Book Review: Sexual Wisdom for Catholic Adolescents

Sexual Wisdom for Catholic Adolescents was written to fill a need in the realm of Catholic Sex Education. It is designed for older adolescents and covers a wide range of topics relating to sexuality. It is intended to be used in the home, either with parent and child together or having the child read it on their own.

Dr. Wetzel begins with a good introduction to the biology of human sexuality. He then moves on to discuss sex without love, premarital sex, sexually transmitted diseases, pornography, artificial contraception and sterilization, natural family planning, infertility, and sexual deviations. He handles these topics in a straightforward, pull-no-punches manner. There are many things that adults will learn from reading this book.

Dr. Wetzel bases his teaching not only on good solid science and medical research, but on Catholic doctrine as well.  He relies on quotes from Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to support a God-centered understanding of sexuality. These teachings form the cornerstone of Dr. Wetzel’s presentation. He summarizes this teaching as follows:

“1) Man and woman were created for each other. They are a wonderful, natural complement to each other on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. . .

2) Through sexual relations, a married couple cooperates in the love of God the Creator and freely offers a gift of love to each other.

3) Each sexual act between spouses renews the marriage covenant. Through each act a married couple symbolically says “I do” to God and to each other with their bodies.

4) The love of the married couple for each other, as expressed in sexual intercourse, is a reflection of the love of Jesus Christ for his Church.

5) Sexual (erotic) love in its pure form, as meant by our Creator, permeates and even elevates pure agape love.

6) Because matrimony is a sacrament, through marriage spouses and their children receive sacramental graces.

7) Marriage is the normal calling of this life. Celibacy (committing to never having sex) for the sake of the kingdom of God is an ‘exceptional’ or special calling, which only relatively few receive (as priests and religious).

8) ‘Children are the supreme gift of marriage.’ . . .

9) Whether married or not, by living sexually pure lives we give a gift of love to God and others. . .

10) Lust is disordered sexual desire. . .

11) All of us sin. No one is perfectly sexually pure. . .

12) Chastity refers to the most satisfactory, most admirable, sexual state. Chaste people, whether married or not, are those who successfully balance their sexual nature with the other aspects of their person . . .”

One particularly insightful chapter is on “Good Sex.” In it, Dr. Wetzel divides sexual activity into five levels with Level 1 being “Perfect Sex: God’s ideal toward which we strive but can never achieve.” Level 7 is “Most severe sexual problems.” It  is a useful chart because it clearly delineates different sexual behaviors. One can find where one is on the chart and know what he or she needs to work on to move closer to Level 2, the level which is as high a level as we can achieve. It was comforting to know that everyone does struggle with sexual sin at some point. No one is perfect in this area.

One concern is that this book is recommended for older adolescents. Dr. Wetzel acknowledges that some will want to discuss topics with their children at a younger age. Many of these topics are only appropriate for those approaching adulthood. One would certainly not recommend going into detail with young children about the variety of sexual behavior or sexual codependency. However, children in today’s world are exposed to sex and are often offered sex at much younger ages. It is sad but true. Waiting until a child is sixteen to inform them about sex can be much too late. Eleven and twelve year olds are engaging in sexual activity. They need to be informed about the moral issues and physical concerns relating to this and they need to hear it from their parents. While one would not want to allow their eleven year old to read this book, it can offer a good starting point for parents to read and then choose what to discuss.

Dr. Richard Wetzel and the Sex Education for Advanced Beginners, Inc., the publishers of this book, are offering to supply as many boxes of these books that are needed for distribution at any high school, diocese, parish or other organization that will distribute these books to 11th graders at the cost of $2/book. Details are available at

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur


Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur writes from western Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two sons. A Senior Editor with Catholic, she blogs at

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • cmacri

    I would recommend Gregory Popcack’s Holy Sex be read by parents first before going through this book with their adolescents. While adolescents need to be armed with information and reasons to say, “No” before marriage, this attitude should not be carried into marriage.

    Gregory Popcack’s book explains why in the context of a loving, spiritual marriage, the Catholic Church has always had very broad guidelines about what is acceptable.