Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New Vaccine for Cervical Cancer Causes Controversy

What? Real substance on This can't be happening.

It's happening. Check out the latest from the Laura Smitherman at the Baltimore Sun:

Just a few months after federal regulators approved a vaccine against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, more than a dozen states - including Maryland - are considering a requirement that girls entering middle school get it.

One of the primary drivers behind the legislative push: Merck & Co., the pharmaceutical giant that manufactures Gardasil, the only vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV, on the market. [more...]

I want to encourage my fellow Catholics and other conservative Christians to think carefully before reacting to this, though some are already upset, claiming this vaccine will encourage promiscuity. Even though the vaccine may become mandatory, like other vaccines, the option will probably remain for parents to opt out for religious reasons.

A vaccine is not enablement in the same way giving clean needles to drug addicts or condoms to rapists is an enablement. It is a doctor's duty to protect people from sickness and cure people from sickness, never to evaluate whether a person's moral behavior warrants treatment. Therefore, doctors do right to innoculate women against cervical cancer as they would be right to innoculate against HIV if they could. Surely none of us would be opposed to an HIV vaccine even though many if not most who acquire HIV do so through misbehavior.

It was G. K. Chesterton who said it best. He wrote in Heretics that "A young man may keep himself from vice by continually thinking of disease. He may keep himself from it also by continually thinking of the Virgin Mary. There may be question about which method is the more reasonable, or even about which is the more efficient. But surely there can be no question about which is the more wholesome." If we try to instill chastity by scaring children with STDs, we're going about it the wrong way anyway.

The problem is that we are not trying to instill chastity because we are too busy trying to instill abstinence. I recently heard on "The Albert Mohler Program" an interview with Dawn Eden, whose book The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On has been making waves. She accused her fellow Christians of emphasizing abstinence and forgetting chastity. She's right. This issue has been worse for Protestants than Catholics, for Protestants have no holistic view of sexuality embedded in a developed theology; sexual ethics in Protestantism has been boiled down to the lowest common denominator of morality: wait until you're married. Meanwhile, sexual sins as evil as promiscuity, such as birth control and masturbation, have become acceptable even to many conservative Evangelicals. Instead of teaching youth the good of sexuality and its intended purpose, and pointing them in the direction of chastity, Protestants, and many Catholics , have told them that if they can restrain themselves for a few years until they marry, they can take out their frustrations and lusts on a spouse--an attempt at preventing perversity that is itself a perversion.

Dawn Eden is right and Chesterton is right. The answer is not thinking about disease or preventing vaccinations. The answer is chastity.

Update: We're going to reorganize the site (again) in the near future and hopefully add some more features to continue improving it and get the word out. Look for "Faith and Fantasy" part 2 this weekend. Tomorrow, we'll discuss how fantasy literature can help you be chaste. I hope that interests you.
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