The AIDS education programme, written for Ontario Catholic Schools by the Institute for Christian Education (ICE), is now being taught in some areas and will be introduced in other schools before too long. Last month’s article discussed how the programme ignores the homosexual connection with this disease, a rational understanding of which is crucial if we are to understand the spread of AIDS in North America. The result is what can only be called pro-homosexual propaganda inserted throughout the programme. Curiously, this propaganda is absent from the draft curriculum supplied by the Ministry of Education to ICE to adapt for use in Catholic schools.

In June, a draft of the ICE programme was circulated for comment and the final printed version shows some changes were made. The teachers’ resource book, for example, now includes the text of Archbishop Anthony Tonnos’ pastoral letter which states clearly that “contraception” (that is, the use of condoms) is not “a viable alternative to chastity.” This seems at odds with Father Jack Gallagher’s statement, included in both draft and final version, which contends that withholding information about condoms “would undercut the credibility of the programme generally.”

Opposing models

These two opposing statements (both discussed in more detail in earlier issues of The Interim) may well be the clue to understanding why the Christian virtue of chastity is presented in such a wishy-washy fashion in this programme. On the one hand, a Bishop stresses the importance of teaching chastity and rejects the proposition that instruction on the use of a prophylactic is appropriate for AIDS prevention. On the other hand, a moral theologian argues that chastity cannot be taught without including such information.

Some critics of the programme believe that Bishop Tonnos’ statement was included as “window distressing,” am attempt to silence expected opposition from parents. Others think that opposing views were given to give teachers the impression that both views are valid and they can choose which one they like. (This impression is heightened when one notices that Gallagher’s statement is placed early in the teacher’s resource book. Tonnos’ statement is buried towards the back, among a group of “statements from Catholic hierarchy.”

Whatever the reason for inserting the Bishop’s statement, the lessons themselves give very little indication that his sentiments are shared by the writers of the programme.

Bishop Tonnos writes, “With God’s help, chastity is possible. This should be tirelessly preached and taught in a moral climate that often portrays sexual activity between unmarried men and women as uncontrollable, or even inevitable, a climate which destroys the dignity of committed human sexuality.”

AIDS education, he continues, “particularly in Catholic schools, must respect the sexual morality of the Church… It would be a serious disservice to the truth of the Catholic faith and to the true dignity and well-being of the students entrusted to our schools if we were to suggest that the danger of AIDS can be reduced at the expense of our moral teaching. If we were to tell students that contraception is a viable alternative to chastity as a means of reducing the incidence of AIDS, we would actually be giving them the message, perhaps not intentionally, that chastity for young people is basically and unrealistic ideal. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Intentionally or not, the message sent by the ICE AIDS programme is precisely the message that Bishop Tonnos finds unacceptable.

The Course

The programme is divided into two blocks, the first of which is three lessons for grades 7/8. The themes of these three lessons are developed further in the grade 9/10 level. Precisely how much of the three lessons is to be taught in each grade is not stated. By the end of grade 10, however, teachers will have completed all six lessons.

The students are expected to have learned “factual information,” discussed “fears and myths,” explored “the full meaning and importance of chastity as a virtue or ability which enables humans to live their sexuality responsibly,” understood and analyzed “safe sex,” reflected “on the trauma of persons who have AIDS, as well as their families,” and expanded “their consciousness regarding the many human issues associated with AIDS.”

The programme is designated to be taught in conjunction with existing religion, physical education/health, and family life programmes. Schools are not warned to teach the AIDS course in isolation, because it is incomplete in its treatment of Catholic teaching in sexuality.

Neglecting Catholic teaching here perplexes many parents who do not understand why such an important topic should lack the most crucial element. They view AIDS education as an obvious opportunity to reinforce Catholic teaching, since the whole idea of a separate school system is to integrate the Catholic faith into all areas of the school curriculum.

Perhaps the omission is due to the speed with which the programme was prepared: a draft was ready in June and the final version was printed and released in September. Perhaps the acknowledgement that the programme is “incomplete” is intended to dampen criticism, since the writers can declare that they pointed out, right in the teachers guide book, that it is inadequate. Whatever the reason, it suggests a hasty response to comply with a government order demanding AIDS educatiuon.

