In the October 1991 issue of Insight, the author reviewed the Fully Alive text and raised objections to several features of the program.
In this issue, she reviews a text which she finds admirable.
A few years ago I met Patricia Puccetti, the author of the Faith and Life series, She said that she could not write a family life program because she was strictly a religion teacher.
Recently I studied the grades 1 to 8 books. At each grade level, I was struck by the way religious instruction incorporated instruction in a fundamental understanding of our physical and sexual being.
At the end of my study, I was forced to ask myself what more knowledge would our children need to protect them from sexual exploitation and from unnecessary early sexual pre-occupation.
The students’ book teaches that there is sin in all of us because we are touched by original sin. They do not list the male or female sex organs, but they do instill a fundamental understanding of good and evil.
The books in this grade prepare the students for First Confession and offers them a first daily examination of conscience. Animals are used to present negative behaviours, for example the mule represents stubbornness and the toad is associated with “wallowing in the mud” or “liking impure things.” Thus the children learn to identify and repent impure thoughts.
The program teaches that the 9th Commandment forbids bad thoughts and desires.
The child is asked to “fill your mind with what is good and pure, avoiding bad books, movies, jokes, T.V. shows.” The text counsels children to avoid “impurity of any kind, i.e., immoral words, books, pictures and shows. The text explains that in Paradise, before the Fall, “[Our first parents] felt happy because they were obedient to God, they were not ashamed of their bodies. After the Fall, even with clothes on, their souls still felt naked because they were wounded and so they were unhappy.”
Teaches in detail the human body as made in God’s image and about the “Fall from Grace:” Right relationships between children and parents are taught in the chapter on The Holy Family.
Then the children are taught to understand the term “Mystical Body” as an important image of the spiritual community they belong to.
The Cross of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice of the body are also taught as a means of restoration and reparation, leading to the resurrection of the body and eternal happiness.
This stage includes a pro-life chapter which deals with sexuality, love between man and woman, our reproductive powers and God’s command, “Be fruitful.”
Man, the program explains, is free; that is his dignity, but it is also a gift that can be abused. The proper use of our sexual powers is called chastity, which is a ‘virtue,’ i.e., ‘a good habit.’
The life of St. Maria Goretti, highlighted in the text, dramatically puts before the children the seriousness of sexual sin and the courage and determination with which we are to resist it.
Again, the family is God’s family, a family within the Mystical Body of Christ. Also reinforced is the resurrection of the body and the passage into eternity.
In this grade, the Faith and Life series teaches the creation of mankind.
Without the body we would not be true and complete beings. The souls is the spiritual part of man’ its power makes us very much like the Creator. Human beings are given intellect and will, and can choose love over hate, good over sin, God over ourselves.
Through the story of St. John the Baptist, sexual moral teaching is given. He condemned sexual impurity, particularly the adultery of Herod. For this he was martyred and became one of the most famous people in history.
The incarnation of Jesus Christ in His human nature is tied into this teaching through the story of Mary and Elizabeth.
In another chapter, the Grade 7 books teach the children that by keeping control over physical needs, they learn to control your selfish desires too
The students are taught that the Sacrament of Penance gives them the grace to do what they cannot manage on their own – overcome sinful desires and actions. Sexual desires can be overcome only with the help of frequent Confession, and its graces, and resolutions to avoid temptations and sin. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are love for others (charity) continence and modesty.
The children are given in-depth teaching on the temptation of the world, the flesh and the devil. The temptation of the world means persons, things, and places which draw us away from charity towards God and others. Temptation of the flesh means our own inner urges. The devil means Satan and the other bad angels who try to make us disobey God and who hate the Christian life.
Marriage is taught as a symbol of the love Christ has for His body, the Church. The inseparability of our bodies from our souls is reinforced and summarized in the quotation: “The most beautiful churches are nothing in comparison with the inner beauty of our souls in the state of grace.”
Repeats and goes into more details about obstacles to holiness such as lust and covetousness. The seven capital sins as opposed to the cardinal virtues, and the theological virtues are also covered.
A moral virtue is acquired by repeatedly doing good acts or cultivating a good, e.g., chastity (purity), temperance and modesty.
The spiritual works of mercy, all too rarely mentioned in our time, are taught, among them the command to admonish the sinner, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful.
These powerful requests to each student to teach, spread and not be silent about Catholic moral doctrines must take first place before the somewhat misused and overused corporal works of mercy, the series advises.
St. Thomas More’s life is given as an example of how God’s law should be put above human laws or human desires.
It is by teaching our children to recognize, to understand and to practice moral virtues that we give them the knowledge necessary to resist sinful influences, always relying on God’s graces. Such a healthy approach – speaking more about goodness and holiness – is far superior than teaching simply about the facts of life.
When such instruction comes form parents (and teachers) children see clearly that they are understood and can always bring their problems of sexual confusion or peer pressure to their parents.
I ask readers to decide which is ore likely to keep young Catholics out of trouble on this earth and lead them through the narrow gate into eternal bliss, a sex-ed program like Fully Alive or the Faith and Life series?
Dr. Bernharda Meyer received her Doctorate in Medicine from the University of Bonn, Germany. She is retired and lives in Waterloo, Ontario.
Faith and Life Series are available from Ignatius Press, San Francisco.