I love the way Pope Benedict XVI speaks and writes. He is clear and direct and uses beautiful analogies to help us understand Christ and Church teaching.
One example of this was a touching address he gave to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square last summer. The story made headlines in both the Christian and secular media. Pope Benedict expressed the need to get our "passports" ready for heaven. He was reflecting on the Gospel of the "narrow gate." The pope said to get to heaven one needs a "passport" stamped with humility, mercy and truth.
"The gate is narrow because it is demanding," Pope Benedict told the audience. "It requires commitment, self-denial and mortification of one's own egoism."
Compare those moving statements to a recent news story that promoted a passport of a much different kind -- to promiscuity. It's called the "Safe Sex Passport," which, according to company statements, is a "confidential and digitally secure" identification-card system that allows the cardholder to share his or her STD (sexually transmitted disease) test results with a partner before any "intimate activities" take place.
For a monthly fee, the information is accessed by using a security code and passport serial number. The owner of BioAnalytics Inc, the card's creator, says that with 15.3 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases occurring each year in this country alone he was compelled to develop what he called an "outside the box approach to prevent the spread of STDs and HIV."
"The Safe Sex Passport is designed to meet the needs of today's adult population by providing a new level of dating confidence, disclosure and personal health protection, both in person and online," Gonzolo Paternoster said in a statement.
What caught my attention was the way the story or idea was recently pitched to the media. The release was sent out just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made headlines with its study on the high rates of STDs among young girls. The CDC reported that one in four teenage girls in the United States have been infected with at least one sexually transmitted disease. At the bottom of the media release for the card was a postscript from the company's public information officer that read: "With the new study just released by the CDC that 1 in 4 teenage girls have an STD, this is the perfect story!"
How sad that this company doesn't see the bottom line here. This is not a matter of passing judgment on the owner of this firm that developed the passport. He probably believes that he is offering a solution to a major problem plaguing our society today. But his passport is encouraging, not discouraging, people to engage in immoral and unsafe activity.
The only "safe sex" occurs, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us, exclusively between a man and a woman in marriage. The Church is proved right, whether it's with this latest study from the CDC or other studies regarding sexual activity outside of marriage. Yes, as the pope stressed in his address last summer, the gate is narrow, and it requires self-denial and self-control but God's plan is the best plan for us in all areas of our lives.
In the area of sexuality, following Church teaching keeps us not only safe from serious or even deadly diseases, but safe spiritually and morally as well. It's another stamp, as Pope Benedict would say, on our "passport to heaven."
Teresa Tomeo is the host of Catholic Connection, produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.