The Question of Sex Education
Not any subject matter
Now it is New York's turn: Dennis Walcott, Chancellor of the City's Department of Education, has mandated that with the new school year students between the ages of 11 and 18 will be required to attend a course in sex education for at least one semester. The new course is part of an initiative launched by Mayor Bloomberg to improve the lives of Black and Latino teenagers, and save them from the misery to which they seem destined. To avoid religious controversy, chastity will be cited among birth control methods and teachers will have to speak about sex with some caution. But this is not enough according to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who criticized the initiative, stating that in this way authorities allow "the public school system to impose its beliefs and values by substituting them for those of the parents".
Once again, we see the repetition of a model already undertaken by many other countries: the State decides to introduce compulsory sex education in schools, and the Catholic Church opposes it, earning in the media the image of an obscurantist force, cruel because of her indifference to the consequences this refusal could have for young people, that is, unwanted pregnancies and disease. However, this is not the fact of the matter.
It is not clear why public institutions in the West continue to be convinced of the effectiveness of sex education. After years of instruction, focused of course, on contraceptive methods, we see that — for example in the U.K. — boys and girls continue to have early sexual intercourse without any kind of protection and that the number of pregnancies and abortions among adolescents has increased. By now, it is clear that to avoid these tragedies it is not enough to explain to them how to use contraceptives and where to obtain them easily, but that the problem should be dealt with earlier through education and in the family.
Actually, Italy — where there is no compulsory sex education in schools — is one of the countries with better results from this point of view: here young people have a lower risk of disease and early pregnancy. This is thanks to the family, to the loving vigilance of parents over their teenagers, to the fact that kids are not left to themselves with a box of contraceptives as the only means of defence against their passions and mistakes.
And, in part, it is also thanks to the Catholic Church, which continues to teach that sexual relations are much more than some kind of pleasurable exercise to be practiced in an unbridled and risk-free way. In fact, the Church considers the sexual life of human beings to be one of the most meaningful proofs of their human and spiritual maturity, a test to be faced with preparation and seriousness, that is, to be linked to the fundamental choices of life, such as marriage, and therefore, to the foundation of a family in which procreation is one of the principal ends. The Church teaches respect for one's own body, which means giving importance and weight to the actions one does with it, not just taking into consideration the possibility of pleasure or narcissistic gratification, and this is precisely contrary to what the critics say.
In Catholic tradition the body is extremely important, it plays a central role in the human and spiritual life of every person. Catholics, therefore, cannot accept that sex can taught like any other subject, drawing attention to a few dangers it would be best to avoid; for, as is well known, young people are often attracted to danger, and will strive to avoid it only if they are educated in the deepest reasons underlying a different kind of moral behaviour.
Of course, for increasingly dysfunctional families it is very difficult to teach a sexual morality that is not supported by the parents example and/or the environment in which children live. So, it seems easier to renounce any kind of moral teaching and leave the problem to schools, which substitute moral education with technical information. If the results are disastrous, ignore them: it is much easier to overlook the problem, pretending to resolve it with useless and even harmful courses at school, rather than addressing the issue which underlies it: i.e. the blatant failure of the utopia of the sexual revolution and of the consequent breakdown of the first institution of moral education: the family.
Weekly Edition in English
7 september 2011, page 9
L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
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