The issue of consent

Heart in handsThere has been a lot of talk lately about sexual consent. Educators and organisations who have an interest in the sexual violence that is occurring amongst New Zealand’s young people believe that “consent” is the answer to this side of our social woes.

It is important that young people understand what rape is. They must know that it is a grave assault on the dignity of the victim. Those who find themselves victims of a rape, should feel able to report the crime, and know that they will be heard and taken seriously.

Young people must be taught that rape is a heinous crime.

But by saying it is just an issue of consent misses the point.   Consent implies that sexual relations between two people – whether it be a one night stand, an ongoing relationship, or any combination of possibilities – can never be harmful if everyone is in agreement.

When educators talk about consent what they are really saying is that young people have the right to:

Consent to mutually use each other
The opposite of love is not hate as many assume.  The opposite of love is using another.  We use another when we put our own desires before the good of another.  When two people “consent” to sexual intercourse outside of a stable committed relationship (marriage is the only relationship that fits this bill) they are putting their own desires for momentary pleasure ahead of the good of the other.  Hence, consent in this situation is really consent to mutually use one another sexually.

Consent to expose one another to sexually transmitted disease
Even if condoms are used, they are not 100% effective at preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases all of the time.  STDs are on the rise.  Some, like chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infertility in women if left untreated, and many don’t have symptoms.  The effects of some of these diseases can be life-long and devestating.

Consent to unplanned pregnancy
Pregnancy – the conception of a new and unrepeatable human being – is a natural consequence of sexual intercourse between man and woman.  When two people engage in sexual intercourse, they must realise that pregnancy may occur.  So-called contraceptives fail sometimes.  Almost half of all abortions carried out in New Zealand each year are because birth control failed.  Abortion harms women – mentally, physically and spiritually – and it always ends the life of the preborn child.

By making “consent” the issue, young people are being fooled into believing that the consequences of sexual intercourse outside of marriage have little or no impact on their lives.  The message is clear – the elation of sexual pleasure and self-gratification is yours to freely choose.

But consent does not necessarily bring with it freedom.

True freedom comes when one learns to love by giving totally of self for the good of the beloved.

This is true respect, true love and what must be taught to today’s youth.

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The STD superbug

 

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For the last 60 years, we have enjoyed a period where most infections have been easy to treat. That time could be coming to an end.

I should know, I’ve worked in the area of antimicrobial drug resistance. It’s a constant race with the bugs. We develop a new antibiotic, and after a while, we see the first signs of resistance appearing. Then the resistance spreads, until finally that antibiotic becomes useless. Then it’s time to move to the next antibiotic, if one exists. Earlier this month the Herald reported that this is happening with Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the cause of gonorrhoea. And there are no more antibiotics left to treat it.

This is a concern because of the poor advice given about STDs. Often STDs are described as being easy to treat or cure. That’s not consistent with the advice about infectious diseases from outside the ‘sexual health’ area. How often do hospitals advise visitors to stay away if they are sick? Yet in the ‘sexual health’ area, the advice is to just use condoms. That would be like the hospital saying, ‘come at visit no matter how much you are coughing and sneezing, just wear a face mask”.

Anyone in public health would see that as irresponsible.

But the ‘just wear a condom’ advice is given particularly to young people who are consistently the worst at using condoms, and who are the most vulnerable to catching STDs.

The rates of gonorrhoea have been dropping for teenagers in NZ, as have been the rates chlamydia and abortions. This could well be because young people are having less sex and fewer partners. It’s a trend that should be encouraged. Living a chaste life is the best protection against all STDs. Not just gonorrhoea. That includes other STDs like HPV, which can continue to spread even with consistent condom use. Chaste living also protects against any STDs that we don’t yet know about.

Fighting microbes isn’t fighting a fixed target. New species of microbes turn up from time to time. New strains of the old bugs emerge all the time. Sometimes more virulent, sometimes less. The one constant feature is that the drugs that we use to treat them become useless in time.

With gonorrhoea, this started with penicillin and tetracycline, and then fluoroquinolones. Ceftriaxone is the last drug left. And last year there were reports of resistance to ceftriaxone in Auckland and Waikato. If one strain acquires high levels of resistance to all these drugs, it will become untreatable. It’s probably only a matter of time before that happens. Then our oldest protection against STDs will become our only protection: Chastity.

