Challenging Children to Chastity
A Parental Guide
by H. Vernon Sattler, C.Ss.R.
Imprimi potest: Edward J. Gilbert, C.Ss.R.
August 12, 1991
Nihil obstat: David A. Bohr, S.T.D.
August 14, 1991
Imprimatur: +James C. Timlin, D.D.
Bishop of Scranton, PA.
August 14, 1991
The Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur are official declarations
that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error.
No implication is contained therein that those who have
granted the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur agree with the
contents, opinions or statements expressed.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version
Division of Christian Education
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
Copyright 1991 by the Central Bureau of the Catholic Central Verein of
3835 Westminster Place
St. Louis, MO 63108-3472
Preface John Cardinal O'Connor
Chapter I Right, Duty and Privilege of Sex Education by Parents
Chapter II Nuptial Meaning of the Body
Chapter III Process of Sex Education In the Home
Chapter IV Step by Step in Sex Education
Chapter V Parents and the Direct Sex Education of the Children
Appendix I Sex Education in Schools in General
Appendix II Sex Education in Catholic Schools and in CCD
Miscellaneous Topics Which Come Up in the Class Room
Father H. Vernon Sattler, C.Ss.R. is a fine priest who has devoted most of
his life to the task of being a theologian and educator. His contributions
in the field of moral theology are diverse in subject matter, yet one in
their adherence to the teaching of Jesus Christ. In the spirit of his
patron, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, he has shown a passion for exploring and
presenting the unity of doctrine and life.
It is no surprise, then, that he should make this contribution aimed at
helping today's parents to covey the virtue of chastity to their children.
What does come as a surprise, though, is that Fr. Sattler tells us to read
this book and then forget about it. By design this is no ordinary how to
manual. It is meant to be a source of leaven, a packet of yeast which is
broken open and kneaded into the dough of daily living. The words of the
book, the examples, the inferences are meant to remain obscure in
themselves, but through their instrumentality the reader is to catch on to a
new way of thinking about chastity education.
We live in an age when Gods beautiful ennobling gift of human sexuality is
so often trivialized and reduced to a mere primal drive for physical
gratification having no inherent moral worth. In such an atmosphere, the
breadth of what it means to truly love can be lost by a depersonalized or
mechanically orientated approach to teaching our children about their role
in the creative will of God. Fr. Sattlers rather unique method of unabashed
and free flowing reflection and commentary is meant to challenge parents to
go beyond the absorption of facts. He encourages them to embrace an entirely
Catholic outlook in such a way that their children will catch it from them.
Our Holy Father has taught in the Apostolic Exhortation
that parents are called to offer their children a clear and delicate sex
education rooted in an education to love as self-giving. 1 It is my sincere
hope that many parents will draw upon this book as a resource to assist them
in their lifelong task of self-giving love and that their children will come
to know and do the truth in love.
John Cardinal O'Connor
Archbishop of New York
1 Familiaris consortio, no. 37. Also cited in Educational Guidance in Human
Love Outlines for Sex Education, Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education,
November 1, 1983.
Please, do not read and study this book so as to pass a test. No examination
can certify you as a good sex educator, or, better, an educator in chastity.
There are no True-False answers, multiple choice tests, no grades.
Education, speech fluency, literacy, inventiveness, have little to do with
good sex or chastity education. True conjugal-parental love alone counts.
Loving mistakes, fumbled and corrected, might be much more effective than
technically perfect efforts. Professional teachers may have the degrees and
class-room skills, but not necessarily the ability to instill virtue, or
what Christian virtue presupposes, faith in Divine Revelation as certified
in Christ through a teaching Church.
Do not, repeat, do not, memorize this material, utilize clever phrases, take
notes from it, follow it as some sort of blueprint of good sex education.
Please do not attempt to follow its logic, order or procedure. Above all, do
not attempt to repeat even a single phrase for any one of your children. If
you do you will sound phoney, like a puppet without a voice of its own, or a
dull, mechanical, unconvincing recording. Only if you have made the thought
and attitudes presented here your own with full personal conviction, should
you try to repeat phrases.
Though there might be a correct way to impart Christian sex education, no
one has ever done it correctly without mistakes! Parents confuse the issue.
Children misunderstand. Sometimes it seems that they perversely and
deliberately refuse to understand! Of course they do! With the awesome
responsibility for sexual meaning, who wants to assume it too soon? Though
you should try to avoid mistakes, often enough errors in positive or
negative attitudes, whether in fact or truth, might be more important to the
final result than doing it correctly in the first place, because once
corrected, a error in belief or conviction might be all the more strongly
compensated for. Often a broken bone is stronger because of the special
healing demanded by the break. Yet, no one would deliberately break a bone
to make it stronger!
Read this work. Start in the beginning, at the end, in the middle. Pick it
up and read it where it falls open. Mull over what it says. Taste it. Roll
it around on your tongue. Compare it with your general experiences. Add it
to or subtract it from your living experiences and accumulated wisdom of
success and failure.
Then forget it!
When your children ask questions, or show a need for information or
formation you will not be able to recall the suggestions the book offers
anyway. You will not be able to find the book to look them up, and if you
can find it and do look up an answer, you will have lost the magic moment
and the child or adolescent will have wandered off wondering why you made
such a production of answering a simple question or puzzled attitude. Weren't you there when he was conceived?
Born? When did you last research the answer to a question on safe driving,
honesty, patriotism, loving your parents, helping the poor, respecting your
clergyman, telling the truth, honestly filling out your income tax form,
being loyal to your team or school or ethnic customs, obeying the traffic
cop, brushing their teeth, table manners? This book is deliberately finished
without an index to prevent your looking for a particular answer! The
attitudes you need for good parental chastity education must be caught not
taught. The attitudes your children need towards sexuality must be caught
from you not taught by you!
Living the truth is not a matter of science or technology, not a matter of
physiology, ethics, psychology, sociology, theology, history, etc., etc. It
is simply a matter of living your life to the hilt with all the conviction
you can bring to it, and allowing others to perceive the witness you are
giving of the way you love with conviction or the lack of it. You will not
succeed if you merely attempt what is expected of you without personal
conviction. A perfunctory repetition of a party line whether religious,
moral or patriotic will convince no one. You can only teach, in the area of
chastity and modesty particularly, what you are truly convinced of, and
which you have experienced and are still experiencing. That experience may
include triumph and failure, satisfaction and remorse, virtue and sin, joy
and sorrow, ease and struggle, honor and shame, courage and despair, love
and hatred, devotion and abuse. A finally good life has often been full of
sins or ambivalences, at best resolved, less good, muddled through, at
least, repented and reversed.
Unfortunately, so much technical information is conveyed to young people
today that is simply false or which suggests immoral or indifferently moral
activity, that at times it is necessary to correct it with factual and moral
truth drawn from science, or official religious teaching. This may suggest
to parents that they consult some authority or official text, or even expect
correct information from a trained teacher or counselor, priest, religious
or lay person. But one must always ascertain the correct virtuous attitude
of such a consultant.
Keep a sense of humor. Sexuality is too ridiculous to be treated pompously;
too solemn, awesome, and frightening to be dismissed with mere matter of
factness. It was of frightening import as to whose woman was Helen of Troy,
whose beauty resided in the face that launched a thousand ships. The great
tragedies and epics, as well as the most delightful of comedies, center
around the meaning of sexuality. Hamlet and Othello vie with A Midsummers
Night Dream and The Taming of the Shrew for our interest and attention. The
contrast of tragedy and comedy is necessary for our sanity.
This book is deliberately repetitious. It will describe the same or similar
suggestions in several different places or contexts. This is the way things
happen with children. No child learns anything once and for all and on a
single occasion. For that matter, no adult ever learns anything fully,
completely, on a single occasion. An old adage say:
Repetition is the mother of learning. A weary father once sighed after
blowing his cork unreasonably in the presence of his children: I'll be so
happy when they grow up realizing that I'm the one who (also) needs
The Right, Duty, And Privilege Of Sex Education By Parents
All education, whether formal or informal, is rooted in the primary vocation
of married couples to participate in God's creative activity (Familiaris
By begetting in love and for love a new person who has within himself or
herself the vocation for growth and development, parents by that very fact
take the task of helping that person effectively to live a fully human life.
As the Second Vatican Council recalled, Since parents have conferred life
on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their
offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost
educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that
scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. For it devolves on
parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence
for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will
be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of
those social virtues which every society needs (99).
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 loving relationship between parents and children; and it is
irreplaceable and inalienable and therefore incapable of being entirely
delegated to others or usurped by others.
. . . the most basic element, so basic that it sets the parameters of the
educational role of parents, is parental love, which finds fulfillment in
the task of education as it completes and perfects its service of life. As
well as being a source, the parent's love is also the animating principle
and therefore the norm inspiring and guiding all concrete educational
activity, enriching it with the values of kindness, constancy, goodness,
service, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice that are the most precious
fruit of love (Familiaris Consortio 36, italics added).
Quite clearly the essential meaning of sexual intercourse is total mutual
self-gift of husband and wife with deliberate risk or openness to whatever
might happen of love and new human life. This is the paradigmatic sign or
symbol-model of all other loves! Even God's love for man is a divine romance, a sort of divine-human marriage. Children should
have been begotten of such mutual unconditional love, and if, because of
human failure or sinfulness, a child happens by accident (or by deliberate
pre-programming!) every possible remedial love must be employed to supply
the fundamental birthright of every human being, to be sourced and supported
in disinterested (risky!) love. Nothing can compensate fully for the lack of
love as the initiative, or love as the foundation for the being and every
form of education of the child. This is why the despised slave can sing
poignantly sometimes I feel like a motherless child. And why the only answer
to the failed need is the overcompensating prophecy of Isaias: Can a mother
forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget, I (God! Y-W-H!) will never forget you. See! I have
inscribed you on the palms of my hands (Isaiah 49:15-16).
Education of the child is essential to transmission of human life. Begetting
is incomplete without education. Parental right, obligation and privilege
is the origin of and primary to the role of any other teacher. Parental
education cannot be replaced, and parents cannot hand it over entirely to
others nor permit it to be forcibly taken over by others, no matter how
professionally qualified. Even bishops, priests and religious may not
preempt true parental education. Parental love sets the extent of all
education, is the source and animating principle of all education. The norm
of good teaching by others is the love of the child's parents. Though
minimum schooling can be legislated for the common good of society, in
education parental love is everything.
Education in love as self-giving is also the indispensable premise for
parents called to give their children a clear and delicate sex education.
Faced with a culture that largely reduces human sexuality to the level of
something commonplace, since it interprets and lives it in a reductive and
impoverished way by linking it solely with the body and with selfish
pleasure, the educational service of parents must aim firmly at a training
in the area of sex that 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
centers 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
In this contest 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 37, italics added).
According to this doctrine, sex education must be carried out by parents,
and all others are but mere assistants. Schools, even Catholic schools, must
cooperate with parents in this area, not vice versa!
We are constantly reminded that sex education for Christians must never be
divorced from moral principles. For that matter, it ought not be divorced
from such principles for any sensible human being, Christian or not. Nor are
the principles complex. They are really simple and indeed, there is only one
principle. Chastity is the moral principle which gives the simple meaning of
sexual intercourse. Lovemaking is designed as the deepest mutual physical
surrender of one man to one woman for a lifetime in mutual total self-giving
with openness to whatever happens by way of result, whether deeper love or
new-life or emptiness. The action means the same thing no matter what the
partners mean! And it means the same thing even when they pervert it,
abstain from it, open themselves to fertility with full awareness, or
surrender to each other at times of infertility or even menopause. It means
the same thing when they await the call of God for such surrender even for a
lifetime in dedication to a vowed or situational celibacy or virginity!
When applied, this single principle looks complex. On this single principle,
multiple sins are described and rejected as perverse rejections of the total
nuptial meaning of the Body as a gift back to God in (truly) single
blessedness or in marriage through one's husband or wife.
Masturbation is, sexually, like solitary drinking, pigging out or compulsive
eating, as clearly also is the pursuit of pornography or obscenity. Selfish
use of partner as a sexual service station or in some sort of bargain
within marriage or outside it is a sort of prostitution, a (perhaps mutual)
lust. Marital contraception is a mutual lie in our bodies as openness to new
life, just as a verbal lie is speech that is a lie in your teeth! Sodomy
(heterosexual) is the repulsive devotion to an opening of the body which is
a death opening instead of a life opening. (Heterosexual) sado-masochism is
the enactment of surrender, and demand for such surrender, to sheer
overwhelming might instead of the loving request and avid surrender to the
power of (mutual) authority which is exercised for the mutual good of the
partners. Homosexual practice is devotion to the mirror image of the self,
which inevitably rejects the life-giving meaning of sex, and which ends in
either the utter emptiness of lesbianism or the disgusting devotion to
death, defecation, and brutalities of male homosexuality. Why would anyone
insist that sodomy is lovemaking, when we have spent so much effort on
toilet training, and have reserved defecation to the privacy of the
out-house? It cannot be without meaning that this practice of sodomy in
marriage or in male homosexuality brings with it the sado-masochistic rectal
lesions, repeated hepatitis, and the incurable AIDS (Acquired Immunological
Obviously, there is no need for parents to describe all these perversions of
the nuptial surrender of the body. A clear in place (in marriage) exclusive
love-meaning will quite sufficiently indicate out of place (mutual) lust.
An apparently crude keep your panties up and your dress down! within a
loving family might well indicate the evil of lust and the positive
celebration of Christian love-union in marriage! This is the reason St. Paul
says that perversions of sex should not so much as be mentioned among
Christians, and why he himself speaks of these perversions in
circumlocutions, which quite clearly indicate his rejections but which are
not vivid descriptions of the practices condemned (Eph 5:3-6).
A derived principle of modesty flows from Chastity. One ought not to start
the sign activity which symbolizes, initiates and prepares for the mutual
surrender of the nuptial meaning of the body, and one ought to willingly
mean what these actions mean within the context of mutual and utter
surrender in marriage. Mutual viewing, touch, kissing, open-mouth, tonguing,
mutual exploration, is body-language reserved to the place where mutual
total giving and receiving belong. As reserved to such a place (marital
covenant and meaning) it is excluded absolutely elsewhere. Do not stir up or
awaken love until it is ready (Song of Songs 2:7; 3:5; 8:4).
It is true that much physical affection before marriage can be a signal or
promise, or mutual desire, for what is to happen after total commitment.
Said a young lady to a counselor when her future husband complained that he
could not get near her: (Earthily) You want a ride? I'll give you the ride
of your life. (Pointing to her ring finger) Put it there first!
It is difficult to understand why parents might want others to give this
formation to their children. Quite clearly, the culture in which we live does not believe these truths. It
says that orgasm is desirable in itself, that it is a mere health entity to
which each individual is entitled to experience as an option, as often as he
or she wishes, alone or with any meaning he may desire and with as many
partners of either sex (or even with animals) as they might choose. This is
what the Pope means when he says that the modern approach is reductionist in
that it makes of the meaning of nuptial surrender a nothing but a bodily
experience of mere pleasure. Is he not right? Then how can you parents leave
the formation of your children up to SIECUS (Sex Information and Education
Council of the United States), which controls all schooling on the topic
and insists that unless the child has discovered sexual experience by
himself, if we love the child we ought to make sure that he does.
This is one reason why, if at all possible, a mother should stay home as
much as possible with her children, to be available for their formation as
boys and girls, men or women, virgins and spouses, husbands or wives,
fathers or mothers. Children need their spoken and unspoken questions
answered when they need the answers, not when parents achieve quality time.
This is why I would like to recommend the statement of the mother who quit
work in her late pregnancy: Nobody else is going to form my child, answer
his needs or questions. I an going to be there when he/she needs me. She
recognized that there is pre-natal influence upon the child, and that how
she and her husband/father accepted her pregnancy would influence that
child, or, at least, how their resolution of their possible first
ambivalences (Oh, NO!) will form the ultimate chastity of the child, as well
as will the loving meaning given when the mother places her baby to her
breast or tosses it on a pillow with a "bottle-caddy!" One wonders about
the formation of child warehoused in a day-care center for ten hours a day
at a cost roughly equivalent to the expense of kennel-boarding for a pet, or
the daily city parking fee for a car. One wonders whether the care of the
child is about equivalent to the care of the pet, or the car.
If the above paragraph evokes a feeling of guilt in the reader, please do
not merely reject it with anger or denial. Resolve it by recognizing whether
there is true justification for being away from the children, whether the
child-care truly compensates for motherly care, and whether the decision is
truly justified in the correct results. When one listens to the anxious
questions a mother asks about professional or private child-care and
day-care, it becomes more and more clear that the mother is looking for
qualifications that only she herself can fill! All substitutional love must
recognize that it is but a facsimile and (over) compensation for what should
have been there in the first place. Adoptive parents, single parents,
baby sitters, social workers, public welfare and agency personnel, day-care
employees, etc., must attempt to be whatever parental person is missing in
presence or function.
This in no way exempts the child from the need of paternal formation. A
father is not merely the financial umbilical cord of life-support. His role
of responsible concern, and personal attention to each and every child will
teach his girls what to seek for in a husband-father and his boys the
responsibility for and love for the possible wife-mother they will woo, wed
and bed. The interaction of both will form the virility and femininity in
their children necessary for either marriage or dedicated celibacy. The
harm done to the chastity formation of children by the father who is
absent physically or emotionally is incalculable.
Inevitability Of Parental Sex Education
Parents form their children in chastity or its lack no matter what they do!
Whether they attempt to speak out, model correct nuptial body meaning, or
fail to do so, whether they speak or remain silent, whether they succumb
passively to the culture or the schooling of their children or fight and
correct it, they are inevitably the final formers of their children. Though
it might be that the culture and original sin will win out over parental
Christian formation despite their best efforts, since you can lead the horse
to water but you cannot make him drink, parents are absolutely responsible
for the lustful pursuits of their children if they abdicate all positive
formation of their children.
Schooling is often too late and is as scientific as parental formation is
unscientific. Often parental example, positive, negative or omitted, speaks
so loudly that they cannot hear the intellectual truths taught in school.
Preaching tends to be too brief, and indefinite (it is very difficult to be
as concrete and earthy in the pulpit as parents can be in a one-on-one
encounter. The religious education teachers (priest, sister, or lay man or
woman), reach 25-30 pupils for only about 30 hours in a year! The most
influential priest, religious, teacher or counselor in the world can, at
most, be supportive or slightly corrective of parental example. No, parents
must admit that in all the virtue formation of the child, and especially the
chastity formation, the (whole) buck stops here. By their presence or
absence, by formation or its omission, by speech and action or their
failure, parents are largely responsible for the chastity or unchastity, the
modesty or immodesty of their children (granting always the final freedom of
the child, and the cultural impact upon the fundamental weakness of will due
to original sin).
This is not to say that the pope, bishops, priests, religious, teachers or
counselors have nothing to say to parents by way of forming them to their
duties, or to the community in correction of parental failure or even abuse
of their authority. But the principle of subsidiarity is imperative here.
This principle says that no duty should be performed by a more public
authority if it can be and is being done by the private responsibility of
individuals and families; that if the greater organization supplies what
is lacking, it do so with the awareness that it is supplying only for a
deprivation; that it protest that its supplement is essential temporary; and
that as soon as possible, the role be returned to the original responsible
actors. It is a notorious fact that all social tasks taken over by local or
national public authority, tend to destroy individual responsibility,
pauperizes, depersonalizes, and renders dependent the recipients of the
services, and eventually refuses to return the function to the primary
responsible persons! (E.g.; economic welfare, Aid To Dependent Children,
Social Security, Juvenile and Family Courts, public schooling, health care
insurance, bureaucratic controls of every kind, centralized school districts, even Catholic
School Boards, public housing, care for the homeless, Soup Kitchens!)
Nuptial Meaning Of The Body
It is important for parents (and every human person, especially a Catholic
Christian) to understand what John Paul II means by the nuptial meaning of
the body. He insists that the human being comes into the world as a body-
soul person who is a unique gift from God with a unique call to surrender
himself totally and completely to God, You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart, and all you soul and with all your mind (Mt 22:37; cf.
Mk 12:30; Lk 10:27; in the Old Testament, Dt 6:5). Whoever comes to me and
does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, brothers and
sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple (Lk 14:26).
(Cf. the weekly sermons of John Paul II from Sept. 1979 to July 4, 1984:
Original Unity of Man and Woman; Blessed Are the Pure of Heart; The Theology
of Marriage and Celibacy; St. Paul Editions, Boston MA 02130)
A nuptial or spousal gift is one that has been and will be given to no other
than the beloved. Each human being (in Christian thought) is uniquely given
by the creating hand of God into his own custody. A human person IS God's
nuptial gift into the world, which is fresh, original, unique, inviolable,
and never ever to be given again, nor will the identical gift be given to
another. Any gift demands, as near as possible, an equivalent return of the
gift. A nuptial gift can only be totally accepted from and wholly returned
to the giver and to no other. In the Holy Trinity the Father Utters Himself
totally into the Son, the WORD. The WORD is totally receptive of the
Uttering of the Father, and totally Echoes Divine Being back. You are
mystified by this verbiage? Then mull over the mysterious wording of the
Wedding Song: A woman takes her life from man and gives it back again there
is Love. A nuptial gift can only be totally accepted. A nuptial gift must be
gathered up and returned.
The human being enters into the material world, and his presence is signed,
by being a body-person. In Christian thought the human body is not an
appendage nor an instrument of a spirit. It is but the external aspect, the
visible material sign of the nuptial gift of human person into the world,
and to the self. It must be returned, body and soul, unconditionally,
holding nothing back, to the Creator. This is called the VOCATION of each
and every person. A calling, a sounding into the world by God, which must be
gathered up and returned to Him (and the Christian adds: in Christ!).
This one gift of body and soul together which comes from the very hand of
God with the cooperation of the mutual love-gift of husband and wife
(called procreation i.e. an act evoking the creative act of God [cf. the
meaning of sexual intercourse below]), must be returned in its entirety as
a body-person to God. The Pearl of Great Price, for which the Christian must
surrender all, is the acceptance of the total gift of self from God and
its total return to Him. This, in turn, means that it is the task of the
human person to get himself all together and wait till the expected moment
to return this gift. This is the foundation of his duty to care for, develop
and fulfill his potential, to grow to the full stature of Jesus Christ
(Eph 4:13). His nuptial gift of self is his vocation as a Christian.
The call into being of the human person by God is an initial call to
celibacy or virginity for all! A celibate (Coelebs in Latin) is one who
achieves (or at least pursues) the fullness of what he truly is, singular
and alone with a unique set of unshared potentials. Self-fulfillment is a
celibate existence, and is given task of every human being as a nuptial
given of God. But it is given to him to be totally returned.
Self-fulfillment is self-possession in order to be returned utterly.
Celibacy or virginity is, therefore, the call of every human being, since
celibacy means the ability to have oneself all together ready for a total
self-gift. This gift can be given directly to God in a dedicated service for
His Kingdom. It can be a situational celibacy when the opportunity for a
gift to God through another person (marriage) does not present itself. It
can be a temporary gathering together till the moment of gift to another in
the name of God is presented. Finally, it is the all together of total
self-gift in marital commitment.
Sexual Intercourse As A Sign Of Nuptial Gift And Return
At this point it is necessary to meditate on the inherent meaning of sexual
intercourse. At first sight, as parents read this analysis, they will deny
that they have ever heard such a thing. As they mull it over, however, they
will agree that it is really a true presentation, but might object that it
is an ideal beyond realization. But finally they will begin to admit that
though they may never have heard it presented in such a way, this is really
what they have always known the interpersonal action of sex is designed to
mean, that they have always wanted to have it mean this, and that their own
failures and disappointments have even proved the meaning!
They will even realize that despite their own possible practice of
contraception in marriage, that marital contraception is a lie which they
would rather not have their children discover in their parents, and which
they really don't fully mean when they state the old mean-spirited adage:
and if you can't be good, be careful! I know of no person, married or
single, who is utterly unmoved by discovering contraceptives in the wallets
of their children, or in the medicine cabinets of their parents. The movie
Prudence and the Pill is hilarious precisely because contraceptive use is
equally out of place for mother, daughter, or maid. That each becomes
pregnant while using pills from the same prescription, substituting placebos
for those used, is clearly a poetic justice for all three.
Most human activities have whatever meaning the actor gives them. This most
often depends entirely upon the intention of the actor. If I cook, I can
cook because I am hungry, enjoy the kitchen, am interested in good
nutrition, like sweets, want to gain weight, because I am a slave, need
the money, am forced to by prison labor, because I want to invent a poison
potion, or out of love for the people for whom I am cooking. Cooking does
not have much meaning in itself.
But some human actions, besides being exerted for all sorts of motives as
above, have some meanings built right into the activity so that it is
difficult to have any meaning which would exclude the inherent meaning,
or to engage in the activity without being lured into meaning what it means.
A Smile As Example Of Inherent Meaning
A smile is not just a combination of lips, facial muscles and eye movements.
The grimace of an animal or even the puckering up of a newborn baby is not
recognized as a smile. A smile is different from a frown, a scowl, a stare.
A smile is natural and spontaneous. We do not learn to smile as we learn to
walk. Usually we do not first think of smiling and then do it. We just
smile. A smile means the same thing in every culture, in every place in
the world. And what does it mean? It means recognition, welcome,
friendliness, love, joy, delight, content, amusement. But whatever it means
it is hard to give it meaning outside itself, or at least being understood
by everyone as what it is in itself.
A person who wants to smile for some ulterior purpose finds it difficult to
do so, or if he succeeds, he seems to act perversely. Try to look into a
mirror while imagining someone you dislike and say: I'm smiling at you,
you big baboon! You will see a terrible grimace as you force the same
muscles used in a smile to pretend to smile. Or smile while you are
betraying a friend, and you will note a perverse gleam which mocks the
benevolence of a smile as you destroy him.
Strangely too, if you are suddenly tricked into smiling, your whole mood
will change. Notice how often lovers who have become angry with each other
will drop the whole dispute, when one can get the other to even begin a
Another kind of activity which has meaning woven right into it is kissing.
It has been said that Eskimos express love by rubbing noses, and that they
do not know what a kiss means. I would like to suggest that any Eskimo man
or maid would immediately know what a kiss meant if you could get him or her
to pucker up and experience a kiss! A kiss says: Taste and see that my
beloved is sweet (cf. Ps 33:9)! A kiss shares the very life breath of the
lovers. It opens the being of the lover to the beloved and vice versa.
It is hard to fake a kiss. The beloved knows immediately if a kiss is
perfunctory, or worse, a betrayal. Indeed, to use the externals of a kiss
to betray is a most perverse act. Mafia members use the kiss deliberately
as a kiss-off before the execution of a member who is considered guilty of
betrayal. When Jesus was betrayed by Judas with a kiss, He did not ask
whether Judas intended to betray Him. He did not say: Are you betraying me
who did so much for you? He said: Judas do you betray the Son of Man with a
kiss?! Are you delivering me to execution with the sign which means love,
But equally often, a kiss that starts out as merely perfunctory, a mere
dutiful response to an advance, a casual contact, allures the one who
kisses to mean what it means with more and more intensity, even against his
will, and to evoke a similar response from an apparently uninterested
Sexual Intercourse is one human activity which has the deepest of inherent
meanings. It is possible to engage in this activity with outside
intentions of escape from boredom, to scratch the itch of passion, to please
an ardent seducer, to boast of a conquest, to win esteem when one feels
worthless, even to make money but that is not what the action means in
itself. Notice that we avoid the cold scientific terms for this activity.
Intercourse is the ebb and flow (coursing) of something (fluid, affection,
communication, life) between two persons; coition means a mere coming
together; coupling or copulation is mere connection followed by
disconnection, uncoupling. Mating is what we use for animals in heat. And,
of course, the four-letter words are brutal references to piercing,
hurting, rejection, or the in-heat activities of rutting animals (bang,
screw, filly, stud, to use only the least repulsive!). When a man and a
woman can use only mechanical or animal words for their love-union they
have reduced each other to non-persons, to things or mere animals, and
have perverted the meaning of sexual intimacy. We prefer words like
lovemaking, being intimate with. To make-love means to make love present
in the bodily sign of two-in-one. To be intimate with means to mutually
explore the innermost depths of the lovers as persons.
What is sexual union between human being designed to mean? First, love-union
is the only activity the author knows which takes two people, one a man
and the other a woman, to mean what it is designed to mean. Conversation is
a somewhat similar activity, but in conversation one speaks while the other
listens and then reverses the activity. In love-union two people mean, or
are invited to mean, one reality: "two-in-one-flesh". This two-in-one-ness
is not mere bodily connection. The word flesh here means a human person,
body and soul. To become two-in-one means to experience the other's
body-person as I feel my own. When Adam sang the first love poem in the
Bible: "This now is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh" he was singing the
same sort of song we sing today, when we sing "Heart of my Heart, and
I've got you under my skin". And when the Bible concludes "Therefore a man
leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and they become one
flesh" (Gn 2:24), it means that this union signs and means that these two
are as inseparable as a head is from the rest of a human body. To lose the
partner is more than the loss of a limb, it is to lose one's own self! This
is why spouses joke about "my better half." "Making love" asks the couple
to mean what it means being one person and the activity tends to
progressively make them one whether they mean it or not!
A deeper look into the activity of love-union reveals that a man and a woman
are asked to act out the deepest of love meaning. I do not have a body as
a writer has a fountain pen or a typewriter. I am my body. Or better, I
body-self exist. Love union does not mean copulation. That is merely the
coupling of active and receptive connectors. The man is invited to focus
his whole person on the loveliness of his bride and to penetrate into the
deepest recesses of her being. He is asked to say: "I in-you me, that is,
I place my entire being within you." On her side the wife is asked to
accept her husband's entire substance into her very being. She tries to
say: "I in-me you, that is, I carry your entire person within mine; I
accept your centering into the center of my person!"
