|The following observations are based on a reading of three of seven
components [student, family, and teacher resource guides] of the Benziger
Family Life Program [copyright 1988, 89, imprimatur 1987 Archbishop Roger Mahoney of Los
There are substantive objections because of its lack of precision in
expression, misstatement of Catholic teaching, factual errors, decision
making derived from a psychologism of "rights," feeling, and
Furthermore, as various themes are integrated throughout the K-8
series handbooks, adapting the curriculum by selecting only that student
and family material which is not irrelevant, redundant or objectionable
to the Faith, would be difficult, especially since students would have
their own books.
Some Substantive Objections.
The Definition of Family is Flawed.
The Benziger 1st grade student text states [pg.5] "What is a
family? People who love one another and share life together are a
family. There are many kinds of family." Under this definition
marriage isn't necessary. Homosexual 'couples' a family under this
definition. Couples 'living together' are a family. Women who seek
pregnancy and remain single are a family.
The 1st grade Family Text is no better, it defines Family as
"a group of people who live together and care for one
another." This is Catholic teaching?
Radical Feminism and Womanchurch.
The 7th grade Teacher's Resource Guide citing Luke 15:8-10
claims that "God's image is that of a woman housekeeper."
Further, the students are told to play a mnemonic game where "A new
image of God is presented on every multiple of five. Example:
1-2-3-4-Lamb ... 11-12-13-14-Mother."[pg. 62]
Earlier, a true/false quiz presents similar feminists sentiments:
"Human beings agree that God is masculine in gender." Answer False. "Sexual stereotypes can
produce restrictive roles for men and women." Answer True. The student is told to
"Consider what you have learned about sexual stereotyping. Then
write an essay on how sexual stereotyping could restrict the growth and
development of family members." [pg. 39] Is this an invitation to
challenge the Roman Catholic male-only priesthood?
The student has been "prepared" for this startling
conclusion by being told first, that "God, a divine being [is there
more than one? ed], does not have gender; second, the
student is to prove this for him or herself by a sophomoric Biblical
exegetical exercise in identifying masculine and feminine images of God
in various scripture references: Deut 32:18; Ps 7:11-14; Matt. 23:37; Lk.
11:2- 4; Isaiah 42:13-17; 49:15-16; 66:12-14; Jn. 16:23-24. [see pg.31].
The student is then told to answer "Who God is for me".
This feminist demythologizing is not supported by The Jerome
Biblical Commentary edited by Fr. Raymond Brown S.S. of Catholic
University. The textual notes for the Scripture references cited, though
not reflective of fundamentalist exegesis, are either silent on the
gender effects of the similes and metaphors referenced in the Benziger
cited texts, or it states, with respect to Luke: 11:2-4 that "The
fatherhood of God is known by experiencing the mystery of Jesus' sonship.
Luke usually imparts an eschatological nuance to the fatherhood of
God" [Vol. II, pg. 144, The Jerome Biblical Commentary].
The Benziger Text Presents a Confused Unisex View of Male and Female
and Which is also Hostile to Working Fathers and Housewife Mothers.
While recognizing bodily differences, the unisex approach begins in
the first grade student text [pg. 29]: "Boys and Girls have the
same feelings." Yet, first grade parents are told "God's gift
of sexuality impacts not only on our bodies, but our minds, emotions,
and souls." [pg. 28] Whatever the accuracy of the statement that
boys and girls have the same feelings, it certainly is the case that
these emotions are expressed differently. Yet, this is not explained or
even hinted at. By the 7th grade the student text makes a case for
abolishing male or female societal roles, and claims that the
"traditional" role of a working father and a housewife
represent "stereotypes" of the unthinking who "fail to
examine with open eyes and an open mind what people are really
With a tone of barely restrained condescension the student is told
that: "Many men and women continue to be comfortable and happy in
these traditional roles. They have made their choices consciously.
Others wish to explore new roles, without being limited by stereotyped
ideas of what men and women are supposed to be."[pg.29] Deplorable,
However, students, take note: "One of the more important social
changes occurring in today's society is the broadening of opportunities
for both men and women.." There is an explicit and positive
endorsement of a two income family. With two income families mother and
father "share" and seek a "healthy balance."
