From today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, concerning 'abstinence-only*' education:
A leading group of pediatricians says teenagers need access to birth control and emergency contraception, not the abstinence-only* approach to sex education favored by religious groups and President Bush.
'Abstinence-only*' education is favored by 'religious groups and President Bush.' Hmm... Actually, I think there's more to it than that. I don't think that only 'religious groups' and 'President Bush' support an education in chastity. But I don't have the statistics on that, so I won't dwell on that point.
That brings me to a sticky point, though; it's sad to hear all the quotes in these stories about 'effectiveness' and 'evidence' in relation to abstinence or contraceptive education. Since when did our society become so utterly utilitarian? Does something become better or more right simply because it makes a number go up or down? What ever happened to a thing I (and the Catholic Church) like to call morality?
Effectiveness in reducing the teen pregnancy rate is not the test by which methods of education in sexuality are to be measured. Before consulting statistics and analyzing them to find the efficiency in certain educational styles, we must find whether certain teachings are opposed to Natural Law.
From the Catechism:
The fecundity of marriage
2366 Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. So the Church, which "is on the side of life" teaches that "each and every marriage act must remain open 'per se' to the transmission of life." "This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act."
2367 Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God. "Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty with a sense of human and Christian responsibility."
2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality: When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.
2369 "By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man's exalted vocation to parenthood."[156
2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self- observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil.
Also from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, concerning Natural Law: "The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted.") When man (or society) loses his connection with God and with Natural Law, he becomes truly imprisoned.
Basically, teaching contraception (even if there may be some good that comes from it) is wrong, because contraception is wrong. It is an intrinsically evil act. It intrudes on the law engraved on the heart of man by God Himself. No study, no statistical analysis, no survey—none of this—can change this fact.
*I don't like this use of 'abstinence-only'—it implies that there is more to be taught than 'just abstinence.' A better way of saying this is 'an education in chastity.' Or 'an education in proper and free sexuality' (but NOT the 'free' sexuality Planned Parenthood teaches, which, in fact, is very much opposed to true freedom through cooperation with the Natural Law!).