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ON HUMAN SEXUALITY: A RESPONSE OF THE HOLY SEE TO PARENTS
by Msgr. John F. McCarthy
In The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality (dated 8 December) published 20 December, 1995, the Pontifical Council for the Family has "blown the whistle" on the imposition of detailed and explicit sex-education upon children and adolescents outside of the home. Documents of the Church both past and present have consistently affirmed that the forming and informing of the sexual attitudes of children belongs by right to their parents, but this truth has been violated with increasing frequency in our time by professional educators and others. Now the Council for the Family has placed a note of finality on the issue and has called directly upon parents everywhere to take in hand the right and responsibility that is theirs. While "sex-education" in the sense of the cultivation in students of growth towards chaste manhood and womanhood through instruction in the moral teachings of the Church remains, as always, a function of Catholic classrooms, the new document virtually excludes classroom "sex-education" in the sense of the presentation of intimate details and aspects of genital behavior and entirely excludes any material that is apt to raise erotic images in the minds of the students.
1. THE RIGHT AND DUTY OF PARENTS.
The proclamation that the sexual education of children is the right and duty of parents and is to be given by the parents in the atmosphere of the home should not have come as a surprise to anyone. Yet it has come as a surprise to many. On this crucial issue genuine confusion had arisen in the Church because of a misreading of what Vatican Council II proclaimed in its Declaration on Christian Education (Gravissimum educationis, no. 1). The Second Vatican Council declared that "as they grow older, they [children and young people] should receive a positive and prudent education in matters relating to sex," and from this pronouncement many educators and others came to believe that Vatican II had mandated what Pope Pius XI had earlier condemned, namely, that children and young people should be instructed in the classroom about the details of human genital activity. Now the Pontifical Council for the Family has brought out a lengthy treatise and guide for parents in which it is made abundantly clear that the taking over of the sexual education of children by the schools is not what the Second Vatican Council meant by this pronouncement.
As this new document points out: "The Church has always affirmed that parents have the duty and the right to be the first and the principal educators of their children" (no. 5). Thus, Can. 793.1 of the 1983 revised Code of Canon Law affirms: "Parents, and those who take their place, have both the obligation and the right to educate their children. Catholic parents have also the duty and the right to choose those means and institutes which, in their local circumstances, can best promote the Catholic education of their children." Can. 796.2 goes on to say: "There must be the closest cooperation between parents and the teachers to whom they entrust their children to be educated. In fulfilling their task, teachers are to collaborate closely with the parents and willingly listen to them; associations and meetings of parents are to be set up and held in high esteem." Again, Can. 798 states the rule: "Parents are to send their children to those schools which will provide for their Catholic education. If they cannot do this, they are bound to ensure the proper Catholic education of their children outside the school."
The Second Vatican Council, in its Declaration on Christian Education (no. 3), presents the same basic truth: "As it is the parents who have given life to their children, on them lies the greatest obligation of educating their family. They must therefore be recognized as being primarily and principally responsible for their education. The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute." The Second Vatican Council here refers the reader to Pope Pius XI's encyclical On the Christian Education of Youth (Divini illius Magistri, AAS 22 , p. 50 ff.), and to two declarations of Pope Pius XII.
In narrating the truth about human sexuality, the newly published document of the Council for the Family (nos. 41-42) refers parents to this declaration of Vatican Council II, restated by Pope John Paul II in Familiaris consortio (1981): "The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the living relationship between parents and children; and it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others" (no. 36). This right and duty of parents is expressed also in the Charter of Rights of the Family (art. 5) and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2221 ff.).
