Montreal archdiocese will not require HIV tests for new priests

The Montreal archdiocese will not require applicants to the priesthood to undergo HIV testing, according to the Canadian Press. In a news release issued Monday, the archdiocese said there was never a written directive demanding such tests as part of efforts to update its screening of potential candidates. "Our reflection continues with regards to the eventual revision of admissions criteria to Le Grand Seminaire de Montreal for candidates to priesthood,'' the statement said. "However, we can affirm even now that this revision will not impose an HIV test.''

Last month Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte defended the decision to require HIV tests as part of the health component of an exhaustive review of each candidate's background. The new requirement followed similar decisions by seminaries in Edmonton and Vancouver. The decision prompted a firestorm of criticism. The Quebec Human Rights Commission initiated an investigation at the request of a coalition of AIDS groups. The coalition argued the new policy encouraged discriminatory hiring practices.

After consulting with individuals and organizations, the Roman Catholic Church--allowing for the religious exceptions provided in the charter--reiterated its respect for "the societal values contained in the Quebec Charter of Personal Rights and Freedoms.''

Gay and HIV organizations welcomed the decision. "Clearly the fact that the human rights commission was looking into this, and clearly the fact that many people publicly spoke out about the decision and about how wrong it was to test people for HIV and exclude them, must have had an impact on their decision not to test, finally," Ralf Jurgens, executive director of the HIV-AIDS Legal Network, told CJAD radio. Quebec Human Rights Commission spokeswoman Ginette L'Heureux said the group was very satisfied by the church's decision. "I think they've reflected on this and have been enlightened,'' she told the Montreal Gazette.

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