Classroom sex education

by Rev. Vernon J. Schaefer

reprinted with permission from Homiletic & Pastoral Review

March 1995, pp. 53-57

Allan Guttmacher, former president of Planned Parenthood was asked, “What makes abortion so secure in America?” He answered in two words: “Sex education.” Atheist Madelyn Murray O’Hare wrote: “The issue of abortion is a red herring. ... The fight is over sex education, including information on birth control.”

Abortion is the effect and sex education is [a] chief cause if not [a] root cause of our sexual revolution. One of the driving forces of the revolution was making or taking sensuality public, and that [happened], and of all places, in the classroom. Yes, even now in the classroom of some Catholic schools.

Classroom sex education initiates children into the sensual. It is the gateway to all forms of sexual immorality. Corrupted morals is the link between sex-ed and abortion.

It appears to me that the Catholic clergy are all but oblivious to the evils of classroom sex education. It is never discussed in any clergy gathering I have ever attended. We discuss a lot of things in our deanery meetings but never that. It is as if the clergy are completely unaware of the evils of classroom sex education.

I was no different. When sex-ed was quietly introduced into the public school in my parish many years ago, a few of my more conservative parishioners objected. I didn’t like the idea but it didn’t look like a big deal to me. Like so many, I lamented that parents were not doing the job at home so maybe the school has to give them a hand. But I always had a great distrust of public schools and was uncomfortable with the idea that the children in my parish were learning about the holy faculty of sex in an institution where God has been banned. I would have much rather have the parents take over that delicate task.

I asked a very devout mother in the parish, a graduate of a Catholic college, to teach a Catholic course of sex education as part of our CCD program. I knew the kids would never get the proper slant on this subject in public school. But at the same time, I was willing to allow them to participate in the classroom sex-ed of the public school, so little did I know about that program.

I sat in on a few classes of our own sex-ed course. They were using a film which Kathy, the teacher, said was approved by the diocesan education office, but I decided, approved or not, my children are not going to be subjected to any more of that kind of sexual audio-visual. Several good parents who were uneasy with the whole program seconded my decision to revise our sex-ed course.

Meanwhile, I received a brochure from the NCCL, National Coalition of Clergy and Laity. This organization puts out quite a case against classroom sex education. At first, I thought they must be an extreme right wing outfit who see a rat in every nursery. I gave the brochure to Kathy and asked her to give me her opinion. The upshot of the whole thing was that we eliminated our “Catholic” sex-ed course and proceeded to teach sexual morality in connection with the regular religion curriculum -- not as a separate subject. [Even sexual morality] should never be taught as a separate subject but integrated into the [doctrinal and] moral teachings of the Church. As a separate subject it [tends to] emphasize the physical side of sex too much. The parents were instructed that it was their responsibility to teach the intimate physical aspects of sex to their children when they judged it to be the proper time and even then not to go into very much detail. In the meantime, they were to immediately pull all of their children out of the classroom sex-ed curriculum of the public school.

Why the latter action? Because I was finally educated about what classroom sex education in the public school was like. That didn’t come from any Catholic source, sad to say. A couple of devout Christian mothers in a nearby city, Rochester Minnesota, had accidentally found some literature given to their children in sex-ed but the children were not supposed to take the literature home. These two good mothers were appalled at what was given their children -- literature published by Planned Parenthood.


These devout mothers proceeded to research the sex-ed curriculum of their local public schools. They were college educated and did a magnificent job of research. Soon they formed an organization to fight public school sex-ed called, “Rochester Supporters of Value-Based Programs” and published a fact-filled booklet, Sex Education: A Summary for Policymakers. I obtained a copy of that publication, and that was my long delayed education concerning classroom sex education.

About that time I found a copy of Randy Engel’s book, Sex Education, the Final Plague. It distressed me no end to discover how blind I had been all this time concerning the poison ladled out to innocent children right under my nose and how parents were being so deceived. They thought it was good that the school was helping their children in the field of sex.

Incidentally, when I informed the parents one Sunday morning what the agents of Planned Parenthood were feeding their children in sex-ed they wouldn’t believe it, and failed to pull their children out of these classes.

But the NCCL had been aware all along of the evil of classroom sex-ed, and perhaps we might summarize here what they stand for and what they are trying to accomplish.

The National Coalition of Clergy and Laity, vowed to advance the mission of the Magisterium and support the Holy Father, work to strengthen and sanctify families. In pursuing this objective they have announced that for the 1990’s they will work to secure a ban on classroom sex education in every diocese and archdiocese of the United States and the world. In their explanatory brochure, they state:

We are convinced that once sex-ed is banished from the classroom, a genuine Catholic Restoration will have commenced. We fear, on the other hand, that should the evil not be dispelled, dire consequences for the Church and the western civilization will inevitably follow.

In answer to the question why classroom sex education is so evil, they state:

Classroom sex education is a perversion of nature. It makes what is by its very nature private and intimate, public and open. All education is an activity which is essentially public, but because matters of sex are private and intimate (and pertain fundamentally to the family), the teaching of sex can not ever be accomplished in the classroom without violating that privacy and intimacy. Such a violation is an abominable form of scandal, scandal of the sort which Our Lord solemnly and literally condemned when he declared: And whoever receives one such little child for my sake, receives me. But whover causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it were better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matt. 18:5-6)

NCCL maintains that classroom sex education attacks the virtue of holy bashfulness and erodes the sense of common shame and clears the way to all forms of sexual immorality. The laity seem to understand this last statement very quickly so that when I presented it at a Health Committee meeting at the school, while they took no action on eliminating classroom sex education, the committee directed the principal and sex-ed teachers to immediately separate the boys from the girls in sex-ed classes. And when I presented the argument to my people they took action for the first time to start pulling their children out of sex-ed. We are making progress.