The problem treated in the present document is the widespread usurpation, especially by professional educators and by the mass media, of the right of parents to educate their children in matters relating to human sexuality. In times past, when explicit sexual education was not customary, the children were objectively protected by the values implanted in the surrounding culture, but now no longer, and the truth about man has been obscured by such things as the "pressure to reduce sex to something commonplace." The mass media invade homes with "depersonalized, recreational and often pessimistic information" for which young persons are not prepared, in a context "lacking the basic values of life, human love and the family." Schools have undertaken programs of sex-education in place of the family, "most of the time, with the aim of only providing information," sometimes resulting in a real "deformation of consciences." In this situation, says the Council for the Family, "many Catholic parents turn to the Church to take up the task of providing guidance and suggestions for educating their children," pointing out "their difficulties when they are confronted by teaching given at school and thus brought into the home by their children." Thus, this guide for parents has been issued in response to their "repeated and pressing requests" (all stated in no. 1).
The same document of the Council for the Family goes on to stress the right and duty of parents to form their children in chaste love (no. 41), basing its position upon the following teaching of Pope John Paul II:
... the educational service of parents must aim firmly at a training in the area of sex which is truly and fully personal: for sexuality is an enrichment of the whole person - body, emotions and soul - and it manifests its inmost meaning in leading the person to the gift of self in love. Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centres chosen and controlled by them. In this regard, the Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents. In this context education for chastity is absolutely essential, for it is a virtue that develops a person's authentic maturity and makes him or her capable of respecting and fostering the 'nuptial meaning' of the body. Indeed, Christian parents, discerning the signs of God's call, will devote special attention and care to education in virginity or celibacy as the supreme form of that self-giving that constitutes the very meaning of human sexuality. In view of the close links between the sexual dimension of the person and his or her ethical values, education must bring the children to a knowledge of and respect for the moral norms as the necessary and highly valuable guarantee for responsible personal growth in human sexuality. For this reason the Church is firmly opposed to an often widespread form of imparting sex information dissociated from moral principles. That would merely be an introduction to the experience of pleasure and a stimulus leading to the loss of serenity - while still in the years of innocence - by opening the way to vice (Familiaris consortio, no. 37).
The document of the Council for the Family bemoans, with Pope John Paul II, "certain sexual education programmes introduced into the schools, often notwithstanding the disagreement and even the protests of many parents" (no. 24). The primary task of the family carries with it for parents the right that their children not be obliged at school to take part in courses regarding sexual life which are not in accord with their own religious and moral convictions (no. 49). The document recommends to parents that they follow attentively every kind of sexual education that is given to their children outside of the home and that they withdraw them whenever this does not correspond with their own principles (no. 117).
The document allows that there are various ways in which professional educators can assist parents in this task, but "such assistance never means taking away from the parents or diminishing their formative right and duty," because this remains "original and primary," "irreplaceable and inalienable." In keeping with the principle of subsidiarity and, therefore, with due subordination and in the proper order of things, educators and others outside of the home may assist parents in their task of sexual education, but "it is clear that the assistance of others must be given first and foremost to parents rather than to their children" (no. 145).
2. AGAINST CLASSROOM SEX-EDUCATION.
The classic warning against harmful and inopportune classroom sex-education is that given by Pope Pius XI on 31 December, 1929, in his great encyclical On the Christian Education of Youth:
Another very grave danger is that naturalism which nowadays invades the field of education in that most delicate matter of purity of morals. Far too common is the error of those who with dangerous assurance and under an ugly term propagate a so-called sex-education, falsely imagining they can forearm youth against the dangers of sensuality by means purely natural, such as a foolhardy initiation and precautionary instruction for all indiscriminately, even in public; and, worse still, by exposing them at an early age to the occasions, in order to accustom them, so it is argued, and as it were to harden them against such dangers.
Because the Second Vatican Council called for a "positive and prudent education in matters relating to sex," many educators came to believe that this was a mandate for the inclusion of courses regarding human genital behavior in the academic programs of the schools, but the teaching of the Universal Church even since the Second Vatican Council has been that the parents are the prime educators of their children, so that Vatican II was simply calling upon parents to recognize their duty in this regard. The present document of the Council for the Family speaks directly to parents to encourage them in this task, following the lead of Pope John Paul II. While Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII laid some stress upon the discreet and opportune instruction of their children by parents in the home, Vatican II saw a stronger need because of the growing attacks upon the chastity of children from sources outside of the home, and thus it saw a greater need for parents to intervene.