So why are there no more antibiotics left? One of the main reasons is economics. It costs a great deal of money to develop any drug. If the drug is a contraceptive, and going to be used daily for decades, the drug company can get its development costs back. If it’s an antibiotic, and only going to be used for a 2 week course, the chances are recovering development costs aren’t very good. So the forces that rubbish chastity and push contraceptives onto our society are the same forces that tolerate the harm done when a chaste life is abandoned.

It’s called the culture of death.

The Third Way: living an authentic life of truth and love

 

It has been interesting to read and view the comments made in the secular media earlier this week about the new film “The Third Way”, and Bishop Dunn’s desire for it to be used as a teaching tool in the Auckland Diocese.

It was exciting to hear that Bishop Dunn found The Third Way thought-provoking, as this is such an important issue.

If you’re a little lost The Third Way is a 38 minute film which discusses homosexuality from the perspective of Catholic men and women who have struggled with same sex attraction. Ultimately they have found hope, love and acceptance as they have embraced the Church’s teaching that all people are called to chastity.

Personal stories are punctuated with commentary on the call to chastity for all from well-known Catholic speakers such as Jason Evert, Chris Stefanik and Christopher West.  In these sound bites, it is clear that the Church’s teaching on chastity is for all – whether, heterosexual or homosexual, married or single.

The film challenges the wider Catholic community to treat people who experience same sex attraction with compassion, dignity and respect.

Melinda, who features in the film, notes that “for people who have chosen to live chastity one of the biggest obstacles is isolation and loneliness.”  She explains that “the Church has to function as family and as community, and it has to do so in a way that is more powerful and more real than the family and community that people find in the gay scene.  At the moment we’re not anywhere near that.”

Still, gay advocates came away not happy and wanting more from the Church.

Trevor Easton, who is the manager of OUTLine NZ (a GLBT telphone helpline) and was very vocal about the film, saw it “as making people feel uncomfortable, unloved, not able to be themselves.”

Critical of the people featured in the film, Easton maintained that it “is portraying gay and lesbian people in a very negative, isolated way.”

These are real people in the film.  It is their stories.  Their lives.  And Easton and the other critics brush them aside as if they do not matter because they are not towing the accepted gay party line.

They are heroic, not only for speaking out, but for living an authentic life of truth and love.   Their stories have power to change lives.

It seems very clear that gay advocates will not settle for anything less than the Church changing her doctrines to justify the choices they make.

Just as some of those who are divorced and remarried want the Church to change her doctrines to justify the choices they have made.

Just like those married couples who use artificial methods of birth control to prevent the birth of a child, or IVF to make a child want to justify the choices they make.

But the truth can never change to suit social mores.  The truth is constant, never changing.  We might find new ways to present that truth, but the truth itself never changes.  It is we who must change so that our lives more fully reflect the truth.

 

 

 

 

St John Paul II, Pope of the family

ImageThis last weekend was historic. It has been described as the day of 4 Popes. Pope Francis canonised two of his predecessors, Pope John XXIII and John Paul II, while Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was present.

For us in the pro-life movement, the canonisation of Pope Saint John Paul II is particularly special. He was a fearless defender of human dignity, human life, and the family. And his insights into human interpersonal relations, including sexual relations was profound, and has been described as one of the Church’s best kept secrets.

Pope Francis in his Regina Coeli address after told the pilgrims of Bergamo and Krakow “Dear ones, honour the memory of these two holy Popes by following their teachings faithfully.”

St John Paul II’s life was remarkable.

He grew up in the town of Wadowice, Poland. A town with a large Jewish population, some of which he counted as his close friends.

It’s ironic, but the “Pope of the Family” lost all of his family by the time he was twenty. An elder sister died before he was born. His mother died when he was eight years old. His older brother when he was twelve, and finally his father died when he was twenty, leave the future Pope as the only surviving member of his family.

At the time of his father’s death, Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany. He had to take manual labouring work at a mine, and then a chemical factory to avoid being deported. He is also credited with protecting many Jews from the Nazi authorities. It was at this time that he began to feel the call to the priesthood. He started his studies for the priesthood in an underground seminary and eventually had to go into hiding from the Nazi authorities until the end of the war.

As a priest he became popular with young people and as Pope he started World Youth Day, which he and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta are now the patrons. As a bishop, he was involved in Vatican II, and had a role in preparing influential documents for the council. He also published his important book “Love and Responsibility”. As Archbishop he was influential in the writing of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

He was a walker, runner, kayaker and skier. As a cardinal he was asked if it was becoming for a cardinal to ski, his reply was, “It is unbecoming for a cardinal to ski badly”. He continued to run and weight train in the Vatican during the first few years of his pontificate.