The lessons

The first lesson in each of the two blocks presents the facts about AIDS, how it was discovered, how it is transmitted, and so on, interspersed with loaded questions such as “AIDS is a disease of only homosexual men” – “True or False?” The middle lessons discuss chastity, and go on to teach about condoms because chastity is merely a “choice.” The closing lessons are entitled “AIDS: a story of people.” These lessons present “case studies” of people with AIDS and encourage the students to discuss their attitudes. Again, much emphasis is placed on presenting infected homosexuals in a very sympathetic light, while playing down or ignoring the major moral principles.

This is not to say that people infected with AIDS should be despised. Young Catholics should be taught the Christian principle of loving one’s neighbor. At the same time, they must recognize that there is a clear distinction between love and compassion for sinners, and approval of sin. Today, when so many adults seem unable to keep such a distinction clear, it is even more vital that children begin to develop this principle at an early age.

Facts and chastity

In grades 7/8 the second lesson entitled “Sexual responsibility and AIDS,”opens by reminding the children what they learned in the earlier lesson “Facts on AIDS”:

“Sexual activity is one of the most likely ways of transmitting AIDS. The HIV virus is carried in semen and in vaginal secretions. Tiny breaks in the surface lining of the mouth, vagina, or rectum are common and are openings for the virus to move directly from the infected person into the bloodstream of another.”

The lesson then proceeds with a discussion on the virtue of chastity (a virtue is defined as “a graced ability or power to live life more filly”). Sexual activity outside marriage, the children are taught, is “morally wrong.”

The sex educators writing this programme obviously accept that premarital sexual activity is normal behavior for adolescents. (Although the students listening to this may be as young as 11. They may not even be interested in having friends of the opposite sex, let alone be thinking of having a sexual relationship.)

Even though premarital sexual activity is “morally wrong,” the lesson goes on to excuse it, offering as the reason “people are on a journey through life and at times some do not act in ways that are the best for themselves and others.”

And “morally wrong” is as strong as it gets in grades 7/8. Sin is not mentioned. Nor are children reminded that they can be sinners. Nor is there any hint that the Church offers a solid tradition of formal prayer to help those in need. Instead, at the end of the lesson, it is casually mentioned that students be invited to create their own prayer-reflection.”

By grades 9/10, premarital sex becomes “immoral” and the students hear that the Church teaches that it is sinful. The word “sinful” is used, but only once in the entir programme – a programme that stretches over four school years.

The older children are encouraged to discuss why sexual activity is to be confined to marriage. Obviously, the writers have striven to present chastity in a positive light, but they seem to feel obliged to give equal emphasis to situations which militate against the adolescent achieving this ideal and then follow up by discussing condom use. The effect of this comes dangerously close to allowing children to assume that chastity is merely another option, depending on their “lifestyle,” a matter of “choice.”

This trend becomes apparent on studying the “case study” on peer pressure presented to grade 7/8 students.


The “case study” technique, used frequently throughout the programme, describes a hypothetical event or situation illustrating a particular problem. Students are encouraged to examine the situation and come up with ways of resolving the problem.

In this case study, students are presented with the dilemma of Jamie and Therese, grade 8 students, who are best friends. “Jamie is starting to put some pressure on Theresa to kiss and hug. Theresa is clear about her feelings and tells Jamie that they should be just friends.” Each of them confides to their teachers – not their parents – that they are being pressured by their friends to do something they don’t want to do.

The students are encouraged to list the “choices” Theresa and Jamie have and to discuss the “consequences of the choices.” The class then debates the kinds of situations that “increase chances for sexual pressure,” such as “being home alone with a boyfriend or girlfriend; walking with someone away from a party to a more secluded area; parking on a deserted road.” The only adults consulted are teachers: there is no suggestion that children discuss such situations with their parents.

After peer pressure has been dealt with, the lesson concludes with a discussion about “safe sex,” implying that it is wrong to have premarital sex, but if that is your “choice” at that time then a condom is a vital piece of equipment. The hidden message: be prepared.

Promoting “choice” is a key strategy of the anti-life movement. Those who accept abortion insist on the right to choose killing to avoid the consequences of irresponsible sex. Homosexual activists insist that their sexual behaviour is a private choice with no public consequences. The anti-life movement insists that there is no such thing as objective morality but that all morality is private only. The promotion here of “choices” shows how well this strategy has worked: even the experienced Roman Catholic educators adapting this programme use the terminology freely.