Burke responded with a letter saying, "The AIDS Walk raises money for organizations that actively and publicly promote homosexual activity, thus cooperating in the activities of these organizations and giving them a kind of legitimacy in the public forum. This is completely unacceptable." Patrick Flaherty, director of community relations for the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, said that his organization was disappointed by Burke's position that the center's program to keep gay youth from contracting HIV violates church teachings. "We think keeping young people HIV-free is a laudable goal," he told the Journal Sentinel. It's unfortunate the bishop does not feel the same."
Burke earlier this year wrote to two Catholic state lawmakers and one member of Congress to pressure the elected officials into adopting the church's position against abortion. "It was my duty as bishop to write those letters," Burke said in a press conference. "The letters address the good of the soul of the legislators and the souls of those who may be scandalized by their votes against the teachings of the church."