Here we go again. From the local CTV affiliate….
Updated: Wed Sep. 24 2008 22:53:00
The Calgary Catholic School District passed a motion Wednesday night to refuse to offer the HPV vaccine in its schools, making it the second school board in Alberta to do so.
Six out of seven board trustees voted in favour of opting out of giving the controversial vaccine to its grade five female students. The board says it’s following the Alberta Bishop’s spiritual guidance on the issue.
Last Friday Alberta Catholic School trustees met with one Bishop to talk about the vaccine which offers protection against sexually transmitted disease.
The Chair of the Calgary Catholic Board, Margaret Belcourt told CTV News parents will receive two letters, one from the Bishop stating his position and one from Alberta Health officials informing them about the vaccine.
‘The Bishop felt it was a moral issue and that might make schools, Catholic schools appear to be condoning pre-marital sex. We are saying, if parents felt that it’s a health issue and not a moral issue, then the parents can make that decision.’, says Belcourt.
The decision will affect grade five students in 83 schools within the Calgary Catholic School District.
The St.Thomas Aquinas school board near Edmonton is the first to refuse to offer the vaccine to its students.
CTV News spoke with Alberta Health officials Wednesday; they say any school board can opt out of providing the HPV vaccine.
Health officials are looking at other ways to make the vaccine available to students.
If someone would actually show me the data that HPV vaccinations promote premarital sex, I’d shut up. But then we’re dealing with an institution that recklessly claims (again without presenting any data whatsoever) that condoms are ineffective in the fight against AIDS. This is ONLY a health issue. Honestly, the only moral issue I see was created artificially by this demonstration of wanton disregard for their children’s health and welfare. I find it incomprehensible that the Catholic School Board would abrogate their responsibilities to the welfare of their wards because some bishop is worried how giving their students the HPV vaccination will look. I think they should be far more worried about how this needless risk-taking will appear to the public. Some trustees they are!
If parents feel that it is a moral issue and not a health issue, then I think it is within their rights to exclude themselves from a vaccination program. I don’t agree with that, but differing opinions on raising children is totally acceptable (within limits – prayer is no substitute for evidence-based medical care). However, the school board felt the need to remove the decision from parents altogether, leaving those more responsible parents scrambling to find a way to get their children vaccinated. The diocese knows full well that this makes it much more difficult to get their children vaccinated and count on it.
What the Catholic School Board is doing can not be defended by silly and unfounded notions such as this. Religion deals with ‘what ought’ when real solutions can only be found by dealing with ‘what is’. This decision places the health and future of their children needless at risk. Guides (such as this bishop, whose name is Fred Henry) shouldn’t be leading their charges into minefields. I hope that parents realize that their children’s health is vastly more important than their own (or those of this short-sighted bishop’s) tender sensibilities. For those that don’t receive an HPV vaccination and do end up with cervical cancer because of superstitious and myopic religious leadership, please remember that suing the Catholic Church and finishing off a nearly bankrupt institution in Canada (having already been financially impoverished by decades of lawsuits over abuse in Catholic schools) is a valid option. Hit religion where it hurts – right in the coffers.
The logic (if I can abuse the word in such a manner) of this is eerily similar to that used in dealing with the sex scandals that have rocked the Church over the last number of years. Instead of acting rightly, by removing sexual predators in places of authority over their victims and handing over the perpetrators to legal authorities, the Vatican worried about how it would look and simply shuffled these predators around (a reward for such priests, giving them fresh hunting grounds). The Church had a responsibility to the victims but decided to hush things, sometimes threatening victims with excommunication via the Crimen sollicitationis. The irony is that these despicable actions by the Church placed it in a far worse light (and rightly so) than if more forthright decisions whereby the moral and ethical high road was taken right from when the first reports of abuse became known. The Vatican fought vigorously against extraditing Father Joseph Henn (charged with sexual abuse crimes committed in Phoenix, AZ) for years, finally capitulating to pressure. Mysteriously, Henn (who was under house arrest in Rome) disappeared shortly after an agreement to extradite him was reached. Hmmm…. Pope Benedict has claimed that he is “deeply ashamed” of the scandal, but is he ashamed at the Church’s handling of it as he should be? Paint me a cynic, but I doubt it.
And for those that don’t see what harm superstition/religion inflicts on society, I give you this moronic bishop. Fred Henry’s astonishingly nonsensical demonstrably-stupid-opinion-become-health-policy for Catholic students almost guarantees that he will one day be made a cardinal, whose opinions have even less relevance to reality. Hell, the bishops on my chessboard have more decency, foresight and intelligence. And I don’t have a chessboard. Premarital sex is going to happen and the ‘just say no’ strategy that has worked so abysmally in every other situation it’s been used will continue its perfect record here as well.
Is this leadership? Sure it is. It’s very bad leadership. Does Fred Henry think that it will somehow be a tipping factor to fall into the temptation of what is (in his mind) evil premarital sex? Come on! If this is the kind of moral guidance religion supplies, you Believers out there can keep it and keep it to yourselves. Refusing sound public health policy on the basis of mere opinion or because it offends you would in any other public arena be grounds for immediate termination of position. I fully expect to see a new outbreak of lawsuits directed against the Catholic Church in 20 years or so.
It has only been two years since control of a Catholic-administered hospital was wrested away by the Saskatchewan government because the hospital board decided that women should not have access to certain procedures (tubal ligation). This is nothing more than imposing religious principles on others, something I consider to be extraordinarily immoral, and placing their own beliefs above the health of their patients. These people had no business running a hospital and the Saskatchewan government took the correct action. Perhaps we should similarly rethink the existence of a publicly-supported Catholic school system.
My wife just came up with another excellent reason to have daughters vaccinated. Even if a daughter were to beat the odds and remain celibate till marriage, are the parents willing to risk that the prospective groom was also? If he has been exposed, she will be at risk of contracting the virus and consequently cervical cancer. If you don’t have to roll those dice, why would you?
Physicians are now speaking out, publicly criticizing the school board’s decision saying exactly this. As Dr. Louis Francescutti at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta put it, “If parents don’t think their kids are sexually active, they have a surprise coming.” Denying that their children will be sexually active at some point before marriage is ‘head-in-the-sand’ thinking, and the statistics show that reality will bite these parents hard. Calgary’s Catholic School Board is not the first in Canada to take such an indefensible stand, as similar myopia has resulted in schools in Manitoba and Ontario also not offering protection against contracting the virus.
I’ve said it before, the parable of the sheep is not something to aspire to lest the shepherd shag you. Oh, look! I see the good bishop has put on his velcro gloves…