Diocesan Board of Education
Diocese of Belleville
Objectives of the Instructional Program
Education in Sexuality for Elementary and Secondary Age Students
Human sexuality is not new; nor is the reality of the Catholic Church teaching on sexuality. Catholic Church teaching on sexuality is a part of and consequence of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the explicit teaching of Jesus, the constant doctrine of the Church, and the Christian view of human nature.
The Church's teachings about sex are consistent. The Church teaches that sex is basically social and loving, that sexual activity must be limited to the context of marriage. The sexual faculty has a social dimension in that its use implies the giving and receiving of total human persons to and from one another. The two purposes of sex are to procreate new human life in the world and to express the deepest and most intimate kind of love between human beings. These two purposes are in relationship to one another and neither purpose can be deliberately suppressed or acted against without doing violence to the nature of human sexuality. Sex is intended to be both love-giving and life-giving and it can be authentically neither unless both values are respected. These two basic purposes of sexuality flow from its nature as a gift of the Creator and as profound interpersonal expression. As the document states:
- Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his/her body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2332. The italics are in the Catechism.)
- Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his/her sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2333. The italics are in theCatechism.)
Parents, as the primary catechists, have a central role in the education of their children in human sexuality. Parents need to make use of the wider community in their efforts at faith formation of their children.
- For "in an age when the mystery has been taken from human sexuality, parents must take care to avoid trivializing human sexuality in their teaching and in the help offered by others." (The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, Pontifical Council for the Family, 1996, n. 122.) The parish's task is not to substitute for the family, rather it is "assisting and completing the work of parents, furnishing children and adolescents with an evaluation of sexuality as value and task of the whole person, created male and female in the image of God ."(ibid, n. 64.)
- Therefore, parents who are concerned about classroom human sexuality education Ashould not let their feelings express themselves in indiscriminate opposition to all classroom instruction in sexuality, for that would not be consistent with the position of the Second Vatican Council. (Declaration on Christian Education, 1965, n. 1) and the Bishops of the United States.
- Furthermore, to the extent such opposition might impede or disrupt responsible efforts along these lines, it would violate the rights of other, no less conscientious parents who desire such instruction for their children. (National Catechetical Directory, 1979, n. 191.)
- A child may be excused from classes if the parents give written permission. However, Aif parents do not want their children to attend a prudently planned program based on these guidelines, they should remember that they have the responsibility to seek alternative forms of formal instruction in human sexuality for their children.@ (Education in Human Sexuality for Christians, United States Catholic Conference, 1981, pg. 65.)
We are to lead those we teach to a correct and healthy attitude about human sexuality. We are to offer the Church=s teaching coherently, comprehensively, realistically and repeatedly.
- The teachings must be offered coherently, in a way calculated to bring about understanding and acceptance. We have to offer the world view that makes the teaching reasonable. We cannot content ourselves with merely laying down the law. We have to provide the rationale for the rules of behavior, and that rationale has to be clear and appealing. "A true formation is not limited to the informing of the intellect, but must pay particular attention to the will, to feelings and emotions." EDUCATIONAL GUIDANCE IN HUMAN LOVE, p. 15 (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education).
- Sex education programs must be comprehensive. They cannot content themselves with only biology, nor can they be selective in emphasizing or de-emphasizing particular rules. A program must include the totality of Catholic teaching and in such a way that all the elements are seen in their relationship to all the others.
- The teaching must be taught realistically. First of all, we have to be realistic about human nature. This means we must exert some control over what we look at and what we think about, along with some decisions about where we go and with whom we go.
- Human development and human sexuality demand that teaching of human sexuality be done repeatedly. The desire to understand, discuss, and/or dispute the Church's teaching on sexuality differs in the various stages of human development and human sexuality. At every stage the young person has the right to grow in understanding of the Church's teaching on this subject.
Virtues are central to effective teaching of Christian sexuality. The Theological and Cardinal virtues are basic to solid Christian moral education. Character qualities that flow from these virtues can be beneficial in education in human sexuality. Examples of these character qualities or virtues include respect, patience, kindness, responsibility, self-control, trustworthiness, courage, and modesty. The virtue of modesty is one of the things we have to teach in any program dealing with Christian sexuality. The pursuit of virtue is a difficult matter in any area of Christian living, and the area of sexuality is no exception.
The people we teach have to be told quite clearly that certain things are simply wrong, that they are out of tune with the Christian world view and with Christian behavior. We have to help them find ways to deal with the temptations that lead to sin. We are not saying that we have to teach our students that anything which has to do with sex is bad. Students have to know that some things connected with sex are unhealthy, inappropriate and wrong.
Our Christian values about human sexuality are not shared by twenty-first century United States culture. We need to be realistic of this fact. It is a society in which Christian belief often challenges the broader culture in which we live. Those we teach have to know that fact. They deserve to know how and why our Christian values are different from the broader society.
Our task as educators is to be sure that we get the Church=s message across to those we serve.
- State the goals of the program clearly.
- Welcome open, honest dialogue in planning and presenting.
- Ask and address the hard questions; don=t shy away.
- Know what it is that the Church really teaches.
- Know the history and development of those teachings.
Classes should be co-educational when possible. We risk sending wrong messages if we conduct a sexuality program with complete separation of the sexes. Some of the material could prove embarrassing (physiological aspects, for example). But by NOT separating the sexes for portions of the program we can teach beyond the level of content, e.g., that both boys and girls need to develop a common approach to Christian morality and decision making.
Education in human sexuality should be an ongoing program. It should be age appropriate and presented to all ages. Education in sexuality needs to focus on the whole person. As church, and as parents, we have a right and a responsibility to offer Christian teaching and guidance. Our children deserve nothing less than our best efforts.
Sexuality is a dimension of the whole person, a power for relationship with others, and one expression of the total gift of self to oneness of life in the commitment of marriage. Like all the facets of our lives, we must seek understanding of and direction for our sexuality through the guidance of a Christian way of life lived in the community of the Church.
Approved: May 17, 1988
Revised: May 3, 2005
Office of Education
Diocese of Belleville