Teaching the Catholic Faith to our Youth

By Bishop Roman Danylak
  These reflections on one of the most crucial issues of our day, the moral and religious and human formation of our youth in these our times were first presented at a symposium on the Christian education of youth at Saint Agnes Church in New York City on October 31, 1999.

    I have addressed these issues in 1998 through articles in the Catholic New Times, which were reprinted by the Wanderer for the American public

    I trust you will accept my reflections, and will find ways to implement not only my suggestions, but the constant teaching of the universal magisterium of the Catholic Church in these difficult times. We live in expectant hope and faith in the promise of Our Saviour, that He will not abandon us; and in the omnipotence and wisdom of His Divine Providence to bring about the promised triumph of the Immaculate Heart of His Blessed Mother to establish His Eucharistic reign as He returns to us in His
second and glorious coming

    I wish to begin my address with the words of the Lord, how He understands the mission He has entrusted to us as stewards of the gift He has entrusted to us, our children, called to become co-heirs with Him in His eternal kingdom.
 

  But he that shall scandalise one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better
  for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck and that he should be
  drowned in the depth of the sea. (Mt. 18.6)
  See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in
  heaven always see the face of My Father, who is in heaven. (Mt. 18, 10)

    You will note the title of my brief message was advertised as “Chastity vs. Sex-Ed in the Catholic Schools”. Frankly, I believe a better title for the talk would be the “Necessity of Teaching the Catholic Faith instead of Classroom Sex-ed”.

    I shall divide my address into five themes.

I. The necessity of teaching the Catholic Faith in Catholic Schools and CCD classes

    You might be saying to yourself, OK Bishop, it’s fundamental that the Catholic Faith in its entirety should be taught. You’ll agree with me, I’m sure, that in the United States as well as in Canada, and far beyond, the Faith has all too often not been taught to any meaningful degree for at least the past thirty years.

    When I and many of you were growing up, the Faith was taught us and taught very well. In short, we learned our religion, and from the first grade we knew that we were created to know, to love and to serve God in this world in order that we might be happy with Him forever in the next world.

    In justice, today’s parents certainly deserve Catholic schools to teach the Catholic Faith, and if they did we would never have the problem of classroom sex-ed.

II. Classroom sex-ed & the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church concerning it

    Classroom sex-ed is the imparting of sexual information in a public, group setting or as part of formal classroom instruction, apart from the family, either as a separate curriculum or as an integrated part of a legitimate course of study, at the elementary and/or secondary school level. It has a long and tortuous history, deeply rooted in malthusian, eugenic and sexual reform movements of the last century and the sexual revolution of this century.

    Classroom sex-education places children in the proximate occasion of sin. By systematically attacking the virtue of modesty and eroding the sense of common shame, it is a prime cause of all forms of sexual immorality. Classroom sex-education makes public and open what by its very nature is private and intimate. All education is an activity which is essentially public, but because matters of sex are private and intimate (and pertain fundamentally to the family), sex-ed can never be accomplished in
the classroom without violating modesty or innocence. Such a violation is an abominable form of scandal.

    Classroom sex-education isn’t education at all. It’s a misnomer, for it really amounts to initiation in sex or a form of sexual harassment.

    Now, you may ask whether the Church has prohibited classroom sex-ed.

    In his prophetic encyclical on the Christian education of youth (Divini Illius Magistri) promulgated December 31, 1929, Pope Pius XI prohibited classroom sex-education. The encyclical contains the magisterium’s most authoritative ruling on the subject. In it, the Holy Father counsels:
 
  In this extremely delicate matter, if, all things considered, some private instruction is found necessary and opportune, from those who hold from God the commission to teach and have the grace of state, every precaution must be taken. Such precautions are well known in traditional Christian education, and are adequately described by Antoniano cited above, when he says: “Such is our misery and inclination to sin, that often in the very things considered to be remedies against sin, we find occasions for and inducements to sin itself. Hence it is of the highest importance that a good father, while discussing with his son a matter so delicate, should be well on his guard and not descend to details, nor refer to the various ways in which this infernal hydra destroys with its poison so large a portion of the world; otherwise it may happen that instead of extinguishing this fire, he unwittingly stirs or kindles it in the simple and tender heart of the child.”

    The usual audience might say, “Come on, Bishop, the statement of Pope Pius XI was made in 1929, and things have changed quite a bit from then, and Rome has issued several statements on the matter.”