Such persons grievously err in refusing to recognize the inborn weakness of human nature, and the law of mind (Romans 7:23), and also in ignoring the experience of facts, from which it is clear that, particularly in young people, evil practices are the effect not so much of ignorance of intellect as of weakness of a will exposed to dangerous occasions, and unsupported by the means of grace.
In this extremely delicate matter, if, all things considered, some private instruction is found necessary and opportune, from those who hold from God the commission to teach and have the grace of state, every precaution must be taken. Such precautions are well known in traditional Christian education, and are described adequately by Antoniano cited above, when he says:
"Such is our misery and inclination to sin, that often in the very things considered to be remedies against sin, we find occasions for and inducements to sin itself. Hence it is of the highest importance that a good father, while discussing with his son a matter so delicate, should be well on his guard and not descend to details, nor refer to the various ways in which this infernal hydra destroys with its poison so large a portion of the world; otherwise it may happen that instead of extinguishing this fire, he unwittingly stirs or kindles it in the simple and tender heart of the child. Speaking generally, during the period of childhood it suffices to employ those remedies which produce the double effect of opening the door to the virtue of purity and closing the door upon vice" (Divini illius Magistri, nos. 65-67).
This instruction of the Council for the Family has been issued to make parents aware of the "sexual revolution" that since the 1960s has been militating against the responsible use of sexuality in the family while promoting an alleged right to sexual pleasure for its own sake. Cardinal López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, announcing the document in an article in the daily edition of L'Osservatore Romano (21 December, 1995), says that the "sexual revolution" is aimed at the separation of the sexual act from its true meaning, even on the part of married couples, and thus fosters a betrayal of spousal love. Countless young people, he says, have been swept away by this avalanche of unbridled pleasure. The effect of this revolution has been that human society is becoming constantly more "eroticized." He notes that "scientific research itself has become the slave of industry to serve, with the successes of its investigations, a commercial view of life in which profit seems to be the only real purpose, and this is placed above the good of persons and of society." The sexual revolution "was pushed forward and accelerated by new scientific discoveries, in particular that of the [abortifacient] 'pill.' " And so, he adds, "the opulent society, driven by the euphoria of hedonism, has offered, outside of the family and with an outlook not inspired for the good of the person but for the consumption of goods, the sex-market and sex as theater and pastime (loisir)."
From the above-cited passage it is clear what kind of "sex-education" was excluded by Pope Pius XI, namely: a) recourse to merely natural means with no attention to the supernatural order of things or the actual condition of fallen and redeemed mankind; b) foolhardy initiation and precautionary instruction for all indiscriminately, even in public; c) exposing children to the occasions of sin with the pretext of "hardening them" against dangers; d) overlooking the weakness of will that children normally have; e) descent into details with the danger of enkindling lust in the simple and tender heart of the child. In describing "the situation today" (1983), the Congregation for Catholic Education, in its instruction entitled Educational Guidance in Human Love (pages 5-6) points out that this teaching of Pope Pius XI declared "information of a naturalist character, precociously and indiscriminately imparted" to be wrong and harmful. Developments of the idea of "individual, positive sex education" before Vatican II never challenged this teaching and always considered such education to be "within the ambit of the family" (ibid.). But because Familiaris consortio in 1981 and Educational Guidance in Human Love in 1983 spoke of the role of "educational centers" and the task of "the school" with regard to sex-education, many educators came erroneously to believe that for practical purposes the initiative in the sexual formation of children was being transferred from the parents to the school. To recognize this error more completely, it is useful to consider the role of the school in the moral formation of children and the meaning of the expression 'sex-education.'
Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical On the Christian Education of Youth, points out that "education belongs preeminently to the Church" (no. 15). Hence, the Church has a right "to decide what may help or harm Christian education" (no. 18). Thus, he says, "the mission of education regards before all, above all, primarily, the Church and the family, and this by natural and divine law ..." (no. 40). In fact, it is "the inalienable right as well as the indispensable duty of the Church to watch over the entire education of her children, in all institutions, public or private ... in so far as religion and morality are concerned" (no. 23). But the "first natural and necessary element" in the educational environment of the child "is the family" (no. 71). For this reason, Pope Pius XI calls the attention of bishops and others to "the present-day lamentable decline in family education" (no. 73) and he implores "pastors of souls, by every means in their power, by instructions and catechisms, by word of mouth and written articles widely distributed, to warn Christian parents of their grave obligations," not just in general, but "with practical and specific application to the various responsibilities of parents touching the religious, moral and civil training of their children" (no. 74). "Let it be borne in mind," he says, that since the school is "an institution subsidiary and complementary to the family and the Church, it follows logically that "it must not be in opposition to, but in positive accord with those other two elements, and form with them a perfect moral union, constituting one sanctuary of education, as it were, with the family and the Church. Otherwise it is doomed to fail of its purpose, and to become instead an agent of destruction" (no. 77).
In the light of these distinctions, it becomes clear that Educational Guidance in Human Love did not advocate the transfer of information about human genital behavior from the family to the classroom; it simply gave advice as to how parents as educators in sexuality can better form their children and how professional teachers can assist parents in the general area of character formation. Thus, what the Congregation for Catholic Education actually said in Educational Guidance in Human Love is that "the rôle of the school should be that of assisting and completing the work of parents, furnishing children and adolescents with an evaluation of 'sexuality as value and task of the whole person, created male and female in the image of God' " (no. 69, quoting Familiaris consortio, no. 32). Here, then, what is directly in focus is "the whole person," not genital behavior as a supposed subject in itself.
To clarify this, Educational Guidance in Human Love also says (again quoting from Familiaris consortio) that "Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must also be carried out under their attentive guidance" according to "the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents" (no. 17). It says that "education, in the first place, is the duty of the family," which is "the best environment to accomplish the obligation of securing a gradual education in sexual life" (no. 48). It also declares that "with regard to the more intimate aspects, whether biological or affective, an individual education should be bestowed, preferably within the sphere of the family" (no. 58). Only, then, "if parents do not feel able to perform this duty, may they have recourse to others who enjoy their confidence" (no. 59). Where the school is called upon to intervene in matters relating to sexuality, "individual [not classroom] sex education always retains prior value and cannot be entrusted indiscriminately to just any member of the school community," but "requires from the teacher outstanding sensitivity in initiating the child and adolescent in the problems of love and life without disturbing their psychological development" (no. 71). Groups, and above all mixed groups, "require special precautions," so that, "in each case, the responsible authorities must examine with parents the propriety of proceeding in such a manner" (no. 72).
The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality applies these principles by declaring that the school should not require pupils to assist at courses which are not in accord with the parents' "religious and moral convictions" (no. 64). It advises parents to withdraw their children from every form of sex-education given outside the home which "does not correspond to their own principles" (no. 117). It forbids the school to penalize the child or his family for exercising the right to withdraw from undesired instruction about human sexuality (no. 120). A fact that is clear from these various principles is that no such instruction should be undertaken by the school without the specific authorization of the parents. The permission of parents may not be presumed; rather, authorization should be expressly given by the parents for each child involved.
Since the proper order is not Church, school, family, but Church, family, school, we can be grateful to the Council for the Family for calling this fact to the attention of parents and for calling upon bishops conferences, clergy, and religious to assist and encourage parents to give a proper "formation in chastity" to their children within the sanctuary of the home (nos. 147-148). But what does the word 'sex' mean in the expression "sex-education"?