To understand this further make a comparison with a woman who is pregnant.
I think there may be many undesired pregnancies (experience of being
gravid) but hardly ever a truly unwanted baby. Especially if a mother comes
to understand that during pregnancy that she has been entirely surrounding
another body-person with her body-person. She has experienced what love is
which is to discover another self as central to her own self as she is! And
if she is lucky enough to have been able to deliver her baby while conscious
of what she is doing, she will have experienced the uttering of a brand new
Word, a new Meaning, an original Edition, never before heard, and never to
be repeated. This is why she wants a unique name for her baby. But this
experience is just an elaboration of her experience of her husband-lover
which brought it to be. The baby is "two-in-one-flesh" just as the lovers
are. Just as the lovers are two distinct persons but become one person
which is distinct from the both of them (they say: "this is bigger than
the both of us together!"), so the baby is at once both of them and neither
of them! More important than anything in the world. This is why we say
that a baby was a gleam in his daddy's eye in their love, and why simple
country people used to say that love was getting a baby in the eye of the
beloved. Finally, that is what is meant in the Hawaiian love song to a
Sweet Leilani, heavenly flower
Nature fashioned roses wet with dew.
And then she laid them in a bower.
That was the start of you.
Sweet Leilani, heavenly flower.
I dreamed of paradise for two.
Your are my paradise completed.
You are my dream come true.
But sexual union is designed to mean still more. If the male is expected
to center all his being upon the person of the beloved, and she is expected
to take all of him into her person, then the action attempts to say: "All
that I am, all I have ever been, all I ever will be I give to you" and
"All that you are, have been, or ever will be, I accept totally and
absolutely from you." An old song says: "All of me, why not take all of
me?" But if this is to be true then the act ought to protest that no one
else has ever had any part of this gift before! The act asks the actors
to say: "No one has ever gone this way with me before, and no one but you
will ever go this way again. "This is why lovers are always jealous if they
suspect that any other has had access to the body person of the lover or
beloved, and why they would rather not know of any past love affairs. A
Country and Western song asks: "How many hearts have you broken? I wonder,
I wonder, I wonder but I really don't want to know."
If the sexual act surrenders not only the past and the present, but also
the future, then it asks the lovers to be faithful to each other. How long?
Forever. There are no meaningful love songs which celebrate temporary
unions. We sing only: "Forever and ever"; "Till the end of time"; I'll
love you till the twelfth of never, and that's a long, long time.
Diamonds are not a girl's best friend! This is the poignant song of a
courtesan who cannot expect fidelity.
"No Strings" Love
The mutual surrender of sexual union is called the marital or conjugal act.
It is unconditional. It does not say: "I love you so long as you are
beautiful. I love you when you have money. I love you only when you are
nice to me. I give you only part of myself. I hold my freedom from you. No
strings! I don't want you to make me pregnant. I love you so long as you
don't get pregnant. I love you till I fall in love with someone else!" It
does say: I'll always love you, even when you are less than nice, indeed
when you are hateful. More, because you might be unlovely I will make you
loving and lovable by my love!" No strings. Unconditional surrender of each
to the other.
This unconditional mutual surrender of past, present and future is the real
reason for both modesty and nudity between lovers. Modesty guards the
secret of one's own private personhood from casual invasion. Just as I do
not want anyone to read my personal letters, listen in on my phone calls,
read my diary, and want to respect the privacy of others by refusing to pry,
eavesdrop, break and enter, or even to demand confidences, so modesty of
dress protects one's sexual secret from anyone but the committed lover!
Modesty of eyes refuses to invade the secret of anyone but the beloved, and
that only upon invitation, mutual and total surrender, with awe and
reverence for the holiness and inviolability of sexual personhood which
clearly reserves this to marriage. It is incredible that promoters of
absolutely liberal choice use a "right to privacy to choose to kill an
unborn child while opening their bodies to all viewers and all comers and
boast of "letting it all hang out."
On the other hand, nudity, however hesitant, fearful, awe inducing, shy,
is the uniform of mutual surrender. Between committed spouses, it is a
statement: "I give you all of myself, I hold nothing back. I do not hide
behind convention, dress, make-up, pretense. I am vulnerable to you in all
my failures, helplessnesses, less than attractive features. We are mutually
vulnerable to pregnancy, its "labor and responsibilities."
At first, nudity may tend to mere sexual stimulus at the physical beauty
or virility of the beloved. Later, the revelation of all the body's
weariness in service of the lover-beloved and children will be but an ever
more impressive sign of total mutual surrender. As life traces its wear and
tear on the bodies of lovers, and their good and evil choices make their
permanent marks, the mutual acceptance and surrender becomes more and more
precious and is clearly manifest in the mutual acceptance of each other's
bodily reality. A man who finds his wife's ungainly body, pregnant with his
very own child, repulsive to him, does not have the faintest idea of what
mutual love means! Nor does the wife find her weary and tiring husband and
father less romantic because he no longer looks like a knight in shining
The same concept of total unconditional giving and receiving which is
marital love lies at the basis of the beautiful reality of chastity.
Chastity is a language of the body-person which says: "No one but my
beloved has gone this way before and no one but he will ever go this way
again." Every man would prefer his wife to be a virgin, and every woman
would prefer to surrender her sexual personhood to her husband untouched,
unsullied in having been passed through many exploratory hands or temporary
liaisons. Unfortunately, few women seem to demand virginity of experiencing
from their future husbands; fewer men see any desirability in being sexually
celibate till they consummate their marriages. Indeed, the male so boasts
his machismo his sexual prowess in seducing, overcoming and impregnating
females, that he even succumbs to a negative hypocrisy, and pretends
experiences which he has hardly even read about! Yet often enough, after
multiple partners, he demands virginity of a woman he wants as a wife. This
is (however unconscious) the mutual recognition of the spousal or nuptial
meaning of the body.
More unfortunately, human nature is so weak and the sexual drive so
mysteriously strong that many of us do not arrive at maturity with an
achieved sexual integrity; we do not have our sexual "act together", our
"heads on straight" in this area. Mercifully, though once virginity is
lost it is lost forever, there is the possibility of sorrow, a reversal of
direction, and forgiveness. A kind of secondary virginity.
Such forgiveness must be threefold. One who has failed in chastity must
first forgive himself when he finds himself a failure and wishes to reverse
his field. Then he must seek forgiveness of the one whom he has harmed
(his future spouse or present partner). This is why lovers almost always
are driven to confess past sexual failures to the beloved a confession that
is not always wise! (It might be wiser to presume the forgiveness than to
hurt by detailing the infidelity). Finally, he must approach the God who
has designed the mysterious meaning of sex. Of these three the only certain
forgiveness will come from God (who antecedently is willing to forgive and
redeem if only the sinner is willing to repent, confess), who is far more
forgiving than a partner or even a remorseful self. "Remorse" means a bitter
"biting back"at the thought of shameful failure. Often remorseful (not
sorrowful!) sinners make their own "hell" by wallowing in despising
themselves. But if God can forgive a person he must learn to forgive
himself. The Bible is full examples in which God forgives sexual unchastity
upon sorrow. David's adultery with Bethsheba and murder of her husband is a
case in point. David's beautiful Song for Forgiveness is full of sorrow but
confidence in God's forgiveness which enabled him to move on (Psalm 51).
The God of the Hebrews saw the entire nation as His repeatedly adulterous
wife, whom He forgave again and again when she returned to Him. Jesus
forgave the woman actually taken in the act of adultery while saying to
her: "Nor do I condemn you. You may go. But from now on, avoid this sin"
(Jn 8:11). He insisted that no reason whatever permitted divorce and
remarriage when a partner failed to please. "Therefore, let no man separate
what God has joined" (Mt 19:6).
Like using a smile to deceive and a kiss to betray, the enactment of sex
while refusing to mean what it means is perverse. Love union is the mutual
surrender of one man to one woman with openness to a child for a lifetime.
Love is unconditional surrender. Love can never be careful or conditional,
can never reject involvement, refuse or reverse consequences. A boy too
young to marry who insists on being paid for a date with sexual intimacy
is as destructive of himself and the girl as a Mafia member betraying with
a kiss! A girl who seduces a date to prove her desirability, to reassure
herself that she is feminine and lovable, or to hold on to a relationship
she suspects cannot last, misuses her body to snare the boy in an
involvement he cannot sustain. He acts and demands a response which says
eternal surrender with utter abandon, but he perverts it my making it a
monetary uninvolved encounter. She tries to use the sexual act as a mere
means to hold him to support her immaturity, her need for affection. Real
love is self-surrender not self-service. The "guy" who slips the girl a few
hundred dollars for an abortion, and walks away from her without
responsibility, has been a liar in his loins.
Like the smile and the kiss, sexual intercourse also betrays the partner to
mean what they as yet do not mean, and can not yet mean. A boy and a girl
might merely want to express affection, or to discover what the sexual
experience might be like. They might protest that there are to be "no
strings," that there is no thought of permanence or of marriage. All the
protests in the world will not prevent them from getting "hung up" on each
other! Immediately upon sexual interaction, they both become intensely
involved with each other. (The word "involve" means "rolled up into":
surely coitus is involvement!). They are immediately jealous of any contact
with any third person of the same peer group, or even of the influence or
love of parents. They fiercely demand a loyalty as intense as any that
might be expected of a husband and wife committed to each other by solemn
vows before God. They become even more suspicious of the partner's
"infidelity" because they both know that this one is not a commitment and
that other contacts are equally non-committal. The agony of insecurity
which flows from an act which "says" faithful commitment while not having
the certainty of a marriage contract or covenant is full of fear and terror
at the inevitability of disaster. The tragedy of heartbreak when it is all
over has been the theme of half the love songs in the world which are
known as Blues' Songs. "Baby, oh baby, oh baby, you said you'd come again
this way again maybe I love you true."
Nor can the sexual act mean less than an openness to conception. A couple,
in or out of marriage, who insist on donning a contraceptive, or inserting
contraceptive armor or chemicals are acting out a lie. Lovemaking and baby
making are one and the same identical activity. The baby making act invites
the couple to open themselves totally to each other. A man gives himself,
and hence his virility, his seed and his fertility to his beloved. He gives
her the substance of his body, and he is that substance! A woman surrenders
her total femininity to him, and hence her potential as a mother. That is
an essential part of her as a woman. She too is totally her body. It is
no accident to the procreative meaning of sexual love that a woman is more
desirous of bodily affection when she is ovulating! When a couple use
contraceptives they are contradicting themselves. He puts his substance
in a garbage bag, or she armors herself against him, uses chemical warfare
to defend herself against him. Or she makes of herself a spayed human
being, or a rejector of his child for a longer or shorter time (pill, IUD),
a (excuse!) bag for his effluvia.
It is difficult to lie since our whole bodies protest when we try lying.
This is why the lie detector works, and why we cry: "You lie in your teeth!
(meaning that your very teeth are blocking your words)" when we catch
someone. So our bodies protest when we attempt to use contraceptives.
The abandon of lovemaking is impatient with the calculated delay needed to
don or insert the contraceptive. One is uncomfortable with the premeditated
calculation and repeated choices necessary to stay on the pill every day,
or to wear or carry a contraceptive. The decision to be "always ready"
accepts that the boy or girl is "that kind" of a person. Love cannot be
calculating, fearful, rejective, conditioned upon no "unwanted" outcome,
or only antecedently chosen results. Love is essentially total risk!
Like the smile and kiss that "trick" an angry lover to respond with a smile
and to return the kiss with more and more response-ability, so a baby
making act draws the couple to open themselves to pregnancy.
Contraceptives do not work very well. It is hard to trap, bloc, immobilize
or kill 200 million+ sperm in an ejaculation, when the facilitating
conditions for their motility are present at ovulation. The search and
destroy mission of modern contraception is notably a failure. Note that
back-up is advised a diaphragm with a spermicide. (Kill! Kill! Kill!)
Wherever sex education is initiated with concentration on how people act
sexually and how to avoid conception, unanticipated pregnancies increase in
direct proportion to the instruction and the availability of the
contraceptives. Discussions of methods of sexual release without discussing
the meaning quite naturally stimulate the students to explore sexual
release to find "what it's all about." It is not always possible, and
it turns out to be"not nice to fool Mother Nature." It is usually argued
that since ours is a sex-saturated culture, and young and old people are
going to get into sexual activities anyway, the only way to avoid a surprise
pregnancy is to increase the knowledge and availability of contraceptives.
It is curious that no one ever questions that with every increase of
availability, there is an increase of premarital and extramarital
pregnancies, and an increase in the demand for more and more easily
available abortion. The Gutmacher Institute (of Planned Parenthood) admits
that the only reason for abortion is backup for contraceptive failure.
If the human person is unique and irrepeatable, every conception and every
person must be a surprise! Uniqueness cannot be planned, programmed,
But contraceptives do not fail as much as contraceptors do! Physicians who
prescribe medicine speak of "method failures" and "patient failures. "These
terms describe medicines which fail, and patients who fail to take the
medicine! It would seem that the mechanics and instrumentation of
contraception do not always work, but that more often people do not "work"
them. Since when is a healthy woman a "patient" for whom a remedy for
fertility must be prescribed? This whole idea makes pregnancy a disease,
and the sperm of her lover an infectious bacteria to be defended against,
a venereal disease not really different from gonorrhea or herpes!
Many young people are quite knowledgeable about contraceptives and their
availability, yet they do not even think of using them. Why? I often wonder
whether they wish to discover the meaning of sex in all its amplitude
before they start to prevent meaning. After they have started sexually and
(perhaps) panicked at a missed period and have gone for a pregnancy test
which turned out negative, they do use contraceptives more often, but then
"forget" them from time to time (usually at ovulation?). Why? Even an act
of omission has a reason, though perhaps an unconscious one. Pregnancy is
a proof of maturity, a declaration of independence from family, a method of
luring into marriage, the provision of someone whom I cannot help loving,
or who cannot help loving me. Making a baby is a very creative experience
when one is prevented from other creativity by immaturity, lack of other
skills, artistic ability, complete education. It is a very inexperienced
counselor who does not ask himself, when a young or old couple come in with
a problem pregnancy or the suspicion of one: "Why did he/she want to
The logic of Planned Parenthood Federation of America seems irrefutable:
In a sexually stimulative culture, where all citizens are expected to be
sexually active in all possible ways, unanticipated pregnancies should be
prevented by effective contraceptives, and accidents removed by abortions.
"Every child (ought to be permitted to exist only if he is antecedently)
a wanted child!" "Children (can be permitted to be only) by Choice not be
Chance!" Strangely, this logic does not work the desired results. We now
have more premarital and extramarital pregnancies, more children born to
unwed women, more teenage marriages, more abortion remedies and more
marital breakups than ever in the history of the world. More of the same
remedy only seems to make matters worse, so something must be wrong.
The logic of the truth of sex is quite different. Sex means that two
people, one a man and the other a woman, are invited to mean a total mutual
gift of virility and femininity to each other with openness in utter
unconditional surrender to whatever happens of life and love. If, for any
reason, the two cannot or ought not to mean what sex means (whether because
of immaturity, health, finances, psychic or social reasons), they ought
not to "say" what sex says at this time. It is not true that sexual drive
is insurmountable. A compulsive user of sex is not a giver but a taker.
Sex is surely less demanding than the instinct of self-preservation,
yet even here we have thousands of records of those who have risked their
own lives out of love for others. We call some heroes. But we expect and
take for granted this kind of risk in our police, fireman, doctors,
lifeguards, and even our mothers and fathers. It would be a strange man
who would insist upon "lovin" his wife when she had a heart condition
and could die in his arms. It must be a strange young man who with a date
will argue: "If you loved me you would, and if you won't, you have a sexual
hang-up!" Or even: "What's your problem you are on the pill, aren't you?"
It should be quite obvious that for all truly human activity which is freely
initiated, abstinence is as necessary as use. In communication, silence is
as important as speech. The compulsive babbler gets "turned off." In the
words of the song: "Don't speak of love, show me! Now!" The compulsive eater
is piggish and repulsive. Only one who can fast, can feast! Now that we
have rediscovered the probable moments of fertility in the married couple,
a fertility awareness celebrated long before we knew anything about biology
by pre-Christian Jews and even by David and Bethsheba in their criminal and
murderous adultery, it is quite clear that there is A time to embrace and
a time to refrain from embracing . . . A time to keep silence, and a time to
speak . . . (Eccl 3:5). (Cf. Rabbi Normal Lamm: A Hedge of Roses.)
Scriptural Meaning of Sexual Intercourse
Judaeo-Christian tradition has a rich awareness of the meaning of sexual
intercourse, which transcends and completes the meaning which is clearly
observable by any thoughtful person. It is important to realize that
religion does not supplant the perception of common sense, but that it more
fully unfolds and fulfills it.
The earliest books of the Old Testament clearly analyze the meaning of
sexuality. Adam saw that sex was meant to make two persons, a man and a
woman, to be as near as possible a single person. This is the reason lovers
speak of: "My other self" or even "my better half." Adam said:
This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be
called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken. Therefore a man leaves
father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And
the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Notice that there is a special play on words here. In Hebrew the word for
man is "ish" and the word for woman is "ishah." This is the same as calling
the woman "sweetheart" or "heart of my heart." The word woman (wo=out of,
man = earthy) really means that she is as central to him as he is to
But there is also a blessing upon this union:
So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created
them. Male and female he created them. And God blessed them and God said
to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; and
have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and
over every living thing that move upon the earth (Gn 1:27-28).
The original Hebrew has a deeper meaning here. The blessing means: "Make
love (or open your love to children) and multiply. . .Extend human beings
throughout the earth and bring it under your wise and prudent control."
Jesus makes it quite explicit that the description of "two in one flesh" is
not merely a metaphor, symbol, sign or ideal but a true existential or
ontological reality. In His "argument" that divorce is not possible, He
adds: "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate" (Mt
19:6). He dismisses all arguments for exceptions in hardship cases. When His
disciples argue that it would be better not to marry than to risk an
unhappy union He agrees! He says equivalently, if unconditional love is
not what you want in marriage, do not marry!
St. Paul makes it clear that unchastity is sinful by insisting that lustful
action is a sin against one's own body-person and also against the Body of
Christ. He clearly states that Christian married couples, in their love
union, should "glorify God in your body." (Read the whole section in 1 Cor
Finally, St. Paul makes clear that total mutual commitment of man and woman
in Christian marriage is a reliving and a making present again of the union
of Christ and His Church. Christian husband and wife are to love each other
and to express this love in the name and place of Jesus Christ as Head and
Jesus Christ as His Body the Church which is His Mystical but Real Body.
(Cf. Eph 5: 21-33; for an elaboration of the celebration of Christian
sexual love, cf. Henry V. Sattler, Sex Is Alive And Well And Flourishing
Among Christians, Anastasia Press, Stafford VA 22554, 1979, Chapter 6).
Process Of Sex Education In The Home
If sex is the quality of masculinity or femininity in a person, then sex
education should be the provision of formation and information for a boy to
reach maturity as a man and a girl to reach maturity as a woman. This is
chastity education, since it implies a norm of masculine and feminine roles
in, or in view of, marriage and family, whether an individual marries or
lives as a celibate or virgin.
If this can be called sex education, it seems logical to begin wherever the
necessity for information and attitudinal formation begins to be needed in
the lifetime of a growing person. In days gone by, very little, if any,
formal (universal schooling is a relatively recent phenomenon!) information
was given and individuals learned by experimentation and a set of modeled
attitudes suggesting very indirectly (but effectively!) that genital sex
activity belonged only in marriage with orientation to children, and that
fatherhood and motherhood was the paradigm or model of all sexual maturity.
There is really very little record of how sexual information or attitudes
were taught or formed in days gone by. How people learned about sexual,
bodily, character, and role differences, menstruation and seminal emission,
the interaction of boy and girl, man and woman, husband and wife, conception
and childbirth, mother and father, parent and child, was absorbed within
the family and in the community but often not recorded. A largely illiterate
population was neither written for nor about!
As more frequently used today, particularly in "public school education,
sex education" indicates a classroom study of the ways in which men and
women achieve orgasm alone or with a partner, the options open to them, the
results which might happen in terms of psychic "hang-ups, venereal disease
or pregnancy and the possibilities of institutionalizing or at least
socializing various orgasmic life-styles. This is sexology, a dubiously
"modern" science less than a century old, beginning with Havelock Ellis!
Hardly a home-taught discipline!
When sex education first became a public or social question, it almost
immediately became an education in sexology, and not a matter of role
identification. It was first directed to the married who were taught
techniques of sexual variation (e.g., Van de Velde, Ideal Marriage) and it
was followed by methods of avoiding pregnancy necessary if sexual release
is to be achieved as often as one wills without unprogrammed outcome. When
someone noted that it might be too late to learn these facts and skills in
marriage, it was suggested that this should be involved in preparation for
marriage, a new kind of formal education never provided before. Families
with a number of children born at home knew quite well about love,
pregnancy, childbirth, and the role of parents, children and siblings.
When the same kind of pregnancy prevention became generally available, there
was no reason why sexual release should be reserved to marriage, and the
sexual revolution was initiated. At present, one is looked at with
disbelief if he remarks that he holds that sex belongs only in marriage
with openness to whatever happens. And, of course, official Catholic
teaching on this topic is rejected by most in their belief, and ignored
even more in practice. Even Catholics do not markedly differ from their
non-believing friends in their practice of pre and extramarital sex,
contraception, abortion, divorce or even infanticide.
Again, since this knowledge was avidly absorbed by the unmarried as well
as the married, the more rapid spread of venereal diseases and the spectre
of unwanted premarital as well as marital pregnancy demanded greater
information and techniques both to achieve orgasm and to avoid all the
outcomes thereof, including the stigmas of social disapproval for any
marital disintegration of orgasm alone or among consenting adults ("adult"
for sexual purposes meaning the moment of orgasmic potential and desire
adolescence: 10 to 13 for a girl; 14-15 for a boy).
Logically, genital activity alone and with others began to be accepted and
then anticipated on ever lower and lower age levels. It was logically
argued that, if individuals were to become sexually active at any
particular age, they ought to be instructed on what the outcomes of their
sexual activity might be and how to avoid what might be undesired. With the
acceptance of sexual activity as soon as the child was capable, since the
1920's it has become miniminally argued that whenever a child could
possibly experience orgasm and intromission, he or she ought to be provided
with the information about how this is achieved, what it does and very
specifically the undesirability of any outcome at such an early age,
romantic involvement, commitment (marriage or equivalent), pregnancy or
STD's. (Sexually Transmitted Diseases Note that this term has been
introduced as a substitute for what were once called venereal diseases,
since the latter term implied some sinful cause. The new term implies
morally insignificant cause, like sneezing in public as a source of viral
In all this, sex education became more and more focused upon tumescence and
orgasm, functional coitus, the pleasurable and psychological meanings of
such activity, the outcomes of venereal disease, the probability of
pregnancy which was almost always considered undesirable, even in marriage,
or desirable only when arbitrarily and antecedently chosen. Sexual
activity has now been expected and inculcated in children not only at
puberty but at ever earlier years. We therefore have sex education
programs from kindergarten to grade 12 and further information on the
college level. It has even been indicated by leaders in SIECUS, (Sex
Information and Education Council of U.S.) that preschool children should
be informed about orgasm and attitudinalized favorable towards it at an
even earlier age: "Sex is so good and important a part of life that if
children don't happen to discover sexual enjoyment for themselves, if
we really like them, we will make sure that they do" ("Parents Wary of
Suppressing Sexuality in Children," in New York Times, May 17, 1983)!
If an awareness of sexualness and sexuality must be taught, a formal
program must be begun, no later than birth. If however, sexualness and
sexuality are aspects of becoming a person which are caught, then we must
begin with models of mature adults in marriage, virginity and celibacy.
We must make children aware of what a happily successful sexual human man
and woman might approximately look like in his or her perfection. A child
can not really be taught truthfulness when he begins to speak. Nor will it
help to study the physiology of speech. Truthfulness must be exemplified
before this in those around him. He cannot be instructed in good music,
nor learn much about it from studying sound or the physiology of hearing.
He must hear it in his environment. He cannot be told about the joys of
sexual maturity in marriage or celibacy, he must observe such happy
maturity in models.
This does not preclude some formal instruction, philosophical and
theological research, or biological and psychological information. It
merely makes all of these things satisfactory to interiorization by
imitation, however vaguely understood. The implication of our present
sexual education craze is that no adult could possibly or fully understand
either sexualness or sexuality or achieve its satisfactory maturity without
a graduate degree in sexology (which is the study of how human beings
achieve orgastic release). For all less well schooled people, sexology
must be simplified and taught in every grade level of schooling down
to preschool picture books. A recent survey of sexual knowledge insists
that knowledge about the frequency of premarital coitus and the frequency
of homosexual orgasm is necessary for healthy sexual adjustment!
What then is the goal of sex-education? What is the picture of its
achievement? If the goal of being a man and woman is the achievement of
every variety of sexual release with the elimination of every unanticipated
and unprogrammed outcome, the modern sex education program in the school
system should be implemented and parents and religion should be excluded
from the process! They do not have the necessary "science" of sexology. But
if the goal is successful and contented celibacy or family life, then our
present school system is the worst possible since it triggers,
encourages, and facilitates the pursuit of the greatest possible number
of orgasms, and the greatest variety and intensities of orgastic experience.
It must, since it teaches no control of activity, teach control and
reversal of sexual consequences (hygiene for V.D., contraception, abortion,
infanticide, separation, divorce, emotional therapy for guilt, insecurity,
hatreds, jealousies all the disasters over which we shed vicarious tears
as we watch the "soaps" on TV).
The Fullness Of Sexualness And Sexuality
Christian sexual formation (or chastity education) must begin with the
parents. Parents must have a clear idea of what being a man, and being a
woman, and what sexual lovemaking might truly mean even if they have not
achieved it in practice. Further, no matter how many their failures, they
must both have some awareness of the value of virginity and celibacy both
in its dedication to God and its dedication to partner by virginal arrival
to the marriage union. This is chastity.
Six months before her wedding, Marian spoke to Jack, "Look, I want the joy
of celebrating our wedding night with a "never before" virginal gift of
myself to you and hopefully a receiving from you your virginal gift. But
it's getting harder and harder for me to resist your importunity and my
own passionate and romantic love for you. I hereby hand myself and my body
over to you, surrendering it to you so that you will bring it to the
marital bed a virgin body. You are going to be responsible for making love
to me, to impregnate me, and to care for me during my pregnancies, and to
support me and the children as they grow, as well as to educate them. Your
responsibility for me and them starts now!" Jack protested that that was
not fair, that she too had the obligation to help him arrive virginally to
the marriage bed. Marian agreed that she should not be seductive nor
excessively amorous during the remaining time of engagement, but that she
would no longer feel obligated to say "No" in emphatic tones, nor to fend
off each and every advance. Whether they succeeded or failed in reaching
their marriage sexually inviolate, I do not know. I know that I respect
their concern and mutual responsibility for action or restraint.
In similar fashion, each parent must strive to continually interiorize a
total pattern of masculinity or femininity eventuating in fatherhood or
motherhood. This does not mean the attempt to approximate some stereotype
of virility or femininity. It means that each person, from observation, must
try to approximate multiple examples of true virility or femininity because
each will have to try to exemplify for the growing boy or girl, the points
of identification which will provide the discovery of sexual identity in
the child. It is important that a man enjoy being virile. That he accepts
the challenge of initiative, positive agressivity, leadership and
responsibility for his own actions and for the security, safety, happiness,
and indeed, the maturation of each and every member of his family. With
President Truman, a husband and father must have as his motto "the buck
stops here". This applies equally to the sexual initiative which begins
his "matrimony" the state of making a mother. (Matrimony - from the Latin
"matri" - towards a mother, "munus" - official function). As well as the
responsibility for the welfare of the woman and children he initiates into
marriage (the way of a man with a maid) and family life.
In days gone by, a father was responsible for the virginity of his daughter
and, therefore, presented her veiled to her husband at her wedding.
Unfortunately the macho image of muscle flexing and sexual prowess of the
past did not seem to provide the model of male celibacy as responsibility
for his son, and often a father was hardly a model of spousal integrity for
his sons entering marriage. But this has always been a position of
Christianity from the day that St. Paul clearly said that a male did not
have the ownership of his own body, but his wife did, and the woman did not
have the ownership of her own body, but her husband did (1 Cor 7:4).
Ownership does not mean possessiveness here, but responsibility for welfare!
On her side a wife and mother ought early to have interiorized the song "I
enjoy being a girl." This means coming to terms with her bodily differences
from the male, her relative lack of strengths and competitive spirit, the
ebb and flow of mood-inducing hormones from the moment of puberty, the
regular reminder of fertility in bodily changes accompanying ovulation and
the sloughing off baby nourishment from the lining of her uterus (cf. Ingrid
Trobisch, The Joy of Being a Woman and What a Man Can Do, Harper and Row,
A wife must also adjust to a fundamental helplessness. When the final chips
are down and her passion of love fully aroused, she is helpless in her
surrender to conjugal union, to a pregnancy which might be less than
desirable at any given moment, and the fact that her baby takes over the
room in her body with utmost arrogance and makes her more and more gravid
weighty and important indeed but weighed down!
She too, having attempted with whatever success or failure to reach her
marriage bed virginally, must exemplify the modesty and reserve for her
girls and boys which will draw the boys to seek and be virginal partners
and the girls to look forward to the surrender, whether to God directly in
consecrated virginity, or to sacramentally present herself to Christ in
husband! This will demand the exemplification of modesty within the home
and between husband and wife within reason.
Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed before original sin because there was
no possibility of sexual appetite suddenly stirring before they had chosen
to approach each other in loving surrender. Nevertheless, Saint Thomas
Aquinas teaches that since their beings would have been totally at the
service of their free will, not in rebellion against it, their love
expression before the fall must have been all the more intensely enjoyable!