"We are discovering that the range of possibilities is almost
unlimited for both genders . . . With expanded roles for both sexes, all
are enriched as they contribute to the good of society and
No mention is made of the inevitable, permanent child abandonment
practices of the career "mother" who resorts to all day
"day care"; the latch-key children who turn on "R"
and worse rated movies or watch adultery laden soap operas; and the
inevitable clamor for delegating more and more parental responsibilities
to "professionals" teaching such 'family life sex-ed' courses
as the Benziger debacle; and of course as mother must have assurances of
staying infertile in order to insure that their life style of servicing
large mortgage and other debts continues, she will be on the Pill or
have her tubes tied. So much for Humanae Vitae.
Further, a third grade true/false quiz asserting that "A family
must have a mother, a father, and children" is false. While this
answer is technically correct, marriage, with the concomitant intent to
lovingly accept children is not proposed as strictly normative, and as a
standard by which to evaluate deviations. Unless the circumstances are
thoroughly explained, such questions are better left unasked because of
what they leave open or unanswered.
Misrepresentation of Humanae Vitae.
In the 8th grade TRG the quiz question, "The Catholic
Church teaches that a husband and a wife may limit the size of their
family for good and honest reasons" is allegedly true[pg. 41]. Humanae
Vitae nowhere states this. It does say that "responsible
parenthood is exercised either by the thoughtfully made and generous
decision to raise a large family, or by the decision, made for grave
motives and with respect for the moral law, to avoid a new birth for the
time being, or even for an indeterminate period."
The Benziger 8th grade student text claims that the Church bases its
opposition to artificial birth control on the "reasoning" that
the love and life giving aspects of sexual intercourse are
separated." Humanae Vitae does more than that! Paul VI cites
the direct apostolic succession from Jesus Christ Himself through whom
the entire universe was made as the guarantee that the interpretation
and application of both the Gospel and moral law in this matter will be
carried out authentically and correctly. That is far more than mere
But the student would never be able to verify this from the Benziger
material for neither Humanae Vitae nor the 1974 Vatican Document
on Procured Abortion or even excerpts from these are included in
the "Selected Readings From Relevant Church Documents on Family
Life," appended to the 6-8 grade Teacher's Resource manuals.
Yet, Benziger finds that the American Catholic Bishops 1986 pastoral on Economic
Justice, and Paul VI's 1977 World Peace Address are relevant!
The 5th Grade Teachers Resource Guide [TRG] notes that if
students do not wish to bring up sexual indulgence or drug abuse when
discussing peer pressure the teacher is urged to do so.
Also the 5th grade TRG describes married couples using
artificial birth control as dishonest and not fulfilling the call to
chastity. It is not described as sinful.
Misstatement of Adolescent Sexuality Problems.
The 7th grade Benziger student text notes that "The U.S.
Department of Health, Education and Welfare has called teenage pregnancy
one of the most serious problems facing teenagers today." [pg. 50]
The problem here is not teen pregnancy, it is the behavior leading to
out of wedlock pregnancy whether for teens or adults that is the
Pregnancy, a natural physiologic state provided for by the Creator
for the generation of mankind made after His Image is taken to be the
problem in a text for Catholic students! What does this subtle
redefinition of the problem say about Mary who conceived Jesus when
around 15 years old?
Moral Decision Making Based on Subjective Feelings.
The TRG for 5th grade section on "Dealing With Peer
Pressure" is indistinguishable not just in method but also in
language from the same approach to sexual
decision making promoted by the notorious anti-Catholic Planned
Planned Parenthood's approach states "The only question is:
What's right for you? You decide. ... Don't borrow your decisions. Make
up your own mind. ... Be honest. That's important from the start."
(PPFA-Teensex? It's Okay to Say NO WAY)
The PELF/TRG wants to help students decide "when to go
along with the others and when to decide for yourself." In the
sexual and drug use decision making process the student is told to
"Identify all of your possible choices." [Why not duties?]
Then, "Select the best choice and act. This means that you know and
accept the consequence of your actions." [I choose to sin and
accept it. ed]
(A) When the student meets resistance he/she will "need to
remind yourself that this is a good decision for you, that you will feel
better when the pressure is over and you have done the right thing. ...
