Giving parents what they already have a right to

Giving parents what they already have a right to

I was buoyed by this title in a recent issue of The WandererU.S. Bishops Reverse Mandatory Safety-Sex-Ed Policy”—but then realized it wasn’t what I thought.

What I thought was that they were going to reverse their ridiculous mandate that every diocese require children to be indoctrinated in a “safe environment sex education” program. (I’ve blogged on my objections before), but upon reading the article I see the change is more subtle.

In a little-noticed, single paragraph released May 15 on its web site, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reversed the policy adopted by numerous dioceses across America that had subjected Catholic schoolchildren to mandatory “sex-abuse-education” classes.
“New regulations issued May 15 by the U.S. bishops allow parents to remove their children from diocesan-sponsored training programs in child sex-abuse prevention,” said the announcement from the U.S. bishops’ Catholic News Service (CNS).

Gee, thanks for giving me what is already my right. No diocese or parish or Catholic school has the right to demand that I submit my child to any program involving sexuality.  Pope John Paul II underlined that right in his 1981 encyclical Familiaris Consortio:

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 educational centers chosen and controlled by them. In this regard, the Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents. [emphasis added]

But is it sex education?

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  • It needs to be done at home so it can be done within the context of an appropriate moral framework. If we could trust educators in Catholic schools to be faithful to Catholic teachings, there would be nothing to fear. If a parent has thoroughly investigated a program and found it in concert with the Catholic values he/she is teaching at home, then by all means utilize the program to reinforce your message. I send my kids to the parish high school programs about chastity. However, we can’t even trust “Catholic” educators to teach about the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. How can we blindly trust them to give an accurate picture of the Church’s teachings on sexuality?

  • Yes, Brigid, the problem isn’t that school/parish-based sex education is being *offered.*  That’s fine.  We’re free to delegate some of that instruction to competent and faithful teachers other than ourselves if we see fit. 

    The problem is when school/parish-based sex ed is *forced* on families, as the Boston clerics tried to do; and when that sex ed is not faithful to Catholic teaching.

    Ideally such school/parish-based education, if it existed, would arise from below rather than being mandated from above:  a group of like-minded parents getting together and seeking help from each other in assembling materials for a program.  Another great option would be for the school/parish to hold sessions in training *parents* in the relevant church teachings (and if necessary, biological/anatomical factual matters!) to teach their own kids in their own way.  No matter what, parents need to be involved.

  • In a classroom, the teacher must aim her teaching at 25 kids of varying levels of innocence, understanding, and sensitivity. When teaching Math that’s not of much concern, but when teaching about something as foundational as sexual morality it is. Being bad at Math doesn’t affect your eternal salvation.

    Every kid is different when it comes to sensitivity and innocence. Some kids might be able to hear about such matters from their teacher and be fine. Other kids might hear about it and be deeply disturbed by the content.

    The essence of classroom education is aiming for the center, the middle ground of kids, which means the kids on the edges have to muddle along.

    For specific objections to the programs used in schools, you can read my article about Talking about Touching or go to the web site in a comment above for Primary Educators.

  • No offense, Brigid, but have you been paying attention the past five years? The lesson of the Scandal is that you can’t simply entrust your children to others, even priests and bishops. The Church’s teaching is that the parents are the primary educators of their children. They may delegate some responsibility some of the time, but they must ensure that their children are protected from any who do harm to them either by immoral education or physical harm.