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Bishops Emphasize Ethics in Ban on Condoms; Taking the Long View


LEAD: To the Editor:

To the Editor:

"Catholics, Condoms and AIDS" (Oct. 20, editorial) calls to mind something for which American business has been criticized in recent years: the tendency to act with the near-term profit in view, rather than investing in strategic measures, such as research and development, to keep the company healthy and competitive in the long run.

You believe the Roman Catholic bishops are morally bound to advise their fellow Catholics about the use of condoms to retard the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, but in the bishops' frame of reference, this would be not only wrong, but also shortsighted.

The promotion of condoms in the struggle against AIDS assumes the likelihood of extramarital sex, which Catholics and many others consider immoral. Given that condoms may be "technically unreliable" (the report's words) in preventing spread of the AIDS virus, their effectiveness is limited in that they may prevent the transmission of the virus to another in the first encounter. But condom use assumes more encounters, very possibly with different partners, and every encounter holds the possibility of failure to prevent transmission. As times goes by, the number of possible transmissions grows geometrically.

On the other hand, promotion of monogamous relationships looks toward a future time when no one would have the disease to spread, assuming the virus is not contracted at birth or in ways other than through sexual relations. Of course, this attitude reaches toward another plane in human relations. Are you saying that it is invalid, or even immoral, to reach toward this ideal plane, over the long term? FREDERICK J. KURTZ Bronx, Oct. 21, 1989


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Information in this article was accurate in November 3, 1989. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.