His election as Pope was a surprise. He was the first non-Italian Pope in over 460 years. His energy and achievements as a Pope were outstanding. He travelled to 129 countries and fearlessly preached to all who would listen. Dictatorships fell after his visits, notably in Chile and Haiti and Paraguay. His support for the solidarity movement in Poland was the catalyst that brought down communism in Poland, which started a chain reaction in the eastern bloc countries.

St John Paul II sent out a call to defend life, faith and family before the Cairo conference on Population and Development, and as a result the attempt the make abortion a “human right” failed.

Wherever he went he attracted large crowds, as many as 5 million attended the 1995 world youth day in Manila, the Philippines. His funeral attracted 4 million to Rome, with over 250 000 within the Vatican.

Defence of life, faith and family was his personal mission. His weekly angelus audiences for the first years as Pope were devoted to the “theology of the body”. It’s a teaching that is slowly gaining popularity within the Catholic Church, and recently within other Christian Churches too.

St John Paul II was a priest, Pope, theologian, writer, poet, actor and sportsman. He wrote 14 encyclicals, beatified 1340, canonised 483 and improved relations with Judaism, Islam and other Christian denominations. He was shot and critically injured, but survived, then meet and forgave his attacker.

But he will be remembered as Pope Francis said, “the Pope of the family”.

NuvaRing – dying for contraception

Last year the ministry of health has approved a ‘new’ contraceptive device. Although it’s new to New Zealand, but has been around in the United States and Europe for more than 10 years, so we already know a lot about it. NuvaRing is a vaginal ring, designed to be ‘worn’ inside a women’s body for 3 weeks of the month. It contains the same type of chemicals that are found in the combined oral contraceptive pill. Being a device rather than a pill, it’s designed to deliver a constant low dose of hormones directly to the reproductive organs. There are two reasons for this. The first being convenience, not having to take a pill every day. And the second being to lower the concentrations of the synthetic hormones in the ‘contraceptive’. This is an attempt to reduce the side effects of these synthetic hormones.

These are major problems for hormonal contraceptives. More than half of oral contraceptive users stop taking the pill within 6 months, with side effects being a significant reason. So manufacturers are looking for ways to make lower dose contraceptives to reduce the side effects. And they are significant. For NuvaRing, the list of common side effects (>1/100 women) is long and disturbing.

Common Side effects:

Acne,

headache

migraine

depression

libido decreased

abdominal pain

nausea

toothache

weight gain

medical device discomfort

device expelled

breast tenderness

dysmenorrhoea (painful periods)

pelvic pain

vaginal discharge

genital pruritus female (itch)

vaginal infection

bronchitis

coughing

pharyngitis

rhinitis

sinusitis

Upper respiratory tract infection

allergic reaction

fever

influenza-like symptoms

That’s a lot for a women to have to put up with, especially since this medical device isn’t designed to treat any disease. The promoters of contraceptives typically balance their side effects against medical problems that can occur during pregnancy. This is a false comparison. It a women stops using one form of birth control, she often moves to a different method of birth control. As NuvaRing doesn’t treat a disease, this is really just another ‘lifestyle’ product, and it’s side effects should be compared to non-therapeutic products, not lifesaving medications.  I can’t imagine people putting up with a consumer product where large numbers of users stop using it after 6 months due to it causing medical problems. And that is exactly the case we have here. NuvaRing is a consumer product. Fertility is not a disease, and sex isn’t compulsory.

If a smartphone caused acne in some users, it would be withdrawn from the market. If a TV caused abdominal pain in 1% or more users, it would be redesigned to be safe. But because it’s a medicine to ‘treat’ the healthy state of fertility, we seem to be ok with the damage it causes.

But it’s one of the less common side effects that is really disturbing:- death.

Users of NuvaRing are six and half times more likely to suffer venous thrombosis (blood clots) than women who don’t use hormonal contraception. And venous thrombosis can be fatal. Even for those it doesn’t kill, it’s a serious medical event that leaves some of the survivors with ongoing health problems. Women using NuvaRing have died from blood clots. In the United States 2000 women have filed a NuvaRing lawsuit, and the FDA have received 5 500 reports of complications. This is unacceptable.

The makers of NuvaRing have attracted a lot of criticism because of their attempts supress information about the more troubling side effects. Hundreds of millions of dollars in profits are involved. Promoting NuvaRing is in the manufacturer’s best interests, it’s not in the best interested of women.