It is important to realize that the most common meaning of the word 'sex' has changed drastically since the beginning of this century. "Having sex" is now taken to mean, not "being male or female," but "having genital intercourse." Thus "sex-education" comes to mean "learning about genital intercourse" apart from its context in the human vocation and in the moral realities which should surround it. Such was the intention of the secular humanist originators of the term "sex-education." By placing the focus of attention exclusively upon the material act of genital intercourse, "sex-educators" not only separate the mind of the child from the familial context of this act, but they also cut the child off from a full understanding of his or her own psychological makeup. When Pope Pius XI, in Divini illius Magistri (quoted above), speaks of those who propagate "under an ugly term" a so-called "sex-education," it is to this false meaning of the word "sex" that he is alluding. The words "sex" and "sexual," taken in their proper sense, are not ugly terms, but what is ugly is the impurity associated with the erotic imagery and immoral ideology of the "sex-education" originally devised by secular humanists and still in use. It is this corrupting imagery and ideology that functions today in most "sex-education" classes. Hence, Cardinal López Trujillo, in his announcing article, warns parents that "the 'sex' education being presented is devoid, most of the time, of a true concept of sexuality." When Church documents from the time of the Second Vatican Council speak of a "positive and prudent sex-education," they mean formation into full manhood and womanhood, without an inordinate focus upon the genital and the erotic, but in the joy and warmth of the virtue of chastity. This is explained at length in The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality. Sex-education, in the morally acceptable sense of that term, is "education for chastity" and is inseparable from the cultivation of all the other virtues, especially of that Christian love called charity (no. 55). Formation in chastity aims at three objectives: "a) to maintain in the family a positive atmosphere of love, virtue, and respect for the gifts of God, in particular the gift of life; b) to help children to understand the value of sexuality and chastity in stages, sustaining their growth through enlightening word, example, and prayer; c) to help them understand and discover their own vocation to marriage or consecrated virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven in harmony with and respecting their aptitudes and inclinations and the gifts of the Spirit" (no. 22).
Regarding the manner of instructing their children at the proper time in sexual matters of an intimate nature, the guide for parents cautions parents against being either too explicit or too vague (no. 75) and to refrain from discussing deviant sexual practices where there is no special need (no. 125).
3. ADVICE TO PARENTS.
The first basic rule for a positive approach given to parents in the new document (no. 122) is that "human sexuality is a sacred mystery and must be presented according to the doctrinal and moral teaching of the Church, always bearing in mind the effects of original sin." It is obvious that most public schools fail to respect this rule and even systematically violate it. But even many Church schools are flagrant offenders. The open dissent of many teachers in Catholic schools to the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Church is proof enough, apart from the twisted notion of sexuality that has invaded Catholic intellectual circles. Witness to this tragedy is the report Human Sexuality published under the auspices of the Catholic Theological Society of America (Paramus, NJ: Paulist Press, 1977).
The CTSA report proclaimed to Catholic educators a long series of morally irresponsible, shocking, and pastorally devastating "conclusions," such as the following: a) that Sacred Scripture does not necessarily forbid any form of genital behavior whatsoever (p. 31); b) that adultery can be morally acceptable (p. 15); c) that contraception can be wholesome and moral (p. 122); d) that premarital intercourse can be a morally good experience (pp. 155-158); e) that evaluations of premarital intercourse that are "sin-centered" should be avoided (pp. 173-174); f) that obscene words are now part of the common vocabulary and may be used in polite conversation (p. 235); g) that pornographic material is not immoral (p. 236); h) that masturbation is not sinful (p. 220); i) that homosexual intercourse is not wrong in itself (p. 198); j) that deviant sexual practices are not evil (p. 77); k) that prostitution is not sinful in itself (pp. 16, 30-31, 96); l) that, until Church and State change their laws to accommodate to the conclusions of this report, people should just "proceed discreetly with their own sexual project" (p. 56); m) that sex-education in keeping with the views expressed in this report should be made to permeate all areas of educational development (p. 237).
What sensible parents would entrust their children to sex-educators like this? It is no wonder that the Council for the Family now advises parents to beware of "professional associations of sex-educators, sex-counsellors, and sex-therapists," because "their work is often based on unsound theories, lacking scientific value and closed to an authentic anthropology, and theories that do not recognize the true value of chastity" (no. 138).