    Yes, there have been other statements from the Vatican on the subject, and I only wish time would allow me to address them all adequately. The point is that Pope Pius XI’s statement is the most authoritative and exhaustive ever written on the subject; and it has been upheld, and never overruled. To the contrary his successors from Pope Pius XII to the present Pope, John Paul II have reiterated his teachings, not only in authoritative encyclicals, but especially in addresses to individual episcopal conferences on the occasion of their ad limina to Rome. These have been summarised in the recent clear teaching of the Pontifical Council for the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality of December 20, 1995. Note that this document was written about sixty-six years after Pope Pius XI’s encyclical on the Christian Education of Youth. While this Vatican document does not refer to Pius XI’s prohibition of classroom sex-ed by name, it does provide a general guideline for Catholic parents to evaluate any course dealing with sexuality when it states:
 
  Finally, as a general guideline, one needs to bear in mind that all the different methods of sexual education should be judged by parents in the light of the principles and moral norms of the Church, which express human values in daily life.

    Since this general guideline calls on Catholics to judge all such methods in light of the Church’s moral norms and principles, and recalling that Pius XI’s prohibition of classroom sex-education constitutes the magisterium’s most authoritative norm and principle on this subject, we conclude two things:

  1. that the document assumes and thereby reaffirms the teaching and prohibition of Pius XI, albeit without mentioning Pius by name; and,
  2. that this general guideline be used by parents also to evaluate instruction in sexual morality given in schools.
    At this point I wish to remind my listeners of the authoritative teaching of the Common Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas. In the first place the Church’s mission of education is in wonderful agreement with that of the family, for both proceed from God, and in a remarkably similar manner, God directly communicates to the family, in the natural order, fecundity, which is the principle of life, and hence also the principle of education to life, together with authority, the principle of order.

    The Angelic Doctor with his wonted clearness of thought and precision of style, says:
  The father according to the flesh has in a particular way a share in that principle which in a manner universal is found in God. ... The father is the principle of generation, of education and discipline and of everything that bears upon the perfecting of human life.

    The family therefore holds directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate the offspring, a right inalienable because inseparably joined to the strict obligation, a right anterior to any right whatever of civil society and of the State, and therefore inviolable on the part of any power on earth.

    That this right is inviolable Saint Thomas proves as follows:
  The child is naturally something of the father ... so by natural right the child, before reaching the use of reason, is under the father’s care. Hence it would be contrary to natural justice if the child, before the use of reason, were removed from the care of  its parents, or if any disposition were made concerning his against the will of the parents. S. Th., 2-2, Q. x, a. 12

    And as this duty on the part of the parents continues up to the time when the child is in a position to provide for itself, this same inviolable parental right of education also endures. “Nature intends not merely the generation of the offspring, but also its development and advance to the perfection of man considered as man, that is, to the state of virtue” (Suppl. S. Th. 3. p. Q. 41, a. 1) says the same Saint Thomas.

    The wisdom of the Church in this matter is expressed with precision and clearness in the Codex of Canon Law, canon 1113:
 
  Parents are under a grave obligation to see to the religious and moral education of their children, as well as to their physical and civic training, as far as they can, and moreover to provide for their temporal well-being.

    I am a Catholic Bishop for the Ukrainian Church. Ordained bishop and appointed Apostolic Administrator for the Eparchy of Toronto. I have now been called by the Holy Father to work for the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. I reside in Rome. I wish to remind you that on March 8, 1990 Cardinal Lubachivsky addressed this issue in his letter to the NCCL.

 Consistent with the traditional teaching of the Magisterium, I am in favor of a universal ban on classroom sex education. ... NCCL should continue to protect the innocence of children by working for a universal ban on classroom sex education.
His position was reiterated by his successor  Metropolitan and Archbishop for Ukrainian Catholics in U.S.A., Archbishop Stephen Sulyk.

    One last word before we move on to the next theme. The universal magisterium of the Church has always maintained a continuity and integrity in its teaching, throughout its twenty centuries, and continues to do so in this present pontificate. We find this in the teaching of the magisterium on Christian marriage, the evils of abortion and contraception. We find it in the exhortations concerning the Christian formation of youth.

    Considering the evil of classroom sex-ed we should literally weep when we realize that for over the last twenty years Catholic doctrinal and moral catechesis has all too often been replaced by a sexual catechesis.

