Thursday, 11 June 2009

Is the Archbishop of Westminster promoting evil?

The newly appointed Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols is, according to the Times, urging Catholics to oppose abortion and condom adverts on TV. Is this the action of a morally good person, one who is concerned with promoting desires that lead to behaviour that reduces social ills such as the spread of veneral disease, teenage pregnancies and abortions? Or are these the actions of a morally bad person, who is thereby indirectly promoting the opposite, by seeking to prevent others from using proven means to alleviate and address these social ills?

Epidemiological studies across countries and across states have repeatedly shown a positive correlation between measures of religiosity and such social ills. Now a correlation is not a causation and one should be skeptical of attempts to infer that religious believers are hypocritical based on such correlations. Still this is data that needs to be addressed. A plausible explanation is that this correlation is due to the indirect affect of certain religious beliefs on sex education, such as the promotion of demonstrably poor and failed policies such as abstinence programs, the encouragement of dismissing evidence that such programs fail, coupled with consequential issues such as the higher social stigmas against obtaining and encouraging condom use. There is, not surprisingly, a correlation between such programs and measures of religiosity such as church attendance and this is more likely a better explanation than hypocrisy, although I have yet to see practically conclusive evidence. Still we do have enough data to know about the relation of sex education and such social ills.

In the UK, whilst considerably better than religious countries and states, it still has the worse incidence of teenage pregnancies and VD in Europe and this is in need of an explanation. One cannot blame religiosity since the level is very low in this country. Whilst other factors need to examined such as the government policies on moral relativism, it is also a fact that there is a historical and, still presently, disproportional influence of such religious groups over some sexual education policies, partly due to the disproportional amount of state backed faith schools and so on.

In order to address such social ills and improve the situation to reduce both VD and unwanted pregnancies one goes to the experts in the field, and whilst not automatically accepting their argument -just because they are experts - one certainly needs to provide rational and evidential counter-arguments in order to indicate potential errors and mistakes in their claims. Through such debate progress and improvement in such issues can be dealt occur, to the benefit of reducing such social ills.

The experts, such as the independent Marie Stopes International, government advisers and a provider of abortion services in this country and the AIDS charity the Terrance Higgins Trust both support the update of UK advertising policies, as it will enable them to provide better and targeted TV advertising to help alleviate such ills. The Archbishop does not like this and is asking all Catholics respond to the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice proposals. By doing so he wants to prevent the relaxation of rules on condom advertising and he wants to prevent allowing pro-abortion services to advertise on television. Does he provide any valid criticism of such policies, any evidence to back up his opposition to such policy updates?
“I would appeal to Catholics to respond to the consultation. Two of the principles put forward are that advertisements should be truthful and tasteful.
“I doubt that any intended adverts about abortion would be fully truthful and tell the whole truth of the effects of abortion in a woman’s life. I seriously wonder if any advertisements for the use of condoms would be tasteful because the ones we have at the moment are demeaning of the young people of this country.
"They depict casual sex on the street corner and drunken sex. I do not think these things do anything to genuinely help young people to understand themselves in their own dignity and in the proper meaning of what human sexuality is about.
“I know the media likes to say its task is to reflect reality, but the media always has a responsibility to put something in front of people to which they can aspire and it has an educative function as well. I think often what is on the television screen in these matters sells the young people of this country woefully short.”
Is there anything apart from rhetoric in the above? Is there anything which refutes the arguments made by the experts that targeted adverts can help educate our young and encourage condom use, to benefit them - and us - by contributing to the reduction of the spread venereal diseases and unwanted pregnancy? Or is it just his opinion as a leader of 4.2 million Catholics in this country? He is the leader of the U.K. Catholic Church, he is a professional who has no excuse not to be aware of the effects of his actions on alleviating such social ills. Is he more concerned with promoting the ideology of his church or of helping those in need? What path does he take if these needs conflict,as it appears they do here? He has not chosen silence. Can he honestly and ethically claim that he is using and not abusing his position to influence government policies to help the social ills of this country or does he only care about promoting his Catholic ideology, regardless of the facts?

Given his past history forcing the Government to change its mind over non-religious quotas for faith schools and campaigned against gay adoptions, what else is any unbiased person to conclude that the Archbishop is a hypocrite, even if he is self deluded - that is inexcusable for someone in his position of influence. He is in his position as a purported moral leader and many look up to him for guidance and will follow his advice. He is trusted to provide morally good advice and not morally evil advice. Is he worthy of this trust?

So are his actions here the behaviour of a good person - of someone who seeks to reduce venereal disease and the illnesses and deaths that results, to reduce unwanted pregnancies and the unhappiness and hardship these cause? Or are these the actions of an bad person - of someone who wishes to prevent the reduction of venereal disease, to allow and not alleviate the resultant illness and deaths to occurs, to prevent the reduction in unwanted pregnancies, to allow and not alleviate the unhappiness and hardship these cause? Surely one would say that the deliberate and wilful actions of someone who seeks to prevent the reduction of ignorance, hardship, pregnancy illness, and death are the certainly actions of a bad person but also because the Archbishop has considerable influence to make this true and is deliberately using such influence in this fashion, surely these are the actions of an evil person, of a person who promotes evil?

Far from following his advice, Catholics and non-Catholics should strongly object to his promotion of evil, to criticise and condemn his actions. Catholics and non-Catholics, if they care about the the social health of this country should transcend their own personal view and positively respond to the policy changes to increase the chance of reducing illnesses and deaths. These are the actions of persons who seek to promote good over evil. Which are you?


The Brighton To London Poet said...

countries like Australia are a great example of the positive effects of sex education, they managed to control the spread of HIV in the 80's and 90's because of their stringent education policies and because the gay community mobilised themselves and found ways of getting govt money to educate educate educate...did i say educate enough...once more for the dummies EDUCATE! it's not that bloody hard.

faithlessgod said...

Thanks this is just further evidence to support the benefits of honest sex eduction.