- There's a complete failure to understand what affects teenagers' behaviour. Do the bishops seriously think that teenaged girls who are thinking of having sex say to themselves "Oh, wait a minute. I might get HPV. Let's not do it." Potential consequences of sex include a host of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as pregnancy. If these don't put girls off, then why should a risk of HPV?
- HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. You can get it if you are a virgin who marries someone with HPV. You can get it if you are raped (something which has been known to occur in Catholic schools).
- The recommendation seems theologically dubious. I'm an atheist, but my understanding of Catholicism is that whether or not something is a sin is largely to do with motivation rather than action. So if you are tempted to sex but desist because it would upset God, then that's good. If you are tempted to sex but desist only because of a fear of disease, that's still a sin. The church should be teaching girls to love God so much that they won't do things that offend him, not to conform to standards of sexual behaviour out of fear. No doubt religious readers will put me right if I've misunderstood this distinction.
- These girls are attending a Catholic school where I assume morality is drummed into them day and night. The bishops assume that their grasp of that morality is so weak that having a HPV vaccination will be sufficient to overturn everything they have been told about sexual ethics. Doesn't say much for the religious teaching in the schools, or for the intelligence of the pupils.
- One thing Jesus really understood is that humans aren't perfect and frequently fall short of the moral standards they try to adhere to. There's a huge emphasis on forgiveness of sin in his teachings. The Bishops are in effect saying that God won't forgive you if you stray from the straight and narrow: he'll commit you to a life with an unpleasant disease, and increase your risk of dying from cancer. That's not the Christian God I was taught about.
Saturday 30 June 2012
Schoolgirls' health put at risk by Catholic view on vaccination
a remarkable story: parents of children attending Catholic schools in Calgary were sent a special letter to accompany details of a vaccination programme against human papillomavirus (HPV), which protects against cervical cancer. In it, local bishops wrote: "Although school-based immunization delivery systems generally result in high numbers of students completing immunization, a school-based approach to vaccination sends a message that early sexual intercourse is allowed.” I find this amazing for several reasons: