Some Church Teachings

on Catholic Education and Chaste Wedlock

From Pope Pius XI’s encyclical on education, Divini Illius Magistri:

Another very grave danger is that naturalism which nowadays invades the field of education in that most delicate matter of purity of morals. Far too common is the error of those who with dangerous assurance and under an ugly term propagate a so-called sex-education, falsely imagining they can forearm youth against the dangers of sensuality by means purely natural, such as a foolhardy initiation and precautionary instruction for all indiscriminately, even in public; and, worse still, by exposing them at an early age to the occasions, in order to accustom them, so it is argued, and as it were to harden them against such dangers.

Such persons grievously err in refusing to recognize the inborn weakness of human nature, and the law of which the Apostle speaks, fighting against the law of mind (Romans 7:23); and also in ignoring the experience of facts, from which it is clear that, particularly in young people, evil practices are the effect not so much of ignorance of intellect as of weakness of a will exposed to dangerous occasions, and unsupported by the means of grace.

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. Speaking generally, during the period of childhood it suffices to employ those remedies which produce the double effect of opening the door to the virtue of purity and closing the door upon vice." [...]

In fact it must never be forgotten that the subject of Christian education is man whole and entire, soul united to body in unity of nature, with all his faculties natural and supernatural, such as right reason and revelation show him to be; man, therefore, fallen from his original estate, but redeemed by Christ and restored to the supernatural condition of adopted son of God, though without the preternatural privileges of bodily immortality or perfect control of appetite. There remain therefore, in human nature the effects of original sin, the chief of which are weakness of will and disorderly inclinations.

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child and the rod of correction shall drive it away. (Prov. xxii, 15) Disorderly inclinations then must be corrected, good tendencies encouraged and regulated from tender childhood, and above all the mind must be enlightened and the will strengthened by supernatural truth and by means of grace, without which it is impossible to control evil impulses, impossible to attain to the full and complete perfection of education intended by the Church, which Christ has endowed so richly with divine doctrine and with the Sacraments, the efficacious means of grace.

Hence every form of pedagogic naturalism which in any way excludes or weakens supernatural Christian formation in the teaching of youth is false. Every method of education founded, wholly or in part, on the denial or forgetfulness of original sin and of grace, and relying on the sole powers of human nature, is unsound. [...]

But alas! it is clear from the obvious meaning of the words and from experience, that what is intended by not a few, is the withdrawal of education from every sort of dependence of the divine law. So today we see, strange sight indeed, educators and philosophers who spend their lives in searching for a universal moral code of education, as if there existed no Decalogue, no gospel law, no law even of nature stamped by God on the heart of man, promulgated by right reason, and codified in positive revelation by God Himself in the ten commandments. These innovators are wont to refer contemptuously to Christian education as “heteronomous,” “passive,” “obsolete,” because founded upon the authority of God and his holy law.

Such men are miserably deluded in their claim to emancipate, as they say, the child, while in reality they are making him the slave of his own blind pride and of his disorderly affections, which, as a logical consequence of this false system, come to be justified as legitimate demands of a so-called autonomous nature. [...]

These principles [i.e. of the basic difference between the sexes], with due regard to time and place, must in accordance with Christian prudence, be applied to all schools, particularly in the most delicate and decisive period of formation, that, namely, of adolescence; and in gymnastic exercises and deportment, special care must be had of Christian modesty in young women and girls, which is so gravely impaired by any kind of exhibition in public. [...]

Perfect schools are the result not so much of good methods as of good teachers, teachers who are thoroughly prepared and well-grounded in the matter they have to teach; who possess the intellectual and moral qualifications required by their important office; who cherish a pure and holy love for the youths confided to them, because they love Jesus Christ and His Church, of which these are the children of predilection; and who have therefore sincerely at heart the true good of family and country. [...]

The proper and immediate end of Christian education is to co-operate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by Baptism, according to the emphatic expression of the Apostle: My little children, of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you. (Gal. iv, 19) For the true Christian must live a supernatural life in Christ: Christ who is your life, (Col. iii, 4) and display it in all his actions: That the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (II Cor. iv, 11) [...]

Hence the true, Christian product of Christian education, is the supernatural man who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illuminated by the supernatural light of the example and teaching of Christ; in other words, to use the current term, the true and finished man of character. For, it is not every kind of consistency and firmness of conduct based on subjective principles that makes true character, but only constancy in following the eternal principles of justice, as is admitted even by the pagan poet when he praises as one and the same “the man who is just and firm of purpose.” (Horat., Od. 1, iii, od. 3, v. 1) And on the other hand, there cannot be full justice except in giving to God what is due to God, as the true Christian does. [...]

