Editors of The Interim have met with authorized representatives of the Bishops’ Fully Alive program
As readers will note from the comments issued in the name of Bishop O’Mara mentioned above, FA representatives accuse The Interim of having completely misrepresented the program. They assert:
(a) that there is no separation of sexuality from moral context in FA and that sin is treated adequately:
(b) that we have grossly exaggerated the explicitness of sexual details in FA;
(c) that because we are wrong on these two points our claim that FA is a product of a secular sex-education mentality is false.
Thus we have a stand-off between diametrically opposed positions. We intend to let the discussion run its course. In a coming issue, the FA representatives will publish a lengthy reply to our criticism.
Meanwhile, I do apologize for the ill-chosen wording in the October editorial note under the heading “What is to be done?” where FA was described as St. Jerome’s Family Education’s most famous product” (Insight page one). This was the result of inaccurate copy editing of the original text which did not say this.
Critics also denounce us for the picture printed on page one of the October Insight. The photograph in question illustrated – as clearly indicated in the caption and text – the appalling nature of the family education program at St. Jerome’s Catholic college. It is now claimed that printing the photographs was a deliberate attempt to smear the FA program by suggesting that it could be found there.
This we categorically deny. Nowhere did we state or insinuate that this picture was to be found or was representative of Fully Alive.
We continue to invite letters to editor on this subject from those who have read or used the program or who have experienced its effects upon their children.
Fully Alive: Not what Catholic education should be
Fr. John H. McGoey
With this article, Father McGoey concludes his five-part series on the origins, the ruling spirit and the practical implications of the Family Life Education program known as Fully Alive.
Out of concern for youth Fr. McGoey has devoted 40 of his 54 years of priesthood to family life education. He has authored many books which have been commended world-wide by the Vatican.
Separation of sex-ed from morality
Since the Ontario government fully funded Catholic schools, the curriculum is administered by the Ministry of Education, with the exception of Religious Education. This makes it vital that Family Life programming always be at one with Religious Education, under the guidance of the bishop. In Fully Alice, Family Life is taught in conjunction with Religious Education but is not integrated with it.
Bishop Marcel Gervais states in his foreword, “Our duty, destiny and our greatest dignity is to know and love God.”
In Fully Alive, ‘our duty’ is expressed in only one out of 127 teaching topics. Morality has been extrapolated as irrelevant. Its veracity is dependent on a genuine catechetical program running beside it as well as the morals of those teaching it.
A thoughtful reading of the Rationale and Overviews of the five themes of Fully Alive, grades 1 to 6, makes abundantly clear that the influence of St. Jerome’s College Family Education teacher Training program never quite removed all traces of religion.
But the best efforts of Bishop Gervais did not succeed in retaining enough religion to give the program sufficient authenticity for believing parents. The claim to ‘widespread’ consultation during development makes surprising the widespread concern about it now.
What Family Education should be
My article, What Catholic Family Life Programs Should Be, appeared in The Catholic Register nine years ago (November 1982)
It holds true enough today to be used in this last article on Fully Alive.
Family Life programs must deal more with family life, I wrote in 1982, and less with physical sex, more with the meaning of sex and its place in personal love. They should teach boys and girls to be strong, good men and women, to understand, respect and love each other, and to prepare for loving marriages in which they are the most loving of personal friends.
How does Fully Alive measure up to this standard?
Comment, Fully Alive does not explain the place of sex in personally loving relationships, lasting marriage or family life. It fails to teach that only loving persons can have sex lovingly, that it takes two loving spouses to make a loving marriage.
The sin of lust
Second, I wrote that family life programs must peach that sex is the only human function which requires two – male and female – who are very different persons.
Therefore, to be right and good, sec must be for the real good of man and woman or it is for the good of neither.
They must teach that sin is self-destructive and unloving.
The sine of lust must be portrayed as the arch-enemy of love and happy marriage. Lust is the sin of anyone who uses sex selfishly, for his or her own pleasure, to get what he or she wants out of it, rather than for the good of both, and of the family which is born of sex.
What does FA do?
Comment, Fully Alive omits any mention of sin or morality despite its essential destructiveness of our power to love, genuine friendship and personal intimacy.
Love is not feeling
Third, I wrote in 1982, that young people must be taught to love, that love is the work of one not two.
They must be taught that love is not a feeling but a relationship which is as painful as it is pleasurable. Family life studies must show young people that love has little to do with sex but everything to do with how much anyone, male or female, cares about another, male or female.
They must learn that love is not primarily a sexual, but a loving personal relationship; that love is measured by how much one person is willing to do for another, how much sacrifice one will make to avoid harming another.
Love is a caring relationship between one person and any other, every other, of either sex, or both sexes.
Comment, Fully Alive fails to identify or define love, or teach that it is the work of each one, that it is God at work in our lives and the most real force in human loving. Fully Alice fails to help children in the long journey outward from self, by instilling in them long before puberty that we are created to love, not merely to be loved.
