The author’s first article was entitled: “True sex-ed – cultivating purity in modesty.”  It appeared in the August ’91 (Insight).  Fr. Gillis is a retired professor, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, N.S.

It is important that Christians know that the drive for explicit classroom sex education did not originate with either the Holy Spirit or the Church.

We can safely say that it largely owes its momentum to Planned Parenthood (PP) and  those who sympathize with its philosophy of life.

These self-appointed crusaders find great support in the current scare over the spreading of AIDS.  But long before this dread disease, Planned Parenthood was in the forefront of world-wide campaign to promote contraception and abortion.  PP’s goal – which they never make any attempt to conceal – has always been to reduce the world’s population by encouraging young people to accept contraception and abortion as a ‘necessity of life.’  They are well aware that to succeed in their task, they must eliminate the Judeo-Christian concept of sexuality.  The current alarm over AIDS provides ‘grist for their mills’ and they are determined to ‘grind’ it for all it is worth!


Between contraception and abortion, so persistently advocated by Planned Parenthood as a solution to ‘unwanted’ pregnancy, and the dreaded loss of life association with AIDS, many today are caught in a dilemma.  For Roman Catholics in particular, the dilemma is between the Church’s teaching on sex education and that of secular society.  There are Catholics today, therefore, who are not opposed to explicit sex education in the class room so long as such education is carried out in a Catholic moral framework.

Again, in the interest of their children avoiding AIDS they do not object to teaching about condoms and methods of masturbation in school, so long as the children are assured that such ‘safe-sex’ methods are morally wrong, and (practically speaking) they are not reliable.

The problem here is that all discussion on condoms and masturbation in the classroom violates the Christian and Catholic framework of morality.

How so?

Because, as we said earlier, it violates in the children their God-given and innate modesty in the area of sexuality.  If Catholics are to follow the Church’s teaching on sex education, they have to be convinced that the only attention Catholic teachers should pay to ‘safe sex’ methods is what it takes to condemn them.

All discussion in the classroom, therefore, on the function, the description, and the so-called medical value of such ‘safe-sex’ methods is unnecessary, misleading and immodest.

Explicitness accepted

What do we say to those who argue that, since today’s young people are already quite accustomed to explicit pictures and talk about sex, explicit sex education in the classroom cannot really harm them?

Even if we were to concede that today all young people are already accustomed to sexual explicitness, it cannot be overlooked that a classroom, staffed by a good Catholic teacher, may be the only lace where young people can learn a truly reverent approach to sexuality.

The goal of Catholic sex education should be to impart to the young the moral and spiritual truth about the totality of the mystery of sexuality.  One fundamental truth relating to sexuality – one that all Catholic teachers are obliged to teach their pupils – is that modesty in the area of sexuality must always be respected, protected and nurtured.  Those teachers can teach most about modesty who are themselves modest.  How teachers in the classroom teach their students about sex can mean more to them that what is being taught.

What about the experts?

Catholic teaching maintains that parents have the primary say in the sex education that is imparted in school to their children.

One may reply: “Are you saying that parents, who often have no academic degrees, are as competent as experts in this field?”

The answer: “I am not saying so, but neither am I denying it.”


Because parents, who received the sacrament of Matrimony, contracted with God, and He with them, that He would help them in all that pertains to the upbringing of their own children.

It was two social sacraments that Jesus Christ instituted: Holy Orders, for the bringing into the Church of priests whom He promises to assist and sustain throughout their ministry; and Matrimony, for the bringing into the world of children destined for heaven, and whose parents He promises to assist and sustain throughout their ministry.

Promise of assistance

We do not hesitate to say that God is always ready with His graces to sustain priests in all aspects of their ministry.  Why do we hesitate to say with equal confidence that the same God is ever ready to sustain parents in all aspects of their ministry?  John Paul II gives this assurance to parents: “You will receive in prayer everything you need to be the parents that God wants you to be.”

To gainsay this is to contradict the prophecy of Isaiah, “The arm of the Lord has never been shortened.”  Are we not shortening that arm when we convince ourselves that the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony are not of equal importance in the eyes of God?


The Ministry of Parents

The Ministry of Parents…is clearly inscribed in Canon Law, the official law of the church:

“In Christian marriage the spouses are strengthened by a special sacrament and, as it were, consecrated, for the duties and the dignity of their state” (Canon 1134).

“Parents have the most grave obligation and the primary right to do all in their power to assure the proper physical, social, cultural, moral and religious upbringing for their own children” (Canon 1136)

“Children and young persons are to be cared for in such a way, that their physical, moral and intellectual talents may develop in a harmonious manner, so that they may attain a greater sense of responsibility and a right use of freedom, and be formed to take an active part in social life” (Canon 795)

“There must be the closest cooperation between parents and the teachers, to whom they entrust their children to be educated.  In fulfilling their task, teachers are to collaborate closely with the parents and willingly to listen to them” (Canon 796)

“Christ’s faithful are to strive to secure that in the civil society the laws, which regulate the formation of the young, also provide a religious and moral education in the schools, that is in accord with the conscience of the parents” (Canon 799)

What should be done

  1. Is the formalized, clinical, so-called scientific sex education program presented in a (presumed) morally neutral fashion of the public school acceptable?

Answer: NO

  1. Is the formalized, clinical, ‘scientific’ sex education program, accompanied by the presupposition that another course taught by someone else will provide the moral context, (as does the FULLY ALIVE program), acceptable?

Answer: NO

  1. Is the formalized, clinical, so-called scientific sex education program integrated into a (presumably) holistic context with the purpose of providing a (Catholic) moral context acceptable.

Answer: NO

  1. Why is it no, no, and no?

Because the formalized, clinical, scientific sex education program.

  • Shunts aside the parents to focus in on the (unprotected) child.
  • Proceeds on the basis that what is needed is knowledge when in reality what is needed is a strengthening of the will and growth in spiritual life;
  • Treats all children alike as if there is no difference in personal development when the facts point to the exact opposite as true;
  • Makes everything in sexuality explicit, graphic, thematic and public when what is needed is the protection of sexuality as sacred.  This requires intimacy, delicacy and reverence when discussing it;
  • Inculcates in the child a tolerance for sexual improprieties usually described as insignificant and relative.  This leads the child to rely on self rather than adhere to God’s moral laws.
  1. Is a school program designed to help parents – and work with them – in order to make them and the teachers more effective in the sex education of children acceptable?

Answer: Yes