Wowzers – I was going through my external hard drive tonight (it’s full of old documents, pictures etc…a real time suck!) and came across this document. I wrote it in early 2001 when Brian and I had recently started dating. Religion was clearly weighing heavily on my mind:
Familiarity with your own religion (or at the least, the one you were raised in) often immunizes you from recognizing how weird it is. When I first met my husband I recall thinking “Mormons believe some really weird stuff! How can anyone with half a brain believe this!?” Then he asked me if I believed in transubstantiation and the ever-virgin Mary. The answer was that no, I didn’t and that furthermore, I didn’t know that as a Catholic I was even supposed to! The fact that I didn’t believe in half the things the Catholic church taught was actually one of the things that made me start questioning my faith. As soon as I started to see my own religion from the same distance as all the other ones, it ceased to hold any real significance for me. I quite happily threw the baby out with the bath water.
The ever-Virgin Mary was always a strange concept to me and one that I had given a lot of thought to. So, when I heard an author on the radio not too long ago, talking about sex and the bible I was very interested. His point was that in the Catholic church, it is believed that each human is born with original sin. This is why it was necessary for Jesus to have been born of a virgin, so that he was not tainted by this sin. It is also why Mary was forced to remain a virgin, so that she could remain a saint and sinless forever. Except, there is a problem. For Mary to her herself remain sinless, she too must have been born of a virgin. Uh oh. This is where the whole thing starts to unravel. (To be fair, anyone with a heart beat should recognize the absurdity of the ever-virgin claim before we get to this point, but I digress.) So was Mary’s mother also a virgin? And her mother and so on? Nobody ever gets into that because theological muddy waters are best avoided if you want to keep up the ruse.
Poor, poor Mary and Joseph. Born of a virgin-mother and a sexually frustrated father, forced to remain chaste and endure the death of her only (only?! that’s a whole other post) son on a stick in the desert, and wife to a very bitter man who must have been on the receiving end of a lot of jokes. And all for the love of a non-existent God and beatification by a sexually perverted church. Not much of a life is it? Better to have never existed at all. :)
The province I live in, like most of those in Canada, has two separate school systems; the Catholic and the Public. Confusingly, and in my opinion, wrongly, they are both publicly funded. This means that the local Bishop is the moral guide for the school system. Yup, that’s right. A Bishop. Making what amounts to decisions for a public institution. Creepy. Anyway, this post is not about the Catholic school system but about some recent issues within that system here in Calgary.
The HPV virus is not without controversy and while I don’t object to it I do admit there are some troubling issues surrounding the timing, funding and research of the vaccine. However, this is about what happens when a religious nut opens his mouth and potentially endangers the lives of women. The Alberta Health Services decided to offer the vaccine (Gardisil) to girls in grade 5 in the province of Alberta. They felt that at this young age they could be sure to catch most girls before they became sexually active. Bishop Fred Henry came out and said he felt that giving the vaccination to girls within the Catholic school system would encourage them to have pre-marital sex and was therefore opposed on moral grounds. The school trustees in true Catholic form, stopped thinking for themselves (or about the people to whom they are charged with protecting) and agreed with Bishop Henry. They refused to offer the vaccine in school and gave children the option to go to a local health clinic to receive it.
Fast forward a year and we now have the results of this theocratic “health” decision. Only 30% of girls in the Catholic schools received the vaccination. (Interestingly, the French Catholic board ignored their Bishop and 60% of their students received the vaccine…I can only assume those parents are just as Catholic so it had less to do with moral objection and more to do with being too lazy to take their daughter to a clinic. Grrr.) Great, so now when little Sally gets cervical cancer she can feel good about the fact that she listened to an old man who had never had sex and never would and never ran any risk whatsoever of contracting HPV.
To me this is not about whether or not the HPV vaccine is safe, effective or the right choice for your kids. That debate exists within the realm of science and reason and facts. That’s okay. What I take issues with is that first of all, anyone could actually think that giving young girls a vaccine will encourage them to have sex. That is just so weird! It’s not based on evidence or research or even common sense. It’s ignorant and in this case, potentially dangerous. It is the exact same argument that many make against birth control and it has been disproved time and time again. The second issue is that Bishop Henry has a role to play at all. This is a health decision and as I already mentioned, a publicly funded institution. He can say what he wants at the pulpit but the school trustees should be ashamed of themselves for cow-towing to his religious authority.
I can’t believe I actually used to have a framed picture of Bishop Fred Henry in my house. What the hell was I thinking?