Only after the fall did they discover sexual concupiscence (which is not
appetite, but appetite for itself lust!) and find it necessary to
clothe themselves against sudden, meaningless and undesirable sexual
appetite. John Paul II in his discussion of the Spousal Meaning of the
Body, suggests that Christian husband and wife are attempting, over a
long period of living together, to achieve that spousal surrender which
does not seek the partner in mere lust or mutual use and service, but in
concern totally for the full and complete perfection of the beloved, "So
that she may be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:27). He makes it very
clear that a Christian husband and wife are trying to achieve an other-
centered love in which they can actually achieve the state of Eden: "They
were naked and unashamed."
In their love passages spouses must constantly attempt to approximate the
meaning designed by God (cf. Chapter 2 above).
Quite certainly, parents will not succeed in any kind of formation of their
boys and girls to approximate the image of sexualness proportionate to each
one's personhood if both have been involved in unrepented sexual sins and
failures, and are full of guilts and remorse unresolved by penance, purpose
of amendment, absolution and/or effective counseling. A man who is
irresponsible, unfaithful to his wife, merely married to power and his
place in the world, avaricious, and dishonest in his business, will hardly
provide the model of responsible virility for his sons or a model of the
kind of husbands his daughters should accept in prospect of marriage. He
will be even less a model if his bedside reading is Playboy, Hustler, and
The Joy of Sex, and his lecherous leers are a bone of contention for his
wife; or worse, if his children have real reason to suspect that he is
unfaithful to their mother; worst if his wife is but a mere service station,
a receptacle for his lust, even if they are apparently ignorant of this.
Chastity formation is impossible by someone who is himself unchaste.
"What we are speaks so loudly, that they cannot hear what we say!"
The warning bell or the bugle call to service will sound cracked from a
On the other hand, a mother will hardly teach virginity to her girls and
its desirability in a wife for her boys if she is carelessly seductive in
her own home, openly flirts with other men, brings a boyfriend home, and
her daughters can find her contraceptives in the medicine chest of the
master bedroom, and observe her avidity for the "soaps" that celebrate
all sorts of infidelity.
The ideal masculinity-femininity in spouses and parents here outlined is
not to be considered merely an impossible dream. This ideal is the norm
against which all activities should be measured with whatever failure to
measure up. However, the ideal must be realistically and sympathetically
presented to the children both in action and in word. A human male and
female must be able to say to themselves, each one looking into the
mirror of self, "You ain't much, baby, but you're the only me I've got!"
and turn to the other to say, perhaps: "You may have failed, baby, but
you're my only love." Indeed this last is what Jesus says to us in his
mystical body! God is so "crazy" about us that He incredibly sent His Only
Son to die on the cross for us, not despite our worthlessness, but because
Francis Thompson tells us exactly in the poem "The Hound of
Heaven" as Jesus speaks to him:
Strange, piteous, futile thing!
"Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught" (He said)
"And human love needs human meriting:
How hast thou merited
Of all man's clotted clay the dingiest clot?
"Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save me, save only me?
Realistic recognition of one's own failures to achieve or maintain chastity
and modesty is of great value in one's sympathy with the struggles of one's
own children. That father is to be praised who said, "Boy! Will I be glad
when my children grow up old enough to know that I'm the one that needs
All this needs a tremendous sense of humor. The Good News, that is, the
news that is too good to be true, is that God has given the grace to
overcome temptation and sin and that He has already won for us through
his death and resurrection the re-evaluation, "redemption," of all our
sinful failures. Only a real Christian can truly laugh at himself. This
awareness is the foundation of the truly Christian bawdy of Shakespeare
and Chaucer (cf. the analysis in Thomas Howard's An Antique Drum
[Philadelphia and New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1969] 120-124 and
in Sex Is Alive & Well, H.V. Sattler, Ph.D. [Montrose, PA: Ridge Row
Press, 10-20 S. Main Street, 1980] 111-112). The father is quite right
who says to his son, "Never mind how I met your mother, just don't go
around whistling, that's all!" It is quite correct for a close friend to
tell the little girl that he knew her parents "before she was even a gleam
in her father's eye." The humor evinced at weddings, which are suggestive
of the pleasures of the marital bed is antidote for either too great a
solemnity in approaching lovemaking or too obviously a leering lust. A
child at such occasions should become aware, however vaguely, that there
is some kind of special fun, celebration, and meaning that demands the
warrant of marital commitment. The little girl is correctly approaching
the meaning of Christian lovemaking when she asks, observing bride and
groom kissing, "Is he sprinkling her with pollen now?" It is, however
confusing to her, quite revealing that she know that there is a similarity
but mysterious difference here between plants and humans, and that love and
offspring go together. Paging through her parents' wedding album is her
first "sex" or better, chastity education. It should be apparent that no
married couple or virginal and celibate man or woman has fully explained or
explored the meaning of sexualness and sexuality in the spousal
commitment of the body. Just as no one is ever a perfect knower, so no one
is ever a perfect lover. Since the lovers are still growing and in self-
appropriation of their body-love, they cannot give a perfect image to the
observers or explain their progress to the neophyte in words. Parents, then,
cannot wait until they have achieved sexual perfection before educating
their children. They merely have to learn along with their children,
because "our actions speak so loudly they cannot often hear what we say."
This of course demands much apparently "wasted time" with children from
the moment of conception. How a woman comes to terms with her pregnancy,
and how her husband makes her feel lovable and loved during a time in which
he finds her bodily ungainliness fearfully obscene to him, will form the
child. I suspect how a woman resolves her multiple ambivalences towards
being pregnant and the cause of her pregnancy and the cause of her problems
in pregnancy (the child) will already have somewhat formed the child before
its birth. How eagerly a mother puts the child to her breast and how
approving her husband is of her devotion to this child, have a tremendous
impact upon that child. If she is secure in his love for her, and is not
suddenly expected to treat him as her oldest baby because of his jealously
of the time she gives to his child, she will avoid passing on this psychic
ambivalence to the baby.
Nor is there any such thing, especially for a mother, as "quality time."
One cannot choose a premeditated moment in which to give love formation to
a baby. We have found that a child must be fed on demand and so must his
or her emotional needs be met at the moment they appear. Nor need the
meeting of the child's emotional needs and questions be perfectly achieved.
The will of the mother to form the child as best she can is more formative
than the skill with which she does it. Often enough, technique or preplanned
answers appear self-conscious and possibly phoney, whereas fumbling
efforts repeatedly corrected in order to get it clear show total orientation
and openness to the child.
It might be more difficult for a father to spend planned time with his
child, but he must discover ways of doing so, and when he does deal with
the child, it ought not to be from behind a newspaper or with one eye and
ear on the TV set. Mothers learn to look their children directly in the
eyes, and so should fathers!
Pope John Paul II suggests that it is a duty of the modern couple in
marriage to become aware of what is called Natural Family Planning and
which I prefer to call the freedom of Aware Parenting. If a woman becomes
aware of her fertility cycle and her husband becomes aware of it with her,
and she equivalently becomes aware of the meaning of his stronger sexual
appetite, they can mutually take responsibility for each other: she to
respond avidly to him, when they have decided to express their love
sexually, and he to have the responsibility to seek their union only
when they are aware of the relative probability of fertility and their
willingness to open themselves, their beings, to this tremendous
involvement! Natural family planning with mutual responsibility is the
culmination of the celebration of love on the conjugal couch (cf. Sattler,
op. cit., "Celebrating Natural Family Planning," 114-117).
Only logically does the foregoing analysis come first. When our Lord
responded to the question about divorce in the Old Testament, He said,
"In the beginning, it [divorce] was not so." He did not mean that
historically, in the order of time! He meant in principle, the way it
is designed, it is not so. That persons do not achieve the fullness of
two-in-one-flesh, or have never fully achieved it, does not destroy that
basic reality, so one must pursue the value as an objective even though
one never achieves it.
Therefore, even while parents are attempting to achieve the model of
marital and spousal love, they must carry on the education of their
children. The failure to realize this is why so many people fail to
achieve any kind of sexual maturation in their children. They are afraid
to humbly admit their own failures or humorously (and humor and humility
come from the same word root), approach the struggles of their own egos,
and those of the children. A good priest who preaches a homily is quite
aware that no one in his audience is more in need of conversion than he
is and that he is but preaching to himself and allowing his audience to
listen in! His audience is quite aware that he does not preach from the
eminence of finished perfection. They heard him explode at the altar boys!
Once it is clear that the method of educating of parents to achieve the
fullness of parenthood is the same as the method of educating the
children and goes on at the same time, one can discuss a progressive
method of educating the children, with the proviso that it be immediately
understood that there is no time table in which a lesson is started and
completed, no lesson plan, no examination that will prove that one has
achieved the desired result, no lesson ever fully learned, no hope that the
educative job will ever be completed, no step by step progress. It is not
possible to say, "The stork brought you, now stop asking me questions.
"When the children stop posing verbal or implicit questions, they have
stopped learning. Once a person has stopped learning and appropriating
sexuality, he is equivalently dead and needs only to be buried.
Step By Step In Sex Education
Once it is understood that there can be no chronological process, we can
follow the growth of a child and suggest some areas for consideration,
but leave them all open-ended to the ingenuity of the parents. A college
degree in biology or a graduate degree in education or psychology is not
required, and indeed scientific knowledge may get in the way of sexual
formation! All that is needed is an attempt to continually respect the
meaning of being-of-a-sex and to love the sex of oneself and the child
in his or her development.
Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt is the awful emotional experience of
judging that one has deliberately and answerably done a despicable deed.
It can be true guilt from a real sin or crime, or false guilt, a feeling
without foundation in a truly evil deed! Dealing with true guilt is a
matter of penitence. Dealing with false guilt is a matter of psychological
therapy! But shame or embarrassment is hesitance, or fear to reveal the
self or what is private or personal, and of invading such privacy in
another. It is akin to modesty, reverence, or awe at what is sacred,
inviolable or reserved to God. In our state of fallen nature, called
original sin, shame is the emotional attitude that recognizes that one
could easily use one's own body or the body of another as a mere thing,
a mere object of pleasure. Shame or embarrassment belongs properly to
every human being, man or woman, boy or girl, within marriage itself or
before marriage. It is natural in the human person. It is shed only
hesitantly, and perhaps with repeated reluctance, to the end of life.
To a faithful, beloved and committed spouse, sacred scripture says:
"You are an enclosed garden, my sister, my bride, an enclosed garden,
a fountain sealed" (Song of Songs 4:12), and recognizes that either
spouse may enter such an enclosure only with the warrant and reverential
respect of the marriage covenant. It is this awareness which is
celebrated by the wedding gown, the bridal veil, the marriage tent,
the crushing of the mutually used glass beneath the heel. It is also
celebrated by the humorously bawdy, at the wedding celebration, with
the throwing of the bride's bouquet to the unmarried girls, and the
groom's right to take the garter from the wife and toss it to the bachelors
It is this hesitance and embarrassment which makes it very difficult for a
man to talk out with his son and his son with his father, as well as for
the pubescent girl to talk out with her mother, and her mother with her,
the new bodily experiences of growing up. The young man and young woman
are experiencing their unique personhood as growing into sexual maturity.
Despite the fact that this happens to every young man and young woman
whose hormone levels have been elevated and triggered by the pituitary
gland, the experience is absolutely unique and personal for each
individual! It is too intimate innermost to be easily shared with
another. Our present public discussion of all these matters insults and
traumatizes the experience which, however universal among boys and girls,
remains absolutely unique for each person. A young lady experiencing her
first romantic day dreams and perhaps mooning over some gangly adolescent
who doesn't even recognize her existence, neither easily sorts our her
feelings nor communicates them to her mother, and not at all to her dad
or brothers. A boyish adolescent struggling with sexual self-control in
terms of spontaneous erections or nocturnal loss of seed, might even be
tempted to take heroic measures to keep pajama and bed linen stains from
the eyes of his mother. Though he can be reassured that she knows and
understands, he does not want her to know! Ordinarily neither he nor
she will refer to the mutually known fact, not out of fearful guilt or
judgmental anxiety, but out of respect for the shame and embarrassment of
personal awareness and intimacy.
Fathers and mothers are legitimately hesitant to bring up these things to
their boys and girls individually, first of all, because they fear their
own possible prurience in invading the child's privacy, which would be a
kind of incest! Nor do they want to invite the child to enter into parental
struggles for chastity before or within their own marriage, or bedroom!
They legitimately do not wish their children to fantasize about their
conjugal lovemaking both because it is an invasion of their own privacy
and a possible stimulus to the turbulent passions of youth.
The mutual embarrassment is to be respected and listened to, yet, though
the topic must be broached delicately and with the hesitation that flows
from respect, it ought to be initiated. But privately, on a one-to-one
basis. No later than at the beginning of 6th grade for girls, a mother
ought to discuss potential motherhood with her daughter. This is first
done by suggesting to the little girl to become aware that her bodily
discharges will begin to vary; that in the not-to-distant future, some
slippery mucus discharge will appear at her vaginal opening. This is not
some infection or worrisome anomaly, it is the sign that she is about to
ovulate for the first time. Ovulation, though it will perhaps happen
irregularly, is the first signal of her budding maturity, her potential
to be a unique beloved, her potential to marry and give God children.
Along with this new change in her body will come her moodiness, her
romantic daydreams, anxiety about being lovable, fear that no one will
ever notice her, and that if he does, she will die of embarrassment. She
will be interested in the development of an attractive and youthful figure,
the development of her breasts, a kind of strange discomfort as she tries
to appropriate what seems almost a new body yet she will be disturbed
if her feminine figure appears much earlier than that of her friends or
The pubescent girl should also be told about conception which, of course,
she already knows, but now in terms of its orientation towards implantation
in the wall of the uterus and the menstrual experience the weeping of
a disappointed womb when there is no conception which happens irregularly
at first, but with ever increasing regularity, approximating 28 days, as
she matures. Some warning must indicate that though mucous discharge and
menstruation may seem messy and menstruation frighteningly bloody, neither
is any kind of hemorrhage or loss of essential bodily fluids. A mother
should consider the wisdom of menstrual pads versus tampons and
particularly the loss of the hymen or virginal membrane and its
possible meaning to the young woman. It is really impossible to tell
a mother what to say. Even the listing of the above suggestions somehow
or other seems an invasion of privacy, but only because it is written.
The experience is unique to the experiencer and the instruction is unique
to the love between a mother and child. Nor need a father be brought into
the discussion though it may be hinted that he is generally aware of
what's going on.
The pubescent girl is not without passion but her passions tend to be
erotic in the best sense (romance!), rather than libidinous. Libido is
sexual drive more apparent in male than female. She is thrilled by
the possibility that another human being could be as central to herself
as she is to herself and as important to her as she is important. This is
why she wants to be attractive for she wishes to be Beloved (Adam's name
for Eve!). Her basic temptation will be to draw attention from males by
her dress and developing body. She must understand, gradually at least,
that not every attractiveness is legitimate, that young men will not
necessarily offer her the satisfaction of her dream to be beloved, but
might merely wish to possess and use her as a body to satisfy their
appetite of the moment (lust) without any wish to love or be in any way
It is at the same time that the young lady might well be drawn to a
romantic love affair with Jesus. She may well consider whether she is
called to the religious life of virginity. Every religious novice
experiences "falling in love."
It is at this point that it should be explained that there is a fundamental
spousal meaning of the body. An individual comes from the hand of God with
absolute uniqueness. God's love for him or her is a spousal love. That
is, in creating this human person, God has said, "No one like you has
ever come into the world for me, and no one but you will come into this
unique relationship ever again. As a result, I expect you to love me above
all things, with your whole mind and soul and strength, to the level of
precluding every other love. I demand this from you, not for my sake but
for yours, since you cannot be fully what I have created you to be unless
you surrender yourself totally to my creative power. I wish you to return
to me this total dedication, which I have given to you, either directly
in a virginal state, surrendering yourself to me in love, both body and
soul, or through such a person as I will call to accept your gift of total
femininity in my name and in my place." This second in Christian matrimony.
It is imperative that every child develop a fundamental self-worth built,
not upon self-fulfillment, but upon a sense of being called to empty
the self in a special love. Nobody can give the gift of love to God that
each human being has been called into the world to give. At this point it
is very important to present the child with adequate role models for
identification. Surely a mother should hope to be a good point of
identification for her daughter and a father should be a point of
contrast between masculinity and femininity so that she can discover who
she is and what kind of a man she ought to contrast herself with as her
knight in shining armor, whether he be the heroic Christ, or the virile
Unfortunately, though we need saint models for young women, we tend to
canonize only spousal virgins and not spousal wives and mothers, i.e.
those who enter marriage and are experienced in true conjugal love and
who have achieved a fulfilling motherhood. Rock stars, soap operas and
Judy Bloom's novels are hardly effective for the sexual self-identification
of young women as Christian women, wives and mothers.
The Adolescent Boy
With whatever embarrassment and hesitation, a father ought to prepare his
son about the early problems of adolescence, the first of which is the
spontaneous erection and nocturnal ejaculation along with the temptation
to produce this intense pleasure deliberately by masturbatory actions. He
ought to challenge his son to recognize that all the power of burgeoning
youth, muscular, intellectual, emotional, and sexual, tends to be chaotic
unless it is disciplined. A boy's new-felt desire to be his own self-
starter, to be responsible for his own initiatives and carrying them out,
tends to make him rebellious and critical of all kinds of authority. This
is a good orientation in the sense that it leads to independence and
responsible initiative! Eventually, the buck stops here! But like his
ability to throw a baseball very hard, control is more important than power.
He must be told that he will naturally be attracted to feminine bodies
because that is the orientation of a man towards a woman, which enables
him to become two-in-one flesh with her, so that his union will be
matrimony, the state of making a woman his wife and a mother.
Incidentally, "marriage" is a masculine description, since it means "the
way of a man with a maiden" (Prov 30:19). Like the power to lift heavy
weights, the freedom to make up his own mind, the use of sexual power is
a responsibility. He must never use this power merely to satisfy himself,
or to depersonalize a woman whether in imagination, by looking through
books which present depersonalized female nudity, or by abusing any girl
he is with as a mere means to his own satisfaction, no matter how willing
she might be to be so used! He is responsible for the control and positive
use of freedom and power. He must answer for her welfare if he wants to be
virile. He is responsible for the control and direction of his sexual power
towards the complete total gift of self to his wife and the acceptance of
her total gift to him. It is his potential fatherhood which will make him
to be truly a man. This same answerableness will be expected of him later
in his possible marriage, when long abstinence might be expected of him
because of his wife's illness, the complications of pregnancy, or even
because they truly agree to practice Aware Parenting (or Natural Family
Just as all control of power demands long practice and self-discipline, so
does the control of sexual appetite. A father should sympathize with his
adolescent's struggles and explain to his youngster, as well as to himself,
that long years of sexual self-discipline are necessary beforehand, in
order to test his ability for total dedication to another person, whom he
will make central to his own being in love.
Every boy knows that there is a test of virility to be passed during
adolescence, whether it is the test of weight lifting, football, baseball,
or emotional or moral heroism. Just as for the girl, now is the time to
talk to the young man about his sense of vocation. God calls him into the
world as a result of a love for the kind of virile service he wishes the
new person to contribute directly to God or to a wife and children in the
founding, leadership, protection, support, and direction of his family.
To be called to follow Jesus as his leader demands the possibility of
celibacy. Celibacy does not merely mean the absence of sexual release. It
means the integration of one's person in all its power in pursuit of clear
goals. Matt Dillon and the stars of all the old "horse operas" model
celibacy in the pursuit and defense of frontier justice. Jesus is the
example par excellence of complete self-control of almighty power in the
service and leadership of love. He clearly indicates that He could easily
have led a legion of angels to defend Himself against Romans and Jewish
Sanhedrin, but He chose not to do so. He teaches with authority, but not
defensively, as do the scribes and pharisees with all their rationalizations
and arguments. He drives the money changers from the temple of His Father.
They are frightened of His strength. He founds the church upon a weak and
vacillating Peter, whom He nevertheless calls and makes to be the rock of
authoritative teaching, He sends an infant Church into a hostile world
to tell that world "the way it is" and the way it's got to be, despite the
martyrdom which faced all of them, and the disbelief that will always dog
His faithful ones. He established a Church in which the weak were always
to be protected and served by the strong. This sense of being called to
virile fulfillment is exerted whether in the priestly or religious life,
as a single person in the world because no suitable partner to whom one
feels called to respond crosses his paths, or as the leader and head of a
new Christian family.
A father must teach his son that he has a great desire of endless sexual
curiosity as a result of original sin and that this desire to see and
touch and experience will never die. But, that Our Lord tells him what he
must do. "If your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out" (Mk 9:47)!
Again, every human male is desirous of touching and exploring a female
body. This touch is designed to enable him to express love for his wife
and to discover her fullness as he would his own body, but this exploration
is more for her fulfillment as wife and mother and not just for his own
satisfaction. Though touch may say "mine" this possessiveness implies total
responsibility for the other, not selfish use. So "If your hand causes you
to stumble, cut it off" (Mk 9:43)! Of course, Jesus does not expect a person
to maim himself. What He is saying is: "If looking leads you to lust, don't
look! If touching leads you to use another for your own sexual satisfaction,
If he cannot say what lovemaking says absolute, total self-gift of one man
to one woman for a lifetime with the willingness to accept the risk of a
child he may not initiate what he is not permitted to complete. As role
models we should propose to adolescents not only the great martyrs and great
missionaries who were freed from family life in order to conquer new worlds
at a distance, but also those married saints or even those struggling men
of his acquaintance who exemplify true virility.
Every young men should see and ponder the "Man For All Seasons," and
later, "Man of LaMancha." A son should be challenged to be able to express
affection and eventually give a girl a hug and a kiss in warm tenderness,
and still be responsible for delivering her to her home after a date or an
outing, intact and not feeling mauled, manipulated, seduced or blackmailed
into giving herself or permitting herself to be used for his own
satisfaction. The boy should be further reminded that a girl's desire for
love and affection, for hugging, cuddling and to be held, is in no way an
invitation for the sexual touching which is the ordinary preliminary for
that two-in-one-ness which belongs only to the absolute and irrevocable
commitment of husband to wife and wife to husband. Then, he will not be
surprised later in marriage to find that a wife who wants to be held does
not necessarily desire intercourse.
Finally the young boy should be reminded that the struggle is long and
never fully achieved even in marriage. There are sinful failures. It takes
prayer and frequent approach to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, meditation
upon the weakness of human nature and the glory of matrimony and celibacy
poured out in love-service to God, and approach to the Body of Christ in
the Eucharist, which will recognize that sinful failures are not failures
of the self alone but a failure which also sullies the Body of Christ,
since we are members of His Body (cf. St. Paul especially in 1 Cor 6 and
12; Eph 4, and Jesus Himself, when He tells us that what we have done to
others we have done to Him, in Mt 25: 40 and ff.).
Since the use of virility is a matter of divine vocation of being called by
God, either to celibacy or to marriage, the young man should early be
taught by his father to pray for clear vision of the direction to which
he is being called, and equally to pray that should he be called to
marriage that he will find a young woman who will share his vision of love
service and help him to achieve his as he will help her to achieve hers.
Please God, he should be able to sing, "I want a girl, just like the girl
that married dear old dad" not with mawkish sentimentality, but with the
deepest love and respect.
A boy should not generally be pushed into becoming interested in girls.
For him, the meeting is one of intense and serious responsibility, and he
should not be encouraged to enter into it, until he is ready to assume the
responsibilities it entails.
Someone has suggested that the temptation to self-abuse or masturbation,
which afflicts every average growing boy is so terribly strong precisely
to teach the real value of sex! If sexual union is the total unconditional
gift of self to one who responds equally, it demands a gift without focus
on the giver but upon the receiver. One only learns gift-love when he
sacrifices his own desires. A boy gives his very first gift to his mother,
when he uses his carefully hoarded money, saved for a desired toy, to
purchase it. Without doing without, he cannot really possess what he
wishes to give. Without the struggle for self-control one cannot be
self-possessed enough to give the self to one's spouse.
Boy Meets Girl- Girl Meets Boy
By the time the girl has finished the sixth grade, she is generally very,
very interested in boys, but the boys do not even know that she is alive
until they are some two years older. It is a good thing that boys and
girls are critical of each other within their own homes. A girl with an
older brother is very rapidly corrected if her dress is seductive, or her
actions "sexy." The same thing that attracts him to get out of line with
someone else is the very thing that he wishes to protect his sister
against! On the other hand, an older sister will be very critical of
the girls her younger brother brings home, if only to prevent him from
making a fool of himself. Again, older brothers will be protective of their
sisters against the Don Juans they might be aware of or suspect among
those who meet their sister.
As girl meets boy and boy meets girl, the girl should become aware of her
tremendous seductive power over the boy. The word seductive will probably
not be found in the dictionary. It means the ability to draw out a
potential. A girl's ability to draw out the potential of a boy is either
superductive, ability to draw him to supreme achievement, or seductive,
ability to draw him down to utter destruction! It is a tradition for a
young woman to boast of her ability to twist a man around her little finger.
Sometimes mothers are actually jealous of their little girl's ability to
do that with dad, just what they themselves are most effective at in
winning the love of their husbands! A boy's power is more muscular strength,
force, and external initiative and accomplishment. Both sorts of power must
be put to the service of others.
In this connection, a young lady must learn that her natural desire to
attract may destroy the self-control of a boy and actually lead him to do
what she will most resent when he does it. Modesty of dress need not
conceal feminine charms, but should not display them for every passerby's
lust. A girl wishes all sorts of signs of affection and is willing to
permit ever advancing liberties if they seem affectionate. On his side,
a boy will perceive her willingness to follow his lead as inviting him to
the kind of familiarity which belongs only in marriage. Again, a boy can
easily be tempted to offer a companion all signs of affection, kissing,
cuddling, and hugging, in order to achieve his goal of sexual conquest.
This is a cynical manipulation of her for his own lust. Note that the word
"familiarity" means "being at home with." Bodily familiarity with another
demands the privacy of a conjugal home.
The boy must learn that not every response is an invitation to violate her
personhood by sexual intimacy, and that she must understand that not every
apparent romantic sign of affection from him need be what it appears to be.
Both sides are frequently guilty of bartering the one for the other:
the, apparent affection for sexual release; she, apparent sexual avidity
for romantic affection. This is particularly necessary information for
both adolescent boys and girls: that at the moment of affection's most
intense moments, the male tends to wish direct skin contact (called petting). The
question both sides must ask, is "May I wish to express the kind of love
which the action I am drawn to do really says?" If the signs of affection
are truly such with only incidental and unintentional sexual stirrings as
side effects, the action may possibly be justified. If the action says
"Mine", "Yours," or is the stirring preliminary to the meaning of sexual
intercourse, the activity is always sinful and seductive of them to act
out the total mutual sexual gift which is the spousal gift of matrimony,
when they are in no condition to carry out and measure up to the
responsibilities of its meanings.
Finally it is imperative for father to explain to his son and mother to
her daughter the meaning of sexual intercourse itself. (Cf. above pp.
In all the above, it should be apparent that there is little or no need for
parents to teach the biology of cells, the physiology of erection,
penetration and ejaculation, the mechanics of tumescence and detumescence,
the physiological process of implantation, pregnancy, breast feeding, and
nurturing. Nor is there generally any need to initiate discussion of sexual
life-styles, sexual promiscuity, sexual perversions, homosexuality, the
sexual wilderness in which we live, pornography, incest, rape,
contraception, or even venereal diseases. The whole concern of proper
sex education of parents for children, must be towards a reverence for
the earthy reality of the human body as masculine or feminine and the
meaningfulness of that body as a sign of the spousal gift of the human
person from God and back to Him whether directly or through the vocational
presence of a spouse. When the other things come up, as they inevitably
will, the response will already be prepared for. The reason parents and
the Church are losing the battle for Christian sexual morality is that
they are always defensive against a question such as: "Why can't I do what
I am attracted to? What's wrong with it?" Only if there is a right or
correct way to live can the incorrect, erroneous or evil way be clarified.
We are losing the battle against drug abuse and addiction because we have
no ideal of sobriety, alertness. We will never achieve "no!" to drugs if
we allow a feeling of euphoria be our goal (instant "feel good") instead
of the happiness of achievement, or better, of lending our efforts to
indefinitely pursuable goals such as life, truth, human service, artistic
and practical creativity, friendship, peace, justice, marital love,
procreativity, mothering and fathering.
This does not mean that educated parents might not impart some of the
biological, physiological, medical, and genetic information which might
be of help to their children, but these kinds of knowledge are not
essential to adequate formation of a child to face life, or else one
would have to conclude that sex education has never ever adequately
been performed, that there have never been happy men, women, marriages or
family life since it takes a minimum of a bachelor's degree in sexology to
have sufficient information!
Studies which use questionnaires about the adequacy of sex education always
tout the apparent ignorance of respondents. No one has ever been found who
admitted he had an adequate knowledge about the mysteries of sexualness
and sexuality! But how has the knowledge of graafian follicles or the
epididymis ever affected the ordinary day to day living of two people
who enter into a loving marriage? How has statistical knowledge of the
frequency of illicit orgasm helped devoted couples?
The above material itself, in it's attempt to abstract a sexual education
from the general education of children by parents, fails by spending all
its time and space on sexual reality which is but one, however
all-penetrating, fiber in masculine or feminine personhood. If any reader
attempted to follow the above suggestions consciously, or from a formal
memorization, he or she would fail miserably and deservedly, in the very
kind of sex education which this book attempts to inculcate! Chastity and
modesty as well as celibate and married nuptial love cannot be taught
from formal disciplines. They must be caught from word, tonality, attitude,
emotional expression, self-respect, respect for the bodies of others,
love of friends, love of others, marital expressions of affection, joy
in the birth of a new child, and even from the wise shame, embarrassment
and modesty, or even guilts, that are experienced in one's own fumbling
attempts to achieve ever more meaningful sexual identity, activity,
control, commitment, dedication.
