AIDS Activist Richard Zaldivar Puts Archbishop Jose Gomez on Notice

AIDS activist Richard Zaldivar put Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez on notice the other day -- firmly, yet respectfully demanding that the church play a more vigorous role in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community.

"Roughly 70 percent of our L.A. Latinos identify as Catholic," Zaldivar writes in La Opinion op-ed, "and our church has been absent from the conversation and education-prevention efforts surrounding HIV."

Gomez will replace Cardinal Roger Mahony, who has once again come under fire for his handling of sexually abusive priests, as the leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Zaldivar, executive director of the Eastside group The Wall - Las Memorias Project, also writes that while Mahony started an AIDS ministry, studies commissioned by the Los Angeles County Office of AIDS Programs have shown that the church has followed through with "very little outreach" to Latino parishioners concerning HIV/AIDS prevention and education and there is "never a promotion of condom use."

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The activist also notes that while the L.A. archdiocese has been claiming that "25 to 30 churches" have an active AIDS ministry, "only three had been confirmed" by the studies.

Zaldivar then asks Gomez that "because so many AIDS cases are due unsafe sex among gay and bisexual men, I pray that you create a place at the table for all of our brothers and sisters who want to be part of the Catholic family."

He adds, "There is a way to accommodate so many of our Angelenos and at the same time by not ignoring the principles of the church doctrine."

Whether or not Gomez will "accommodate" Zaldivar's concerns, no one knows for sure, but the odds aren't good.

According to the Los Angeles Times, when it comes to church doctrine, the archbishop is far from flexible, with the newspaper describing him as a man of "unwavering orthodoxy."

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.


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