The Church Speaks on Sex-Education

Author: Philip and Jane Eckert


Compiled by Philip and Jane Eckert

The following quotes were compiled by CRNET members, Philip and Jane Eckert, as a refutation of the explicit sex-education course being taught in their school. The information is applicable for anyone who is fighting the same cancer in their area.

Let's review what the Church teaches about explicitness in sexual matters.

In speaking about the sixth commandment, the Roman Catechism cautioned against too much detail. This sixteenth century (1566) catechism is still used as a teaching tool of the Church. The new Catechism of the Catholic Church makes many references to it in its presentation of doctrine. Silvio Cardinal Oddi, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, speaking of the Roman Catechism, stated on November 19, 1984: "All the faithful of every age, but especially adults, for whom this publication is intended, can drink at this font,...."

The Roman Catechism says:

In explaining this [sixth] commandment, the pastor must have a prudent reserve. He should treat the matter with delicacy, and with fewer words rather than more. For there is reason to fear that detailed explanation of how one can transgress against this commandment can actually be conducive to such transgression, by stimulating — even unwittingly — the very passions which this commandment would restrain. [Roman Catechism, Sixth Commandment, number 1]

Interesting; we have the Magisterium saying that pastors shouldn't even go into too much detail when teaching about the Sixth commandment so as not to encourage sinfulness. Permit me to quote from another reference to sex education by Pope Pius XI titled Christian Education of Youth issued on December 31, 1929. In this great encyclical, the Pope talks about a person named Antoniano, who lived in the sixteenth century. He identifies this person in paragraph number 54 thus:

While treating of education, it is not out of place to show here how an ecclesiastical writer, who flourished in more recent times, during the Renaissance, the holy and learned Cardinal Silvio Antoniano, to whom the cause of Christian education is greatly indebted, has set forth most clearly this well established point of Catholic doctrine. He had been a disciple of that wonderful educator of youth, St. Philip Neri; he was teacher and Latin secretary to St. Charles Borromeo, and it was at the latter's suggestion and under his inspiration that he wrote his splendid treatise on The Christian Education of Youth.

We find out that Antoniano was associated with two very great saints! Pope Pius XI goes on to discuss sex education:

65. Another very grave danger is that naturalism which nowadays invades the field of education in that most delicate matter of purity of morals. Far too common is the error of those who with dangerous assurance and under an ugly term propagate a so-called sex-education, falsely imagining they can forearm youths against the dangers of sensuality by means purely natural, such as a foolhardy initiation and precautionary instruction for all indiscriminately, even in public; and, worse still, by exposing them at an early age to the occasions, in order to accustom them, so it is argued, and as it were to harden them against such dangers.

66. Such persons grievously err in refusing to recognize the inborn weakness of human nature, and the law of which the Apostle speaks, fighting against the law of the mind; [43] and also in ignoring the experience of facts, from which it is clear that, particularly in young people, evil practices are the effect not so much of ignorance of intellect as of weakness of a will exposed to dangerous occasions, and unsupported by the means of grace.

67. In this extremely delicate matter, if, all things considered, some private instruction is found necessary and opportune, from those who hold from God the commission to teach and who have the grace of state, every precaution must be taken. Such precautions are well known in traditional Christian education, and are adequately described by Antoniano cited above, when he says:

"Such is our misery and inclination to sin, that often in the very things considered to be remedies against sin, we find occasions for and inducements to sin itself. Hence it is of the highest importance that a good father, while discussing with his son a matter so delicate, should be well on his guard and not descend to details, nor refer to the various ways in which this infernal hydra destroys with its poison so large a portion of the world; otherwise it may happen that instead of extinguishing this fire, he unwittingly stirs or kindles it in the simple and tender heart of the child. Speaking generally, during the period of childhood it suffices to employ those remedies which produce the double effect of opening the door to the virtue of purity and closing the door upon vice." [44] 43. Rom., Vll, 23. 44. Silvio Antonio, Dell 'educazione cristiana dei figliuoli, lib. II, c. 88.

