Monday, November 03, 2008

That's Reasoned?

I see that Calgary's Bishop Henry continues to faithfully repeat whatever comes out of Rome ... in this case, he's trying to defend his blind opposition to HPV vaccination.

This is particularly galling because the suppositions the Bishop (and the RC Church in general) are operating from are fundamentally flawed - to the point of making the conclusions drawn from those assumptions quite ridiculous.

Besides raising the issue of side effects and questions about long range effectiveness, the Bishop falls into the classic Catholic line about sexuality.

Yes, there are legitimate questions worthy of study in respect to the vaccine's long term effectiveness - and this does warrant ongoing study. Similarly, as with any vaccine, side effects need to be studied and analyzed as the vaccine is put into broader use. However, that doesn't justify being obstructive to the availability of the medication in question - which is precisely what the Bishop has argued for.

We should teach critical thinking skills; provide factual information and guidelines as needed; and teach right from wrong and equip our youth for proper decision-making.

That's almost reasoned enough to make sense - then he proceeds to demonstrate that it is in fact rooted in standard dogma about sexuality (which frankly seems to be more 'ostriching' than anything else):

A school-based approach to vaccination runs the risk of sending at least an implicit message that early sexual intercourse is allowed, as long as one uses "protection."

I cannot even begin to express how outrageously false this claim is. There isn't a shred of rational evidence to support the inference made. It also vastly underestimates how much knowledge and awareness that youth have about sexuality. (It wasn't hard to get when I grew up - and that was long before the easy availability of the Internet)

The "popular" wisdom these days insists that because we can't stop our children from engaging in pre-marital sex, and because such sex can be dangerous and have bad effects, we should do everything we can to protect our youngsters by vaccinating them against the HPV virus.

Well, Bishop, I'd like for you to reflect upon 2,000 odd years of Church history - and then demonstrate to me how the Church's anti-sex dogma has changed a thing in terms of the activities of youth. There's a small, not so trivial aspect of this picture that you are overlooking - namely the impact of those initial flushes of hormones that are manifest at puberty. Teenagers aren't terribly rational creatures at the best of times, and they are infinitely curious about everything - in particular the bodies of those that they have just discovered to be interesting. This hasn't changed since humankind hid in caves, and I don't exactly expect it to change based on the moralizing idiocy that comes from the pulpit.

Respecting the God-given designs for our sexuality and struggling towards sexual self-mastery is one of the great challenges of our age, and probably of every age. Arguments in favour of widespread availability of the HPV vaccine are emblematic of a collective loss of nerve in the face of powerful libertine pressures within our culture.

Would this be the same "God-given designs" that treat women as property? That blame women for being 'barren' when the husband is firing blanks? The same designs that blame women for being unfaithful to their husbands, but celebrate the man who has multiple wives?

Making the HPV vaccine available has nothing to do with a loss of nerve, rather it has to do with a recognition that if we can do something to prevent a cancer that can kill, that just maybe it's worth doing - because we care about our daughters too.

It infuriates me to no end that the churches insist on attempting to regulate people's sexuality - and do so in a manner that not only suppresses information, but ultimately makes it harder, not easier, for people to deal with not only their sexuality, but the consequences of being a sexual human being. Abstinence only works on paper - as a convenient way of shaming people for doing what comes most naturally to every species of life on this planet. For an idea about just how ultimately ineffective abstinence programs are, consider this essay - which points out, more or less that such programs do little, if anything ultimately to curb teenage hormones and curiousity - and worse, can arguably be accused of contributing to not only higher rates of teen pregnancy and the increased transmission of STIs. No matter how I slice it, the biblical reality cheque just bounced.

1 comment:

quixote said...

A school-based approach to driver's education runs the risk of sending at least an implicit message that driving without a license is allowed, as long as one uses "seat belts".

Not quite a perfect analogy, but close enough for government work.