Sex education in instructional settings presents a plethora of problems. One of them is that such education ignores the maturity level of the individual child. Because children mature at different rates, only a parent can know each child individually, and thus teach what that particular child is ready to hear. "Each child's process of maturation as a person is different. Therefore, the most intimate aspects, whether biological or emotional, should be communicated in a personalized dialogue"– Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality (TMHS) 66.
Some experts believe they are in a better position to discern for a child than the child's own parents. This is an interesting belief. But it is not Catholic and it is not true. The Church holds that this gift for discernment is given by God to parents for the purpose of fulfilling that special and blessed vocation of parenthood to which we have been called by God Himself. This gift to discern for the child cannot be taken away from the parent. "Since parents know, understand and love each of their children and their uniqueness, they are in the best position to decide what the appropriate time is for providing a variety of information, according to the children's physical and spiritual growth. No one can take this capacity for discernment away from conscientious parents." (TMHS 65)
Teaching children is not just a God-given gift; it is a basic responsibility and duty of parenthood. "The church has always affirmed that parents have the duty and the right to be the first and principal educators of their children…" (TMHS 7) "…If… parents do not give adequate formation in chastity, they are failing in their precise duty. Likewise they would also be guilty were they to tolerate immoral or inadequate formation being give to their children outside the home" (TMHS 44). Unless we are suffering from some serious physical or moral incapacity, no one can replace us is our educative role (TMHS 22).
To help us in our role, the Council offers support and direction. As parents we need to pray to God for wisdom and ask for his grace, find time to talk to our children, and associate with other parents to "…fight against the damaging forms of sex education and to ensure that… children will be educated according to Christian principles and in a way that is consistent with their personal development" (114). Rare perversions should not become the norm in classroom discussion. Instead, the council recommends that such perversions should be dealt with "through individual counseling, as the parents' response to genuine problems." (TMHS 125). We must "Attentively follow every form of sex education that is given… outside the home, removing …children whenever this education does not correspond to their own principles." (TMHS 114). If necessary, special formation courses can be developed to assist us in our role "with the help of experts" (TMHS 134). But this assistance must be given first to the parents. (TMHS 14;emphasis added)
It is true that here are several good speakers, books, and videotapes which effectively cover the topics of purity and chastity from an authentically Catholic perspective. We may opt to avail ourselves of these. But there are also dangerous programs afoot. We need to know the difference, recognize the danger, and uncover the details. Hearing a talk from a Catholic school representative, or being shown a glossy advertising brochure is not enough. It is not enough because in these scenarios the intimate and graphic details of the program can remain hidden. Parents need to see and hear the actual material which the children will see and hear. This includes the teacher's manual, worksheets, pictures, drawings, coloring sheets, videotapes, models, exercises, tests etc. For any program involving sex information, parents should know the answers to the questions below, where a "yes" indicates digression from Pontifical guidance.
1. Is biological and sexual information injected in religious education? (violates TMHS 141)
2. Is "direct" information provided to pre-adolescents about chaste living? (violates TMHS 78) Are dramatized representation, mime, role-playing, drawings, charts, models and oral or written exams used to convey sexual information? (violates TMHS 127)
3. During adolescence, does catechesis provide intimate aspects of sexual information (biological or affective)? (violates TMHS 133)
4. Is the presence of a secularized culture used to defend explicit and premature sex information? (violates TMHS 143)
5. Are children or young people bound to secrecy about the content of the instruction? (violates TMHS 115)
6. Are parents denied the right to be present in classes? (violates TMHS 116) Are parents denied the right to remove children from instruction if instruction violates their own moral principals? If a child is removed from instruction, is discrimination shown toward the child? (violates TMHS 117)
7. When assistance is given, is it given first to the child, rather than first to the parents — thus taking or diminishing the formative right and duty of parents? (violates TMHS 145)
Without regard for what the class is called (e.g. safety, family life, catechesis etc.) children should be pulled from classes which violate Rome's teachings. But simply pulling little Joey out of class may not suffice. This is because little Luke's parents may leave him in. And much of what little Joey didn't hear in class, he will likely hear from little Tommy on the bus after school. After pulling our children from these classes, the next step is to address concerns about unorthodox programs directly and in charity with the pastor. If violations continue, then concerns should be directed to the diocesan Bishop. If that fails, then documented facts, details, materials, and videotapes can be sent to the Pontifical Council for the Family at the following address:
Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, President
Pontifical Council for the Family
16 Piazza S. Callisto
00120 Vatican City State, Europe
Psalm 127 reminds us that "Children… are a gift from the Lord." As Catholic parents, we are responsible for protecting the gifts God gave us when He gave us our children. If we want to truly protect our children then we cannot simply surrender them into the eager hands of those who are being led astray by the latest psychobabble of the day. We must live by the faith handed down from Christ through the Church. We must root ourselves and our children firmly in that faith.
Moms and dads, it's time to take back the truths of our faith. And while we are it, in a way that only we can, let's take back and protect the most precious gifts God has given to us — our children!