Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sex, A Fate Worse Than Death

I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, but one thing I sometimes find it difficult to get past with him is his attachment to Catholicism. I feel this way about most Catholics I know, especially the ones that make claims that the Church is, at the end of the day, a force for good. Even if we ignore its bloody and corrupt political history, its current struggle with widespread sexual abuse of minors, its misogyny and homophobia, there always seems to be a new action, decision or problem in the Catholic Church that surely must shake people's faith in its divinity.

Today, I found this excuse for apostasy.

According to the article, Catholic Bishops have banned HPV vaccines for young girls in the Calgary Catholic school district. Their reasoning was that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, therefore administration of the vaccine would be an implicit endorsement of sex for young girls.

The HPV vaccination is a relatively new and safe preventative measure against the human papillomavirus. HPV is a relatively common STD and, in its low-risk forms, is the cause of genital warts. There are, however, some higher-risk strains of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. The vaccine provides protection against the most common forms of HPV that can lead to the aforementioned afflictions, is recommended for both men and women, and should be administered well before a person becomes sexually active. That being said, the authorities of the Catholic Church likely care less about these facts than they do about even hinting that the young person receiving the vaccine might have sex at some point in the future. It should also be noted that HPV is very common. Even if one of the girls in question waited until marriage to engage in any kind of sexual activity and stayed monogamous for the entirety of her life, she could still theoretically acquire the disease.  Perhaps she would marry a convert to Catholicism who had multiple partners before his conversion and didn't even know he had the disease. Perhaps she would become the victim of sexual assault at the hands of an attacker who had the virus. The benefits clearly outweigh the risks in this case.

The linked article mentioned another level on which this ban is problematic. The school system provides a means by which children can be vaccinated regardless of their personal circumstances. The article mentions immigrants or the less affluent families in the district as being particularly harmed by the HPV vaccination ban. Whereas children from well-endowed personal and financial backgrounds could easily be vaccinated through a service outside of the school system, some of their less privileged peers might not be so lucky. The fact that the Catholic Church values "chastity" so highly that they're willing to put vulnerable children at risk should be appalling to most people.

Whether the Catholic bishops in Calgary realize it or not, schools provide a public service that includes more than mere book-learnin'. People in their district depend on them to provide their children with a particular kind of protection. By stripping a facet of said protection away, they are shirking their responsibility. They and their supporters should be ashamed. But their philosophy on sex at this point seems to be,  as a friend of mine so eloquently stated on Facebook: "Better dead than slut".

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