Sex Education: A parent's right, A parent's responsibility
Parents alone have the right to be the primary educators of their children,
particularly in matters related to sexuality. This right is bestowed on them
by God, Who also assigns to parents a duty to teach Christian morality to
their sons and daughters. Parents are the best teachers of their children.
God has ordained parents with an inalienable right to educate their
children, particularly regarding sexual development.
God, the Author of life, invites parents to join in the creative process of
generating new human life. The role of parents continues as guardians and
caretakers of the gift of a child which has been bestowed on them.
The God-given right and responsibility of parents to control the education
of their children is revealed in Holy Scripture:
He [the Lord] set it up as a decree in Jacob, and established it as a law in
Israel, / That what He commanded our fathers they should make known to
their sons . . . Psalm 78:5
Train a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart
from it. Proverbs 22
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the
discipline of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
. . . and in the Tradition of the Catholic Church:
The right and duty of parents to educate their children is primary and
Parents have a duty to be the primary educators of their children,
particularly in matters related to sex.
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. The role of parents in education is of such
importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute."2
A human being's sexuality cannot be separated from who he or she is as a
person. The responsibility of parents to steer the discipline and
development of their child involves the child's total development including
his sexual morality. Parents are called to give their children "a clear and
delicate" sex education, one that is "truly and fully personal."3
"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 education
centers chosen and controlled by them"4
"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 "nuptual 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."5
Sexuality is interconnected with morality and spirituality; therefore, sex
education cannot be taught apart from Christian principles. To "love the
Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind" includes all of
Parents are the best educators of their children.
The Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity. As such, a school that
cooperates in the sex education of a child should enter into the same spirit
that motivates and animates the parents.6
Schools play an important role in supporting the parents' cultivation of
virtue in their children. Yet, when it comes to discussing sexual matters
beyond the abstract (that is, in any detailed or descriptive way), the
classroom or other public setting is not the appropriate place.
As stated before, parents are called to give a clear and delicate sex
education, one that is truly and fully personal. It is presumptuous-indeed,
dangerous- to assume that every child is at the same level of sexual
interest or understanding. One eighth-grader may need to be spoken to more
candidly about sex because he is already sexually aware, where as another
eighth-grader may consider the opposite sex uninteresting; therefore very
little, if anything, should be discussed with him about sex.
Parents are in the best position to know the developmental level and
individual informational needs of their children. Moreover, only in private
discussions can these needs be addressed-personally and with the delicacy
the subject requires. It is particularly important not to violate a child's
natural latency period (roughly from age eight to puberty, when sexual
interests are dormant), which could result in the destruction of their
Further, parents, regardless of their professional credentials, are best
suited to be the primary educators of their children. Their loving
relationship with their offspring is singular and irreplaceable and
therefore cannot be delegated to others or usurped by others.7
In addition, parents are in a unique position to lead by example in teaching
their children the gift of self in relation to love. The love between a
husband and wife teaches their children what love is; for, by welcoming and
nurturing the children who are the fruit of that love, they give their
children the best possible education in sexuality and in responsible use of
There can be no avoiding the duty to offer, especially to adolescents and
young adults, an authentic education in sexuality and in love . . .9
1. Familiaris Consortio, Section 36.
2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 2221.
3. Familiaris Consortio, Section 37.
7. Ibid, Section 36.
8. Know Your Body, Norris & Owen, p. 65.
9. Evangelium Vitae, Paragraph 97.
If parents do not feel comfortable speaking to their teenagers regarding
sexual issues, they have a responsibility to seek the resources to learn how
better to handle such matters. The following are organizations that can
provide the necessary resources. Simply ask for a catalog of materials
related to chastity and the sex education of your children from a Christian
The Couple to Couple League, Inc.
P.O. Box 111184
Cincinnati, OH 45211
Family of the Americas
P.O. Box 1170
Dunkirk, MD 20754-1170
Human Life International
7885 Airpark Road, Suite E
Gaithersburg, MD 20879
Saint Paul's Media and Books
50 Saint Paul's Avenue
Boston, MA 02130
In addition to:
American Life League, Inc.
P.O. Box 1350,
Stafford, VA 22555
Copyright A.L.L. 1995
The electronic form of this document is copyrighted.
Copyright (c) American Life League