In addition to all anti-life indoctrination (nos. 135-139), any material or approach that excites the prurient interest of children or fails to alert them to the effects of Original Sin is excluded by the new document (nos. 122-123). Any material, we might say, that causes children to fantasize sexual intercourse would place them in a proximate occasion of consenting to impure thoughts. "No material of an erotic nature should be presented to children or young people of any age, individually or in a group. This principle of decency must safeguard the virtue of Christian chastity" (no. 126).
Thus, the new document, in addition to excluding any system of education which prescinds from the true nature of man, as known from reason and revelation, or which presents erotic experience as an end in itself, also rejects the indiscreet presentation of material in the classroom. Even in Catholic schools (which are not taken up specifically in the document) the same dangers are present, in some ways to an even greater degree inasmuch as teachers in Catholic schools who violate these norms are not only in effect propagating the spirit of the world, the flesh and the Devil, but doing so with the apparent blessing of the Church. In some textbooks which present material bordering on the prurient, the inclusion of some Catholic dogmatic and moral principles does not compensate for the rupturing of a chaste academic atmosphere and of a sense of propriety among the pupils.
Cardinal López Trujillo, in his announcing article, avers that the spread of AIDS "suggests to many 'experts,' paradoxically, not the need of temperance and self-control, but access to another market, that of 'free and safe sex,' where true freedom and security fail." Thus, public authorities have favored AIDS education in the schools by way of information "reduced to a weak and exclusively hygienic view," without any framework of values. He notes that this revolutionary idea of human sexuality has given rise to the inhuman "separation of sexuality from matrimony and from the family, of love from life within matrimony, of the unitive from the procreative aspect of the conjugal act, giving great support to campaigns in favor of abortion, contraception and 'family planning.' " This suggests a further example. Everyone knows that AIDS is spread, not only by sexual intercourse, but also by the use of infected hypodermic needles, especially by users of narcotics. Why aren't children in public schools being taught the safe use of hypodermic needles? Why aren't clean syringes being made freely available in schools, dormitories, and other gathering places? Is it not because the damage to children induced towards the use of narcotics constitutes a greater physical and psychological evil than the good which is hoped for? That leads us to suspect the hypocrisy of "safe-sex" educators who refuse to admit the psychological and spiritual damage inflicted upon persons induced to extramarital sexual intercourse.
The document points out that other educators may help parents but not substitute themselves for the parents, if not for "serious reasons of physical or moral incapacity" (no. 23). It seems clear that "moral incapacity" would include culpable indifference of parents to the educational needs of their children or the intention to corrupt their children rather than to form them in chaste love (cf. no. 118). In this case, there are reasons for conscientious outsiders to provide certain needed information to neglected children, but there are no good reasons for invading the chaste atmosphere of good families with unwanted sex-education, even if it does not offend against Catholic doctrine, and it also appears to be a crime and a scandal to taint the sober academic atmosphere of any classroom with sexual language and ideas that a child should not hear even in the street. What parents are facing is a tidal wave of sexual hedonism that has swept over civil society, and from civil society into the classroom, and from the classroom into their families.
In Familiaris consortio (no. 40), Pope John Paul II points out the duty of parents "to commit themselves totally to a cordial and active relationship with the teachers and the school authorities," while, at the same time, "if ideologies opposed to the Christian faith are taught in the schools, the family must join with other families, if possible through family associations, and with all its strength and with wisdom help the young not to depart from the faith." The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality invites parents to form associations, where necessary or useful, in order to carry out an education of their children "marked by the true values of the person and Christian love and taking a clear position that surpasses ethical utilitarianism" (no. 24). The document urges parents to join together also "to fight against damaging forms of sex education and to ensure that their children are educated according to Christian principles and in a way that is consonant with their personal development" (no. 114).
