By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

  CALGARY, September 30, 2008 ( – Calgary’s Roman Catholic Bishop Fred Henry challenged Alberta’s health minister Ron Liepert after the minister “ranted and raved” to the media over the decision of two Alberta Catholic school boards against providing the HPV vaccine in their schools. Henry said Liepert should have consulted with Catholic leaders before speaking publicly.

  Liepert retorted that Bishop Henry should have consulted with Alberta health officials before asking Catholic schools not to participate in the program, according to a Canwest report.

“I would suggest Fred Henry should look in the mirror before he starts talking about people who are irresponsible,” Liepert said.

  Human papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted virus linked with cervical cancer.

  The Alberta HPV vaccination program targets girls entering grade 5 this year and will be expanded to include Grade 9 girls starting in September 2009.

  Speaking to the Calgary Herald, Bishop Henry said the health minister “paints a most extreme picture that we’re exposing young people to cervical cancer,” and charged that the health minister “doesn’t think there are moral implications to this issue.”

  Trustees with the Calgary Catholic School District and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Board near Edmonton voted against participating in the vaccination program citing moral concerns and safety issues of the use of the vaccine.

  FDA reports have shown many deaths associated with the vaccine in its first year of use, hundreds of hospitalizations and well over 3500 reported adverse effects.

  Bishop Henry said the Catholic bishops of Alberta are concerned not only about the harmful side-effects associated with the vaccine, but very particularly about the conflicting message the vaccination program sends to young girls about chastity and sexual promiscuity and about putting schools in a position of “grave moral compromise.”

“Catholic teaching is that sexuality is a God-given gift that should be reserved to marriage,” they said in a press release in June, warning parents that consenting to this vaccination was condoning pre-marital sex.

  St. Thomas Aquinas board chair Sandra Bannard said in a CBC report, “When a school board or anyone else allows something to go on in their schools, it’s almost seen as an endorsement. They just didn’t want to go down that road, and thought it was more appropriate that this be a parental choice and families decide what’s best to do for their daughters.”

  Bishop Henry said that Alberta Health already offers the vaccine at clinics, noting the successful inoculation program of youth in health clinics during a 2001 outbreak of meningococcal disease.

“It’s very easy to say, ‘Let’s throw it into the schools,’ ” Bishop Henry told the Calgary Herald.  “What they did was opt for convenience.”

  A few Ontario school boards have refused to administer the vaccine on school property.

  The Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board rejected the STD vaccine on moral grounds, saying that sexually transmitted diseases are best prevented by abstinence.

  Trustee Grace Tridico told the Globe and Mail, “When someone says one thing and does another you’re called a hypocrite. Teaching abstinence and supporting the HPV vaccine clinics, for me is a clear case of hypocrisy.”

  The Halton Catholic School Board, after first approving the vaccination program, reversed its decision on grounds that the administration of HPV vaccines in Catholic schools conveys “contradictory” messages to Catholic teachings on sexuality.

  Halton Board student representative Erin Gamble noted the incongruity. “I’m taught every day to save myself for marriage and practice abstinence,” said the 16-year-old.

  Had the three student reps on the Halton board been allowed to vote, the board would have rejected the HPV vaccine from the start.

  Pro-life groups have urged a boycott against Merck, the company which makes the Gardasil brand HPV vaccine used in Canada, since it is a major supporter of Planned Parenthood.

  Read related coverage:
  Ontario Catholic School Board Rejects HPV Vaccine on School Premises

  School Board Official Changes Mind – Now Opposes HPV Vaccine in Schools

  One U.K. Catholic School Stands against HPV Vaccination


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