Warning!! This Blog post is meant for adults only or parents with their teens. Contains information inappropriate for our youth.
Institutionalized Structures of Sin
In his Apostolic Letter Evangelii Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI stated that in society there are some sins that are so entrenched in the culture that they become part of the fabric and structure of the society. John Paul II continued this discussion of institutionalized societal sin in his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis which called for Christians to come together in solidarity to overcome and evangelize these structures.
One of the many modern deep-seated structures of sin in our country is contraception. In 1930, Pope Pius XI promulgated the encyclical Casti Connubii which also prophesied the intrinsic link between contraception and abortion. Unfortunately, the statistics have proven him accurate. Yesterday, the Washington Post brought to our attention the recently published 118-page report: National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) in its article, The Checkup – Survey reveals America’s Sexual Activity, Condom Use. The good news is that it was impartially funded (note the sarcasm in Q’s typing) by Church & Dwight Co. Inc., maker of Trojan® brand sexual health products There were a number of co-authors that included Stephanie Sanders of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction and the Department of Gender Studies at IU (to see the full list of co-authors go to the NSSBH web site provided above). We MUST take note of this study and be familiar with its findings. Not because we agree with it but because it will influence our public health policy for several generations:
This survey is one of the most expansive nationally representative studies of sexual behavior and condom use ever conducted, given the 80-year span of ages,” said Michael Reece, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion. “These data about sexual behaviors and condom use in contemporary America are critically needed by medical and public health professionals who are on the front lines addressing issues such as HIV, sexually transmissible infections, and unintended pregnancy. (Source: Washington Post)
The study had a number of key findings but recognizing that your time is precious, let me highlight four using the following direct quotes from the introduction to the study on the NSSBH Web site:
- According to the study’s findings, 1 of 4 acts of vaginal intercourse are condom protected in the U.S. (1 in 3 among singles)
- [F]indings show that condoms are used twice as often with casual sexual partners as with relationship partners, a trend that is consistent for both men and women across age groups that span 50 years.
- When it comes to responsible sexual behaviors, condom use is higher among black and Hispanic Americans than among white Americans and those from other racial groups.
- Many surveys of adolescent sexual behavior create an impression that adolescents are becoming sexually active at younger ages, and that most teens are sexually active,” said Dr. Fortenberry. “Our data show that partnered sexual behaviors are important but by no means pervasive aspects of adolescents’ lives. In fact, many contemporary adolescents are being responsible by abstaining or by using condoms when having sex.
We should note that the first bullet illustrates a seemly low use of contraceptives -specifically condoms. Two important points. The first and most important observation is that the study finds usage of condoms an unacceptably low percentage:
These data about sexual behaviors and condom use in contemporary America are critically needed by medical and public health professionals who are on the front lines addressing issues such as HIV, sexually transmissible infections, and unintended pregnancy. (Emphasis mine)
This data, when compared to other studies in the recent past, suggest that although condom use has increased among some groups, efforts to promote the use of condoms to sexually active individuals should remain a public health priority.
The study also seems to indicate that it is evidently critical that among the terrible diseases that ravage the human person listed (usually contracted through intimate relations), pregnancy should be included. I am reminded that when my oldest was born in 1995, I was unable to get insurance coverage when I changed jobs. The insurance company determined that the pregnancy was a preexisting condition sharing the same status as cancer (which is also wrong to deny coverage). While too late for me, thankfully, the laws changed in June 1995. Or, even more serious, when my wife and I were overjoyed finding out that she was pregnant with our fourth, the doctors, nurses, phlebotomy technicians and even admin assistants continued to ask her if she wants to keep the child since we already had three (Did I move to China?). Needless to say, Kaiser Permanente in Fairfax, VA received a number of phone calls with documented abuses of HIPAA and conduct unbecoming. More to the point, the researchers in their analysis, extrapolate that obviously we need to promote better the use of condoms and it must remain a public health priority. I don’t want to be cynical (yes, I do) but could the need for increased awareness be that Trojan is the principle funder of the study? I work for an advertising company and I believe that we call this “increasing your market share” – just thinking out loud.
The second point is when you weed through the research you find that condom use is considerably higher for the most vulnerable – just not for vaginal intercourse AND for those over the age of 25. Among our youth it is 79.1 percent for men and 58.1 percent for women between the ages of 14-17 (See Condom Use Graph). Our young adults between 18-24: 45.0 (m) and 38.7 (f). Across all age-groups, the average percentage is closer to 33 percent for men and 29 percent for women. For your reading pleasure, notice the statistics are much higher for non-vaginal intercourse.
The fact that condom use among causal partners than those with “relationship partners” – whatever that means – is twice as high in not encouraging. This should really point out to us that there is a whole population out there that is starving for love. As odd as what I am about to state sounds, it is secondary to a rampant trend that my wife and I have observed among the young adults and youth. We are growing a society of users. While being very efficient and profitable for a business the damage that is done emotionally, physically and relationally can only be described as epic. What we see in relationships (not sexual or among dating but familial and even in business) is a take-what-fulfills-my-need and then discard. I guess we are greener than we thought, recycling all the time- even people. A corollary to this is that our young adults and youth are not forming relationships that are healthy and beneficial. What do I mean? True friends and family are not meant to give you what you want or make you feel good about yourself all the time. They and give you what you need. This poor self-image society first must embrace the good, bad and the ugly about themselves in order to become who God has created them to be.
Well, how is not forming permanent relationships that tell the truth -verbally and with your body – responsible. As we know (for those who have never considered this before), the very act of intimacy says I give my myself totally and completely to you, without reservation. Contraception says, I give myself totally and completely to you, except…We are lying with our bodies. I wonder why the study did not point out that Health and Human Services as well as USAID (on an international level) have always targeted minority populations. Sounds a little Margaret Sanger to me.
On the positive side (yep, I found something), the study does use the word abstinence. It even links it to the words responsible and condom (Shoots! I was being positive). Well, I am glad that among our youth there are those who are abstaining. That being said, it is irresponsible for our youth to be sexually active. That does not make them adults, it makes them starved for attention and love. It also is a great indicator that we are failing them and they are being catechized in the art of sexual usury. Where is the prime source of catechesis – arguably, entertainment. I could lay out a case for this but it seems among all the topics we Catholics want to confront, we remain cowards when it pertains to our television, movie and music habits. For some reason, we believe that once we hit a certain age, the images and music no longer affect us. I think that if this is the case, then let the two-year old watch, listen, say and do what they want – we are just arguing about age not holiness.
Looking to the Future
I highly encourage everyone to read, digest and make an active choice to respond to this study. It will shape our health and education policy for years to come. As Catholic Christians we need push back, re-educate and evangelize. The truth is resplendent – but we first need to embody it. Cultures are changed one person at a time and sometimes we have sweeping changes through politics and great moves of God. Do your part. The lines have been drawn and the battle has begun. So, where are you going to start?