Parents And The Direct
Sex Education Of The Children
The child has already begun to be directly formed by the conjugal love of
the parents from the moment of their falling in love, because their love
is essentially a mutual surrender to each other and to whatever comes.
Mutual unconditional surrender is the meaning of marriage, for better or
for worse. Procreating, then, is the action in which there is
unconditional surrender to whatever might arrive by way of a conception, of
whatever quality of life, or factual life history a child might achieve.
Education is merely procreation extended. It is surrender to whatever might
be discovered of potential to be drawn forth from the child. How the
parents accept their pregnancy (and the pregnancy is mutual) is apparent
to the child. A woman who is uneasy with her pregnancy, rejective, angry,
discontented, without resolving the negative in favor of the positive
attitudes, without resolving her quite natural human ambivalence, will
have an effect on the child. How her husband treats her during this time
will have similar impact. I cannot prove that this begins while the
child is in the uterus, but I know that the child is a human person
from conception. I know that some morning sickness is due to unconscious
rejection of pregnancy by a mother and since I know that the child's
nervous system gets a very early start, I would not be surprised if the
child is already a little bit aware at least of his acceptance in the
womb. It has been reported by several very introspective psychoanalysts,
undergoing their own analysis, that they have been able to recall
incidents in utero. I myself have a recurrent nightmare which could well
be interpreted as a memory of the rending of the amniotic sac (the
so-called bag of 'waters') and the trauma of birth.
Granting that the ideal situation is seldom perfectly achieved, the
deliberate sex education of the child begins at the moment of birth. If
the mother goes through a labor which she sees clearly as exhausting
but worthwhile hard work (labor), if her husband can honestly be present
to second her efforts and coach them, if the child can be put immediately
to breast upon delivery, its fundamental self-acceptance and its so called
"imprinting" or "bonding" (which is true even for animals) is begun. We
do not know but suspect that there is much more deeply psychological
meaning for human beings than the sensitive meaning for animals. The
separation from the mother who is unconscious due to anesthesia, and who
will meet the child only a day or so later must certainly be traumatic
for the child and thoroughly overcompensated for, if it is not to have its
impact upon the child. All the hugging and kissing and fondling as well as
the skin contact with the baby, especially in the process of nursing at
the breast, is an early contributor to self-acceptance -of the body and of
Before an infant can ask his or her first questions, there are many avenues
of adequate sex education. If the mother and father dress the child in
characteristic masculine or feminine fashion and praise the child for
being attractively manly or womanly, long before the child understands
the words that are uttered, he grasps something of the "music."
The mother who in despair scotch-taped a ribbon to her baldpated little
girl was giving very effective sex education.
When dealing with the bodily needs of the child, parents communicate how
they feel about masculinity and femininity. The bodies of little boys
are made differently than the bodies of little girls. Older children
may observe these differences as the child is bathed and changed, or as
they carry out this care themselves, with the simple explanation that this
is the way it is. Boys and girls differ in these anatomical ways as a fact
to be noted and accepted.
Early on the child will begin to explore his body and find out how far he
goes and what is "I" and what is "not I." (At first he objectifies himself
as "me!") This exploration is innocent in itself, but needs early
direction. A mother finds it in no way difficult to correct a child for
putting things in his nose, ears, or mouth that ought not to be there. She
should have no more concern, but no less, when the child wishes to put
something in her vagina. A parent early observes the little boy in
erection. It has been reported that by ultrasound photography, the
erection can be observed even in utero. How strange that the sexologists
use this fact to suggest the child's "birthright" to sexual experience,
while refusing to accept the film called the "Silent Scream" as evidence
of the evil of abortion!
Far from being disturbed at this early stirring, parents must realize that
the equipment for sexual stimulus is present, that resultant excitation
can happen by accident, but should not be deliberately triggered by the
parents, baby sitter, or external stimulus, lest the child become already
accustomed to the kind of pleasure seeking that will eventually become
uncontrollable. Surely a little boy should not be propped up in front of
a TV screen presenting scantily clad majorettes. His reaction will be
stronger than any adult male's who should have learned a bit of
inhibition! The little girls can be kept very attractive and feminine
without being praised for being sexy. Sexy means stimulative of sexual
arousal and desire for lustful experience.
It is interesting that our modern sexologists are becoming quite schizoid.
They insist that sexual release is always good even in the womb, but they
are quite concerned (illogically) about child abuse and incest. Why! If
orgasm is a good in itself what can be wrong about teaching and
encouraging children to achieve it? Only if sexual release is meaningful
in certain ways, and perverse in others, can there be a reason to call
sexual inculcation "abuse." Nutritious food is to be made tasty. It is
wrong to encourage the pursuit of every "taste treat."
Where Did I Come From?
The earliest questions of the child are focused upon suspicion that he
could fall out of being (which is the basis of all fright or fear, for
example, of the dark) and that there is a source of his being outside
himself (God). When he asks "Where did I come from?", it is not a question
about his biological origin. An early "organ recital" is not the answer!
This is the time to tell him that he came from God, that God made him,
but it is also the time to delight the child with every imaginative and
delightful fantasy which focuses on the miracle of unique, irrevocable
and forever personhood. One mother (college grad married to an MD!) was
urged by her obstetrical nurse to give her 2 1/2 year old little girl
biological details. The mother refused because, said she, "Sarah has a
better story than I can tell her." Her little girl had concocted a
fantastic fairy tale of a playmate on the other side of the stars ready
to come down to play with her. She was quite aware of her mother's
extended abdomen and the presence of her new brother or sister there, but
simply refused to consider it.
When the time seems right, and only a mother can know the time, it is time
to bring out the wedding pictures and show that, along with God's love,
this is where the child came from, from the love of husband and wife!
The reason that this is so important is that the child needs a tremendous
sense of security. And security is discovered only by the certainty of
being loved, the certainty that the child is sourced in love, and the
further certainty that that source will never dry up! God will always
be God, Mother and Father will never stop loving each other. And if that
love should fail, or be imperfect as inevitably it must, parents must
admit to their children that they don't always like them, and they know
that the children do not always like the parents, but that God will
always love the child. "Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show
no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will
never forget you. See, I have inscribed your name on the palms of my
hands" (Isaiah 49:15).
A problem immediately arises if the child has been adopted. Has this person
been rejected by his natural parents? Or perhaps a mother or father has
been divorced or separated? Has the unpresent, absent parent been
unfaithful to the child? Has the child done anything to cause the lack
of love which he knows to be at the basis of all his security as a person?
How to answer these questions in both an honest way so that the child
will learn that love is necessary but that nobody achieves either the
giving or receiving of it perfectly is important.
The child must be taught very early that not having been loved should
not be responded to by not loving in return, or by hatred. Hatred never
destroys the person who seems evil, it only destroys the hater! It is
important for the child to know what St. John teaches us, that God loved
us first, that we were loved into being, and that though we ought also to
be loved first by parents in order to come into and continue in being,
every human being must learn to love first, even before he demands love.
This is why Jesus tries to teach us to love our enemies and to do good
to those who hate us (Lk 6:27). Though it is true that a child ought
never to experience feeling unloved or a feeling of being rejected or
hated, he cannot achieve this because each person is unique with needs
that are not clearly known either to a lover, or to himself. He will
also be, and suspect that he is to some extent, inadequately loved.
The "me" generation has not yet discovered that fulfillment lies in
emptying the self and not in being filled. A paradox! "Unless the grain
of wheat falls into the ground, it dies and remains alone, but if it
dies it brings forth fruit a hundredfold. He who keeps his life in this
world, loses it, and he who loses his life in this world, keeps it,
even to life everlasting (Mt 16:25). It is indeed better to give than
to receive" (Acts 20:35).
It is indeed apparently cruel that a child should have to be taught this
very early in life, because of some human lapse by someone who ought to
have accepted and loved him, but it must be learned. An adopted child
or even an abandoned child must learn to be grateful at least for
existence, to understand the weakness of human failure, to beware of his
own infidelities to love in the present or in the future. Ultimately he
must throw himself upon God. No finite human creature can ever be
absolutely trusted, because he cannot know all my innermost emptinesses,
and if he knew them he would be helpless to fill every one of them.
Everyone must sing: "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child" or "You
always hurt the one you love," or cry "With lovers like I have who needs
Fairy tales are wonderful analyses of the mysteries of life, of good and
evil. If only they were truly tales. A stork story about the burgeoning
of new life after a hard deadly winter in Holland, where the storks
nested in the chimneys in order to keep their eggs warm enough for the
chicks to hatch, was and perhaps is still, a lovely way to explain the
squalling of the new infant in the home below. We use newborn bunnies and
chicks breaking through their shells to explain the resurrection of Jesus
Christ. A farm child knows quite well that he was not found in the
cabbage patch under a large cabbage leaf and he pretty well understood
that though the doctor came to his house (or the midwife), he did not
carry the new baby in a little black bag. But these were not lies, they
were "put offs," and there are indeed times in which a child can
reasonably be put off so long as he does not perceive that the question
is never to be asked at all, but only at a more opportune time.
Bodily descriptions can be invasive of privacy and the natural modesty of
the child. They can also be frightening, if their vividness is
disconcerting or traumatic. Finally they can be very stimulative, inhabit
dreams or nightmares, be utilized in fearsome fantasies, and, in the
sexual area, be the source of such sexual arousal as the child or adult
may not be able to cope with. For this reason, metaphors, tales, or more
romantic images may be a necessary substitute for either matter-of-factness
or vividly portrayed and often gory details. Modesty or moderation is
the designation for thoughtful awareness of the body and its functions
as well as what happens to it.
Bodily modesty should be taught to both sexes rather early. A child
discovers a concept of self and the need to protect it very early. He
wants his own clothes, his own toys, his own dishes, perhaps his own
blanket. He likes to play hide and seek (a game of privacy and self-
revelation!). All these are building a sense of self, which is at base a
ense of privacy. Though his mother will despair that he or she will ever
learn to close the bathroom door, there will come a time when a childish
cry "Mommy, Jimmy wants to come in here" will indicate the longed for
moment of the sense of privacy. Since genitality is at the center of
personhood, as expressed in the body, the refusal to have one's genitals
viewed or fondled should be quietly taught very early. After years of
attack upon bodily modesty we are now becoming aware of the danger of
child abuse once again! Some are even teaching a (horrors!) puritanical
concept of "good touch" and "bad touch." With such education, how will
they accept of conjugal touch and exploration in marriage? Touching is
not good or bad in itself. It is "touch out of place" which is dangerous.
In the "good touch" "bad touch" approach, a child can get all sorts of
scrupulous conscience and fears. One touches oneself in bathing and
micturition, genitally, without concern. Touch must be explained as
necessary in parental, nursing, and medical care.
As soon as the child is able to bathe himself or herself adequately, the
mother should gradually retire from the activity except for necessary
inspection for cleanliness. This can easily be taught by praise for
progressive growing up that goes along with the desire to be in control of
oneself (urination and potty training), to dress oneself and button up.
Of course, modesty within the home is not the same as modesty towards
those without. It would be an unusual little boy who had never caught a
glimpse of his sister scurrying from bathroom to bedroom because she had
forgotten a fundamental article of clothing. Again, the example of parents
is paramount. Wives and husbands should not read each other's personal
mail. One's "things" should not be arbitrarily appropriated. It is a well
designed house for a family of husband, wife and a number of children,
whose rooms have doors which are regularly closed! It might be a good
idea in preadolescence for a room full of brothers to post an "Off Limits"
sign to parents on their bedroom door.
Modesty And Medicine -Bodily Facts
Biology and physiology are sciences abstracted from real living animals.
Biology is the study of the start, nourishment and division of cells.
The biologist implicitly accepts that there is no real distinction, no
real difference, between an amoeba, through the kingdom of living
realities, and the human being, except a difference in degree and
complexity. For him the higher level of animality merely points to
the greater complexity of the genetic material in the RNA. His interest
in sex is basically an interest in meiosis and recombinant DNA. (What?
you don't know or have you forgotten what meiosis is? Forget it!)
Physiology is the study of the functioning of human anatomy. Since we
conceive of most functions as instrumental, when we use instruments, their
instrumentality depends upon our own imaginative goals and the
proportionate effectiveness of these activities to such goals. But bodily
activity in the area of sex education is not in the area of biology and
function but is more in the area of semantics and symbolism and involves
meaning and morality! One discovers very little about drunkenness and
intoxication from the physiology or the biology of nerve cells ingesting
alcohol. One discovers very little about human copulation from the biology
of sperm and egg and the physiology of animal coitus!
The human being is different from all other living realities, not only in
degree but in kind, and in kind radically - from the root up. Affection
between a mother and a child, manifested by a mutual nibbling is not merely
animal affection at base, with an over-coating of free love choice which
is human. Affectivity which is sensible in a bodily way for human beings
is utterly transformed by the free choice of will which we call love. It
is quite natural for children to anthropomorphize their pets, to
personalize them by giving them names and by speaking of them as though the
relationship from male to bitch, and of bitch to puppies, is identically
the relationship between human father and mother and both of them with a
child. But though we can metaphorically praise the bitch's devotion to her
litter of pups as "being a good mother, "the dog's function is entirely
instinctual whereas a mother's function with her children is a responsible
choice to which she measures up or fails. The bodily involvement in
begetting and bearing and raising children is in no way identical with
the body involvement of conceiving, whelping, feeding and weaning of
puppies. This is the reason that many a farm teenager, active in 4-H,
might be quite deliberately but unconsciously ignorant of human
generation, despite the fact that he or she has presided over the
breeding and delivery of prize farm animals. Even the vulgar obscenity
which draws the self-conscious joking about human sex reveals that it is
utterly distinct, and very special. If human procreating activity were
identical with animal coitus, there would be nothing surprising about
it and there would be no vulgar, obscene, offensive or lustful terms nor
shame, modesty or guilty self-consciousness! Nor would there be any desire
for privacy in such activity, for surrounding it with ritual, protocol,
warrants, liturgies and religious protection.
This does not indicate that biology, anatomy and physiology should not be
taught on every school level in the scientific fashion which is
appropriate to the abstract discussion on the level of student
understanding. How the heart works, or digestion takes place, and
reproduction is achieved can be treated on every level in equivalent
fashion, but one does not talk about the physiology of the heart
palpitation upon falling in love, nor does he bring the description of
defecation to explain the banquet table, or the physiology of sex to
explain the yearning of a man and a woman to become two-in-one flesh
(two-in-one person) or to open himself to the cooperation with God
in the begetting of a son or daughter. The discussion of parents with
their children about the origin of the new human person is therefore not
a matter of biology, anatomy or physiology, but a matter of bodily
significance. A wink, a smile, a lie, a slap, a kiss, a hug, are not
explained by the physiological musculature involved. Neither are the
carrying of a baby, the becoming of two-in-one-flesh, the conception of
a new human being, the birthing of a child or its nursing. If a young
woman knows the meaning of breast feeding, by her experience as baby
and by her observation of the loving concern of her mother with a new
child, she will know that her breasts are primarily for nurturing and
only secondarily to attract the love which will make of her virginity
a mothering! If parental formation is for girls to be women, for boys
to be men, and for their positive attitude toward mutual surrender in
matrimony, then bodily facts are meaningful or significative, not
scientific! They physical attraction of breast and bottom is towards
mothering, and only instrumentally towards sexual arousal.
When the child first asks "where did I come from?" and is not satisfied
with "God made you," or "The love of daddy and mommy brought you here,"
it is time to speak of pregnancy, which is a communication experience
rather than a biological one. After all, we are rapidly discovering how
we can take care of even human biological life in vitro, in test tubes,
in incubators and germ free plastic bubbles, but somehow we perceive
that this is not the way it ought to be from the human and personal
point of view. Else why do we laugh at the cartoon, which shows a huge
test tube in the corner of a laboratory to which one scientist refers
in telling another inquirer, "Oh that's for the woman who wants the
basketball player." Or when a veterinarian MD suggests that a husband
become "psychologically involved" (jargon term for loving involvement of
persons) in the artificial insemination by "pushing the plunger!" No one
thinks it is funny to ask the vet to push the plunger for an angus cow!
And yet we would see some poetic justice should the angus bull escape the
semen milker and gore the vet's new Cadillac, because we see the
incongruity that would be involved in substituting a syringe for human
love union. To the question of pregnancy, the first answer on a bodily
level: the baby starts within the mother's body, where there is a place
like a little room or nest where it will be safe until it grows big
enough to grow outside her body. As early as possible the child should
know that this place is called a womb, if only because it provides an
explanation for that mysterious prayer: "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Jesus." But it is pedantic to insist that the little child say that the
baby is in the mother's abdomen. Tummy is the child's word! And though
it is not physiologically correct, it is not surprising that the child
says stomach too. Scientific exactness is irrelevant! The meaningfulness
of being "with child" is what is important. Notice the games that mothers
play with their babies. "I could hug you to death . . . I could eat you
up . . . How much do you love mommy?. . . So big. . . Squeeze tight." A
mother wants her baby to be inside her because the experience of another
person as central to herself as she is to herself is called L-O-V-E. This
is the identical experience she has had with her husband in starting
the child. Surely a young child should be allowed to feel the movements
of his little brother or sister within mother's womb. Or maybe to help her
to listen to its heartbeat. Perhaps picture books of pregnancy might
well be introduced, but they should be meaningful in a romantic sort of
way. Neither as abstract as diagrammatic biology nor as concrete as to be
All the misunderstandings of the child which burst forth in such surprising
questions should just be a source of family hilarity rather than of
anxiety or of fright. If a child wonders whether the baby will explode
with a loud pop, or whether mother started him by swallowing something,
there is no reason to be perturbed about his error. On the other hand,
a parent should not respond to a child's question if the answer seems to
be embarrassing to either herself or the child. Embarrassment or shame is
a kind of modesty that does not flow from guilt, but from respect for
one's own person or the personhood of the child. After one has matured the
child enough to close the bathroom door, one is embarrassed to enter while
the child takes care of bodily needs, and is equally embarrassed to be
burst in upon by the child. So also if the question seems to invade the
privacy of the mother or father, or the answer somehow seems to them to
invade the privacy of the child, it ought not to be answered. To force
an answer because some expert has insisted that this is the way it should
be done at a certain time is to do it with discomfort, and it will make
the recipient uncomfortable too. And what is uncomfortably said does not
ring true, but sounds phoney, false.
How Does The Baby Get Out?
A mother or father can explain to a child that there is a special opening
between the mother's legs which enlarges sufficiently to enable the baby
to get out. As one mother explained to her little girl: "There are three
openings, one for pee, one for pooh, and one for the baby." This subtly
leaves open an awareness of how the baby started too. Printed here this
may well make the reader uncomfortable, as any private intimate utterance
would when posted on the bulletin board! I publish it here just to help
the reader to accept both the intimacy and the healthy meaning of shame!
Birthing is the experience called labor -- worthwhile hard work. This is
an occasion to describe and commiserate with Our Lord who said in
anticipation of the miracle of His death and triumphant resurrection,
that a woman when she is in labor is sad because her hour is at hand.
But when the child is born she is glad that a man is born into the world
(Jn 16:21). How accurate an analysis! It is unrealistic to romanticize the
difficulty of birthing, and equally unrealistic to traumatize the child
by frightening him. And yet it can be explained about how frightened he
sometimes feels in the dark, and alone or seemingly alone when he is sick
or sad. How good to feel that mommy and daddy are close as he travels
alone in the dark which is what each of us had to do again and again.
Though it is not true that mothers go down to death's door to give birth
to their children, in the sense of risking their lives, they do go down
to the fundamental nitty-gritty of being alive, and of where the most
earthy of existence is. Some mothers want their husbands to be with them
at the moment of the birth of their child, to encourage and share. Other
mothers want their husbands to be as far away as possible because when
they come to this elemental kind of living, they do not want him to observe
their weaknesses, coming apart at the seams or even their tears
I know of a couple who show slides, carefully selected, of the actual
birth of their children to the children themselves and to their brothers
and sisters. The impact upon these children is electric. It leads them
to joy, pity, commiseration, tears and happiness but one would be very
hesitant to show the entire process in motion pictures as obviously too
traumatic for the immature child. It is interesting that this set of
parents discusses and decides on each occasion whether to show the slides
and which slides to show and which to omit! It has been a different
decision each time. Only the parents themselves can make this sort of
judgment. This should not be a school room vis-ed program.
Breast nursing can be explained simply to the other children by observation
and comment as needed, but need not be ostentatious. Perhaps not so
strangely, I have never observed anyone lusting at breast nudity over
a woman nursing her child, even by a man given to breast fetishism. The
questions about nourishment, about the size of the breast and its
function, about why little boys do not have breasts, and little girls
do not yet have them, are simply too numerous to answer here. Warmth
towards the begetting process and feeding by mother and father will
easily discover answers that will be embarrassing to no one. Humor and
laughter with (not at) childish mistakes and misapprehensions will dispel
any possible tensions.
Delicacy Again and again one hears that the process of sex education
is in areas of very delicate concern. One should wonder why we consider
certain questions delicate! We do not consider questions about other
bodily processes delicate, though we might consider them vulgar. No one
suggests that education in literature or grammar or mathematics is
delicate. Nor on the social virtues of citizenship or public spirit.
Why do we suggest that areas of love and procreation are delicate matters?
There are two reasons for this.
The first is that the sharing of bodies, the becoming of two-in-one-flesh
and the awesome responsibility of risking a new human person into the
world are too intimate, too private, to be easily invaded or easily
discussed. The very matter of modesty in clothing and indeed the existence
of clothing at all, sets the human person, whether man or woman,
completely apart from the animal kingdom. One does not wear another's
underwear, open and read his letters, demand a recounting of his fantasies,
burst in upon him in the bathroom. This kind of hesitance is greatly missed
custom destroys it. The nudity of the barracks or of gang showers is more
or less depersonalizing and even in the separate sex dressing rooms,
individuals of the same sex tend to avert their eyes from their
neighbor's bodies. It is the rare man or woman who is not embarrassed
to some extent even by a necessary physical examination by a trusted and
loved physician. Sometimes we even prefer a stranger so that we will not
have to meet him or her in any personal fashion outside of the examining
Perhaps, we ought also to go back to the darkness and screen of the
confessional because it is always as difficult to get morally
"undressed" before someone as it is physically. This is the reason that
the conjugal couch is the only fitting place for the confession of faults
The second reason why sexual questions are embarrassing is because every
individual knows his or her sensitivity to sexual arousal, fears arousing
it in anyone else, and particularly in a respected, loved, or dependent
person. A lecherous man who obviously undresses with his eyes a
seductively clad passerby might turn to his daughter and say, "If you
ever wear anything like that, I'll beat your ears in." His words will
fall on deaf ears. The same man who tells locker room tales, will hesitate
to share them with anybody he loves and never gets to talk to his son in
any sympathetic manner about how to deal with his temptations!
Because his speech can only be hypocritical or phoney. The incest taboo
is often, and correctly, inhibitory of discussion on sexual matters
between parents and a child.
If, then, we are convinced of the delicacy of certain sexual discussions,
we ought never to attempt to overcome our hesitance to the point of
ignoring it. After Adam and Eve decided to make up their own rules of
right and wrong, they discovered for the first time that they had lost
the self-control necessary to follow the truly fulfilling sexuality of
man and woman. They noticed that they were naked and sewed for themselves
loincloths of fig leaves (Gn 3:7).
The questions which have bodily answers of "Where did I come from" and
"How did the baby get out" are not "delicate" in themselves. They are
only delicate in the orientation towards the next two questions: "How
did the baby get there in the first place?" and "What is this new,
strange, disturbing experience in my body?"" In answer to the question
of "How did the baby get into the mother's body in the first place?", it
is necessary to make the child aware, that though God made Adam and Eve
without any help from anybody else, Adam from the dust of the earth, and
Eve from Adam's innermost "heart of his heart", He wanted them to become
two-in-one flesh so that they might cooperate with Him in begetting
children. God did something wonderful for Adam and Eve, He let them
help Him make their children, and ever since then, God has asked men and
women to help Him to bring children into the world. He was very good in
His plan for this and it was a great idea, for He didn't need the
help of people. He could have made each individual child the way He
made Adam and Eve without anybody's help. Indeed He is still specially
involved in the coming to be of every person. And that is why helping God
to have a new child to adore Him, to become a part of the real body of
Christ and to belong not only to parents but to the Church, God reserves
the way in which a body gets started in its mother's body to a special
state called matrimony. This is a big word which means the sacred or holy
way of making a mother. It takes three to start a baby, God, the mother
and the father. If any one of them were to be missing, there would be no
baby. All three have to join in. The father and mother together start the
baby's body and God starts the baby's aliveness, gives it a soul, makes it
a person, has a special idea of all the baby's abilities that it will
ever reach right from the beginning.
How frightening that men have now decided to bypass this body involvement
of husband and wife to manufacture a baby in a laboratory like a living
It is ironic that the only voice raised in defense of sex as the
indispensable source of babies is the voice of the ascetical and
supposedly antisex Pope Pius XII! He said:
The child is the fruit of the marriage union, when it finds
full expression by the placing in action of the functional
organs, of the sensible emotions thereto related, and of the
spiritual and disinterested love which animates such a
union; it is in the unity of this human act that there must
be considered the biological conditions of procreation.
Never is it permitted to separate these different aspects to
the point of excluding positively either the intention of
procreation or the conjugal relation (Pius XII, "Allocution
to the Second World Congress on Fertility and Sterility,"
May 19, 1956).
In modern language the Pope told this congress of human veterinarians,
that the human child must be conceived of a sexual act between a man and
a woman which is at once fun, passionately loving, unconditionally giving,
and open to the possibility of conceiving! And that it is equally immoral
to prevent a child by marital contraception or to have the child without
mutual sexual surrender in a bodily way! The laboratory may not be
substituted for the bedroom, the lab table for the marital bed! Excuse -
the syringe for the penis!
Start Of The Baby
There is a special substance within the body of the mother and a substance
in the body of the father, which when they meet together start the body
of a baby, which is not a part of either of them, but is from the both of
them together. There is an Hawaiian love song which a father sings to
his baby, "Sweet Leilani, heavenly flower, nature fashioned you
of roses wet with dew, and then she laid them in a bower. That was the
start of you. Sweet Leilani, heavenly flower, I dreamed of Paradise for
two, you are my paradise completed, you are my dream come true." A baby,
then, is the dream of love between a mother and a father come true. The
stuff in the father's body that helps make a baby is called the seed,
though it is not like the seed which you see in an apple. The stuff in
the mother's body is called the egg, though it is not like the egg that
we put on the breakfast table. Both are unbelievably small and you really
ordinarily do not see them at all.
How do the two get together in her body? It takes a very special kind of
private, deep, intimate, enthusiastic love in which mother and father
become two-in-one-flesh. The father has a part of his body like a tube,
and when in love, he inserts this tube into the opening in the center of
the mother's body. The father's seed passes through this tube into the
mother's opening and keeps on going until it comes to the womb where it can
meet the mother's egg and possibly form a new child. When God goes along
with this activity, He gives a living soul to this bodily union of a cell
from the mother's body and a cell from the father's body.
Every human being should get his or her start in the world in this way.
But there was an exception for Jesus. Though Jesus lived in the little
room in the body of his mother, called her womb, only Mary helped God
make Jesus' body, no human father, helped God do this. St. Joseph was
Mary's real husband but just Jesus' foster father who cared for Mary and
for Jesus. Mary was and is a virgin. A virgin is a woman who has not had
the experience of opening herself to a man sexually.
God has given you your being and your dad and I have cooperated with him
in starting you off. You started in love. God loved you, your dad and I
loved each other so that you were our love come true. Now you are called
to give the gift of love back. You already know how much we want you to
love us. But we want you to love God even more. You therefore want to
give yourself, body and soul, back to God.
There are three ways of doing this. You want to save your body/soul gift
and give it back to God in one of three different ways, and these are
called vocations in life. God calls you into being through us and that
call ought to be answered. That is why you have your own Christian name
given in Baptism. You can answer it by giving yourself to Him directly
and completely. This is the vocation of complete virginity which you see
in the example of a nun, or a priest, or religious.
You can give this bodily gift of yourself, when the time comes, to somebody
who will be your husband or wife so that you can say to him or her that
you are giving a gift which has never before been given to anybody but
this husband or wife. You want him or her to take that gift and transfer
it further to the God who tells you that this is a holy way of life
called matrimony or marriage. Since this virginal gift, never before
given to anybody else, needs a special person to receive or give it,
you must try to grow in love until such time as you find the correct
person through whom to give your virginal gift to God. It makes sense
to pray that you will find a partner, if God calls you to marriage, who
will help you to get to God through him or her and to fulfill God's plan
for you. You must also pray that you will be the kind of person who will
not prevent your partner from getting to God, but help him to do so. How
terrible if you should be betrayed or betray your spouse in the name of
Virginity In The World
Sometimes God does not seem to call a person to absolute virginity,
leaving the call to marriage apparently open. But then He seems not to
send along a suitable partner, perhaps for a long time, or for a whole
lifetime. This might be the sign that God wants the individual to live in
a single state of virginity, working in the world. There are many men and
women who have recognized this call of God and become very devoted virile
and feminine personalities who do not take the vows of religion, nor the
vows of matrimony. It is wrong and cruel that the world sometimes laughs
at them as though they were dried up and narrow persons and calls them
bachelors (irresponsible men) and old maids (dried up, sour, unloving
It is important then, to bring a virginal body, a virginal self to God
directly, or to God through a marriage partner. But this is quite
difficult. Adam and Eve had no problem in controlling their natural
desire for the love union before their Fall, but after they decided to
make up their own rules for living, they found it extremely difficult.