68. False also and harmful to Christian education is the so-called method of 'coeducation.' This too, by many of its supporters, is founded upon naturalism and the denial of original sin; but by all, upon a deplorable confusion of ideas that mistakes a leveling promiscuity and equality, for the legitimate association of the sexes. The Creator has ordained and disposed perfect union of the sexes only in matrimony, and, with varying degrees of contact, in the family and in society.

Note that this teaching says that a father, while discussing such a "delicate" matter with his son, should not "descend to details." We looked up the definition of "hydra" as mentioned by Cardinal Antoniano; taken from the American Heritage Dictionary, it is as follows:

"A small freshwater polyp with a cylindrical body and a mouth surrounded by tentacles." The etymology is from the Greek, "a many headed monster."

Here is a statement issued by the Holy Office on March 31, 1931:

"QUESTION: May the method called 'sex education' or even 'sex initiation' be approved?

ANSWER: No. In the education of youth the method to be followed is that hitherto observed by the Church and the Saints as recommended by His Holiness the Pope in the encyclical dealing with the Christian education of youth promulgated on December 31, 1929. The first place is to be given to the full, sound and continuous instruction in religion of both sexes. Esteem, desire and love of the angelic virtue must be instilled into their minds and hearts. They must be made fully alive to the necessity of constant prayer, and assiduous frequenting of the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist; they must be directed to foster a filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin as Mother of holy purity, to whose protection they must entirely commit themselves. Precautions must be taken to see that they avoid dangerous reading, indecent shows, conversations of the wicked, and all other occasions of sin.

Hence no approbation whatever can be given to the advocacy of the new method even as taken up recently by some Catholic authors and set before the public in printed publications. [Decree of the Holy Office, dated March 21, 1931]

Another Pope, Pius XII in 1951, speaks on this same issue. On September 18, in a solemn address delivered to French fathers of families, His Holiness said:

Even the principles so wisely illustrated by Our Predecessor Pius XI, in the Encyclical Divini Illius Magistri, on sex-education and questions connected thereto are set aside — a sad sign of the times! — with a smile of compassion: "Pius XI", they say, "wrote twenty years ago for his times! Great progress has been made since then!"

Let's look at what Pope John Paul II says on this subject in his Apostolic Exhortation titled Familiaris consortio. This document was issued on Nov. 21, 1981 and is addressed to the bishops, clergy and the faithful of the whole Catholic Church:

The right and duty of parents regarding education — 36. The task of giving education is rooted in the primary vocation of married couples to participate in God's creative activity: 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] 99. Gravissimum educationis, 3.

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. In addition to those characteristics, it cannot be forgotten that the most basic element, so basic that it qualifies 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 parents' 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.

37. 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 the parents.

In this context education for chastity is absolutely essential, for it is a virtue that develops a person's authentic maturity and makes him or her capable of respecting and fostering the 'nuptial meaning' of the body. Indeed Christian parents, discerning the signs of God's call, will devote special attention and care to education in virginity or celibacy as the supreme form of that self-giving that constitutes the very meaning of human sexuality.

In view of the close links between the sexual dimension of the person and his or her ethical values, education must bring the children to a knowledge of and respect for the moral norms as the necessary and highly valuable guarantee for responsible personal growth in human sexuality.

For this reason the church is firmly opposed to an often widespread form of imparting sex information dissociated from moral principles. That would merely be an introduction to the experience of pleasure and a stimulus leading to the loss of serenity — while still in the years of innocence — by opening the way to vice.

40. The state and the church have the obligation to give families all possible aid to enable them to perform their educational role properly. Therefore both the church and the state must create and foster the institutions and activities that families justly demand, and the aid must be in proportion to the families' needs. However, those in society who are in charge of schools must never forget that the parents have been appointed by God himself as the first and principal educators of their children and that their right is completely inalienable.

But corresponding to their right, parents have a serious duty to commit themselves totally to a cordial and active relationship with the teachers and school authorities.

If ideologies opposed to the Christian faith are taught in the schools, the family must join with other families, if possible through family associations, and with all its strength and with wisdom help the young not to depart from the faith. In this case the family needs special assistance from pastors of souls, who must never forget that parents have the inviolable right to entrust their children to the ecclesial community.