But there is an alternative. There is one form of birth control that doesn’t have any side effects. It doesn’t have a major corporation promoting it, so you might not have ever seen it promoted as a real option. It’s Natural Fertility Regulation. Not only is it free from side effects, it’s easy to learn, very effective, strengthens marriages, and empowers a woman with knowledge to take charge of her own fertility. It can also be used achieve a pregnancy. Isn’t it time you found out about it?

Professor says sex ed for boys needs to be ‘vulgar’

sex educationProfessor Alan McKee says that sex education classes aren’t reaching boys. And he has a point. You only need to look at our teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates to know that the current comprehensive sex education isn’t working. Unfortunately, he’s advocating more of the same failed approach with some rude and crude humour thrown in.

Explicit and comprehensive sex education is exactly what our children have been subjected to for decades, and we are yet to see its promise, of completely happy and healthy teenagers with dramatically lowered rates of abortions and sexually transmitted diseases.

Professor Alan McKee is a lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology, in the School of Media, Entertainment and Creative arts. He has recently taken an interest in pornography in the media, and he takes a very pro pornography stance. He has published several books, numerous journal articles, as well as articles in lay and ‘gay’ publications. Although his background is in television, he holds himself up as an authority on pornography, and its effects on people. He even claims that it can have positive effects.

And he thinks that rude and crude is exactly what boys need to learn about intimate relationships. Girls, he thinks get the information they need about sexual relationships from magazines and peer groups.

The subjects he wanted to cover proved a bit much for his comedians to find humour in at first. Given that they were ‘vulgar stand-up comedians’, that’s hardly the sort of material that is going to encourage responsibility and restraint.

However, professor McKee does make a couple of valid points, there are problems having boys and girls together in the same classroom, and expecting that they will learn in the same way. Also, he is willing to admit that the current approach is failing. And there might be something to the idea of using humour. But making it vulgar and explicit will only alienate some of the class, and encourage high risk and immoral sexual practices.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States has two suggestions for ‘safer’ sex that don’t make their way into sex education programs, or if they do they don’t get emphasised. The longer a young person waits before becoming sexually active, the better. And the fewer sexual partners, the less risk to the person. Chastity seems to fit that advice very well. Somehow I don’t think that advice is presented in professor McKee’s classes.

Virtue and Public Policy

family planning conference 2013Chastity has had a bad press of late. It almost sounds like something that should have been left in the Victorian era. But it still has an important role now.

A great example of this is the role chastity had in Uganda to bring down its high HIV infection rates. In 1991 it was estimated that 15% of the population was HIV positive. By 2007 the rate had dropped to an estimated 6% of the population, a rate of decrease that was not shared by the neighbouring countries.

The campaign that brought about that reversal emphasized abstinence before marriage and “be faithful” during marriage. This brought about dramatic reductions in sex outside of marriage. Condom use also increased in the early years of the campaign, but only to the same level as neighbouring countries which didn’t see the same drop in HIV rates. In recent years the rates have risen slightly, despite the increasing number of condoms being given away for free. There has also been a general complacency about the epidemic, and reduction on the “be faithful” message.

If there is any doubt about the benefit of promoting chastity, you only need to look the other African countries. Most of Africa has high rates of HIV, with the highest rates in the world in the south. The northern African countries have some of the lowest HIV rates in the world. What’s the difference? The Muslim northern countries strongly discourage sex outside of marriage, and this condemnation of extra-marital sex comes from the government level right down to the personal level.

It’s such a clear and simple message. We know how these infections are spread, and a change in behaviour can stop the spread. However, chastity is opposed by a large and very well-funded ‘reproductive rights’ movement.

New Zealand’s Family Planning Association are holding their “Family Planning Conference 2013” at Te Papa in Wellington 31 October to 2 November.

The first keynote speaker is the President of Planned parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), Cecile Richards. Her topic is “Building a sexual and reproductive health movement”. Her organisation and its affiliates preform about 330 000 abortions a year, and distributes pornographic sex education resources to school children. Planned Parenthood’s growth since its founding has coincided with the growth in numbers of abortions, increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases, as well the emergence and spread of new sexually transmitted diseases. In recent years Planned Parenthood has closed some of its clinics, but continue to perform increasing numbers of abortions.

Chastity is our oldest and most effective tool for fighting sexually transmitted diseases. It protected us before we had comprehensive sex education, condoms, laboratory testing for infection, antibiotics, and modern antiviral therapy. If we would just give it a chance, it would protect our societies from sexually transmitted diseases again. Unlike pills and devices, it protects the heart and soul too.