Should you or shouldn’t you be vaccinated for HPV? That is the question. Well, at least “a” question of the day. HPV is an STD which causes warts and possibly leads to cervical cancer. Both men and women are exposed to the virus through sexual activity and also by skin to skin contact. In most men it causes temporary warts but often men have no symptoms, become carriers and cannot be tested for HPV.
So let’s reduce this to the bare bone facts:
- This is a disease that can kill women
- Men are carriers and have few or no symptoms
- So… the Catholic School Board in Halton wants to ban the vaccine that may protect from HPV.
- A public relations disaster for the Catholic Church!
There are certainly other considerations that are important. Is the vaccine safe? What is the most appropriate age to give this vaccine? How do we remind young people… and all of us that sexual activity is best expressed in marriage (trust me, young people are not the only ones that need reminding!) But it does us no good to be seen as attacking something that protects women. Our leadership needs to nuance its positions and not only care about women but be PERCEIVED as caring about women.
Consider this true story:
A young woman gets married. She is a virgin and only has relations with her husband. They are both faithful in the marriage. The husband, in his early early twenties had sex twice with two different women. Although he did not know it, he became a carrier for HPV. He passed it on to his wife where it remained dormant for several years. At her last PAP smear she was found positive for HPV. What do we tell the young woman?
If that young woman was my neice I would be very angry if she had been denied the HPV vaccine. I think, that if the vaccine is safe, it should be possible to protect our daughters, sisters and nieces… the women of our Church from this disease AND invite them and our young men to respect themselves and their bodies by reserving sexual activity to the one who will receive them completely in the Sacrament of Matrimony.
We can’t afford to waste our credibility and our “prophetic voice” as a community with ill-thought positions. Just spend some time watching MTV or MuchMusic and see how “the pill” is being pushed to young people… “try something new” as if it were a new flavour of gum. Our work is cut out for us. We are not going to succeed by making stupid statements and having people write us off as out-of-touch. We need to be thoughtful and INSPIRE young men and women to discover the freedom that Christ offers them to be themselves, to be free and to find true joy.