When you read Pope Pius XI's statement on public or classroom sex education and read Pope John Paul II's statement on the same subject, you find that John Paul does not contradict Pius XI, does not contradict Pius XII, but speaks about sex education which must be "truly and fully personal." Please note that Pope John Paul II uses the same word, "delicate" like his predecessors, when he calls for a "delicate" sex education to be given; a sex education that is "truly and fully personal." In speaking of parents, he says that sex education "must always be carried out under their attentive guidance whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them." Our Holy Father also says that "if ideologies opposed to the Christian faith are taught in the schools, the family must join with other families, if possible through family associations, and with all its strength and with wisdom help the young not to depart from the faith." Thus we have the right and obligation to defend our children from the humanistic sex education approach.

So you see, in this century alone, we have three Popes affirming the necessity for sex education to be private or personal in its nature. When two Popes say "private" and a third Pope says "personal," one cannot say that the third Pope is in contradiction to the others.

Some people have made the claim that the document Educational Guidance in Human Love, issued by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education on November 1, 1983 speaks about sex education in such a way as to seem to allow intimate details to be taught in the classroom. William Cardinal Baum, Prefect, authored the document and you will not find a statement that allows intimate details to be taught in a classroom. Even if you could show that Cardinal Baum contradicted the Magisterium, one could not follow that erroneous teaching any more than he could follow the teaching of a Cardinal or Bishop who taught that adultery was no longer a sin. Would one be permitted to practice adultery if the Pope chose not to rebuke the cleric? Obviously, the answer is no, the supreme authority has already spoken out on adultery and Jesus knows that we understand this. The Magisterium has also spoken out about sex education and Jesus knows that we understand this.

Permit me to quote what Cardinal Baum really did say in the document titled Educational Guidance in Human Love:

15. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, in speaking of the dignity of marriage and the family, presents the latter as the preferential place for the education of young people in chastity. [8] But since this is an aspect of education as a whole, the cooperation of teachers with parents is needed in the accomplishment of their mission. [9] Such education, therefore, must be offered within the family to children and adolescents in a gradual manner, always considering the total formation of the person. [10] 8. Cf. Vatican II: Constitution Gaudium et spes, no 49. 9. Cf. Gravissimum educationis, no. 5. 10. Ibid, no 3; cf. Gaudium et spes, no. 52.

48. Education, in the first place, is the duty of the family, which 'is the school of richest humanity.' [37] It is, in fact, the best environment to accomplish the obligation of securing a gradual education in sexual life. The family has an affective dignity which is suited to making acceptable without trauma the most delicate realities and to integrating them harmoniously in a balanced and rich personality. 37. Gaudium et spes, no 52; cf. Familiaris consortio, no. 37.

58. From what has been said above in no. 48, the fact remains ever valid that with regard to the more intimate aspects, whether biological or affective, an individual education should be bestowed, preferably within the sphere of the family.

Consider also what the recently promulgated Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about modesty and purity:

2521. Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

2523. There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.

We fly in the face of what the Catechism teaches when we treat publicly, in the most base fashion, the intimate details of not only the sex act, but every peripheral act as well! Finally, let's consider a recent article in the magazine, The Catholic Answer, about sex education. The September-October 1994 issue (p. 44) carries a reprint of a pastoral letter to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska written by Archbishop Elden Curtiss. It is noteworthy that this bishop is a member of the Pontifical Council on the Family.

Parents have the primary obligation to see that their children and teenagers receive moral and religious education about human sexuality. This is a serious and urgent responsibility. Parents have a right to expect their Catholic parishes and schools, and the archdiocese, to support them in this responsibility.

Catholic school administrators, working closely with parents, have an obligation to provide adequate sexual education programs based on the truths and values which the Church proclaims for moral living. Parents themselves must take the initiative for these programs and participate in them with their children.

It is our responsibility as the church of Northeastern Nebraska to help our parents teach their children about human sexuality so that young people will have the guidance and support they need to live healthy and holy lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. Nothing else, no other approach, will do.