Human sex is not animal sex
Again in 1982, I wrote that family life programs must make it clear that only when personal love is understood can human sex be understood.
Sex, like every other human function, should be done only lovingly, never unlovingly, exploitatively, never one person using another, or letting himself or herself be used for another’s pleasure rather than well being. Human sex should be clearly seen as very different from animal sex because of the human power to love which makes it possible to do everything in life lovingly or unlovingly, including sex.
Comment. Fully Alive places great emphasis of the mechanics of sex and very little on its meaning as an expression of love exclusive to spouses. It does not explain that sex used only for pleasure is for oneself, since a man cannot experience the sexual pleasure of a woman nor can a woman that of a man.
Sex can be good or bad
Catholic Family Life programs must each that when we do things lovingly, we are not only good for others but we ourselves become better, stronger, more loving people.
When we do things unlovingly we sin, we harm ourselves and so, become worse people, smaller, meaner, less loving people who exploit each other, who use each other.
Catholic young people must be taught that sex, like so many other things in life, can be good for us or bad for us according to how we use it. Learning to love is where the family life education must begin and as for physical sex, any sensible kid can learn how it is done in five minutes.
A real education teaches when sex is good, and even more importantly, when having sex is wrong and unloving.
Why let young kids wreck their lives by thinking sex is something they can do whenever they feel like it, whenever the occasion presents itself or with someone as silly as oneself or as indifferent as to whether it is one’s own life or another’s that is damaged>
No one has a right to do that no matter how willing the other person is to do so.
Comment. Fully Alive talks a lot about feelings but provides very little understanding of human emotions, what they are for, and how to handle them so as to avoid automatic flight from necessary pain or pursuit of harmful pleasure.
Since an omission ensure that many children will not avoid emotional immaturity and a loveless life.
Finally, I wrote, Catholic family life education must help good parents – not undermine them by bad advice which breaks their hearts and ruins their families and their futures.
Archbishop Gervais expressed the intention of helping good parents. However, Fully Alive fails to teach children the love of God and the self-discipline needed to make a success of any career or vocation, especially marriage. I am sure this is one worry of parents concerned about this program.
Fully Alive and chastity
There has been much controversy about Fully Alive and chastity.
Bishop Gervais rightly states, “Our times demand that a special effort be made to support parents in forming their children for a life of chastity and fidelity.”
But Fully Alive does not teach chastity. The word appears only once in each Overview of Theme 3, from grades 2 to 6 and never in 127 teaching topics. The resource material for grade 6 which deals with puberty is strictly the anatomical nuts ‘n bolts sort of thing. The pilot for the grade 8 program mentions it so superficially that there is virtually little that is meaningful.
Like all virtues, chastity is the special strength by which the personally loving and mature learn to love under the full blast of their sexual emotions. It is the capacity to function for our own best interests and those of others in everything involving sexual conduct.
It is a shock to me that Randy Engel, author of Sex-Ed; The Final Plague (see Insight, April 1991), insists it is impossible to teach chastity in the classroom. Every effort at sex or Family Life education is hopeless without it.
No part of modern education needs to be Catholic so much as the Family Life program. It must stress not only that we are made in God’s image, but what that means and what He commanded us to do with it.
Family Life education must begin and end with our Creator, our duty to Him, and cannot be divorced from morality or virtue of any kind.
For some seven years I vainly sought to alert the Bishops to the deplorable St. Jerome’s SIECUS family life program but they were hard to hearing and not until 1982 when I presented them with the textbook mentioned earlier (see Illustration October ’91, Insight,) did they believe or become alarmed.
Despite this alarm the SIECUS philosophy dominates FA. Firstly, it fills children’s period of innocence with secular information of which they have no interest nor immediate need, instead of an early understanding of love, the greatest human achievement. Secondly, it is devoid of moral teaching and seems if the authors intended noncommittal moral instruction, the best Catholic moral teaching could do would be to deny the validity of an amoral sexuality. It is an undeniable fact that FA is dependent on another program is crippled, is incomplete and is not to itself FULLY ALIVE.
Thirdly, FA does not teach that every other relationship in life depends entirely on the response of the child to God, the Father of all. Who can deny that children lacking the basic love will never know what personal love for parents, spouses or friends? In an age when it is widely considered the greatest wrong to make anyone feel bad, FA fails to instill in children the unloving of sin, the damage that we do to ourselves and others, or that sine is the greatest destroyer of that very power to love. This defect, characteristic professional catechetical thinking the last 25 years, cuts out the very help of Catholic Family Life Education. It will prepare few to accept the pains of loving or to resist harmful pleasure.
Regretfully, it is necessary to say that in the name of the Ontario bishops, Catholic educators and parents have had foisted on them a humanist sex education program destructive of a most purely spiritual human function the power to love. That will certainly render our youth beyond recognition as Christians” …by their love.” What a tragedy.