Scripture says that before the fall, they were naked and unashamed, but
after the fall, they had to make clothing to cover themselves. Since
the fall of Adam and Eve, you and I have trouble controlling this natural
desire to have the bodily kind of union that opens itself to love and
babies, and to keep such love expression within marriage. We are
constantly tempted, once we are grown up or beginning to grow up, to have
this experience without waiting for, or outside of, marriage. To have it
this way would be evil and a sin.
What's This New Experience In My Body
It is important for parents to realize the possibility that a young child,
particularly the boy, can experience spontaneous sexual arousal with
apparently no external cause, though this is frequently not remembered
by the individual. The little boy in particular is always disturbed
by it, made uncomfortable, feels, somehow or other, that he ought not to
be experiencing this. Nevertheless, when he attempts some kind of
accommodation to the experience by touch, changing his position,
rearranging clothing, he experiences some sort of pleasure for which
there seems to be no explanation, and which unaccountably discomforts
rather than satisfies him. Since the organ most directly connected with
sexual pleasure in the female is hidden within the vagina, and is much
smaller than the male penis, little girls are less likely to experience
arousal, to attempt to sedate it by action, or to satisfy it by some sort
of masturbatory action, though it is not unheard of that a girl discover
and carry out masturbatory experience.
Often too, the boy's experience will be accompanied by fantasies or dreams
not specifically sexual in their eroticism, but of some sort of tension,
anxiety, fear, or even of excited anticipation, which has nothing to do
with sex as such. In many cases, this early excitation totally disappears
after a time ( a year or so) and does not rise at all during the time we
used to call the period of latency (from about 6 or 7 to 11 or 12). It
returns at puberty, sometimes with sexual overtones, sometimes without.
If a parent observes the child in erection or masturbating, what ought he
or she to do or say? Certainly the child should not be corrected harshly
since there can be no question of sin at this time. The first thing is
to make sure that clothing is reasonably loose. Tight shorts or panties
should not generally be used for children for a number of reasons, for
hygiene, good circulation, testicular development, as well as the possible
arousal of tensions. Distractions can be provided to keep the child busy
and interested and the child should be assured that there is nothing
wrong with him or her, or in the reaction, that should concern them
seriously. Perhaps nothing more need to be said, than that this happens
to boys and girls in their growing up and that it is not generally a
good idea to do anything more than take a comfortable position and to
avoid the provision of pleasure. Just as the parent would try to prevent
a child from scratching a mosquito bite, because it only makes the bite
all the more red and itchy, so the parent ought to help the child avoid
what is objectively, but not subjectively, a masturbatory action. If it
seems wise, it might be enough to indicate that this kind of reaction
will someday have meaning as one grows up to maturity, without any
further analysis at that moment.
If this is all that ordinary, why should the parents do and say anything
at all? Whether an activity is spontaneous or learned, when it is
appropriated by the human person even in childhood, it sets up a pattern.
A child who discovers sweets or salted foods, and who is constantly
permitted and pacified by such foods, develops a physical habit which
will eventually be harmful in its effects and make correct and healthful
activities more and more difficult to interiorize. On the moral level,
by analogy, one teaches the child early the difference between real truth
and make-believe truth, lest permitting him to insist that a tiger ("the
neighbor's cat") is in the back yard, gradually allows him to become a
inveterate liar. In none of these cases, is the child capable of
understanding why he itches, why he is attracted towards sweets, why it
is he is tempted to fabricate, or why he experiences sexual stimulation.
Nor is he capable of understanding why all of these things should be
controlled, if not eliminated. Yet we correct all of them.
Immediately after the cessation of the possible tumescent and meaningless
masturbatory experience of early childhood, boys and girls tend to enter
a latency period in which they are strongly distanced from each other
unless they are forced to be together. This should not be imposed. One
wonders very much about co-educational class rooms during this period,
but the "wisdom" of educators seems at this point insuperable. The Church
has always been opposed to co-education in the sense of giving the same
kind of formation to boys as to girls and she has not, officially at
least, changed her mind on this topic. The period of early schooling is
the period in which the process of sexual identity in an abstract way is
achieved, but identity is learned just as effectively by contrast as by
identification. Sufficient interaction between the sexes is usually
provided in a houseful of children and visiting playmates. I do not
discover white only by seeing white things, but also by contrasting
them with black or other colors. I will never discover white if I see
nothing but gray, or shades and tints, or if I never see black!
This does not mean that boys and girls cannot be friends. Friendship is
the sharing of a common goal, interest, or pursuit. But the pursuit of
femininity (identification) is obviously a friendship among girls and
women, the pursuit of masculinity is a friendship among boys and men.
Only when these come to friendship built upon the fullness which
complementarity brings will there be cross sexual friendships, and only
when that friendship is about the common good of family life
(procreation-education of children) will the friendship of matrimony
be formed -conjugal love.
Finally, in the thrilling context of the meaning of sexual intercourse
indicated above in Chapter II, both the boy and the girl should be helped
through the experience of sexual arousal with an awareness that this is
a special gift of God to husbands and wives to lead them to follow the
call of God into marriage and family, and to cooperate with Him in utter
surrender to each other in a total gift of self and openness to the kind
of living being called a human person who is unique, irrevocable, and
gifted with a set of abilities to which all the world ought to remain
open and helpful.
It should be clear from all the above that parental sex education will be
different for each mother and father and for each child. Since persons
are unique and defy stereotypes there can be no universally correct
method of chastity education. In this matter, as in all loving
interpersonal relations, muddling through is best!
This book is not finished. It simply stops here! It does not conclude to
anything. It merely opens up a lifetime of child parent interaction, of
boy girl interrelating, of celibate and virginal meditation, of husband
and wife maturation, of father mother growth - of discovering the delight
that man and woman are different, correlative, polar, complementary, and
that everyone is called to a nuptial union with God, directly or through
another human being of correlative sex.
Sex education as chastity formation is never finished. One never fully
understands what it is to be a person, to be a man, to be a woman, to be
a father, to be a mother, to be a priest, to be a celibate or virgin,
to be a single person who is happy to be so. I am a mystery to myself,
and since sexuality is an inherent aspect of that mystery, so is sexuality
a mystery. I am indefinite to the point of infinity. My life opens out
invitingly to ever new experiences, or more importantly, to ever more deep
experiences. But I do not have to travel to collect experiences, or meet
many people, or have many sexual partners. I can spend a lifetime in
exploring myself or you in love. I can surrender my sexual gift to God
directly or though another person, and the surrender will go on,
I hope to spend an eternity unfolding endlessly ever new depths of love
for myself, for you, and for God. I think, that though there will not
be marriage in heaven because there will be no need to increase the
human race, there will be repeated delightful discussions on love,
masculinity, femininity, and nuptial love. Which was the greater nuptial
lover? The ethereally simple virgin, St. Therese of Lisieux? Or the
sorrowful prostitute Mary Magdalen who abjectly bathed the feet of
Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair, and was told that
her many sexual sins were forgiven because she had loved deeply
(Lk 7:47)? I can't wait to hear that sort of eternal debate.
Sex Education In Schools - In General
The function of the school, the school room, and the teacher is primarily
to inform the mind, and only secondarily to form the will, change emotional
attitudes, persuade towards moral activity, inculcate public or private
duty. The school is designed to teach about reality. It is a method of
informing the mind with scientific knowledge whether that scientific
knowledge is biology, mathematics, or even philosophy and ethics. Biology
may teach that the living human organism is identified as having 46
chromosomes, that male and female are identifiable as having XX or XY
chromosomes, that a fertilized ovum is a new individual human body, and
not the body of the ovum producer or the sperm producer. The value of
such an organism is not teachable by biologists, but only by an ethicist,
philosopher or theologian. A political scientist can show that our founders
indicated that all men are created equal with inalienable rights. But an
attitude of respect, reverence and hands-off of human life can only be
caught from parents, teachers and leaders who are themselves in awe of
human life, and are not enamoured of absolute and unconditioned freedom
A value is a good which is worth someone's while. We indicate that things
are valuable when we are willing to take time and effort to obtain them,
to spend ourselves, or income, in reaching out to them while sacrificing
less important realities (either omitting the pursuit of them or even
destroying them), and to defend them against loss or attack. We value
our lives by taking time and effort to fulfill living potential, to
remedy undeveloped abilities, and to defend our lives and the lives of
other persons. We value our friends by cultivating their welfare. We
value trust by trying to confide with confidence, and to be trustworthy
for others. We value virginity if we believe that sexual love is only
good when shared with but one other of opposite gender for a life-time
open to a family of children.
Certain goods ought to be valued by everyone. For example, life and
liberty are called inalienable rights by our Declaration of Independence.
This means that these goods may be neither surrendered by the self nor
destroyed or attacked from outside that self!
Other goods are valuable because we choose to make this one worth more
of our efforts than that one. I might prefer to study philosophy rather
than music; electronic physics rather than chemistry; prefer golf to
tennis. These are the so-called private or merely personal values.
Generally, a public school pretends to give value-free education, or, at
most, to talk about values and most often attempts to leave both
intrinsic or arbitrary values up to the student, or to other agencies
of formation (family, church, etc.) We say: "Diff'rent strokes for
different folks!" And yet, the public cannot help but demand respect
for certain existence and actions: good order, taking turns, being fair,
telling the truth, honesty in homework, human life, personal property,
At most, the public school might attempt to inculcate a sort of civic
religion: observance of civic holidays, pledges of allegiance to the
flag; respect for public laws and rules; politeness; memorization with
awe of certain documents such as the Declaration of Independence;
discussion of racism, etc. But apparently in our day, no civic
responsibility or order is involved in "life-styles" whether
religious, family, dietary, customary, sexual, et al. Strange. Our schools
are being asked to solve the problems of drug addiction, epidemiological
disease, juvenile and criminal delinquency, educational drop-out,
unpreprogrammed pregnancy, family disintegration, racism, sexism
(whatever that might mean), tax evasion, poverty, bigotry, etc.,
etc., while being forbidden to even describe or define religion,
theism, justice, chastity, sexual modesty, honesty, industry,
responsibility, commitment, and so on. No one seems to recall the
dictum: "If there is no god, all things are allowed."
A virtue is a regular and habitual choice of a good that is truly
fulfilling of a human being. Sobriety is the habitual choice of being
wide-eyed, alert and open to clearheaded thinking and choosing. Despite
the fact that sobriety is often depicted as dull and boring, one has
only to recall one's experience with some slobbering drunkard, or one's
own desperate effort to recall whether one has made a fool of himself
under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or marijuana, to realize that
insobriety, drunkenness, hallucinatory intoxication are destructive
of humanness and personhood.
The school can teach about the pursuit of the truly good, but it cannot
effectively inculcate virtue because virtue is exemplified rather than
defined and analyzed. It is caught rather than taught about. A medieval
mystic once said it felicitously, "I had rather experience love than be
able to define it." Despite this truth, there is the necessity for
rational definition and analysis to provide the litmus test
or the yardstick- the norm of judgment - for the existence
of a virtue.
Since virtue is exemplified more effectively than it can be taught about,
a virtue can be modeled by a teacher and projected to his pupils, but
the pupil must also be on the teacher's wave length to perceive the virtue
exemplified. It is the rare teacher who is so inspiring a person as to
inspire an entire class. He or she is a superior teacher who can "turn on"
1/3 of the class, "turn off" another 1/3 and leave a final 1/3 merely
indifferent. Jesus Christ Himself was unable to win a major number of
His hearers to become disciples, and complains strongly of the indifferent.
"I would that you were either hot or cold but because you are lukewarm,
I will spew you out of my mouth" (Rev 3:16).
Not only do the teachers have different impact upon individual students,
but frequently different teachers inspire different groups of students
and no one can predict the impact beforehand. One can teach the truth in
a scientific fashion and can demand and receive the necessary intellectual
assent, but when one teaches about civic, personal, familiar or religious
virtue, one experiences the old adage, "You can lead the horse to water,
but you cannot make him drink." The identically good teacher might inspire
one student and disgust another! An "evil" teacher can possibly inspire
towards criminality or by antipathy towards virtue! Fagin in Oliver Twist
taught little boys: "You've Gotta Pick a Pocket Two!"
Certain kinds of topics have a special problem in being taught in a
classroom. Any sort of vivid presentation has the tendency to evoke
either strong appetite toward, or utter revulsion from the subject matter.
This should need no proof, since we clearly use our media as a method of
selling products (we call it advertising), and to promote or reject
programs that we consider desirable or reprehensible. The Vietnam War
was made violently unpopular by TV coverage in bloody color! The very
same pictures might have been used to stir patriotism, forgiveness,
justice, or diabolical vengeance!
Rhetoric is a sub-science in linguistics which analyses how to make ideas
persuasive or repellent, and since a picture is worth a thousand words,
we now have a "science" of marketing and advertising (a sort of pictorial
"Sex Education" In Public Schools?
Should there be a sex education program in our public and private
nonsectarian schools on the primary and secondary school level? Should
there be sex education in our social and cultural life? It depends on
what one means by sex education! If one means that society and the
school should understand and state that there are true differences in
person, body, psychology, role, function, meaning, and significance
between the sexes, then all human beings in their social interaction
in and out of the classroom are engaged in sex education when they put
ribbons in little girls' hair. We have distinct bath rooms for men and
women. We used to engage in sex education when we had separate entrances
to schools for boys and girls, and separate sex classrooms taught by
teachers of their own sex, when men dressed in trousers and women in
dresses. We engaged in sex education when we refused to teach formal
courses on sexual anatomy and physiology, as well as on methods of
sexual arousal, by implying that this was an intimate and private
awareness to be absorbed directly or indirectly from parents, or from
other agencies outside the school.
We engage in sex education today when we deny sexual differences,
protest all cultural differences between men and women as an unjust
"sexism." We have a reverse sort of sex education focussed upon
interchangeable sexualness, or at least the mutuality of the sexes
in classrooms of both sexes. For good or ill, we are allowing sex
education of one sort or its opposite when we advance or retard the
attempt to remove inclusive or supposedly "sexist" language from speech,
journals or literature, or to prevent such removal. The revision of the
Bible, Shakespeare, and classical literature in general to remove its
witness to sexual differences in the culture of the past seems a very
strong effort to re-form the sexes to unisex - which seems an oxymoron.
The above kinds of sex formation, however, are arguable from many sides
in the public forum, in and out of the classroom situation. Sooner or
later, there must be a consensus on this arrived at from a common
philosophy of life and the sexes. One cannot successfully permit a
community to be complacent that contradictory positions on sexualness
can each be correct in that community. Either men and women are
mathematically, psychologically, physically, functionally and
interchangeably equal - identical - or they are not.
Though generic sex formation of one kind or another cannot be eliminated
from any human interaction, and certainly obtains in all classrooms
whether consciously or not, something further is usually meant by "sex
education in the schools." This term no longer suggests proportionate
references to reproduction in the biology classroom; to bodily hygiene
in the health courses; to family and social customs in sociology,
anthropology, geography and social studies; to chastity and modesty,
or marital commitment in the discussion of ethical or legal matters; etc.
Today, sex education seems to refer to the formal teaching of a science
of sexology, the study of the various ways in which people live and
achieve the physiological experiences of tumescence and orgasm either
alone or with others, together with the results of such activity,
whether of venereal disease, permanent or temporary living arrangements
with one's own or the opposite sex, the pursuit, prevention, reversal
or acceptance of pregnancy, the transfer of venereal diseases, in a
completely amoral (or unmoral) context.
Our schools do not teach about all the methods of making noises with vocal
chords: of communication by speech; various processes of information
and disinformation, love and hate, praise and insult, politeness and
vulgarity, persuasion to good and seduction to evil; patriotism or
betrayal - in an amoral context! We implicitly teach either honesty or
dishonesty in speech. Truth always or emergency lying!
Such science of sexology, however necessary it might be for a professional
physician or counselor, has no place in the school system for children or
adolescents. One questions the wisdom of such courses on "Human
Sexuality" as are taught even in colleges. One does not teach obstetrics
in an ordinary human physiology course, even on the college level! One
does not teach bank-vault-exploding techniques in Criminal Justice! A
formal course in sexology is utterly disproportionate within the various
scientific and sociohistorical disciplines that ought to be taught on the
primary and secondary level.
A further reason, however, is involved in the fact that science is
supposedly objective and attempts to be descriptive rather than normative.
It implies that no norms should be proposed to the student. One need not
talk about atomic war when speaking of atomic physics. On the college
level, it is suggested that the norms ought to be discovered in courses on
philosophical (or religious studies) ethics. In high schools it is
suggested that it ought to be left to courses on religion and since it is
forbidden to teach any religion (or even about religions!) in the public
schools, this should be absorbed completely and only from parents and
But "value-free" science is a myth! Even in his choice of objects of
research and its methods, the scientist reveals his conscious or
unconscious moral bias. The "science" of Kinsey and Margaret Mead, as
well as of Freud, have been attacked as dishonestly biased.
Frequently the analysis of such norms is left to a vague
course of "Values Clarification." In such courses students are merely
asked to propose their own value system to others and listen respectfully
to the value system of their peers. It is suggested that neither they
nor their teachers ought to promote or inculcate their own value system
and ought not to be judgmental of the value systems of others. Though
this sounds delightfully nonmoralizing, as a matter of fact it proposes
to the students a complete indifferentism to all values, and urges
them simply to accept "different strokes for different folks."
Indifferentism is itself a value system! Toleration becomes the only
absolute, which demands that a non-absolute is the absolute! An oxymoron!
That choosing (pro-choice) itself is what alone makes the chosen
reality to be good, desirable, valuable!
As a matter of objective fact, however, Values' Clarification seems to
be hostile to any strongly held traditional sexual values. If tolerance
of contradictory values is an absolute, then one must be intolerant of,
hostile to, any choice of one to the rejection of another! Sex Education
as Sexology must be hostile to anyone holding in favor of chastity,
modesty, privacy, premarital virginity, heterosexuality, inviolability
of sexual intercourse and of the conceptive result, and opposing marital
contraception, abortion, fornication, adultery, masturbation, pederasty,
sodomy, pornography, et al.
Sex education as sexology appears to have strong values' inculcation!
It clearly considers orgasm a positive health entity and orgastic or
coital abstinence neither desirable nor probable - or even possible!
It suggests that no method of orgastic release is preferable to any
other, and therefore no method should be arguable or argued! Orgastic
release is suggested as birthright from the moment of possible
tumescence (even in utero!).
Yet, sexological sex education has apparently been assigned the obligation
of preventing what most persons have become convinced are incidentally
undesirable consequences of otherwise good activities. Orgastic activity
must be made to be "safe" from extraneous and harmful consequences. The
inculcation of "Safe Sex" is a required value assignment. Orgasm and
coitus must be "protected" against commitment to another person, any or
every venereal disease, unpreprogrammed pregnancy. Every means to protect
libido against, or reverse (breaking-up, divorce, antibiotics,
spermicides, morning after drugs, abortion on demand, infanticide of the
defective) these dangers become a value to be urged!
Strange, after early pro-choice publicity for smoking and euphoric drugs,
one no longer hears urging for filter cigarettes, and the provision of
sterile needles. "Say No to smoking! Say No to (recreational) drugs!" Our schools do not
seem able to use the parental slogan: "Say No to insignificant and
inconsequential orgasm (Extramarital and sterilized coitus)!
A further problem on all levels is that the study of sexology is
inherently stimulative for all normal human males and females. It
is simply absurd for anyone, who analyzes his or her own response to
the TV screen and to the kind of movies available, to suggest that
classroom study of sexology can be without sexual arousal of the
students. This is even true for those who can claim the necessity
for such scientific study in order to become professional counselors,
physicians, psychiatrists, etc. That therapists have been notorious for
seducing or being seduced by their patients, or even by the subject
matter, is easily proven from journalistic and scientific studies.
The psychoanalytic couch has not always been exclusively used for
the free association of ideas! Failures (addictive masturbation,
pedophilia, pederasty, incest, Lolita complexes, mutual seduction,
fornications, etc.) by professionals (clergy, religious, teachers,
lawyers, psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians, therapists, lay
therapists, even parents and siblings) fill the pages of "scandal"
sheets, to the pharisaical scandal of all, while contradictorily
providing arguments against celibacy, monogamy, fidelity, marital
indissolubility, heterosexuality, premarital chastity, modesty of dress
and eyes. (The argument: if so many fail to achieve these values, either
generally or even perfectly, the moral sexual norm ought to be reversed
to measure up to practice, pessimistic realism; i.e., "If I am not
near the girl I love, I love the girl I'm near!")
It is strange that for drug-and-alcohol addiction education programs, one
does not merely present the impact of intoxication upon the nervous system
and the euphoric results, together with some consideration of possible
"side effects," nor do such programs suggest that the student ought to be
free to select whatever results he would prefer to achieve. Nor do we
teach nutrition from a "values clarification" point of view. Further, we
do not teach the various methods of bringing about bodily harm and death
and allow the students to make up their minds about violence. We
clearly understand that even the vivid picture of violence is
contraindicated as is proven by our recent concern with the excess of
violence and its too vivid portrayal upon the TV screen. Our more and
more frequent discovery of pornography as the stimulus to incest and
child abuse indicates that such approaches should not be permitted in a
Does this mean that there should be no sex education in a classroom? If
the definition of sex education is restricted to the areas of sexology
already indicated, it is quite clear that sexology should not be taught
on any level, other than in the graduate training of professionals for
whom such detailed information might be necessary or helpful, with whatever
proportionate risk to their own moral integrity. However, if sex education
involves the presentation of various other disciplines in which references
to sexual differences and genital activity are properly to be found, a
whole new set of norms would seem to be applicable.
Generally speaking, to whatever level in a particular discipline other
aspects are presented, to that level references to sexual differences
and sexual practice are proper. For example, the study of nutrition on
any level might be paralleled by the study of reproduction with similar
pedagogical techniques. One should not teach biology as though there
were no reproductive system! But quite obviously just as the study of
nutrition does not demand a trip to the bathroom in order to analyze
the physiology of defecation, or a discussion of the liturgy of bathroom
practice, and vulgar language, so an awareness of the reproductive system
does not need a trip to the male or female restrooms to observe the
different generative plumbing systems of boy and girl! Or the use of
If one accepts that it is impossible to teach facts without inculcating
desirability or undesirability for the activities involved, the problem
in a pluralistic society is serious to the point of impossibility.
Pluralism means that a number of ultimately irreconcilable value systems
are publicly and socially interchangeable in a society. There will be no
problem for a pluralism of mere taste differences. One can teach good
nutrition without discussing differences in generic cuisine, or suggesting
that one is superior to the other. But one cannot merely propose pro-choice
for meat eaters, if one denies superior rights for humans (insists that
speciesism is equivalent to racism), unless he also permits cannibalism!
Nor can he allow the public discussion of obligatory vegetarianism versus
the permissibility of human cannibalism.
In classroom discussion of sexual behavior in modern life, if one considers
such behavior as merely private (different strokes for different folks),
there ought to be no public discussion! If sexology merely details human
private behavior of no social or public value, it ought not to be a
scientific discipline for a public discussion. It belongs only in the
interpersonal interaction of family and religious membership.
If it is insisted that there ought to be public teaching of attitudes
in these areas, then each value-group has the right to form its own
members toward its own value system. Nor is it sufficient, in compulsory
public schooling, merely to excuse any one or other group from exposure
to the value system of a majority. Our Supreme Court has declared that
the excusing of any objectors from public religious practice, no matter
how apparently ecumenical, discriminates unjustly against those excused
by stigmatizing them as different from the others. If this is valid then
similar excusing of religious children from secularistic "sex education" is
equally discriminating against them. No. Either separate education
according to the values of their parents must be provided in parallel
time and intensity, or no such education must be permitted. At the very
least equal time and intensity might be provided for comparative
consideration and rhetorical support for every competing value system.
Yet, since children and adolescents are hardly considered capable of
choosing, for example, sobriety over drug euphoria while still under
the control of their parents, no such value choices should be presented.
All the disciplines on the primary and secondary level will have some
reference to the differences between the sexes, and the way in which
people live their sexual lives. History, geography, literature, biology,
sociology, all will have some references and the reasonable references
should not be interdicted or excluded from the presentations. Hamlet
cannot be discussed without some knowledge of affinitive incest and
marital crimen. Hawthorn's Scarlet Letter cannot be read without knowing
that Adultery is what is referred to in the novel by the Puritan demand
that the sinner wear the Scarlet "A" on her clothing. (Curious, Might
modern teenage peers demand that the Scarlet "A" refer to Abstinent?)
Can the study of history somehow provide an analysis of the Christian
West without presenting its value system?
A problem arises here in that a more and more conscious or unconscious
secular humanism has become, or is rapidly becoming, the public philosophy.
This philosophy presents an indifferentism to any objective values in
which each individual human person becomes his own norm for value choices.
It must be further understood that today a philosophy of life is being
taught more explicitly by the selection of literature and films than
by any formal program in philosophy, ethics or religion! What one reads
or views as literature or art is often presented without any objective and
inherently desirable set of values.
Secular humanism insists that human beings alone exist at the pinnacle of
being, that there is no God who creates reality or a significant universe,
that there is no rhyme or reason to be implemented or destroyed by free
choice, and that there is no after life or judgment, approval or retribution.
That alone is morally good for an individual which he chooses as an
option in preference to either its contradictory or its contrary. All
decisions are merely arbitrary options, each interchangeably desirable
as its opposite! To preserve one's life is interchangeably desirable with
suicide. To preprogram a child in a test-tube (with or without previously
known gametes) is interchangeably moral with killing one already started.
It would seem that some sort of public philosophy in the area of sexual
experiencing might be agreed upon as for the public good. At minimum,
one would suppose that our historical norm should be continued at least
in theory if not always in practice: monogamous marriage between two
persons of opposite sex eventuating in a family of own or adopted children,
with the restriction of sexual practice to a publicly recognized state
called matrimony. This obviously should be the normative ideal for all
and should be presented to children and adolescents for their pursuit.
In this view, divorce, extramarital and premarital sex are clearly
socially undesirable realities. Since children should be born and raised
within a stable marital family, sexual activity ought to be initiated
only in such a situation as to be able to welcome the advent and nurturance
of the child.
To suggest that difficult marriages ought to be solved by divorce and
unprogrammed pregnancies ought to be remedied by contraception or
abortion is to suggest that sexual experience is desirable as a healthy
entity at all costs, and that less than happy events, whether of
commitment, pregnancy, or venereal disease ought to be antecedently
prevented by experimental testing out or by contraceptive or
contrainfectious practice. Consequent complications should be remedied by
divorce, abortifacients, or antibiotics.
No such public philosophical consensus on sexuality seems to exist, at least
so far as our elite leaders are concerned, whether in education,
journalism, literature, politics, law, medicine, therapy, the media, art,
academia, or even liberal religion, despite the fact that the majority of
the populace pursues these sexual values, if not always in the observance,
at least in admittedly guilty breach! Heterosexual lifetime fidelity as
foundation of a family of children is still the ideal. Brides would still
like white to be significant. Even soap operas celebrate the sexual
wilderness with tears!
An educational and media elite cannot be permitted to select the moral
value system for the majority, any more than generals can be allowed to
impose whatever is their own elite morality of war.
One of the major problems facing us today, is the problem of sexual
identification, the discovery of and self-identification with some set
of norms for masculinity and femininity.
All knowledge is founded upon the two principles of identity and
contradiction. A certain reality is what it is and no other than it is.
When there are various manifestations of the same universal reality,
the reality itself is identified by repeated comparisons with concrete
examples of the same nature. The human being in experiencing various
things that can be called white eventually come to understand that white
is white, is white, is white.
But that same person learns that all other colored reality is contradictory
or contrary to white. A child then learns that white is not black, nor
any color but white. He learns from the principle of contradiction as
well as by the principle of identity.
If boys are not girls and girls not boys, men not women, and women not
men, then appreciation of one's sex is a process of multiple comparison,
identification, and contrast and distancing, with multiple examples and
The Catholic Church has always been opposed to coeducation in the sense
of treating boys and girls in identical fashion, giving them identical
formation and information assigning identical roles in living. Such
education would imply the interchangeability of the sexes, instead of
their equality in correlative value, and alternating superiority one to
the other in a kaleidoscope of mutuality. Unisex in education blurs the
edges of the principles of identity and contradiction, and as a result it
makes it more difficult to achieve sexual identification, the number one
psychological hurdle today.
Our attempts to remove all examples of virility versus femininity in our
school textbooks, does not eliminate stereotypes, it merely destroys any
role playing which is characteristically masculine or feminine, and tries
to model "unisex" which is, even in the word, absurd! (Sex is division,
oneness the denial of division!)
A stereotype is a perfectly repeated casting of a printing plate from a
paper-macho mold. Examples of masculinity or femininity upon which the
observer is asked to model himself or herself and to appropriate in one's
unique fashion is not stereotyping. A boy should have as many loved role
models of masculinity as can possibly be presented to him in his father,
a favorite uncle, a boy-scout leader, a basketball coach, an inspiring
teacher, an older brother and buddies who shape and share his dreams of
masculine prowess. He should also have as many as possible models of
femininity and motherliness from which to draw and build a composite
picture of how he will contrast with and someday relate to girlfriends,
his fiance, his wife, womanly coworkers, the mother of his children,
etc. Of course, this is also correlatively true of the young woman, who
may need fewer models but more closely loved ones. The success of all
romantic fairy tales, movies and literature depends upon the imaginative
portrayals of concrete personages. To be a person is not a neuter
self-achievement of such uniqueness as to have no imitation involved.
Persons are not absolutely unique but always masculine or feminine
persons, not a mixture of each in an androgynous fashion. It is simply
not true that "there are no differences between the sexes except
the accidental differences of their generative apparatus."
