Simon Harris, the Minister for Health in Ireland, called out a Catholic bishop who said the vaccine for cervical cancer-causing Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) could make young girls more promiscuous. Harris called the comments “ignorant.”
The Catholic bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Bishop Phonsie Cullinan, said the HPV vaccine “changes the mentality” and “gets people to think they are fully protected against cervical cancer when they are not.” Cullinan echoed similar concerns voiced by Canadian bishops, who warned about the “moral implications” of the vaccine.
Cullinan said on Thursday that the HPV vaccine, which prevents certain types of cancer in young boys and girls, was a “lifestyle issue.” Harris responded a day later, warning people to listen to medical professionals — as opposed to theologians — when it comes to cancer and vaccines.
However speaking as he addressed a conference of cancer survivors in Dublin on Friday afternoon Mr Harris said, “people should listen to doctors and — funnily enough — not bishops”.
The Minister departed from his official script to say “some of this week’s attempts by the bishop to purport to be a medical expert have been extraordinarily disappointing, extraordinarily dangerous and damaging to a very important public health campaign”.
Harris went even further, explaining that the vaccine has been reviewed by the World Health Organisation, the European Commission, and the EU’s Medicines Agency. He again stressed the importance of listening to doctors over bishops when it comes to life-or-death medical situations.
“We’ve a drug in the country that saves girls’ lives from cancer. Three hundred women in the country this year will get cervical cancer.
“Bishops I’m sure have many good qualities. Medical doctors they are not.”
“And if anybody wants medical advice, talk to a medical expert. That’s where I get my medical advice from, not from the church.”
Fortunately, Harris isn’t the only one calling out the bishops’ outdated ideas that value biblical “morality” above the lives of children. Minister of State and Waterford TD John Halligan accused Cullinan of trying to “conflate the clinical value of the HPV vaccine with the Church’s views on the need to ‘help young people stay chaste’.”
“I know only too well — and have enormous respect for — the excellent work that Bishop Cullinan does in the Waterford community. He is a man of great integrity. But he is fundamentally wrong in his comments on the HPV vaccine, which go against a massive body of medical and scientific evidence. And his attempts to weigh in on a medical argument are ill-advised, to say the least.
“Religion has no place in medical debate and the Catholic Church’s track record on the medical welfare of Irish women speaks for itself,” said Mr Halligan.
It’s so nice to see people around the world standing up not just for the importance of the scientific consensus, but also for secular ideals.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Geoff for the link)