AIDS has quietly caused the deaths of hundreds of Catholic priests in the United States although other causes may be listed on some of their death certificates, The Kansas City Star reported on the weekend.
    In the first of a three-part series, the newspaper reported that its examination of death certificates and interviews with experts indicated several hundred priests had died of AIDS-related illnesses since the mid-1980s and hundreds more are living with HIV, the virus that causes the disease. The death rate of priests from AIDS is at least four times that of the general population, the newspaper said.
    Bishop Raymond J. Boland of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said the AIDS deaths show that priests are human. ``Much as we would regret it, it shows that human nature is human nature,'' Boland said.
    The Star received responses to 27% of the 3000 confidential questionnaires it sent to priests of the diocese. 60% of priests responding said they knew of at least one priest who had died of an AIDS-related illness and one-third knew a priest living with AIDS. 75% said the Church needed to provide more education to seminarians on sexual issues.
    Asked about their sexual orientation, 75% said they were heterosexual, 15% said they were homosexual and 5% said they were bisexual.
AP 12:16am 31/1/00

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