The new document is clear in inviting parents to prepare themselves adequately to give the needed instruction, and in suggesting that the more capable parents help the others in the preparation of textbooks and other materials that might be used (no. 147). Due emphasis is also given (no. 118) to the right of the child to be able to live his or her sexuality and to grow in it "in conformity with Christian principles, and hence be able to exercise the virtue of chastity" to the extent that "no educator - not even parents - can interfere with this right." The child has a right to be informed in a timely manner by his own parents about moral and sexual questions in such manner as to reinforce "his or her desire to be chaste and to be formed in chastity" (no. 119).
The Church has a mission to promote the doctrinal and moral formation of the human race. Schools, and especially Catholic schools, assist the hierarchy in this apostolate, and they also assist parents, who have the prior right and duty to instruct their children in faith and morals. Schools which have been entrusted by parents with the academic formation of their children have a strict obligation to present the full and unadulterated dogmatic and moral teaching of the Church. Where schools fail in this obligation, parents have a duty to protect the faith of their children, by individual action and even, "if possible, through family associations" (Familiaris consortio, no. 40).
Catholic schools have a mission to assist parents in the intellectual and moral education of their children, and parents have a duty to give full cooperation to the schools they choose. But schools do not have a mission to teach children the intimate details of sexual behavior. Where parents are demonstrably culpable in not giving the proper instruction to their children, the school may have a role, but the classroom is usually not the place. Basically, it is the role of the school to provide the intellectual and moral framework whereby the child can make proper moral decisions. The image of sexual intercourse is not an academic subject; it is an image which has moral meaning in the context of a proper mental framework, but which is the essence of impure thinking when focussed upon outside a framework that gives it rationality. Sex-education, as it was conceived originally by secular hedonists, is a movement to corrupt the minds of children with impure thoughts by forcing them to visualize genital intercourse, natural and unnatural, without there being any real pedagogical need for them to visualize this. Moral theologians have always taught that to watch sexual intercourse is an immediate occasion of mortal sin, and this includes watching it in a graphic drawing or in the fantasy of one's own imagination.
The image of natural sexual intercourse is morally good in the framework of marital intent. It should not be dwelt upon directly and explicitly outside of the context of matrimony. Images of unnatural sexual intercourse are particularly damaging to the minds of the young. It so happens that, in some large libraries, books describing deviant sexual behavior (including homosexual intercourse) are locked in a special room and can be viewed only by qualified specialists. The reason is that reading about such activity is extremely prurient and has no proportionate academic value. It can simply cause disturbing mental images that may remain for a long time. Yet there are many sex-education courses in which these prurient unnatural images are raised in class. The only way that these images can be controlled while they are being considered is in an adult framework such as that of medicine, clinical psychology, law, or criminology. They do not belong in a high school.
The "formation in chastity" recommended by the teachings of the Popes and of the Holy See does not mean classroom courses about genital activity with material added relating to the virtue of chastity. Intimate details about genital behavior belong in short discussions on an individual basis, usually with a parent. The new document (no. 133) advises parents to monitor courses and study aids to make sure that all potentially erotic or overly detailed material has been eliminated. The school has an obligation to drop any material to which the parents object. The parents do not need to convince the school authorities that their objections are valid; it is rather the school authorities who need to convince the parents that contested material is not objectionable.
This new document on formation in chastity calls upon episcopal conferences to assist parents to teach their children at home (no. 147). While bishops have consistently assisted Catholic schools to operate, it seems clear that insufficient attention has been given to helping parents to home-school their children, even in localities where no Catholic school is available. A massive effort of assistance to parents by bishops is now needed. An immediate beginning could be made by the republication of this new document of the Holy See in every diocesan newspaper, or by making the booklet available to every family in every diocese. The document invites the clergy to take sides with the parents in conflicts with schools over the violation of their parental right to safeguard the chastity of their children (no. 148). Let good parents proceed unmolested to form in their children a healthy aversion for sins of impurity, and let modern technology undertake a search for a "prophylactic device" that will block the transmission of improper sex-educational material, so that hedonistic sex-educators will be able to proclaim the "sexual revolution" to their heart's content without infecting with the virus of impurity the minds of the children who happen to compose their captive audiences.
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