Coeducation in the same classrooms is particularly difficult in the
prepuberty and early puberty years. Generally speaking, boys are as much
as two years behind girls in physical and emotional maturation. Girls
have greater attention span than do boys and develop verbal skills earlier
and more thoroughly. Early classroom competition tends to favor the girls
over the boys. More often than not, the girls are anxious to please than
are boys. It doesn't take much by way of observation to note that boys and
girls react quite differently to the various kinds of approval and
affirmation given by the teacher, and especially to correction, disapproval
Our modern tendency is to demand fairness, which is identical treatment
for the same behavior and achievement. It is difficult (practically
impossible) to be fair in a classroom of boys and girls who show such
basic differences. It is even more difficult, if not impossible, to
give identical treatment to unique differences within and between the sexes.
What is to be done where coeducation in the same classroom has already
become universally accepted? I think the following norms should be
Boys and girls should be treated with some external differences within
the same classroom and should be expected to deal with each other in
a manner which emphasizes some correlatively between the sexes, rather
than either identity or rivalry. Generally speaking, boys should not be
in competition as a group with the girls so that one sex seems superior
or inferior to the other. If rivalry does happen it should be directed
toward correlative strengths, rather than either/or. Individual boys
should rival other boys and individual girls should rival other girls,
lest competition should become antithetical rather than correlative.
In the earlier school years it would seem that a maximum number of
teachers should or could be women, since children of both sexes need
strong relationships to a mother and mother figures. However as the time
of oedipal crossover approaches it is imperative that more and more
masculine teachers be presented to the boys as role models, and quite
possibly as contrasting figures of virility for the girls. Of dubious
value are teachers who specialize in the single subject (or two) for
a multiple number of students. In the name of efficiency and competence,
often enough the interpersonal relationship with fewer students at a time
is sacrificed. Since, as already said, masculinity and femininity is
more easily caught than taught, few good models closely observed at
greater length and imitated would seem to be preferable to many more
casual and ephemeral contacts.
A primary difficulty in modern education is the possible and probable
identification with a loved and respected teacher who might nevertheless
provide harmful points of identity and contrast. In the formative years
of primary and secondary schooling, teachers in the process of falling in
love, marrying, divorcing, and remarrying cannot help but have impact
for good or ill upon their students. Their experiences may not affect
the professionalization of mathematics, for example, but will surely
influence observant students from whom the facts of impact upon their
lives clearly cannot be withheld. Of serious impact is the pregnant
and unwed teacher, practicing homosexuals and lesbians, and the
multiple teachers who insist that they have every right to explain,
defend and promote their own life-styles (possibly unacceptable to
society). It is well known that even child abusers or terrorist
kidnappers gain and frequently retain the love and respect of those that
they have even abused, or terrorized!
A problem which faces every teacher, man or woman, in a Catholic or public
school is the problem of romantic falling in love by a pupil and the
temptation to reciprocate (called transference and countertransference).
Even the youngest of children can have a passionate crush upon a teacher
of either sex. This is not usually a situation involving bodily sexuality,
but its potential for disaster is always there. It is the wise teacher
who knows how to accept kindly the romantic love offer and disengage
himself or herself from it without trauma to the child. It is the even
wiser teacher who provides the chaperonage of time, place and situation
which will make any untoward activity less likely or less tempting. It is
the most wise principal or parent who is alert to the possibilities
without being fearsomely suspicious. If this seems an unusual caution,
one has only to look over the titles of movies now being made available
in theatres and in videotapes such as Private Lessons, Homework, etc.,
in which teachers are depicted as initiating students into orgastic and
The greatest difficulty with coeducation is in the teaching of sexual
practices in the presence of such great sexual differences among pubescent
boys and girls.
First. There is the problem of latency. According to the majority of
psychologists there is a period of latency in sexual interest for both
boys and girls in which an earlier interest in sexual difference fades
into disinterest to the point of hostility! In the process of sexual
identification, strong embrace of one's own masculinity or femininity
tends to flight from the opposite. The nursery rhyme indicates this:
"What are little boys made of? Ships and snails, and puppy dog tails,
that's what little boys are made of. What are little girls made of? Sugar
and spice, and everything nice, that's what little girls are made of." It
would seem that the period of latency is a period of consolidation of
sexual identity, and should not be invaded or attacked. It seems that the
proponents of formal sex education in the schools are determined to deny
that such a period of latency exists, and to invade it at all costs. It
is impossible not to invade latency in the junior high school, since
estrogen surges in girls almost two years sooner than does testosterone
in boys. Girls are attracted to boys several years older than those in
their own junior high classroom. Boys are not attracted, in the beginning,
to any girls in their own class, except perhaps as asexual buddies, and
hardly to any girls older or younger than themselves.
Second. The advent of puberty for boys and girls is not only separated
by at least two years on the average, but the physiological, emotional
and adjustment problems are vastly different. The experience of ovulation
and menarche for girls and of tumescence without apparent external
stimulus and nocturnal emission for boys are not of immediate interest
and concern for the opposite sex, and are too personal an experience to
be shared in groups, or even discussed with equanimity.
Third. At different hormonal and psychological levels between the two
sexes in general, and among varying individual growth in particular, it
is practically impossible to have classroom description and discussion of
genital activities without tumultuous psychological and stimulative
reaction. It seems impossible that a description of "Safety" and "Sex" as
"Safe Sex" be presented without unjustified sexual stimulus in boys
(masturbatory) and an ambivalent attraction-repulsion in girls.
Nor does it seem possible for coeducative higher grades. Surely, if one
considers "personal" values to be one's own individual values, such
should be inculcated on a one-to-one individually personal level. This
is obviously a parental role. That parents might find it difficult to
perform their duty is rather an argument against others doing it, than
for classroom education! Parents instinctively shrink from having their
own privacy invaded and invading the privacy of children. Teachers must
be even more hesitant!
The Goal Of Schooling
The goal of schooling is the inculcation of those disciplines which will
enable a person to free himself from ignorance and contribute to the
overall common good. The most fundamental goal of schooling is literacy
which is the ability to read, write and to communicate truth and goodness
in speech. But literacy as a mere ability to decipher words is secondary
to what one is enabled to read and how she or he absorbs it. An illiterate
man was once convicted and sentenced for armed robbery. During his years of
incarceration, he completed primary and secondary education and received
a diploma. About a year after his release he was again back in prison,
this time for forgery! He had learned to read, but he had read nothing
which indicated his obligations to respect property and pursue a common
good with his fellow citizens.
A second goal of schooling is to provide those skills necessary both for
social living and for earning one's daily bread. But again these skills
must be developed in some atmosphere of social responsibility. A skillful
photographer can become an artist of the beautiful, an illustrator, a
recorder of newsworthy events, an advertiser of worthy products or a
pornographer. He will probably earn most monetary reward for the last!
His value system? Pro-Choice?
A student of chemistry might be interested in pure research, discovering
better detergents, inventing new antibiotics or producing "angel dust!"
Is the last merely an optional life-style of great monetary "worth?"
Generally speaking, our public schools are concerned with providing the
fundamental disciplines of literacy, and an introduction to the various
scientific disciplines and also such virtues as will promote the civil
common good. It is for these three goals that principals, teachers and
school boards select the various curricula and teaching aids, as well as
books in the library, which will forward these goals. Not every kind of
knowledge, though apparently good in itself, is used wisely and well for
one's own and another's good. One would be surprised and shocked to
discover formal courses, and sections of the library, on methods of
breaking into computer codes, revolutionary tactics, behavior modification
by subliminal perception, "do it yourself" atomic bombs, for amateur
production, or how to sell machine guns for experts. No, public schools
try to select inspiring literature, history which indicates the wisdom of
democratic government, honesty in business, the evil of intoxication and
drug abuse, the obligation of voting and paying taxes in order to promote
the common good.
Quite clearly our public school system should not teach sexology as a
discipline which would be merely the presentation of all the methods
of achieving sexual orgasm for either sex either alone or with others of
one's own and opposite sex and the resulting consequences of such activity
- venereal disease, pregnancy either in or out of wedlock, temporary
commitment and uncommitment, etc., while allowing the students to view
these things against their own unique and individual and contradictory
value systems. This would be like teaching about atomic energy and its
evocation by merely pointing out the power to be released and allowing
the students to consider their own value systems in terms of the harvesting
of energy or the releasing of it for any purpose they choose including the
wiping out of innocent "enemies." The knowledge and ability to release
atomic energy must be taught only in the context of its possible
uses as a peacetime source of energy and perhaps of self-defense and
reasonable deterrence of unjust aggression.
It is very interesting that SIECUS (Sex Information Education Council of
the United States) proposes precisely the inculcation of sexology with
an indifference to any particular value system in its regard. Further,
this organization suggests very strongly to its followers that it introduce
sexology courses into schools on all levels and that it withdraw its
proposals only long enough to defuse opposition and then return again
until its ideas are adopted. SIECUS and ASSECT (American Society of Sex
Education Counselors and Therapists) are clearly dedicated to the
proposal that orgasm is a health entity which should be encouraged
in every individual from before his birth to the moment of death so
that the number of orgasms and that the intensity thereof measure up
to the desire of the person who chooses them. The only limit to such
activity, it is suggested, is the willingness of any desirable partner
to participate. Such willingness may depend upon the persuadability of
the respondent and seems to demand only some sort of maturity. Generally
this is phrased - "anything is permissible between consenting adults."
But, according to recent legislation, a consenting adult is anyone who
has reached puberty and wishes to respond freely to sexual approach. This
is clearly indicated in a number of court decisions which teach that a
child is sexually emancipated from his parents at the moment of puberty
since he or she can obtain contraceptive and abortion information and
service without the consent, control or knowledge of his or her parents.
Correct School Sex Education
In the public school system, the minimum that ought to be demanded is
that sexual knowledge be inculcated, if at all, in a context of a civic
virtue which will defend and promote the fundamental building block of
civic society, which is the nuclear family of husband, wife and own or
adopted children. It is quite clear that the common good of the American
nation is being eroded by the disintergration of the nuclear family
through pre- and extramarital promiscuity, divorce and remarriage,
spouse and child abuse, rape and various sexual addictions, as well
as by resultant disease and abandoned spouses and children.
It is important to note here a new, recent definition of the "extended
family." In times gone by, an "extended family" was considered to be a
clan - a group of nuclear families - linked, often by proximity, but
more inclusively by blood relationships, in a common ancestry. The nuclear
family's membership in a clan accepted some responsibility for all
other families of the same clan and provided interest, concern, almsgiving,
social welfare and care for their less than successful, needy or
calamitous familial members. In the more mobile social situation of
the United States, an "extended" family comprises those nuclear families
which are headed by those who were brothers, sisters or cousins to
each other and kept together in a network of communications, mutual
interests, mutual services and regular gatherings and celebrations.
In recent times, however, the concept of "extended" family has changed
remarkably and in revolutionary fashion. The idea is applied more
recently to the network of divorced and remarried as well as mobile
families. Today a child may be considered in an "extended" family
because he has a natural father, a step father, a natural mother, a
mother married to his natural father, one or more coterminous or
successive father figures heading the household in which he lives and a
whole congeries of blood and contractual relationships with the offspring
of the various possible progenitors who come into and out of his life.
It is also important to realize that there is a strong pressure to
redefine family from its traditional meaning of one man married to one
woman with their own children to mean a household of individuals who
merely live together whether in a nuclear configuration or a communal
or kaleidoscopic one (odd couples, homosexual arrangements, sexual
communes, etc.). This restricts a family to any kind of shared living
space, a household for any social life-style.
One would anticipate that the civic community has some sort of ideal in
terms of family towards which its educational effort points. One would
presume then, that the sex education in the context of social virtue,
would indicate in the various disciplines those facts which would orient
the students towards the civic virtue of family life and loyalty. This
would suggest that biology be concerned with reproduction of animals
in a veterinarian or "nature studies" sense and for human beings in
orientation to human children and family life. One does not study the
physiology of orgasm in animals. One need not study the physiology of
orgasm in human beings. In social studies, the impact of a good sex
education would imply the wisdom of the nuclear family, the concept of
fidelity, loyalty and exclusivity, the desirability of chastity and
modesty to preserve the integrity of the home. If such civic virtue
cannot be a goal to be inculcated for all, then No sex education of
any kind can be permitted in our public school system.
Sex Education In Catholic Schools and in CCD
Education in parochial or private schools of religious orientation is
an attempt to integrate all of the educational process in the classrooms
and suffuse every study with religious awareness. To write about chastity
education in the context of a parochial school is to immerse oneself in
the middle of things all at once. In the purely religious schools of
education such as the traditional Confraternity of Christian Doctrine,
the teacher must leave all the other disciplines to the public schools and
concentrate exclusively upon religious content in the mere forty hours
per year that he can have with his (often) reluctant pupils.
Writing is done in a progressive manner. Textbooks and lesson plans
attempt to be logical and orderly, proceeding from first this, and
second that, and so on, as also to imply that once the first step has
been taken, it will never need to be repeated. Christian character
formation, on the other hand, and sex formation into chastity and
modesty in particular, does not proceed with logical order or temporal
steps! Everything is grist for its mill at any time, in any order as well
as in every course and step of knowledge. Every teaching effort is to be
suffused with implicit or explicit Christian inspiration.
There are no suggested "lesson plans" in this part of the book. Parents
should simply expect that the following material is the "ecology" of the
Catholic educational effort within which chastity education is inculcated.
Another difficulty comes from the fact that the area of sexual formation,
however oriented towards chastity, cannot be the focus of a subject in
itself for two reasons.
First, sexualness as quality of person affects the child and the teacher
in every respect of his or her being and cannot be abstracted from
personhood for study without crippling the awareness of total personhood.
The butterfly is killed when it is mounted in a specimen case and
classified. Taxonomy (the classification tool that Kinsey used first to
study wasps!) tells us the varieties of insects in entomology. But the
butterfly is understood only in its natural habitat, and even then when
it is not studied exclusive of all other interactive reality there. In
some ways a half attentive child learns more about the butterfly on a
lazy summer afternoon in a meadow than a taxonomist ever learns. Kinsey
used taxonomy (physical classification on measured scale) on bodily
sexuality to fraudulently found the sexual revolution. Kinsey founds
the entire modern sexual revolution (the revolution which took orgasm
out of marriage and made it insignificant and inconsequential) upon
descriptions and numbering of meaningless sexual paroxysms and made them
the norm of correctness! (cf. Reisman and Eichel, Kinsey, Sex and Fraud,
The Indoctrination of a People [Lafayette, LA: Lochinvar-Huntington,
Secondly, focus upon the sexual aspect of genitality is inherently and
disproportionately stimulative of sexual arousal.
But all Christian education can be illustrated again and again from its
impact upon human sexualness and sexuality and the characteristic
masculinity and femininity of the student and teacher can illustrate
divine revelation. Both their libido (sexual drive) and their eros
(romantic thrills) influence their awareness of the realities discussed.
(Cf. Concupiscence of the flesh and eyes, below.)
The very distinction and separation of the topics below is in some ways
self-defeating for adequate Christian sex-education. (Read only chastity
formation!) Education is an immersing, not a didactic process.
Nor is any single area of special importance at any particular time
in the child's level of education from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Some
awareness of modesty, and matrimony, and sin, and paternal and maternal
responsibility, and vocational considerations will be important in the
Kindergarten and will be no less important in the 12th grade, college
and old age!
Despite all this, an attempt will be made to indicate where, in the
various disciplines, some impact can be made upon the formation of
boys and girls to become men and women, who are celibate or virginal,
while they are called in true vocational awareness towards the spousal
gift of self directly and immediately to God in religious dedication or
to a Christian spouse in Christ within the sacrament of matrimony.
There should be no such thing as a formal education in sexual practices
in the Catholic School. Detailed description about sexual practices is
inherently stimulative and suggestive for both teacher and students.
Strictly speaking there should be no formal course called sex
education at all. The education must always be towards chastity and
modesty. Any description which is in itself stimulating to sexual
arousal or towards illicit romantic love would be a sinful immodesty
on the part of a teacher or student, unless the risk of such is
necessary for the formation of the child or children. That is the
reason this book is entitled "Challenging Children to Chastity." In a
different, but no less important way, it would be bad pedagogy to assign
even a classic story of vengeance for reading unless one also suggested
the analysis of what is just punishment, what is sinful anger, what is
vicious vendetta, and what is virtuous forgiveness.
Frequent and indirect references to the area of love, sex, marriage,
family and Christian virtues should be introduced in every area of
education in the Catholic school. But seldom if ever should there be
a formal course on sexual practices as such, even in order to describe
all the practices one must condemn as sins. St. Paul, though he teaches
much about chastity, modesty, and inveighs against unchastity, in his
analysis of vice says:
Be imitators of God as his dear children. Follow the way of love, even
as Christ loved you. He gave Himself for us as an offering to God, a
gift of pleasing fragrance [all about positive goodness]. As for lewd
conduct or promiscuousness or lust of any sort, let them not even be
mentioned among you; your holiness forbids this. Nor should there be any
obscene, silly, or suggestive talk; all this is out of place. . . . Make
no mistake about this: no fornicator, no unclean or lustful person - in
effect an idolater - has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of
God. Let no one deceive you with worthless arguments. These are sins
that bring God's wrath down upon the disobedient. Therefore have nothing
to do with them (Eph 5:1-7 from New American Bible).
Only those sexual definitions should be taught which can, in an abstract
fashion, define for the student what is being referred to. This will be
apparent in what follows.
From the time the youngest child is taught the story of creation - of
Adam and Eve; of the Fall; of Noah and his family in the Ark; Abraham,
Moses, David and the chosen people; of Christmas as well as the life,
death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as He established His Church;
of the wedding feast prepared for us in heaven - through the time the
older child or adolescent can be expected to read the scriptures
profitably, many opportunities are presented to the teacher and to
the child for the presentation of the Christian awareness of
masculinity and femininity and the spousal meaning of the body.
The Hail Mary, the story of the Annunciation, the trip of Mary to
help in the delivery of Elizabeth (the Visitation), and Christmas
provide all the opportunity a teacher might need to speak about virginity,
the waiting for the command of God before entering into conjugal
intimacy in marriage, the pro-life awareness that Jesus was incarnate
in human flesh at the moment of the Annunciation, that pregnancy takes
9 months (Annunciation [March 25] to Christmas [December 25]), that
Mary was present at the delivery of her nephew St. John the Baptist,
that Jesus was born of a woman and nursed at her breasts -all this will
demand that the very youngest child have some, however vague, awareness
of the following definitions: virgin, carnal knowledge, ("I do not know
man!" Lk 1:34), marriage as a commitment to consummate some sort of
intimate union, womb and pregnancy, delivery, nursing, the love of
man and women in marriage and God's involvement in it, the role of
responsibilities for men and woman as indicated by the utter surrender
of self-gift in Mary and the responsibility of Joseph for the welfare
of the Holy Family.
Since the entire history of salvation involves an Old Testament or
Covenant, and a New Testament or Covenant, and the two Covenants are
between God and His chosen people and between Christ and His Church,
one can hardly speak of Judaeo-Christian truth without focusing upon
the meaning of a covenant which is a wedding of two distinct and
disparate realities in spousal and family fashion.
The first and most important lesson that children must learn is that
a covenant, which, in ancient times and usually between previously
warring tribes, one strong, and the other weak, became a treaty of
peace and was celebrated by marrying the more powerful chieftain's son
to the less powerful chieftain's daughter so that both tribes would
become blood relatives in their children. The marriage was celebrated
by a sacrificial offering of some living animal to the deity, and the
eating of the roasted flesh, so that the guests would become one flesh
with each other (and with God!) in sharing the same life support from
the meal and in recognizing their mutual willingness to die in defense of
each other. A covenant is a mutual assumption of family loyalty and
services, not a mere contract to provide things or services for a fee!
Contracts can be voided. Covenants cannot! A boy cannot deny the
fatherhood of his father, even though he is faithless to his teaching.
A father cannot deny his orientation to his son, even though he might
hate him murderously! And we all know that infanticide and patricide
are despicable crimes for every culture! A covenantal treaty between
nations swears to carry out this matrimonial, parental and filial
relation among its signatories. Unconditional. Irreversible.
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly extends His Covenant ever further
and further: to a couple with Adam and Eve; to a family with Noah; to
a tribe with Abraham-Isaac; to a nation with Moses-Aaron; to a kingdom
with David-Solomon; to all mankind through Jesus Christ. There is no
doubt but that divine revelation fastens upon the "two in one flesh"
of marriage for God's repeated offer and insistence upon marriage of
divinity with humanity. Most of the prophets see the chosen people,
however faithless and fickle they might be, as an unconditionally
loved bride (cf. Hosea passim; Ezechiel 16). And the children of
this union, even individually, find their value and significance
resulting from this marital unity.
Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the
child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands (Is 49:15-16).
God demands total commitment not only from the chosen people
in general but especially from each individual. Deuteronomy
demands that parents drill this into their children:
Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall
love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all
your souls, and with all your might. And these words which I
command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall
teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of
them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the
way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall
bind them as a sign upon hand, fix them as an emblem on your
forehead, and write them on the door posts of your house and
on your gates. (Dt 6: 4-9)
The New Covenant cemented in the sacrificial offering of the Lamb of God
extends the marriage of God to man and man to God. Jesus teaches the
identical commitment of each person to His Father, as He repeats
Deuteronomy (Mk 12:29-30) and even seems to over-emphasize it:
"Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and
children and even life itself, cannot be my disciple" (Lk 14:26). This
is the strongest statement of unity and exclusivity of God's love in Jesus
Christ for each human person and the obvious need to respond.
Yet the very exclusiveness of love demanded from each human being for
God, is precisely the identical exclusiveness totally predicated by the
scriptures for wives and husbands for each other as they participate in
that same unconditional mutual surrender between Christ and His Church
This is also the meaning of the New Testament in which Christ becomes
the bridegroom and all Christians the bride. It is within the context
of covenant theology that children ought to learn their unique importance
in the world. Each child is the result of a love affair between God and a
special way of being reflected outside Himself which has never before
and will never again exist in the world. That gift must be given back
completely and in its entirety in body and soul in one of the three
possible states in the world: virginity and celibacy given back to God
directly in religious love service whether in religious order or
priesthood, a single celibacy dedicated to God until such time or unless
a suitable partner comes along, and finally, a gift in Christian
matrimony that enables the individuals actually to experience in a
deep personal way the personal love of Christ for His Church and of
the Church for Christ. It is within this context that children are to
be brought into being so that they can experience God's love for them
through the unique and exclusive love of the parents for each other and
for each child differently from every other child!
In the other scriptural stories there are many opportunities to present
to children of every age level the various aspects of Christian chastity.
In the Old Testament one can explain the entire area of Adam and Eve and
their inhabiting of paradise followed by original sin with various
examples applicable today. We can explain to children that clothing is
valuable because it protects our integrity and intimacy. Just as they want
their own toys and their own clothing so also they do not easily or ought
not share their bodies with any others whether to view or touch. They
should have it explained that their uneasiness when unclothed is quite
good, natural and human. It is self-respect and self-regard. And further,
they should understand that the invasion of another person's privacy of
body is like reading another person's letter without the warrant to do so.
Later, after sin, it can be explained to the children that, like Adam and
Eve, once the human being makes up his own rules, he basically loses
control of himself. (If I decide what food is good for me, I will soon
be obese or malnourished!) So that when Adam and Eve decided to invent
their own good and evil and to decide what was good for them to do or
not, they found self-control difficult. Therefore they had to use
clothing, not so much to protect their own privacy, but because of the
temptation to invade the privacy of other body persons or to trigger
such invasion by others.
The Ten Commandments should always be explained to children as the
negative minimum that an individual must avoid in order to pursue the
real goods of God, themselves and their neighbors. The commandment,
"Love God above all things, and your neighbor as yourself" is
repeated in the Ten Commandments in minimum negative fashion. The
first three Commandments indicate that one is not to prefer any human
goals or human pursuit of power to God Himself. God is the source of all
aliveness and to prefer some aspect of my being alive to the source of
aliveness is to cut myself off even from the good I pursue like the
astronaut who wants to do a space walk without his space suit or an
"umbilical cord" tied to the space craft.
The other Ten Commandments, from 4 to 10, are concerned with human goods.
Just as I ought not to cut myself off from God as my life source, so I
ought not cut myself off from my life source on earth, my parents. I
must love them, because without them, no matter what they have failed
to do, I would not exist at all. In loving my neighbor, the least I
can do is not betray him by attempting to make his spouse unfaithful to
him. The least I can do in helping him to reach his fulfillment in
knowledge is not lie to him or not steal those goods which enable him
to be free and not a slave. The least I can do in helping him be fully
alive is not kill him. And to prevent any of these things from happening,
I ought not to develop such greed, envy, jealousy as will lead me sooner
or later to seduce his wife, kill or harm him, betray him to his enemies,
or take from him his means of livelihood.
Once the positive values protected by the Ten Commandments are taught to
the children, they can be taught in negative fashion, in which case, of
course, there must be clear definitions of adultery. In its simplest
form adultery is the giving or receiving of the love which belongs
between a husband and wife to someone who is not the committed partner.
Since the value is total, mutual, exclusive self-gift, body and soul,
to one person of the opposite sex for a lifetime with openness to
children, any action against this is obviously a sin against the
value of love-commitment in matrimony. This is clear from John Paul
II's clear teaching on the nuptial meaning of the body. Obviously then,
marital contraceptive sex (which is mutual use of partner as mere object),
masturbation (often called self-abuse), fornication (usually referred to
as pre-marital or pre-ceremonial sex), petting to orgasm (also called
"heavy" petting, and which is the use of a partner for a mutual
masturbatory release) and homosexuality in practice are nothing but
conclusions from the principle "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (cf. H.
Vernon Sattler, "Adultery within Marriage," Homiletic and Pastoral
Review, Dec. 1981, pp. 24-47; and "Lust - Greatest of Sins?" ibid.
Mar 1983, pp. 27-31).
In St. Matthew's Gospel (19:3-13) the teacher will find the entire
teaching on marital love, fidelity and chastity, celibacy or virginity
for God's kingdom, and the special place for children in Our Lord's
teaching. The passage condemns divorce and re-marriage for either
husband or wife, and does not permit justification for divorce even
for the infidelity of the partner. The so-called exception clause
("except for unchastity" Mt 5:32 and 19:9) refers only to separation
of man and woman who are wrongfully living in an invalid union
(Cf. Commentary in The Navarre Bible, Matthew [Four Courts Press,
Dublin] pp. 62-64 and 162-163). The passage on divorce is immediately
followed by the teaching of Christ on His special love for children and
their special place in the kingdom of heaven (vv. 14-15).
The conclusion of this passage on those "who make themselves eunuchs
for the sake of the kingdom of heaven," and the final: "Let anyone
accept this who can" Mt 19:12) teach the basic vocation to chastity
(cf. below) for all Christians (and indeed for all who are bound by
the natural law). Absolute sexual abstinence is appropriate for those
devoted absolutely to the kingdom of God in spreading the Good News.
Temporary or periodic abstinence is expected by the vocational situation
of not yet being married, or within marriage when such circumstances as
separation, illness, prudent contraindications might render love union
temporarily unwise. This includes the virtuous practice of Natural Family
Planning, or, a better term, Aware Parenting. (Cf. John Paul II, On the
Family, ¦¦ 32-33.)
Children should be taught about the virtues.
A virtue is a habit of mind or will which makes it easy to know and
will the truths and decisions necessary for human flourishing in God's
plan for men. Faith, hope and charity are the supernatural Christian
virtues, which are infused with the grace of conversion and/or baptism.
Prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance are the natural cardinal
virtues (on which all the other virtues swing as upon so many hinges)
of the will. They are to be supernaturalized in Christian living by
the grace of God obtained through the sacraments and prayer.
The Supernatural Virtues
All the supernatural virtues are the direct gifts of God in the Holy
Spirit and cannot be acquired or intensified by one's own efforts.
Nor can we successfully pray for any one of them. On the contrary,
prayer itself already implies the pre-existence of the supernatural
virtues. This is why as we begin the rosary, we usually begin by a
Pater and three Aves for an increase of the virtues of faith, hope
and charity. We ought to pray constantly for such a deeper infusion of
Faith is the virtue granted by God which enables the human person to
assent to God revealing and to the content of His revelation. It
includes the acceptance of the word of God, whether as His Son
revealing Himself to us, or as revealed through sacred scripture
and sacred tradition. It also asks us to assent to truths which may
be written out in propositions or statements derived from what God has
revealed to us, and taught infallibly by the Church whether by de fide
definitions (formal definitions by Councils or by the Pope in ex
cathedra teaching), or by the universal and ordinary magisterial
authority of the Church. Finally, Christian Faith demands that we
give religious assent of mind and will to the ordinary teaching of
the church in doctrinal and moral matters -not necessarily to policy
decisions, though filial obedience to these should be anticipated.
(Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium ¦ 25, and Dei Verbum, ¦10.)
Religious assent of mind and will is something like, though far superior
to, the medical faith I have in my physician. I believe him because I
trust his medical knowledge. I believe what he tells me about my
diabetes and obey his prescriptions (his orders!). I know nothing
about medicine or my illnesses. I trust him even though I do not
understand and might be most unhappy about his commands. If I refuse
him medical assent, I equivalently reject his teaching and look for
another doctor. For his part he rightly refuses to treat me for
anything if I distrust him in a single diagnosis. If I have no
knowledge and go to him for the truth and direction, I have no reason
to select from what he teaches me. If I lose faith in him in one thing,
I lose faith in all. There is no such thing as "pick and choose" faith.
Faith is very important in the area of sex education (or to repeat -
chastity education). It is faith which teaches each individual his
own unique inviolability, his value as a special creative act of God
and his worth as purchased by the very Body and Blood in redemption.