Remember, even though 'everybody does it,' a particular choice may not
be right for you."
(B) The 3rd grade Benziger student text states that "Feelings
are neither good nor bad. Only actions are good or bad." The entire
series ignores malicious willed mental states. Did not Our Lord say that
adultery in one's heart was a sin?
(C)The 4th grade Benziger student text observes [pgs 56-57]
"Good expressions, or signs of love make you feel real good about
yourself." "Unfortunately, there are some people who are very
selfish. Such persons may try to touch certain parts of your body that
should be private. They may want you to touch private parts of their
body. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, it is important to
trust your feelings."
"If a person's actions make you feel afraid, uncomfortable,
upset, or bad about yourself, this is not real love. You have a right to
say no to such actions.
"... Your body belongs to you. Your feelings can help you know what
is right and what is wrong to do with your body. Listen to your
First, it is not just your body. You belong to Christ.(I Cor.
Second, the psychology of the ethics of feeling presented to the 4th
grader ignores the reality of temptation, namely that an evil is always
subsumed or 'presented' under the aspect of some good. Thus, the serpent
told Eve to disobey God and eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and
Evil. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and
that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one
wise, she took of the fruit thereof ... ."(Gen. 3:6)
Third, one has a 'duty' to say no and leave someone suggesting
immoral sexual acts. Moreover, if one has a right to say 'no' to such
acts, how can you not at the same time have a right to say 'yes' to such
Fourth, as Benziger's approach is thoroughly psychological and
naturalistic, the Devil and his angels [or any angels for that matter]
are conspicuous by their absence.
Misleading Advice is Given About Immoral Public Service Spots.
The 3rd grade TRG claims [p.78] that some commercials on radio
and television are called public service spots. They "try to get
people to do what is right, like not littering or using dangerous
drugs." Are the Benziger authors unaware that private groups and
the federal and state governments have produced, and stations are airing
public service spots endorsing condoms for homosexual AIDS prevention,
and other paraphernalia for heterosexual birth control use including for
Implied Acceptance of Mandatory Government Population Control.
The 5th grade student handbook states "Right now, there are over
four billion people in this world. Each of these people has a right to
be here. But unless we are careful, the resources of the world oil, water, wood, air could get used up or polluted. There
might not be enough resources to sustain the world's population."
[p. 68 BSH] Granted, we are commanded to be good stewards of the
earth's resources. This is virtually the same argument the Communist
Chinese government is using now to bring its population into line with
resources and compel compliance by economic penalty, and forced birth
control including abortion in the 9th month of pregnancy, sterilization,
IUD's etc. Without predicating a hierarchy of values, rights and duties
Benzinger's constant emphasis on the need for ecological responsibility
can only make it more difficult for the Catholic student to oppose
mandatory birth control is a situation of alleged resource depletion.
Planned Parenthood Authors Endorsed.
The Teachers Resource Guides for the 6-8 cite Planned Parenthood
authors Melvin Zelnik and Frank Furstenburg, two sociologists who
regularly amass data and justify the distribution of birth control
without parental consultation or notice and other anti-Catholic
policies, are Catholic Christian Authors.
General Confusion of Terms.
(A.) A 4th grade TRG matching test states that Body of Christ
= The Members of Gods Family. Will this confuse adolescents who are told
the host is the Body of Christ? Mystical Body of Christ is the
appropriate answer. The 4th grade student text , in explaining the
term "Body of Christ", nowhere indicates that St. Paul's
metaphorical reference is a mystery.
(B.) A 7th grade quiz states [pg. 38 TRM] that "You are
free to choose your actions and live with the results of your
choices" is a True statement. Yet, is this to be understood as a
factual assertion or a radical claim of moral autonomy such that the
individual believes he/she is accountable only to the self?
(C.) "Some feelings are good, and some are harmful to you"
is declared a False statement. Also false is "It is wrong for very
young children to act selfishly." Thus, selfishness can be
all-right. This T/F question confuses the difference between good &
evil, right & & wrong, moral & immoral, culpability &
inculpability. No attempt is made to link the findings of psychology
with the theological realities inherent in the creation and fall of
mankind, and the prevalence of sin in the world. Sin, while occasionally
acknowledged, is only a minor part of the Benzinger series.
