Sunday, 6 December 2009

Times: National sexual health policy

Sunday, 6th December 2009 by Kevin Papagiorcopulo, Communications officer, Archdiocese of Malta, Floriana

With regard to the report 'Malta burying head in sand on sexual health' (The Sunday Times, November 29), I would like to make the following comments.

At just 24 hours' notice, WHO adviser John Richens asked to meet the Archbishop for a private visit. Time was made in the Archbishop's tight schedule for a 30-minute meeting at 7.45 a.m. Dr Richens was accompanied by an official from the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Department.

During the conversation, the Archbishop asked Dr Richens regarding a sexual activity questionnaire given to schoolchildren: "Does the Catholic Church, and for that matter, any other organisation, have a right to its own ethos when educating children of parents who freely opt to send their children to Catholic schools?"

The Church and Health Department representatives have reached an agreement about this questionnaire.

As regards 'prevention' campaigns, the Archbishop asked Dr Richens about results of similar campaigns that have already been carried out in other countries. Referring to results in the UK, Dr Richens said the campaign had not been successful and that both sexually-transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies were on the increase.

Dr Richens mentioned the Netherlands as an example where the campaign was deemed successful with regard to teenage pregnancies.

Actual percentages were not mentioned, but the Archbishop asked whether teenage abortions were also taken into account when presenting percentages on teenage pregnancies. Dr Richens promised he would send information on this issue.

The Archbishop said that the Church has been, and would continue, providing support to alleviate this problem through its teachings, and by campaigning against promiscuity and in favour of marital faithfulness and a holistic commitment in sexual relationships.

The Archbishop mentioned that, unfortunately, youngsters have to try to implement these values despite being continuously bombarded by completely different ideas and messages on sexuality and sexual activity.

The Archbishop apologised for the shortness of the meeting and told Dr Richens he would be only too glad to meet for another, longer meeting when Dr Richens was back on the island.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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