III The Virtue of Chastity

    The aim of chastity is to check whatever is inordinate in voluptuous pleasures. These pleasures have for their principal end the perpetuation of the race through the right use of marriage. They are lawful only between married persons, and then only when they further or at least do not interfere with the primary end of marriage, which is the procreation of children.

    Chastity is rightly called the angelic virtue, because it likens us to the angels, who are pure by nature. It is an austere virtue, because we do not succeed in practicing it unless we subdue the body and the senses by mortification. It is a frail virtue, tarnished by the least willful failing. On this account it is a difficult virtue, since it cannot be observed except by a generous and constant struggle against the most tyrannical of passions.

    Chastity is a frail and delicate virtue that cannot be preserved unless it be protected by other virtues. It is, as it were, a citadel that requires for its defense the raising of outward ramparts. These are four in number:

Within these four ramparts the soul is not only able to repulse the onslaughts of the enemy, but also to grow in purity.

    In a letter to NCCL dated May 31, 1990 Msgr., now Archbishop, Carlo Caffarra put it very well when he wrote:

  It is important that a sound doctrinal catechesis be given to all children in order that they completely understand and be able to live the faith. Naturally within this sound doctrinal catechesis authentic sexual morality should be taught. It is important to note, however, that the Church when educating children at the elementary and secondary school levels with regard to sexual morality has constantly done so within the framework of the regular religion class, and has not attempted to isolate the teaching of sexual morality or ‘chastity education’ in separate programs not related to the other virtues.
    It is so important to keep in mind that the virtues are all interrelated.

    The point that I want to make is that chastity is not a matter that should be taught in an isolated manner, for this can be very dangerous. Keep in mind we are saying that classroom sex-ed must go, and must be replaced by an authentic Catholic doctrinal and moral catechesis. Replacing it with so-called chastity programs won’t work, and can be harmful.

IV.Difference Between Classroom Sex-ed & Teaching Authentic Catholic Sexual Morality

    The fourth section of my brief talk involves the difference between imparting classroom sex-education and the teaching of authentic Catholic sexual morality.

    It is important to note this all-important distinction because at the basis of almost every dispute over classroom sex-education, especially in Catholic circles, lies the failure to properly differentiate, or to distinguish at all, between classroom sex-ed and public instruction in sexual morality.

    Classroom sex-education is not a practice of the saints, it places children in the proximate occasion of sin and has been prohibited by the magisterium of the Church. Public instruction in sexual morality, on the other hand, — i.e., teaching the Faith and Commandments as the law of the moral life — is not only permitted, the magisterium has in fact always expected Church schools to present it to youth.

    Schools should assist parents in the formation of children in purity of morals. (It is another question altogether — and doubtful — whether, under the present circumstances, there are enough teachers qualified to do so.) Schools and their teachers, however, act only as delegates of parents, who are the principal authorities in the education of their offspring, and who are obliged, in harmony with the law of Almighty God, to raise their children according to the duties of their Christian state and vocation. No one has the authority to place children in a proximate occasion of sin — which is exactly what classroom sex-ed does — or to usurp the parents’ authority.

    What are some of the conditions, which differentiate public instruction in sexual morality from classroom sex-education?

1. Public instruction in sexual morality does not descend to details, provide explicit information or dwell on sexual matters, but rather gives adequate formation using abstract norms and definitions. Classroom sex-ed descends to details, provides explicit information and/or dwells on sexual matters.

2. Public instruction in sexual morality does not isolate what is permissible to be taught from the entire catechesis in Faith and morals, but rather provides its matter in the context of the uninterrupted and entire catechesis in Faith and morals. Classroom sex-ed either integrates (or infuses) its program into other classes, or simply forms a separate course.

3. Public instruction in sexual morality reserves for private instruction (primarily with parents) anything else which might be necessary and opportune. A basic objective of sex-ed is to make public and open what is private and intimate.

4. Public instruction in sexual morality has for its end the strengthening of the will in holiness and the resistance to impurity. To this end, public instruction in sexual morality above all leads youths to the means of attaining sanctity and purity of heart and morals; namely, frequent reception of the Sacraments, prayer, devotion to Mary and the Saints, mortification et cetera. The objective of classroom sex-education is knowledge of and even expertise in carnal matters, especially under the pretext of values.

V. What you can do about the evil of Classroom Sex-education

    In conclusion I would recommend the following for your consideration:

                               Distributed by the National Coalition of Clergy & Laity
                               621 Jordan Circle, Whitehall, PA18052-7119
                               tel 610/435-4190,  fax 610/435-6360
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