“By nature parents have a right to the training of their children, but with this added duty that the education and instruction of the child be in accord with the end for which by God’s blessing it was begotten. Therefore it is the duty of parents to make every effort to prevent any invasion of their rights in this matter, and to make absolutely sure that the education of their children remain under their control in keeping with their Christian duty, and above all to refuse to send them to those schools in which there is danger of imbibing the deadly poison of impiety.” (Pope Leo XIII, Sapientiae Christianae, January 10, 1890 as quoted in Divini Illius Magistri)

On March 21, 1931, the Holy Office (now the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) issued a Decree. The Holy Office had proposed to it for solution a question pertaining to Pope Pius XI's encyclical, Divini Illius Magistri. The Decree's question and answer about sex-education read:

Question: May the method called "sex-education" or even "sex initiation" be approved?

Answer: No. In the education of youth the method to be followed is that hitherto observed by the Church and the Saints as recommended by His Holiness the Pope in the encyclical dealing with the Christian education of youth, promulgated on December 31, 1929. The first place is to be given to the full, sound and continuous instruction in religion of both sexes. Esteem, desire and love of the angelic virtue must be instilled into their minds and hearts. They must be made fully alive to the necessity of constant prayer, and assiduous frequenting of the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist; they must be directed to foster a filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin as Mother of holy purity, to whose protection they must entirely commit themselves. Precautions must be taken to see that they avoid dangerous reading, indecent shows, conversations of the wicked, and all other occasions of sin.

Hence no approbation whatever can be given to the advocacy of the new method even as taken up recently by some Catholic authors and set before the public in printed publications.

In a Papal Letter to the Cardinal of Malines in 1955, Pope Pius XII wrote about his predecessor’s encyclical:

The inviolable principles which this document [Divini Illius Magistri] lays down regarding the Church, family and State in the matter of education, are based on the very nature of things and on revealed truth. They cannot be shaken by the ebb and flow of events. As for the fundamental rules which it prescribes, these too are not subject to the wear and tear of time, since they are only the faithful echo of the Divine Master, Whose words shall never pass away. The encyclical is a real Magna Carta of Christian education, ‘outside of which no education is complete and perfect.’

The Catechism of the Council of Trent does not, of course, explicitly prohibit classroom sex-ed, since there was no classroom sex-ed as we know it in the 16th century. But the section on the Sixth Commandment, Thou shalt not commit adultery, is devoted to teaching pastors the proper matter and method of public instruction in sexual morality. It states clearly and succinctly under the heading IMPORTANCE OF CAREFUL INSTRUCTION ON THIS COMMANDMENT:

In the explanation of this Commandment, however, the pastor has need of great caution and prudence, and should treat with great delicacy a subject which requires brevity rather than copiousness of exposition. For it is to be feared that if he explained in too great detail or at length the ways in which this Commandment is violated, he might unintentionally speak of subjects which, instead of extinguishing, usually serve rather to inflame corrupt passion.

Then, after taking its own advice, the catechism explains as follows:

These are the points which we have deemed proper matter for public instruction of the faithful. The pastor, however, should add the decrees of the Council of Trent against adulterers, and those who keep harlots and concubines, omitting many other species of immodesty and lust, of which each individual is to be admonished privately, as circumstances of time and person may require. [...]

The first [remedy of lust] is studiously to avoid idleness ... in the next place intemperance is carefully to be avoided. ... the eyes in particular, are the inlets to criminal passion, ... Too much display in dress ... [is] an occasion of sin. ... Obscene language is a torch which lights up the worst passions of the young mind ... Immodest and passionate songs and dances are ... cautiously to be avoided [as also] soft and obscene books ... no less than indecent pictures.

But the most efficacious means for subduing [lust’s] violence are frequent use of confession and Communion, as also unceasing and devout prayer to God, accompanied by fasting and almsdeeds.

In the section on the Sacrament of Matrimony the same catechism instructs:

Finally, the use of marriage is a subject which pastors should so treat as to avoid any expression that may be unfit to meet the ears of the faithful, that may be calculated to offend the piety of some, or excite the laughter of others. The words of the Lord are chaste words (Psalm xi, 7); and the teacher of a Christian people should make use of the same kind of language, one that is characterized by singular gravity and purity of soul.

The Gospel according to Saint Matthew (v, 27-28) records the very words of Our Lord.

You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that anyone who so much as looks with lust at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

At Fatima, Our Lady prophesied:

Wars are a punishment from God for sin. ... Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much. ... More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.

From Pope Pius XI’s encyclical on chaste wedlock, Casti Connubii:

[C]all to mind that firmly established principle, esteemed alike in sound philosophy and sacred theology: namely, that whatever things have deviated from their right order, cannot be brought back to that original state which is in harmony with their nature except by a return to the divine plan which ... is the exemplar of all right order. [...]

In order therefore to restore due order in this matter of marriage, it is necessary that all should bear in mind what is the divine plan and strive to conform to it. Wherefore, since the chief obstacle to this study is the power of unbridled lust, which is the most potent cause of sinning against the sacred laws of matrimony, and since man cannot hold in check his passions, unless he first subject himself to God, this must be his primary endeavour, in accordance with the plan divinely ordained. For it is a sacred ordinance that whoever shall have first subjected himself to God will, by the aid of divine grace, be glad to subject to himself his own passions and concupiscence; while he who is a rebel against God, will, to his sorrow, experience within himself the violent rebellion of his worst passions. [...]