(D.) The 6th grade Teachers Resource manual claims in a
chastity discussion that: "Sexual intercourse is not the ultimate
expression of love, marriage is. Sexual intercourse is an expression of
the love and commitment that a married couple have." Catholics are
supposed to be taught that Jesus' death on the Cross was the
"ultimate expression of love."
Benziger Accepts a Completely Materialist Psychology.
The 3rd grade student text claims [pgs 20-21, 23] that "Your
brain is what allows you to think. Each part of your brain has its own
special job to do. The way you use your brain is called your mind.... An
important part of your mind is called your conscience."
"Eyes and ears are just organs that receive information. The
information goes from the organ to the brain. Then your mind, the
special way your brain works, feels and thinks about the sense message.
You decide what you will do about it."
This is completely at odds with traditional Catholic philosophy which
asserts the immateriality of the intellect. With the Benzinger type of
materialistic psychology, one's conscience is a material section of the
brain. Using this framework, dogs, cats, horses, roaches or any other
sensate creature can have a conscience or a mind, because mind is how
the brain works, etc.
Capital Punishment: Wrong, But You Can Differ About It.
The student text [pg. 36] claims that capital punishment is wrong,
but the parental text [pg. 23] says that persons may disagree on this
Suicide Counseling by 8th Graders for Other Adolescents and Children.
While there certainly are adolescents who are depressed and in need
of counseling, 13-14 years olds are probably not the best 'counselors'
when it comes to tact, discernment and prudence in such sensitive
matters. It needs to be noted that the actual incidence of suicide among
children 14 and under is extremely low. The suicide ratio in 1982 for
all children aged 5-14 is .6 per 100,000 children aged 5-14. This
increases to 8.7 per 100,000 adolescents 15-19 for 1981.
But the 8th grade text tells the student that "Warning signs can
be verbal. For example, a person can make a direct statement like ' I
want to die' or an indirect statement like, 'Everyone will be sorry when
I'm gone.'" But instead of telling the student at this point to
contact some adult, the following is suggested: "Believe and trust
your suspicion that the person may be self-destructive. Ask if the
person is thinking about suicide. Be direct; talk openly and
freely." The 10th suggestion is talking to one's parents!
Homosexuality is Presented as a Sexual Variation not a Deviation.
The 7th grade student text states [pg. 48] that adolescents will
experience a slowly unfolding attraction to other people. Because
of this attraction, you can form close friendships and work successfully
with others. Sometimes this attraction will involve strong physical,
emotional, and psychological responses. Such responses make up a feeling
that is called sexual attraction.
... A minority of people in our society are sexually attracted
to members of the same sex. Such attraction which should not be confused with
feelings of friendship is called homosexual attraction. A
person who is sexually attracted to only to members of his or her own
sex is said to have a homosexual orientation.
The confusion in such a gender free initial assertion about
"close friendships ... [that] ... involve strong physical,
emotional, and psychological responses" being forms of sexual
attraction is an open invitation to adolescents fearing that they are
homosexual. Just see what happens when we substitute the expansive and
incorrect definition of "sexual attraction" in the following:
"... A minority of people in our society [have] "close
friendships ... [that] ... involve strong physical, emotional, and
psychological responses"] to members of the same sex. Such
attraction which should not be confused with
feelings of friendship is called homosexual attraction.
Secondly, the student is not told here that "Although the
particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a
more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and
thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective moral
disorder." [Pastoral Letter on Homosexuality, Card.
Church Teaching on Original Sin is in Error.
The 7th grade text states "But the world is not perfect and
neither are its inhabitants. Original sin the tendency to turn away from God and
to make choices based on selfishness is a fact of our lives." The
above does not define Original Sin, but rather one of its effects in all
of Adam and Eve's descendants. "Original sin consists in the
deprivation of grace caused by the free act of sin committed by the head
of the race. The lack of sanctifying grace, which should be present,
establishes that the guilt of Original Sin signifies a turning away from
God." [Ott/Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.]