Only faith will enable a child to see that Christian matrimony is the
union of one man to one woman in the name of and in place of Jesus Christ
and His Church. Only faith will enable the acceptance of the
indissolubility of marriage in an apparently impossible union involving
ental or physical illness and possible serious immorality. Only faith
will enable a person to see in what seems to be an apparently boring,
repetitious and pedestrian family life the will of God and the achievement
of His purposes. Only faith will see that a Christian must bring a chaste
nuptial gift of body to the marriage bed, and that all sexual sins
(no need to enumerate them) will destroy marital joys, goods, values,
whether outside or within marriage. Apologetic (explanatory) natural law
reasoning will reinforce and bring insight into faith here, but reason
will never overcome a will not to believe.
Hope is the virtue which trusts that God will provide the graces to
enable the individual to live up to his vocation to be a Christian,
and to be a servant of God as a Christian, in celibacy or matrimony.
It is the virtue particularly necessary to overcome human failings and
arbitrary sinfulness. A person without hope cannot avoid the despair of
ever being forgiven by God, spouse, neighbor, parents or children!
Without hope, the person will neither strive for vocational fulfillment
or to reach even the level of confessing his sins in repentance. Only
hope will prevent suicide, whether such an attitude is actually carried out
(the extinction of life) or only attempted by escape through drug, alcohol,
or sexual addictions; neurotic hysteria, compulsivities or even absolute
self-despisement. Only hope can look in the mirror and say "You're a poor
thing, baby, but you're the only me I've got in Christ." Or better, "Be
patient with me, God is not finished with me yet." Best: "Smile! God
still loves you as you are, but too much to leave you that way!"
The idea of Christian charity is much deeper than a generic kind of love,
or general benevolence which seems to be a humanistic concept. And it
is certainly much more than the giving which we call almsgiving. It
is not merely affection, or desire for what is missing. Charity, for
the Christian, is a love (agape in Greek) which only God can express and
which He enables men to express in His place by sanctifying grace. It is a
love which is creative of the goodness which it loves into being. It is
the love which Jesus exerts through us which makes the apparently
unlovable to be lovable, to redeem what seems beyond redemption, to
forgive one who is even rejective of forgiveness, and in the forgiving
make that person worthy of the forgiveness through the gift of sorrow
(tears!). It is not that we have loved God, but that He has first loved
us, and we are called to love others before they come to love us
(cf. I John).
Though divine charity is necessary for every Christian and
for every kind of human relationship, it is especially necessary for any
nuptial commitment of woman to man and man to woman, and between parents
and their children. No human being is quite worth loving with the kind
of total self-gift which is demanded of Christian matrimony and celibacy.
Only Christ can give your husband or wife or child the kind of love he or
she needs to become what the creative act of God has designed, and to
overcome failures and refusals to achieve that end. This is why the
decision of Christ to love His Church and to demand a certain kind of
love from her is described in the love of man for woman and woman for man
(Eph 5: 21-33). It is only in such a mutual devotion in divine charity
that the mutual but real inferiorities and superiorities of marriage
and family life become utterly irrelevant. Christian marital love is
not a 50-50 proposition.
Children may on occasion be cute and draw some kind of sentimental
affection but they are not very lovable in themselves. They become
what they ought to be only by being loved into existence again and
again. Nor in their endless, bottomless, emptiness of receptivity (Gimme!)
are they able to respond adequately to the love of their parents. Again,
only a love which is creative and redemptive in Jesus Christ by the
parents will eventually evoke from the children the kind of maturity
which will be a reasonable facsimile of a Christian human being!
Children learn not only that "home is the place where, when you go there,
they have to take you in!" but also that they themselves are the home
members who love the family members because they need to be loved, not
only because or when they are nice.
It is the un-self-consciousness of this necessary love which makes the
children cry when their parents are in conflict, and which is devastating
to them when a father or mother divorces or separates or expresses hatred
for the other parent. The matrix into which psychological personhood is
poured is the unquestionable, creative, redemptive, forgiving love of
parents. John Paul II teaches that "man is the only creature that God
loves for himself (the human's self! not God's self)" God does not
possess, He frees whom He loves for utter fulfillment. This is particularly
the goal of nuptial and family love - to express this Divine Love in
This must be repeatedly taught in religious education, with special
reference to the scriptural passages of love, the crucified love of
Christ, the necessity of loving first, forgiving till "seventy times
seven" etc. (For more on the natural and supernatural kinds of love,
especially as expressed in the paradigm of marital love, see H. Vernon
Sattler, All About Love, University of Scranton, Scranton PA, 1985).
Though the virtues of faith, hope and charity must precede prayer,
prayer is important to beg God to increase these three virtues. The
most important aspect of this prayer, however, is not so much the prayer
of petition, but the prayer of contemplation which dwells with the light
and ever growing insight upon the interpersonal communication of being
between Father and Son and their mutual Spiration of the Holy Spirit in
the Holy Trinity, and the communication on the matrimonial and life-giving
level between Christ and His Church. This is meditation and all Christians
need it in the way that they need to become aware of their own personhood.
The Cardinal Virtues
There are four fundamental moral virtues upon which all the others hinge.
This is the meaning of the word cardinal! The cardinal virtues, however,
presuppose the choice of true human fulfillment on the road to God as
good. If I do not intensely choose God above all things, and my neighbor
as myself, and also choose for him what is truly fulfilling of him or her
- liberty, knowledge, creativity, fulfillment of bodily abilities, real
creative playfulness - I will not practice any of the cardinal virtues
Prudence is the habitual choice of means of legitimately chosen and
pursued goals. If I know that I ought to love God above all things,
I will prudentially choose times to read the scriptures and to pray
meditatively. If I want to love my wife, I will choose very carefully
the present for our anniversary or her birthday and keep her constantly
in my mind and my imagination, lest I become a lazy lover, become bored
and take her for granted. If I want to understand the nature of marriage,
and of love, the differences between the sexes and how to control
appetites, I will choose very wisely the kind of reading I ought to do,
the companions I choose, the conversations I engage in, etc., etc.
A similar type of activity, yet the very opposite of prudence, is
used when I choose apt means to evil goals. A murderer or thief will
plot every step of his procedure to accomplish his goals and he will
look almost as identically careful as a prudent man in the pursuit of
true love, but we call his choices craftiness or deceit.
Justice is the virtue which disposes an individual to give to another
his or her due. It is the minimum for the first part of the golden rule:
"Love your neighbor as you love yourself." The least I can do for my
neighbor is not take from him whatever he owns or is his right. Justice
is very, very important in family life. Very early children complain that
parents are not fair, or even play favorites, to an extraordinary degree.
Husbands and wives have entered into a covenant of matrimony. But a
covenant though it is more than a contract is nevertheless still a
contract. Adultery, for example, is an injustice to the spouse as well as a
violation of chastity. The two have committed themselves to each other in
a contract to give and receive mutual services on every bodily, emotional,
intellectual and spiritual level. The marriage covenant as already
explained is more binding than a contract, not less binding.
Fortitude is courage, the habitual ability to continue the pursuit of a
goal against all obstacles and to repeatedly work toward such goals
after apparent failures. It is the intestinal strength to keep beating
one's head against the wall when the whole process seems senseless and
futile. Fortitude is necessary for a young person, boy or girl, to reach
maturity, to continue to struggle for the integration of all one's
personal abilities into a single unique personality. Especially important
is fortitude in the overcoming of temptations against chastity and modesty.
Today it is extremely difficult not only to admit but even to be proud
of one's sexual integrity as still virginal and not to join the gang
in boasting of a sexual prowess they probably do not at all have. It
takes very great courage for a young woman not to rival all her companions
in their pursuit of sexiness and immodesty of dress. Socially it is
always easier to "Go with the flow." It takes fortitude of fantastic
proportions for a young man to overcome the adolescent passions which
lead (more than 99% of boys) into lengthy bouts with masturbation on
their way to maturity. The absence of young men from the confessional at
the present time is a very clear sign that most have given up the struggle
or have convinced themselves that nothing is wrong with the masturbatory
approach. Yet nothing will destroy their marriages more completely than
an approach to their girlfriends and wives with the playboy or masturbatory
attitude. These attitudes reduce a woman to a mere thing, puppet, doll,
service-station - de-personalizing her even when she is unaware of it.
Every woman, even when she is desirous of admiring looks, feels her skin
crawl when subjected to clearly lustful eyes.
The virtue which controls and directs all the fundamental human impulses
is called temperance. Unfortunately, the impression is given that
temperance is opposed to passion, enthusiasm or intensity of emotion.
The impression cannot be otherwise because, since original sin, the human
passions tend to be more turbulent than lacking in intensity. They seem
to be needing more control by repression than control by direction. It
is important to see that the direction of passionate impulse is equally
important to the control of its erratic release. The baseball pitcher
with the most powerful fast ball is soon relegated to the minor leagues
if he cannot control it to put it over the plate.
Temperance is not pale and passionless. Algernon Swinburne is in error
when he cries blasphemously, "Thou hast conquered, oh pale Galilean, the
world has grown grey from thy breath." Though Spring is the most temperate
of seasons, it is also the most passionate, "June is busting out all
Though St. Thomas Aquinas, in his treatise on temperance, spends most of
his time on the control of the various human appetites by way of
discipline of them, he initiates his study by pointing out that,
though one vice against this cardinal virtue is intemperance, the
opposite vice would be insensibility. The person who has no appetite
for food and needs to force himself to eat is no less ill than the person
who cannot stop eating in his compulsivity towards obesity. Anorexia
nervosa (distaste for food) and bulimia (gorging) are really just two
manifestations of the same disorder of appetite. It is the same compulsive
fascination with eating that leads to loss of appetite or compulsive
fixation upon food.
The virtues within the cardinal virtue of temperance which focus upon
sexual activity are chastity, modesty and continence.
Chastity is the virtue which controls and directs the sexual appetites
towards their goals, which are the expression of total self-gift of one
man to one woman and vice versa for a life time and with unity,
exclusivity and openness to procreative potential. As indicated in
another section of this book (Chapter 2), the meaning of sexual
intercourse is a triumphant celebration of two-in-one-flesh. It is
celebrated with most intensity and with most passion when two virginal
people enter Christian matrimony and discover their own unique and
incommunicable language of mutual penetration in love.
Chastity is called perfect chastity when it promises virginity in total
openness to the day by day inspiration of the Holy Spirit in religious
service whether in clergy or cloister. It is called chastity or virginity
in the world if it attempts to maintain self-integrity unless and until God
sends a spouse, a beloved, to invite the other into a Christian marriage.
This is called virginity in the world, if embraced for life, or pre-marital
chastity until marriage.
But Christian marriage celebrated as a commitment to a state in which
"no one has gone this way before and no one but you will ever go this
way again" is called chaste wedlock. It is revealing and should be most
inspiring to married couples to recall that Pius XI in 1930 wrote his
masterful encyclical on Christian marriage and entitled it with its first
two words, Casti Connubii - On Chaste Wedlock. Chastity is not coldness,
frigidity, impotence, distaste, rejection. It is passionate focus and
expression towards one's only beloved: God or the one called by Him to
take His place in giving and receiving love in Christ.
It is customary among Catholics to talk about chastity and purity as
the same identical virtue. But really purity is a broader concept than
chastity. Purity means singleness, unmixed, unadulterated. A candle of
pure beeswax contains no admixture of tallow, or oil, or anything else.
Purity in the spiritual sense means the love of God above all without any
selfishness. St. Augustine defined purity in perfection as "Amor Dei
usque ad contemptum sui" ("Love of God unto even the contempt of self"),
and absolute evil or sin as "amor sui usque ad contemptum Dei"
("Love of self to the very contempt of God!") In sexual matters purity
means the absence of lust and acceptance of love-union as the total gift
of self to the beloved in marriage, without any self-conditions. Our
Pope John Paul II defines spousal love as the total gift of self to the
Many people misunderstand the nature of lust. Lust does not refer to
mere bodily sexual passion, which is intensely good as the accompaniment of
total mutual surrender. Lust is the focus upon bodily satisfaction for
oneself exclusive of all other meaning. It is the sexual passion referred
to by every woman who complains of being merely used, treated as a thing or
sexual service-station, who rejects pornography as sexual abuse, and
which makes her resent the ogling of other women by her husband, or
his penchant for erotic reading or pictures. On the other hand, it is
what the immodestly seductive woman wants to trigger in a man.
Continence is merely the strong "No!" which is necessary to control a
sudden and apparently uncontrollable sexual passion. It takes no time
to reason or argue. It acts.
Modesty is the virtue which controls access to the passion of sexual
love. Scripture clearly indicated this in insisting for the bride:
"A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain
sealed" (Song of Songs 4:12); and for the groom: "Do not stir up or
awaken love until it is ready!" (8:4)
The virtue of modesty has slightly different emphases in application to
the problems of boys and girls. A young woman correctly wishes to be
attractive precisely as a woman and therefore she wishes to be happy
with her sexual charms and beauty, and rightly so. She wishes to be
loved and therefore cuddled, hugged, petted, touched. Finally, she wishes
to surrender herself to someone who will sweep her off her feet in
passionate interpenetration. All of these things she will achieve
hopefully and completely in marriage. Her problem is how to be reasonably
attractive, without invoking from the onlooker, by-stander or companion,
the kind of sexual access which is reserved only for marriage spouses, or
the lust for such.
For adolescents, it might be important to indicate that the celebration
of love union is the positive use of the very wooing rituals which
would be sinful outside the marital surrender, lest they somehow think
that intimacies are at least suspect even in marriage.
On his side, a boy wishes to look, see, touch, explore, and ultimately
to conquer and pour himself out into his beloved. No amount of sexual
curiosity will ever satisfy him because, with Don Juan, he is tempted
to believe that he will be a great "lover" if he samples the maximum
number of bodies. He will never fully comprehend that the fullness of
experience is by lending himself to that one person, and not by possessing
many in passing superficial encounters, (cf. Thomas Howard, Chance or
the Dance [Ignatius Press] 139-142).
Moral Principles For Chastity
All true and real goods are protected by laws or rules which govern them.
Good health demands: "Thou shalt not smoke!" among many other rules.
Innocent human life demands that it remain inviolable to all direct
attacks: "Do no murder!" But sin is the heart and not only in the action.
To will the death of an enemy or even to approvingly day-dream of feeding
him as bait to a piranha, is the same violation of the Fifth Commandment
as murdering him in fact. So also, suicide in self-hatred or despair.
Love union and the intense sexual passion which accompanies it is reserved
in its significance and consequences to matrimony (cf. Chapter II above,
and below on the sacrament of matrimony). It is so valuable there that
it is a serious sin elsewhere. Good sexual love-making is protected by:
"Thou shalt not commit adultery" and "Thou shalt not covet
thy neighbor's wife!" These are generic commandments which found
chastity (cf. above on chastity).
Venereal or sexual pleasure is that pleasure which is experienced when
the genital organs are strongly aroused (erection in the male, tumescence
[swelling] and lubrication of the genital region and breasts in the
female), and completed in very pleasurable paroxysms called orgasm, with
the ejection of semen into the body of the woman. This pleasure arises
before, during and is still in action in the act of mutual sexual
surrender. It is so good in marriage that its value is protected by
negatives of the sixth commandment. Therefore, to deliberately bring
about even the slightest venereal pleasure without relation to married
love-making, or to will it or day-dream about it with wilful approval
is a serious sin. This is the evil not only of fornication and adultery,
but also of masturbation and "lust in the heart" (cf. Mt 5:28), as well
as marital contracepting and mere (even mutually agreed) lust.
Moral Principles For Modesty
Reverence for the goodness of innocent human life demands not only the
avoidance of murder, suicide, hatred, but also a consideration of signs
of respect for the privacy, and courtesies surrounding the sacredness of
person. Similarly, modesty is the virtue which approaches sexual
love-making with awe, respect, and surrounds it with privacy, ritual,
clothing, hesitance, etc. Granting that one is unwilling to consent to
sexual pleasure in thought, desire or deed outside a committed marital
surrender, modesty demands that one ought not risk sexual arousal through
imagination, reading, touch, undress, viewing, etc., without a reason
proportionate to the risk of undesired arousal. Obviously, such activity
engaged in order to arouse sexual passion inappropriately is already a
serious sin. The area of curiosity, reasonable sexual knowledge during
early adolescence, reasonable sexual knowledge in view of preparation for
marriage, reasonable swim wear, or recognition of virile or feminine
attractiveness, have different and sliding scale norms depending on the
individuals involved. This is one of the reasons for even secular concern
with the viewing audience of motion pictures (G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17,
and X). Catholic audiences grade much more severely, since our secular
world demands a sexual revolution in which venereal pleasure is never
wrong alone or between consenting adults of any gender, and seems
undesirable only when forced (rape) or imposed by relatives (incest).
Catholic norms for viewing of the probably arousing are much more
severe (A for general audiences, and A-II, A-III, A-IV for older
children, adolescents, adults only, and O, objectionable, at least
in part, for all!). Unfortunately, a mere visit to the local cinema
would prove that not even the secular norms are being followed in
practice! Parochial schools and schools of religion should teach that
these guidelines are moral norms for all, and especially for the practice
and the discipline of children. Children should be taught that parents
have serious obligations in conscience to guide film and TV viewing,
and that they must respect this obligation and obey their parents.
From the earliest simple information of sexual meaning, it should be made
clear to the child that the procreation of a human person is quite
different from the reproduction by animals. The human person ought to
come into being only from the unreserved personal and bodily self-
surrender of husband and wife to each other. Whenever there is school
teaching on biological reproduction, no matter how simple in early years,
or more complete in later adolescence, a boy should always be made aware
that semen is the source of his husbanding a wife and his fathering of
a child. The young woman should always be aware that ovulation produces
the ovum which will possibly make her a mother. It is much more important
to teach the adolescent girl about ovulation than about menstruation.
John Paul II insists that every Catholic couple today should be instructed
in their mutual fertility awareness, and the significance of loving
respect for their mutual fertility (Familiaris Consortio ¦ 32-35, 66).
This is often called Natural Family Planning, but would be better dubbed
Fertility Awareness. "Planning" in our modern speech seems to mean
arbitrary pre-programming of a pre-determined result. This is the
meaning of Planned Parenthood which really means programmed non-parenthood
on the one hand, and only pre-programmed parenthood on the other
(even by artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization). For
the Christian, planning means the decision to act prudently and accept
the inherent results of the action. Contraceptionists insist: "Children by
(antecedently planned) choice, not by chance." Christians know that the
advent of a child and every happy or unhappy experience of him is always
a chance, a surprise! One plans to eat dinner and accept the nutritional
results. If one tends to obesity, he cuts down his intake and avoids
pleasurable snacks, he does not depend on liposuction or induced
vomiting or cathartics (bulimia). The artist does not program his
masterpiece, he paints and is happily surprised if the result is great.
The nature of a sacrament in general is a material or bodily sign of a
deeply important reality which tends to or actually makes that reality
to be present. For example the natural sacrament of sexual intercourse
not only signs interpersonal communion among husband and wife and child.
It also makes that communion real (Cf. Chapter II on the meaning of sexual
intercourse). Such a sacrament is also inviolable. The sacrament of
speech demands the inviolability of words as truthful. A lie is a
"sacrilege" of speech. Contraception is a violation of the sacrament of
On the supernatural level, a sacrament is a materially significant act
which really makes a supernatural reality to be present. The fundamental
supernatural sacrament is the human nature of Christ as the covenantal
(nuptial!) sacrament of God. The divine and human natures are wedded in
the bodily existence of Jesus Christ. The Church is the covenantal
(nuptial!) sacrament of Jesus Christ. It is very important to see that
though St. Paul is teaching mutual deference of husband and wife to
each other in Ephesians 5, the ultimate analogue is the marital and
fecund unity of Christ and the Church into which each Christian is born
through the "womb" of baptism. The mystery is the unity of Christ-Church
into which baptized husband and wife will enter when they receive the
sacrament of matrimony (read Ephesians 5: 21-33). Try to recall that
the Mystical Body analogy of Christ as Head and Church as Body is not the
image of the human body in which the head is just a part of the body.
It is a marital or covenantal unity of Christ as Spouse and the Church
as Espoused. The image is of husband as head, and wife as "other self."
The Sacramental System
The Church has solemnly defined that there are seven sacraments in
the ritual activity of the Church, seven action-signs which make Christ
present under different aspects of presence. Usually these are listed in
the order in which they are received, a logical or temporal order:
baptism, confirmation, penance, holy eucharist, sacrament of
the sick, and then two sacraments of vocation are listed, matrimony and
holy orders. It seems to this author that these sacraments ought to exist
in a psychological, and more basically, an ontological order (the order of
existential importance). At least, it might be helpful for a teacher to
experience their value in the following order: eucharist, matrimony,
orders, baptism, confirmation, penance and sacrament of the sick. They
are presented here with emphasis on their importance to chastity and
The eucharist (the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with a continuation of
the divine presence of Jesus under the sacramental species of bread
and wine) is the sacrament above all others. It is the divine wedding
feast of divine-human marriage in Christ extended to the end of time.
Jesus Christ is present here as priest, victim, and sustenance. He is the
sacrificial lamb of the New Covenant (cf. above for covenantal theology)
which He Himself makes present on the altar through the priest who acts
in persona Christi Capitis (in the bodily person of Christ the Head
[Spouse!]) in saying: "This is My Body! This is My Blood!" This spousal
body-presence is offered as sustenance to all the baptized as a holy
communion (being-one-with) with Him in the flesh and with all other
baptized in the flesh (significance of the kiss of peace).
Obviously, respect for the sacredness of one's own body, the bodies of
all others of either sex, the bodies of children, within or outside
marriage is founded upon the eucharistic food of the body of Christ,
which is offered to every baptized person and ultimately to all called
to become Christians. Whatever we do to other human beings in deed, word
or thought is done to Christ Himself. "Because you have done it to one
of these my least brethren, you did it to me" (cf. Mt 25:31-46).
Christian chastity and modesty is founded upon eucharistic awe both
outside of and within matrimony. The priest who sins mortally in a sexual
manner in thought, word or deed, must not say Mass, distribute holy
communion (or absolve penitents, cf. below) without first approaching
the sacrament of penance, or in emergency, crying from his heart as
perfect an act of contrition as he can, with determination to approach
the power of the keys in the confessional as soon as possible. The
same thing is true of permanent deacons, lay ministers of holy
communion, and any persons who receive any of the so-called sacraments
of the living (confirmation, holy communion, matrimony, orders, or even
the sacrament of the sick [unless unconscious]). Those conscious of the
guilt of deliberate lust, masturbation, extra-marital "petting,"
fornication, adultery, sodomy, active homosexual practices, marital
contraception, serious immodesty which deliberately enters the occasions
of sexual sin must not approach the holy table without penance!
Unfortunately, it has become so universal for everyone to approach and
receive the eucharist that little thought is given to this requirement.
Even strangers who do not know what they are doing often come up to
receive. But St. Paul warns: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or
drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable
for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourself and only then
eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink
without discerning the body eat and drink judgment against themselves"
(I Cor 11:27-29).
Children old enough to understand must be taught not to ask their peers
or elders why they might not be receiving holy communion at Mass. Parents
ought not probe their children's (or each other's) consciences either.
In seminaries and convents, in days gone by, penance was regularly made
available before Mass, and often, in parish churches confessions were
heard before every Mass. It is unbelievable that in the blatant appeal
to libidinous eros in the media which floods our senses, that there could
be fewer failures in chastity and modesty demanding repentance!
This awe and fear of the possibility of desecrating the bodily presence
of Jesus Christ in the eucharist is a powerful motive for chastity and
modesty for all young people. Holy communion has often been called the
bread of angels in this regard. But this idea is dangerous. It allows
some to think that we are but pure spirits imprisoned in a recalcitrant
body (a misinterpretation of St. Paul when he complains and longs to be
delivered from the "body of this death" Rom 7:24). Holy communion
provides contact with the body not merely the spirit of Christ. It
makes me love and never merely use or abuse my own body as a participant
in His body.
It is a tradition of Catholic education that frequent attendance at the
eucharist with reception of Christ's body and blood is necessary for the
purities of chastity and modesty. The desire to receive the eucharist
provides motives for sexual purity. The reception of the eucharist
worthily provides the graces to achieve, and re-achieve once lost, the
virtue of chastity and its hedge, modesty.
As the eucharist is the invitation to the whole world to ultimately enter
into a holy communion with God and with each other, and is thus an
universal offering of God-Man to all, matrimony is the sacrament of the
God-Man's offer of life-giving union with each person exclusively, and the
invitation to the spouses to enter into that exclusive, total and mutual
self-surrender of Christ to the Church and the Church to Christ. Matrimony
is the sacrament of sexuality (cf. Sattler, "The Sacrament of Sexuality,"
Communio, Winter 1981; reprinted in Social Justice Review, Dec. 1986;
Jan.-Feb. 1987; also Sattler, Sex Is Alive and Well and Flourishing Among
Christians, passim). Simply, when St. Paul is inveighing against impurity,
he speaks of this sacred love union: "Do you know that your bodies are
members of Christ? . . .you were bought with a price, so glorify God in
your body" (I Cor 6:13-20). It is the unbelievable sacredness of the
sacramental surrender of marital sexuality which precludes all sins of
self-centered lust, unchastity and sinful immodesty. Marriage is not a
license for lust. Marital love-union is the reason that lust (sexual
passion for selfish release) is evil.
Teachers, of course, must be models of nuptial love for their students,
whether they are virginal persons (priest, nuns, lay) or married. If
for any reason the "life-style" of the teacher is not imitable, the
minimum a teacher can do would be to insist that the children know what
the real truth is, and that not every example should be followed! Teachers
publicly known to be living a sexual life-style that defies clear
magisterial teaching on the sanctity of sex as reserved to the total
significance of Christian matrimony or celibacy should not teach or
model Catholic doctrine under Catholic auspices. At the very least, as must
a leering father, a teacher must suggest: "Don't do as I do, do as I say.
" This is not hypocritical if the teacher truly believes what he says!
In the Catholic school or school of religious education attendance at a
wedding Mass, the analysis of the wedding ritual, discussion of the
variously apt scriptural passages suggested in the Roman Ritual, a
project of planning a truly Catholic wedding ceremony, discussion of
liturgically proper music, as well as the explanation of the significance
of canonical impediments, requirements of the Church concerned with the
proper preparation for marriage and the Church's anxious concern about
mixed or ecumenical marriages will all provide formation on chaste
wedlock, as well as pre-wedlock chastity, and even the significance of
As the eucharist is the sign of the universal love of God in Christ for
all mankind, and matrimony is the sign of the exclusive love of God in
Christ for each and every individual (Christ-Church love of spouses open
to God's creativity of a child), the sacrament of orders is the making
of Christ present again in a priest, enabling him to act in persona
Christi capitis. To this very day, only Christ can be our priest, king
and teacher. He did not cease to be with His Church at His ascension.
He is sacramentally present in the bishop and the priest who makes the
bishop present in each parish. Only a priest who embodies Jesus Christ
sacramentally can effectively say: "This is my body! I absolve you from
your sins!" and make these realities happen. Anyone, or even a puppet,
can say the words as merely functional noises. Only the ordained male
can make Christ sacramentally present as sacrificer, absolver,
authoritative teacher, ruler. Others may share and provide helpful
assistance, but "the buck stops here."
Celibacy is obviously appropriate for orders, which involves a nuptial
devotion to the Church and each individual among the People of God.
Christ says so as He extols "eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven"
(Mt 19:12). John Paul II insists that the People of God have the right
to observe the priest's fidelity to celibacy as a norm of their own
The sacrament of confirmation is the sacrament which makes one mature
in Christ. It is a kind of sacrament of adolescence reaching supernatural
adulthood. St. Paul urges his converts to strive in the Holy Spirit:
. . .until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge
of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of
Christ" (Eph 4:13). It is similar to the Bar-Mitzva for a Jewish boy
after which the adolescent is expected to fully observe all of the
Jewish Torah, from which till that point he was largely exempt as
too immature to live its rigors! Though confirmation is often conferred
early in life, today it is usually delayed to the beginning of puberty.
Confirmation is the sacrament of the challenge of Christian adulthood.
At all events it is wise to use the occasion of the reception of
confirmation to urge the maturity of Christ which demands the striving
and grace necessary for the self-control and direction of all the
disturbing drives of adolescence: the natural desire for gradual
independence from authority, the day-dreaming of romantic and
adventuresome achievements, the psychological effects of masculine
(testosterone) or feminine (estrogen, progesterone) hormones, the
temptations and curiosities toward sexual prowess and seductivity,
the calls of Christian vocationalism. The gifts of the Holy Spirit,
and the fruits of the Holy Spirit should be explained at the time of
confirmation, not only in themselves but in their application to
chastity and modesty.
The sacrament of penance, now called the sacrament of reconciliation,
is the sacrament instituted by Christ in which conscious personal sin
is submitted to a priest who acts in persona Christi capitis (in the
very person of Christ the Head) for judgment, imposes penalty
(satisfactory penance) and absolution if the penitent is properly disposed.
In an earlier formula, after questioning, judging, teaching correct moral
values, correcting erroneous conscience, and imposing penitential prayer
or actions, the priest with designated power of the keys of the Kingdom from
the bishop (called "faculties") said: "And I, by His very authority,
absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit." The new formula is less explicit, but the priest
still says: I absolve you . . . etc.