“This indeed is fitting, that the lower be subject to the higher, so that he who would have subject to himself whatever is below him, should himself submit to whatever is above him. Acknowledge order, seek peace. Be thou subject to God, and thy flesh subject to thee. What more fitting! What more fair! Thou art subject to the higher and the lower is subject to thee. Do thou serve Him who made thee, so that that which was made for thee may serve thee. For we do not commend this order, namely, The flesh to thee and thou to God, but Thou to God and the flesh to thee. If, however, thou despisest the subjection of thyself to God, thou shalt never bring about the subjection of the flesh to thyself. If thou doest not obey the Lord, thou shalt be tormented by thy servant.” (St. Augustine, Enarrat. in Ps. 143) This right ordering on the part of God’s wisdom is mentioned by the holy Doctor of the Gentiles, inspired by the Holy Ghost, for in speaking of those ancient philosophers who refused to adore and reverence Him Whom they knew to be the Creator of the universe, he says: Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves: and again: For this same God delivered them up to shameful affections. (Rom. i, 24, 26) And St. James says: God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble, (Jam. iv, 6) without which grace, as the same Doctor of the Gentiles reminds us, man cannot subdue the rebellion of the flesh. (Rom. vii, 8)

Consequently, as the onslaughts of these uncontrolled passions cannot in any way be lessened, unless the spirit first shows a humble compliance of duty and reverence toward its Maker, it is above and before all needful that those who are joined in the bond of sacred wedlock should be wholly imbued with a profound and genuine sense of duty towards God, which will shape their whole lives, and fill their minds and wills with a very deep reverence for the majesty of God.

Quite fittingly, therefore, and quite in accordance with the defined norm of Christian sentiment, do those pastors of souls act who, to prevent married people from failing in the observance of God’s law, urge them to perform their duty and exercise their religion so that they should give themselves to God, continually ask His divine assistance, frequent the sacraments, and always nourish and preserve a loyal a thoroughly sincere devotion to God.

They are greatly deceived who having underestimated or neglected these means which rise above nature, think that they can induce men by the use and discovery of the natural sciences, such as those of biology, the science of heredity, and the like, to curb their natural desires. We do not say this in order to belittle those natural means which are not dishonest; for God is the author of nature as well as of grace, and He has disposed the good things of both orders for the beneficial use of men. But they are mistaken who think that these means are able to establish chastity in the nuptial union, or that they are more effective than supernatural grace. [...]

Such wholesome instruction and religious training in regard to Christian marriage will be quite different from that exaggerated physiological education by means of which, in these times of ours, some reformers of married life make a pretense of helping those joined in wedlock, laying much stress on these physiological matters, in which is learned rather the art of sinning in a subtle way than the virtue of living chastely. [...]

All these things, however, ... depend in large measure on the due preparation remote and proximate, of the parties for marriage. For it cannot be denied that the basis of a happy wedlock, and the ruin of an unhappy one, is prepared and set in the souls of boys and girls during the period of childhood and adolescence. There is danger that those who before marriage sought in all things what is theirs, who indulged even their impure desires, will be in the married state what they were before, that they will reap that which they have sown; (Gal. vi, 9) indeed within the home there will be sadness, lamentation, mutual contempt, strifes, estrangements, weariness of common life, and, worst of all, such parties will find themselves left alone with their own unconquered passions.

On the authentic Catholic school, Pope John Paul II:

“This [education in Faith] of course concerns first and foremost the Catholic school: it would no longer deserve this title if, no matter how much it shone for its high level of teaching in non-religious matters, there were justification for reproaching it for negligence or deviation in strictly religious education.” (Catechesi Tradendae, no. 69, 1979)

[The Catholic school is] first and foremost, a place and a special community for the education and maturation of faith. ... A Catholic school -- I said -- would no longer deserve this title ‘if, no matter how much it shone for its high level of teaching in non-religious matters, there were justification for reproaching it for negligence or deviation in strictly religious education. Let it not be said that such education will always be given implicitly and indirectly. The special character of the Catholic school, the underlying reason for it, the reason why Catholic parents should prefer it, is precisely the quality of its religious instruction integrated into the education of the pupils’. ... And this religious teaching must be entire in its content, because every disciple of Christ has the right to receive the word of faith in a form that is not mutilated, not distorted, not reduced, but complete and whole, in all its rigor and vigor. (The Whole Truth about Man, Daughters of St. Paul ca. 1981 pp. 109-110)

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“I thought that continence arose from one's own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know ... that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you.” (Saint Augustine, Confessions 6 11, 20) §2520

Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity. §2521

Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet. §2522

Home | About NCCL | Sex-Ed | Home Schooling | Latin Mass | Eastern Rites | Modesty | Devotions | Marriage | "Ecumenism" | News | Encyclicals | Miscellaneous | Newsnotes | Pilgrimage