Patrick J. Reilly is president and founder of The Cardinal Newman Society, which promotes and defends faithful Catholic education. He also teaches at Aquinas Learning, a classical Catholic homeschool program led by his wife Rosario. They have five children.
Catholic families need the Church’s help facing what amounts to a second “sexual revolution” in America. To that end, there are many good efforts to understand and rebuff the radical “gender ideology” and false ideas about sexuality, marriage and the nature of the human person that are taking hold in American society.
But a recently released sex education program promoted by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, in its current form, is not what families need.
The Meeting Point: Course of Affective Sexual Education for Young People was developed by married couples in Spain and has enjoyed the support of the Council and the Spanish bishops. It’s being presented as a work in progress, “an opportunity to convene a large community of people to collaborate, to work, to exchange experiences and knowledge in this special field of education.” The Council is inviting feedback for what may be future improvements to the program or alternative options. Thus far, no directives to use this resource have been issued by the Vatican or the U.S. bishops.
Even so, there is danger that the program in its current form will be adopted by Catholic educators and families since it’s seen as having a stamp of approval “from the Vatican.” But this program is clearly not ready for Catholic schools or homes.
As The Cardinal Newman Society found in our review of the program, following upon similar criticisms, The Meeting Point “makes frequent use of sexually explicit and morally objectionable images, fails to clearly identify and explain Catholic doctrine from elemental sources including the Ten Commandments and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and compromises the innocence and integrity of young people under the rightful care of their parents.”
This is not what Catholic families need while facing today’s corrosive culture, which is only getting worse. According to one national survey, acceptance of premarital sexual activity spiked in the 1970s and changed little in the next two decades, only to suddenly jump again in the new millennium. Most Americans now believe that premarital sex is “not wrong at all.”
I was struck by another recent report indicating the rapid slide of morality even outside the U.S. The article published last month in The Guardian declared, “Welcome to the most promiscuous Olympics in history.” Apparently what occurred off-screen in the Olympic Village during the Summer Games required the distribution of 450,000 condoms and other bedroom aids, supplied with a wink and a nod by the International Olympic Committee.
Such evidence of a declining culture shows why families need to ensure a faithful Catholic education for their children, especially as public schools become increasingly dangerous to the soul. It’s also why Catholic parents should reject any sex education for their children that does not fully conform to Catholic standards and does not have their permission and approval.
Saint Pope John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio:
Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them. In this regard, the Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents. (Sec. 36-37)
In its 1995 publication The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family, the Pontifical Council for the Family also recognized the essential role of parents in ensuring education that is sound and faithful. It instructed parents, as the primary educators of their children, to refuse to “tolerate immoral or inadequate formation being given to their children outside the home” (Sec. 44). Sadly, The Meeting Point fails the parent test.
There’s much to be admired in the work of the Pontifical Council for the Family, but The Meeting Point in its present form is a significant departure from the traditional approach to Catholic instruction about human sexuality. Even if its unique approach to affective, conversational learning deserves further study by the Council, the program is not ready for Catholic homes and schools. The times demand much better from Catholic education.