Adam and Eve, by their arrogant sin of deciding to "know good and evil"
(i.e. an absolute pro-choice position), lost their original innocence,
and all the gifts which went with it, as well as the transition from
earthly human life to heavenly life without experiencing what we now
know as death. We were to inherit the original supernatural gift, but
when they lost their treasure by sin, there was no such treasure to hand
on to us as begotten heirs. The practical result of this is a downward
tendency in every human being. We are given multiple human appetites for
our integral fulfillment and flourishing as truly human, but since the
fall of Adam and Eve, each of these appetites tends to pursue its own
immediate satisfaction without reference to the total good and integrity
of our person. G. K. Chesterton suggests that the effect is as of a man
"who ran out of his house, jumped on his horse, and rode off in all
directions at once." Anger is an emotion given to us to support our
search for justice; since original sin it tends often to vicious
vengeance. Sexual ecstasy is ours for total mutual unconditional
surrender; after original sin it most often ends in selfish lust.
St. Paul describes the effects of our inheritance of original sin:
so I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close
at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see
in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me
captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that
I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through
Jesus Christ Our Lord! (Rm 7:21-25)
Baptism removes the reality of the original sin of Adam and Eve but
leaves the practical results of it still present with us, which can
be analyzed under the rubric of the three concupiscences, and the
seven capital sins.
The word concupiscence means the quick almost spontaneous arising of
desire, and really is present in all our appetites. Unfortunately,
most Catholics think of concupiscence only in considering the problem
of sexual arousal, the spontaneous triggering of lust. But there are
many concupiscences, so many that they are classified traditionally into
three groups: the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the
eyes, and the pride of life (cf. 1 Jn 2:15). Though all three are
with us all the time, each one has some impact upon the practice of
chastity and modesty.
The teaching on the concupiscence of the flesh does not mean
that the body has evil implanted in it. Roughly, it corresponds to what
Freud called libido. At first, he thought this was purely sexual
energy which could somehow be channeled (sublimated) into other areas.
Before his death he saw libido as a generic drive from within which
was expended in every vital function, among which sexual drive was just
one. Generally, the concupiscences of the flesh are all those human
drives which originate within the person, rather than from without.
Hunger, thirst, muscular stimuli, dance, bodily playfulness, desire
to listen, look, touch, run, jump, grasp, stretch, chew, feel comfort,
pleasure, and much more -- are all aspects of libido, or this
concupiscence of the flesh. These drives are not evil in themselves,
but they tend to abuse. Hunger can lead to "pigging out"; drink can
trigger intoxication; pleasure can urge the use of euphoric drugs; sexual
drive can incline to masturbation, seduction, fornication. These various
drives are connected with each other so that loss of control in one
tends to spread to loss of control in the others. The drunken lecher
is a classic literary caricature (e.g. in Paint Your Wagon, and Dolittle
in My Fair Lady). The problem for growing children of both sexes is to
show them how to harness and direct their very strong appetites towards
true values. That specific aspect of libido which is sexual arousal
is best referred to in connection with understanding all the "down under"
While the essence of the concupiscence of the flesh is being driven by
appetites, the essence of the concupiscence of the eyes is drawn from
the outside. Being drawn is roughly equivalent to the ancient idea of
eros, the thrilling discovery that there is a great world out there of
adventuresome experiences or romantic discoveries. Sometimes people think
that libido and eros are identical. Freud first referred to libido as
sexual arousal. Later he used eros to refer both to such arousal and
sexual romance! It is true that one can eroticize libido, that is, one
can romantically explore all sorts of libidinous experimentations with
multiple partners, orifices, scenarios. But there are many other erotic
experiences which need not involve libidinous activities at all! Falling
in love is one of many erotic experiences. Eros can be the thrilling
discovery that someone else is more important to my loving than I am to
myself! It is a truly erotic experience to love a buddy, a teacher,
a coach, a future spouse, a team-mate, a child, a spiritual director,
Jesus Christ, God! Scripture describes it in terms of marital love which
is applied among Jewish and Christian commentators to the love of man for
God: "Draw me after you! Let us make haste. The king has brought me into
his chambers. We will exult and rejoice in you, we will extol your love
more than wine . . . (Song of Songs 1:4-5). The concupiscence of the
eyes is best understood by reading Rollo May (Love and Will, esp. his
two chapters on the daimonic). Positively, this "being drawn" leads to
romantic and true love and creativity (e.g. in music, art, drama, making
a home, evangelical zeal for the Gospel!). Negatively, this "being
drawn" can be demonic, evil, destructive of goodness, and expressed
in cruelty, torture, seductivity, even rape.
Though adolescents of both sexes must face both of these concupiscences,
the first (of the flesh) seems to be more the experience of boys
(since their testosterone makes them aggressive, driven) and the second
is more the experience of girls (whose experience of estrogen which
triggers ovulation and progesterone, which forwards bodily nesting of a
possible baby, urges them to romantic nurturing).
The concupiscence of the pride of life is the quite natural appetite of
the growing human being for independence from others, individual
assertiveness, decisions which are truly their own. It is the same
appetite the serpent triggered in Adam and Eve to invent their own
personal and individual moral law! It is celebrated in Sammy Davis Jr.'s
"I've Got to Be Me" and Sinatra's :I Did It My Way." It is the psychic
trigger which occasions the crisis in Christian faith in almost every
teenager. It starts with the early child's "why?" and ends with the
insistence that one is "pro-choice" and therefore can make up one's own
moral rights and wrongs with arrogant arbitrariness. Yet questioning is
necessary if the adolescent is ever to be not only morally free but morally
responsible! The problem is the change the defiant closed-minded "Show
Me!" to a truly responsible but humble willingness to be overcome by
The Capital Sins
In the negative sense, the three concupiscences can be analyzed in
the so-called seven capital sins or the seven deadly sins: pride,
covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth. These are not
independent of each other, and are not to be confused with the sins
one falls into most often. They are rather the hidden motivations
which underlie most of an individual's human acts of "cussedness." To
discover which one of these is at the base of one's motivations is
to discover one's "predominant fault." Often lust is considered the
predominant drive of apparently randy adolescent boys. But a sin of
unchastity might be triggered by covetousness of another's wife or
girl-friend! Envy of the experiences boasted about in the locker room
(which are often pure fantasy) may lead a girl or boy into seductive
immodesty. Arrogant pride in spouses suggests that they can arbitrarily
form their own consciences regarding marital contraception. Sloth
(weariness in fighting temptation, bored with prayer) often permits
despairing self-abuse. (The best modern treatise on these is Fairlie,
The Seven Deadly Sins.)
Sin is the conscious and deliberate violation of the moral law in
intention or actual deed. A deliberate statement contrary to what
I know to be true is the sin of lying. To be guilty of sin in a
serious or mortal manner is consciously to choose to violate an
inviolable good, after sufficient reflection and full consent of
the will. When I deliberately wish to kill someone (and not the
sudden urge to hurt which is immediately repressed) I am guilty of murder,
whether I carry out the desire or not (for fear of being caught and
punished). When I wish to experience orgasm alone, and not merely
subjected to an involuntary erection and ejaculation on the edge of
consciousness or during sleep, I am guilty of a serious sin of
unchastity, because of the reserved nature of total mutual sexual
self-gift which is sexual intercourse.
A true sense of guilt is a good thing! To call a conscious sin a mere
error or mistake, a product of one's environment, a psychic compulsion
because one does not feel sufficiently loved is not only false but is
a positive insult to the sinner! It is to consider him, and help him to
be, a psychopath! One cannot praise a person for a free good act, if
one cannot blame a person for deliberate evil. "The buck (for praise
or blame) stops here!" Though children, adolescents, and adults
repeatedly search for and invent excuses for themselves, they all
demand justice against others. It is incredibly true that thieves
demand honesty and a fair share of the loot from their companions
Conscience is a clear judgment based on objective truths that a certain
act proposed for choice is morally obligatory or prohibited. Conscience
is not a matter of imposing my own arbitrary idea upon reality. If an
innocent human being is absolutely inviolable, then I may not directly
kill him whether unborn, new-born, or long-born. Every truth forms,
binds, my conscience! When the doctor tells me that my diet must be
controlled for my diabetes, he binds my conscience. Nor may I insist
that I may follow whatever I choose to do because "my conscience is
clear." I do not get to plead "not guilty" with any conviction when
I am cited for driving at 100 miles per hour on the open highway.
For a Christian and Catholic, conscience must be formed by the Teaching
Church, as my medical conscience must be formed by my doctor (the word
means teacher!). A Catholic cannot claim to be conscientiously pro-choice,
conscientiously practicing sodomy, fornication, or marital contraception.
Freedom of conscience does not mean that one makes up one's own rules,
but that one ought not to be placed under unreasonable duress in doing
what is right. The threat of a $100 fine for driving 15 miles above the
speed-limit does not destroy freedom of conscience! My sense of obligation
not to risk my life or the lives of others binds my conscience, and
I freely follow that obligation!
The sacrament of penance or of reconciliation demands auricular
confession to an actually listening ordained priest with faculties,
who must actually judge, assign penance and absolve, unless some
emergency intervenes, and then with the obligation of personally
submitting to the keys those sins forgiven in the unusual situation.
The penitent provides his own accusation and attempts to name the sin,
its degree of guilt, the number of times performed, and any circumstances
which might change its nature (e.g. a masturbatory act by a married
person is quite different from one performed by an unmarried one).
In case of doubt, the priest confessor must help resolve the doubt.
The penitent also must protest his sorrow and purpose of amendment,
and the priest must again judge the validity of this protest. If the
sin has done notable harm to another, restitution for the damage must
be demanded and promised by the penitent. The obligation to perform the
assigned penance is serious, and failure to do so is a matter for a future
Sometimes one wonders about the new designation of this sacrament as
the sacrament of reconciliation. At times, in family or public life,
a reconciliation is affirmed by the two parties merely letting "bygones
be bygone" without either member admitting deliberate responsibility,
guilt, sorrow, forgiveness, restoration, amendment, restitution. Such
"reconciliation" is not provided by Christ or the Church. Though our
sins are satisfied for ahead of time by the crucifixion of Christ,
the fruits of His satisfaction cannot go into effect without the
dispositions of the penitent. Indeed, His sacrificial death wins
even the grace of sorrow for the sinner!
Penance and the approach to penance must be learned and practiced from
earliest years. Any mother will attest the viciousness of children
(or even to her own angers and nasty unfairness!) The drama, The Bad
Seed, about a pre-school murderess, is eerily convincing. The Church
demands that first penance precede first communion, even though one
would hardly expect serious or mortal sins of those who are just emerging
into the ability to judge right from wrong. This should not be
surprising. The eucharist is a sacrifice for sin! Any one who cannot
experience sorrow for sin is not capable of participating in that
If we insist on the freedom of a person to control his life, and
recognize the scientific and public facts about the frequency of
sexual sin, then we must teach frequency of approach to the sacrament
of penance. Freedom demands responsibility for evil actions performed,
and, therefore, guilt, sorrow, penance, restitution. It is a strange
denial of human freedom that despite admitted multiple orgasm, fewer
and fewer of us confess, and priests provide fewer and fewer opportunities
It is important to suggest to adolescents in particular that they find
a regular confessor (the same one) who can act as a spiritual director,
especially in two cases: 1) when one is struggling with a habit of
sin; and 2) when one is considering the choice of a state in life
(matrimony, celibacy, pursuing a call from a bishop to be a priest).
Today we seem to go for counseling on the psychological level. The
confessional does not provide that kind of time, but untold millions
of Catholics have been helped to change their bitterness, hatreds,
angers, blasphemies, backbiting, dishonesties, thefts, frauds,
compulsions of intoxicating drink, drugs, and sex - long before
we discovered the principles of Alcoholics (Overeaters, etc.)
Anonymous, which are founded on Christian principles of recognition,
confession, correction of and restitution for sin.
Children and adolescents (often adults!) are easily discouraged by
failure. It is important to teach them that frequent falls are the
fruit of a fallen human nature. Teachers as well as parents must be
sympathetic and consoling, not harshly critical and rejective. Yet
the only disaster is either the desire to wallow in sinfulness or
the despairing refusal to try any further. Ask any alcoholic and he
will tell you that he is always on the point of failure, that "easy
does it," that he must live one day at a time, and that he must always
be ready to start afresh. A wise and spiritual confessor will assign a
regime of prayer, self-discipline, confidence in God, devotion to Our
Lady to overcome any habit of sin.
Though it is possible that objectively sinful practices might be so
compulsory as to be without subjective guilt, one cannot permit himself,
or be permitted by advisors or confessors, to consider the practice of
sinful actions as "good enough" or even virtuous in the sinner's
situation. The habitual drunkard or drug abuser might not be guilty of
every intoxication, but he cannot accept either as an acceptable and
happy life-style. He must work at the famous 12 Steps of AA which have
been adapted to, and adopted by, all addicts or compulsives: bulimics,
liars, kleptomaniacs, cleanliness freaks, masturbators, pornography
addicts, fornicators, sodomites, etc., etc.
Sacrament of the Sick
At first sight the explanation of this sacrament seems to suggest little
of help for chastity and modesty. However, it is the final sacrament of
the sacramentality of the body. The human body is not merely a house
for an individual spirit or ego, or an instrumental mechanism for
effects in a material world by a spiritual soul. It has inherent value and
significance in itself and in all its human manifestations. This is the
sacrament which is designed to cure the body of its ills and to prepare
it to share finally and effectively in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the old ritual for anointing, the various senses (lips, ears, nose,
hands and feet) were anointed, recognizing that these senses were
intrinsically involved in the moral and spiritual life. The old
formula was: "May the Lord forgive you by this holy anointing +
and His most loving mercy whatever sins you have committed by the
use of your sight (hearing, sense of smell, power of speech, sense
of touch, power of walking)." In some realistic and open cultures of
history, the genitals too were anointed, as persons faced dangerous
illness. One wonders whether we might freshly examine these "curious"
practices of the past. If the anointing of the sick is for the cure of
illness, surely the epidemic spread of venereal disease through sinful
activity could come into consideration for a sacrament of curing illness.
Miscellaneous Topics Which Come Up In The Class Room
There are certain ways in which the human person is properly ordered
or disposed. He naturally wishes to be self-aware and free for good
judgment and wise choice. We call this good disposition sobriety. We
recognize intoxication or drunkenness as depersonalizing when we feel
embarrassed at being "out of one's gourd." At times we boast of the
fun of being drunk or even "high on drugs," but we often look back with
shame wondering what kind of fools we made of ourselves while "stoned."
We recognize that the lack of judgment that intoxication brings makes us
silly and dangerous. So we do not suggest that we do anything but say
no to excessive drinking,"no to merely euphoric drugs, even no to good
drugs which can be abused (e.g. even aspirin!). A similarly proper
disposition regarding speech and knowledge tell us that it is wrong to
lie, to be misled, seduced with false advertising, betrayed. If we are
addicted to anything like this, and are therefore unfree, we recognize
that our "orientation" to abuse is not merely an option or freely chosen
life-style. We recognize our need for the remedies against habitual sin
in these areas, or, if we think we are helpless in the grip of addiction,
we know we need help, therapy, operant conditioning, salutary fear,
warnings (e.g. on cigarette packages and drugs), encouraging friends
to share our concern and support our efforts to correct ourselves.
The proper way to be disposed or ordered in the area of sexuality is
toward the opposite or correlative sex. The construction of the
psychology and physiology of male and female and of masculine and
feminine (as attributes of persons and not merely of functional bodies)
suggests the significance of mutual spousal gift and receipt of love-
union with openness to conception of a child. All other ways of
achieving release are disoriented, disordered, though possibly
compulsive (cf. above, The Meaning of Sexual Intercourse). Heterosexual
spousal orientation is considered normative in scripture and the
teaching of the Church.
Normality is not a statistical average. Normality refers to the way
things are designed and ought to be, even if the norm is seldom achieved.
That most people lie from time to time never makes lying normal. That
most people often have constipation or diarrhea never makes the sufferer
feel normal. It is normal, correctly ordered, for a boy to be attracted
sexually for a sexual romance which will found a life-commitment
called marriage and matrimony (the word means "office of making a
The mechanism of sexual arousal depends upon various kinds of
psychological and/or physical stimulus, and automatic or learned
response. Many men and women find themselves sexually stimulated
by various techniques and scenarios. Some of these are stumbled
upon, some learned from others, some seem to flow from no determined
source but seem spontaneous and congenital. Some persons of either
sex find themselves libidinously or erotically (see above) drawn to their
own sex, and positively repelled by the opposite sex. No one seems to know
the proportion of the population who suffer from this anomaly. It has been
estimated as high as 10%, but this figure is disputed. The truth is further
confused in that sexual stimulus can be completely amorphous (without
any form or shape) for a long time, or in special situations where
appetite is strong and only one's own sex is present, temporarily or
for a long time. Freud thought that young children were "polymorphously
perverse" since he recognized that orientation to procreating specified the
truly normal and defined sexual perversity as departure from orientation
At all events, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church teach
that homosexuality in orientation or practice is "intrinsically
disordered" though only free and responsible practice of homosexual
orgasm is considered sinful (cf. I Cor 6:9; SCDF Declaration Concerning
Sexual Ethics, ¦ 10).
In the dictionary, the word "gay" is defined as meaning "full of mirthful
or exuberant excitement." Homosexuals, especially male homosexuals, have
been dubbed, and now willingly co-opt, the word gay to designate their
attraction toward and libidinous actions with members of their own sex.
They oppose this to straight (the word means direct, without deviation,
unbent, correctly ordered, true) of heterosexual orientation. Gay seems
more adapted to male homosexuality, while Lesbian refers to female
homosexuality. The word "homophobic" has been invented to indicate
any opposition to homosexuality as an arbitrary option of an acceptable
"life-style" equivalent to marital heterosexuality. (Actually, the word
in its dual root simply means "fear" of "the same.") A correctly rooted
term would be "homosexuality phobia." Disapproval of any disorder need
not be fearful or hating! No one who rejects the drug culture is accused
of being pharmakeia-phobic (Greek for fear of potions).
Homosexuals argue that their orientation ought to be an acceptable
preference, since otherwise they would be "doomed to celibacy." For a
Catholic, we are all "doomed" to celibacy till such time as we can enter
into the mutual marital commitment to one member of the opposite sex,
unless we have chosen the spousal commitment to God in religious life
An organization for Catholic homosexuals is called Dignity. Generally,
the group insists that active homosexual practice ought to be acceptable
in the Catholic Church and that they should be permitted to have Mass
celebrated for them at which they can participate at the holy table.
This has been clearly forbidden by decrees from the various Roman
Congregations. There is no reason that homosexuals should be excluded
from the church, but unchastity of any kind precludes the reception of
the sacraments of the living. Another organization for Catholic
homosexuals is called Courage, which is an organization whose
members pursue chastity with the overall philosophy used by Alcoholics
Anonymous. This organization is fully approved by the Church in America
and is quite successful.
Certainly, there should be no unjust discrimination against homosexuals,
any more than there should be such discrimination against any one with
an orientation against any healthy norm. We do not discriminate in job
hiring against smokers, though we do discriminate against their smoking
in the work place and perhaps demand an increase in their insurance
premiums! However, the Church and Catholic schools must insist that
homosexual life-style neither be taught or imaged positively in the
educational or parental situation. The civic and religious communities
ought to provide social support, benefits and approval for good family
life of mother, father, one's own or correctly adopted children. Indeed,
social good order demands positive discrimination in favor of such
healthy families, which are the fundamental building blocks of the
social order, and the only buffer between the arbitrary weight of
state government and the chaotic disorders of individualism.
This topic will inevitably come up in the upper grades. In the past it
has been accepted that several diseases were spread by sexual activity.
Their number was originally considered small, but now there are
uncountable numbers. They have always been associated with unchaste
promiscuity, and it is still true that if virginal partners were to remain
faithful to each other for life, and such fidelity became universally
desirable, these diseases would disappear within one or two generations,
since even if contracted innocently, they eventually sterilize if not cured
But these diseases have become so epidemic and usual that they have been
renamed Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's). It seems that this new
terminology has been invented to give the impression of innocent
transmission. It is true that such diseases can be transmitted within
marriage, but only if they have been contracted by previous and
promiscuous sinful activity, or rarely, by transmission through the
placenta or birth as an infant.
Aids (Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome)
Aids is a disease which suppresses the defensive system against other
diseases of the human body. It is an acquired disease, acquired from
someone who is carrying a virus called HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).
It is usually a sexually transmitted disease, though it can be
transmitted through any intermingled body fluids of two or more persons
- blood, semen, plasma. It is most often transmitted through heterosexual
or homosexual sodomy, intravenous drug use with needles infected from a
HIV carrier, blood contact with open lesions, transfer to unborn babies
through the placenta, and (rarely today) blood transfusions. At the
present moment it is incurable, and infected persons most often die
within several years of discovery.
Aids has been introduced into humans by objectively disordered behavior,
whether sexual promiscuity or drug abuse. It is therefore transmitted
(originally at least) by objectively immoral social behavior. Though
its spread into the general community may be innocent in individual
cases, the origin of the disease always involved immoral behavior at
some point in the chain of transfer. Though fear of venereal diseases
in general and of Aids in particular will hardly motivate adolescents
to chastity and modesty, it is nevertheless true that the only way to
avoid Aids infection and Aids deaths is to remain virginal (and drug free)
and to marry another virginal person and remain faithful to the commitment
(cf. McIlhaney with Nethery, 1250 Health Care Questions Women Ask
[Grand Rapids, MI: Baker 1985] 626-630; McIlheney, Sexuality and
Sexually Transmitted Diseases [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1990].)
A great deal of love and compassion should be extended to those ill
with Aids, and ordinary civil rights should not be denied them, nor
opportunities to work, to earn a living, to take a part in society,
etc. Further, Catholics should be especially concerned with the
provision of health care as they have in all the plagues and health
disasters of the past. However, Aids is an infectious disease, and society
must take some defensive measures. We even demand that tubercular older
persons do not live with their families in which young children are
present, until such times as their disease is rendered less infectious.
Aids sufferers may be socially limited in whatever activities might
spread the disease. They certainly have the obligation, at minimum, to warn
any innocent (or guilty) sexual partner of their condition, as well as
remove themselves from such activities which might spread this disease.
We already punish drug addicts for transferring their addiction to their
Beware of calling any sufferer a "victim." Generally, we concede victim
status only to someone who has been affected by some unjust activity by
another. I call myself a victim of rape or theft. I hardly can assert
that I am a victim of the damage I do myself while DUI (Driving Under
This phrase seems to mean sexual experience (usually some sort of
intercourse) without any un-pre-programmed results. Today it seems to
mean sexual intercourse without commitment to a partner (no strings!),
(unreversed) pregnancy, venereal disease, or effects other than the
pre-planned (with the right to reverse after one changes his mind!).
There is no such thing as "safe" sex, sexual union without irreversible
consequences. The sexual act signifies and effects total and unconditional
surrender to whatever might happen. Human beings unconsciously want it
that way. Sex, even in marriage, is inherently "Risky Business."
The agonies of unrequited or unfaithful love are the stuff of almost all
literature, drama, poetry. The few who succeed in avoiding entanglement
end up utterly empty.
Sexual intercourse can never be made free from the risk of pregnancy,
without or within marriage. Both the psychology and physiology of
heterosexual partners trick them into pregnancy when they experience
"method" or "patient" failures (failure of contraceptive method;
failure to use contraception). The records of the Guttmacher
Institute (the "research arm" of Planned Parenthood) admit that
the more contraception that is made available, the more knowledgeable
are its users, there are more unwanted pregnancies, more unwed mothers,
the more abortions, the more infancticides of the handicapped, the more
battered and rejected children.
Safe sex does not work in correcting venereal disease. All such disease
have geometrically multiplied since the early introduction of "safe"
methods in the military during the First World War, and we now count
some 25-30 sexually transmitted diseases. A ghoulish teenage joke:
"What's the difference between herpes and marriage?" "Herpes is forever!"
Every teacher must come to grips with "earthy" language. It might be of
value to help growing young people to distinguish three kinds of
unacceptable language: vulgarity, the bawdy and obscenity. Vulgarity
embraces those words for bodily processes and their results which are
not used in polite society, or in the public forum. There is nothing
particularly against chastity and modesty in their use. Their offensiveness
is against politeness, respect for others, obedience to parents,
courtesy to fellows. At times, as expletives, they are diffusive of anger,
frustration, exasperation. They may even have some harmless shock value.
But more often they reveal utter inadequacy in vocabulary, and
proportionality to the situation. Unfortunately, they have become so
universal on the large and small screen, that they seem to have little
more meaning than a comma in a written sentence!
The bawdy involves references to sexual sinfulness in a light and humorous
manner, or even to a marital sexual experience in a way which defuses its
awesome seriousness. Generally the bawdy should be private, but it is
often used as a foil for seriousness in drama and musical comedy. Dolittle
in "My Fair Lady" can boast that with "A lit'l bit o' luck" he will
not get "hooked" in his philandering. But this is a foil for the gradual
and serious love-hate-love relationship between Eliza and "enry 'iggins.
Ado Annie in "Oklahoma!" brings the house down with "I Cain't Say NO." But
she eventually snares a boy who found "everything up to date in Kansas
City," against the beauty of "Let People Say We're in Love." Teenagers
can be taught to laugh at the dangers and failures of unchastity while
still pursuing their reality.
Obscenity is something else again. It is the use of offensive, demeaning
and lustful language, especially to denigrate love-union as so much
instrumental, mechanical or animalistic rutting. Our teenagers must
be taught to judge this material as they cannot help hearing it from
the modern screen in movies from which they are supposed to be excluded
("R!"), but where they are most often found. But "Dirty Words Can Hurt
You!" Obscenity destroys the user as well as the one upon whom it is
The above could be a helpful class study of language or literature.
There is so much vulgarity and bawdiness in Shakespeare, but very
little if any obscenity (cf. Thomas Howard, Chance or the Dance,
The suffix "ism" can mean a number of things: it can
indicate a body of truths or doctrines on a certain topic or
of a certain group (Catholicism, individualism, Americanism); it can
mean a legitimate preference of one thing over another (vegetarianism);
it can mean an unjust or unfair discrimination in favor of one thing to
the positive harm to the other (a racism which refuses legitimate
employment to a member of a group because of racial or ethnic preference).
Unfortunately the suffix in today's parlance almost always suggests some
injustice demanding civil, legal, or communal redress, with penalty
against the discriminator.
Any body of defensible truths must discriminate against all opposites
in order to defend and promote itself. The commission of Christ to the
Apostles (and through them to us) to go into the whole world and preach
the "Good News" means that we must profess orthodoxy, preach all the
revealed truths, defend those truths, attempt to persuade all men to
embrace them, protect our faith and our communicants from all other
"faith-systems." This is the reason we have Catholic and not
non-denominational churches, the reason for Catholic schools, the
reason we demand assent to these truths from those who lead or teach in
either (at least not public opposition or dissent founding rebellion or
dissolution of our faith).
Discrimination on the basis of objective truth is the foundation of all
freedom, and of all choice! I cannot be free unless I can discriminate
between one thing and another. I am not free if I am compelled to take a
politically meaningless position. I cannot choose unless I judge that
one alternate is to be preferred to the other. I discriminate against
homosexuality when I insist that my sexual partner must be a person of
the opposite sex for a lifetime with openness to begetting. I am not
practicing unjust discrimination when I insist that my familyism demands
that only mother, father and their own children (along with blood
relatives) can form and be counted as a family, and not a menage of
sorority, fraternity, or coed living arrangements, or homosexual menage
trois or more. I am not guilty of "speciesism" but positively proud
to be a speciesist when I insist that plants, fish and animals have been
give to me to "husband" and to provide for my nourishment, service,
rational use! I discriminate. On occasion I have good reason to kill
and eat a chicken. I can never kill and eat a baby.
Sexism should mean the body of truths concerning the differences between
men and women. Scripture and the teaching of the Church have consistently
taught that there are intrinsic and not merely incidental differences
between men and women. What these might be can be disputed in various
cases, as well as how they are to be socially taught, but that they
exist ought not be denied. It is strange that some radical feminists
often are not asserting a value for femininity but an opposition to
masculinity, in order to destroy the virile, and take its place. It
is a further anomaly that women seeking an abortion for the sake of
sexual preference, often prefer to bear boy babies and kill girl babies!
At all events, a major psychological problem today is the maturation of
children in the appropriation of masculinity or femininity, especially
in these days of unmarried mothers, divorce, separation, absent or
ineffectual fathers. It is strongly suggested in much psychological
literature that failure to identify with the parent of one's own sex and
to contrast oneself with the parent of the opposite sex is the source
of manifold emotional difficulties and the possible cause of homosexual
orientation (cf. Ruth T Barnhouse, Homosexuality: A Symbolic Confusion
[New York: Seabury, 1977]).
As a result of this conviction, the maximum number of truly masculine
and feminine models should be provided for both sexes in Catholic schools.
Pius XI in his famous encyclical on Catholic education (Divini Illius
Illustri, Dec. 31, 1929) inveighed against co-education when understood
as identical and interchangeable formation of boys and girls. This is
what we might call uni-sex education (an oxymoron!) today. Catholic
schools today may well be female ridden. In most of our schools there
are few if any male teachers until high school. It is suggested that
girls need formation by males as well as do boys! (Cf. George Gilder,
Men and Marriage, [Gretna, L: Pelican, 1986]; with reservations, Walter
Ong, Fighting For Life [Ithaca, NY: Cornell, 1981]; Robert Bly, Iron John
[Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1990]; Deborah Tannen, You Just Don't
Understand [New York: Morrow, 1990].)
It is indeed necessary to discover, name and root out all injustices to
both men and women, boys and girls. But it is necessary first to
recognize, define and promote intrinsic sexual differences. It should
be clear that the refusal of maternal sacramentality of body and mind
by radical feminists, and the rush to escape virile initiative and
responsibility by our Peter Pan males is destroying the family. If true
sexual formation is not rediscovered, our individualistic liberalism
for both sexes will leave only atomistic personal monads facing the
bureaucratic impersonal dictatorship. The family will disappear and
the Brave New World will become a reality.