By Hilary White

HONG KONG, December 21, 2007 ( – Sex education can be based on sound moral principles as well as accurate information and does not have to include information about immoral practices or contraception, says a prominent Hong Kong churchman. Joseph Cardinal Zen, the Catholic bishop of Hong Kong has published a pastoral letter for Advent entitled “Love life, a Gift of God” in which he said, “Sex education cannot be anything other than education with value orientation. The so-called value-free idea is already a value choice”.

“When a person suggests that abortion, the termination of an innocent life, is a solution for a young girl facing an unexpected pregnancy, they have already presented a set of life values,” Cardinal Zen said.

The Cardinal announced that the diocese would launch a pro-life and pro-family project and invited young people and adults to write on the subject. Zenit Catholic news service reports that the Cardinal’s comments come in response to a push for more contraception-oriented sex education for young people. This would include recommendations for “timely abortions” in cases of unexpected teen pregnancies.

The Cardinal decried the inversion of moral values that talk about marriage and family life in terms of “repression”. “This kind of talk is truly regrettable,” he said. The Cardinal pointed to the conviction of modern psychology that “self-mastery” is a key to a mature personality. “We educate students to self-discipline and train in order to achieve academic and physical advancement. Why do we exclude self-discipline in psychosexual development?”

In his letter the Cardinal held the family to be the primary educators of children who have an innate right to protect them. “Schools and other social structures should strengthen parents’ responsibilities and capacities of sex education, not supplant them,” he wrote. 

“It is no mystery for those who dare to face reality, that in this, our city, the high rate of divorce, the easy access to abortion procedures and the low birth-rate are cause for much worry about our future.”

Hong Kong currently suffers one of the highest abortion rates in the developed world with nearly 30 per cent of pregnancies ending in the child’s death by abortion. According to 2001 statistics, there were 20,235 abortions and 49,144 births in the city. 29 per cent of pregnancies therefore ended up being aborted. This rate was followed that year by the US at 24.4 per cent, followed by Canada at 24.3 per cent and Australia at 23.7 per cent.

The Gospel of Life is not limited to Catholics, he wrote, but “must embrace all of society”.

“The Gospel of life is for all: are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We must spread the message of love from the rooftops, if we do not shout out our convictions; the message of the Gospel may be silenced”.

The Hong Kong diocese has about 240,000 Catholics and an average of 4,000 baptisms per year. Sunday religious services are offered in 99 places, and there are 317 Catholic schools in the diocese. Cardinal Zen was appointed as the bishop of the diocese of Hong Kong in 2002 and elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006. He is well known as an outspoken advocate for freedom of religion and human rights. He has often attracted strong criticism from the governing Communist Party of China for his fearless defence of human rights and the rights of the family.