Does the Magisterium of the Church prohibit classroom sex-ed by name?

Yes. In his encyclical on Christian Education of Youth, Pope Pius XI speaks of sex instruction in private but not in classrooms. He stated:

... 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. ... 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 not to descend to details.

Later, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on March 21, 1931, backed up the teaching of Pope Pius XI in his Encyclical of 1929. They disapproved the method called “sex education”: and added that the first place is to be given to a “full, sound and continuous instruction in religion.” That’s why Kathy suggested we teach sound doctrine in religion in CCD classes, treat the morality of the use of sex when we come to the sixth and ninth commandments, but stay away from physical detail.

On September 18, 1951 in a solemn address delivered to French Fathers of Families, His Holiness reiterated the teachings of his predecessor, Pius XI, in his encyclical Divini Illius Magistri, on sex education and questions connected thereto.

The teaching of sex education in the classroom is a violation of the natural law. The authoritative pronouncements of the Popes and the clarification of the Holy Office prove that classroom sex education is immoral, and, because it is prohibited, also illicit.

The question might be asked now why this prohibition of classroom sex-ed is not being heeded. The word, apparently, got around that the Church has changed its position, but the NCCL challenges the dissenting proponents of classroom sex-ed to cite the exact documents which revoke or nullify the statements of Pope Pius XI, the Holy Office, or Pope Pius XII.

But surely the “chastity programs” like C. Mast’s Love and Life Series are safe? The NCCL doesn’t think so. In fact, they think the so-called “chastity programs” are in [their own way] dangerous to youth because, as they say in their brochure:

... the child is deliberately exposed to information which focuses on and stimulates the sexual function - while at the same time he is being told to be chaste, i.e. pure in thought, word, and deed. This causes a tremendous (and unnatural) psychological, moral and spiritual conflict in the young, especially considering that stimulation of the sexual function, which is cumulative, will find a way to express itself.

The final question is then, what should be taught and how? As emphasized before, teaching classroom sex education is always objectively [gravely] evil. The NCCL believes what should be taught is a sound and complete doctrinal and moral catechesis designed to produce holiness in the student. There should be no separate class for sex-ed. Parents have a right and duty to teach their children the morality of human sexuality. Catholic schools have the right an duty to assist parents in this undertaking, but [sex education] must not be imparted in a group setting, while [public instruction in sexual morality] must conform to the tradition and teaching of the Magisterium. Information should be given in the abstract rather than descriptive language. The parents can teach the child as they perceive the need but without going into detail.

Now comes a new organization of mothers against school sex-ed. It’s called “Mother’s Watch” and headquartered in Washington, D.C. These Catholic mothers have been appalled how the bishops have been deceived concerning sex-ed and permit it in Catholic schools.

The major point of Mother’s Watch is that sex education doesn’t belong in the schools to begin with. They maintain with the Magisterium that sex education is a God-given parental right and duty, and not even bishops can take away a God-given right and duty.

As Ann Polcha, the spokesman for Mother’s Watch, says in The Wanderer, May 26:

We are trying to get the bishops to pay attention to the real experts in sex education -- the parents. The bishops should really read the Vatican documents on the rights of parents with regard to sex education. The reason they have such a problem with this sex education issue is that they have not the grace that parents receive through marriage to teach children matters related to sex. Their job is to teach the faith.

Why is it they need to teach our kids about sex, anyway?

Mother’s Watch is concerned because the bishops have permitted their bureaucracy in Washington (NCCB) to okay sex-ed in Catholic schools and promoted the use of some very objectionable texts like the so-called pro-life [or] chastity programs: Benziger’s [Family Life Series], [Wm. C. Brown’s] New Creations, In God’s Image by [Patricia Miller, produced by] Franciscan Communications, and also Molly Kelly’s Let’s Talk to Teens About Chastity, Hanna Klaus’ Teen STAR and Sex Respect by Coleen Kelly Mast.

Ann says these texts are not pro-life; nor are they Catholic in any way. They have the same basic components as the Planned Parenthood programs. They promote values clarification, and encourage children to choose their own “options”, “to make their own decisions” when it comes to sex.

Mother’s Watch published an open letter in the Washington Times on April 28, 1994 exposing certain features of a sex education curriculum used in some Catholic schools, asking the bishops, “What in the name of God are you doing to our children?”

Parents have been asking the same question of public schools for a long time already. Perhaps the whole matter can be summarized by saying: “Sex education doesn’t belong in the schools to begin with.”

Reverend Vernon J. Schaefer, Pastor of Holy Redeemer Church, Eyota, MN, is a priest of the Diocese of Winona. He writes regularly for the diocesan paper, The Courier, and writes a syndicated column for small town papers on rural issues. He also contributes to various Catholic periodicals. Fr. Schaefer authored a book about growing up on a Minnesota farm during the Depression, We Ate Gooseberries.

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