Education in Chaste Love After Amoris Laetitia

Introduction
After the publication of the post-synodal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio that parents are the ones called to give their children a clear and delicate sex education? Amoris Laetitia took seven paragraphs to discuss sexuality education for young people, but it was silent on any role for parents in this.1 Instead, the exhortation asked whether Catholic educational institutions had taken up the challenge of providing sex education.

This might not seem to matter that much, but if one looks at what has already been drawn out at the Vatican from Amoris Laetitia then the shift is stark. The purpose of this article, though, is not simply to highlight the new approach being promoted under Pope Francis. The article seeks to enrich our understanding of what is entailed in educating young people in chaste love by extending Saint Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body, in the hope that the Church will be able to appreciate why the involvement of parents is so essential for an education in chaste love.

Two contrasting approaches to sexual education
Last year the Pontifical Council for the Family (as it was then) responded to Amoris Laetitia by issuing a course in affective sexual education for teenagers called The Meeting Point.2 The course departs on a series of counts from the guidelines provided by the Pontifical Council’s own document, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality,3 which was issued in 1995 during the pontificate of Pope Saint John Paul. As well as putting parents to one side by relying on facilitated discussion in mixed groups of young people, the course fails to ensure that the most intimate aspects are dealt with in a one-to-one dialogue, incorporates the viewing and discussion of erotic films, ignores the different rates at which young people develop both sexually and psychologically, and fails to situate sexual wrongdoing within any specific moral framing. For instance, the course encourages mixed groups of young people to watch and discuss films such as: To the Wonder (2013), or Love & other Drugs (2010). These films are rated in the USA as containing adult material, involving as they do the portrayal of sexual intercourse in a fashion that is explicit, extended, and integral to the account. One could go on, although othersincluding the website LifeSiteNews—4have already comprehensively analyzed the ways in which The Meeting Point goes against the guidelines issued under John Paul.

Confusion exists within the Church, then, as to what forms of education in chaste love are appropriate. We have a situation where a Vatican dicastery is contravening its own guidelines. A significant proportion of the world’s bishops, though, are also caught up in the situation. On what is the single, most central issue at stake, all but a handful of the bishops at the Synod on the Family in 2015 endorsed the statement that the family cannot be the only place for teaching sexuality. This statement, though, straightforwardly contradicts the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul 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.”5 It clearly remains open to parents to decide that it is appropriate for the family to indeed be the only place for teaching sexuality to their children. An integral reading of the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II is helpful here, as he preceded this statement about the right and duty of parents with an indication that the duty comes on the basis of a call from God: “Education in love as self-giving is also the indispensable premise for parents called to give their children a clear and delicate sex education.”6

The guidelines offered by The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality built on Pope Saint John Paul’s vision of education for chaste love. This document was written “to give parents back confidence in their own capabilities and help them to carry out their task.”7 It is itself subtitled “Guidelines for Education within the Family” (emphasis added). One could select many statements from the guidelines that reflect this overall understanding: “No one is capable of giving moral education in this delicate area better than duly prepared parents.”8; “In a Christian home, parents have the strength to lead their children to a real Christian maturation of their personalities, according to the measure of Christ, in his Mystical Body, the Church.”9

A search for insight into education in chaste love
The promotion of sexuality education under the current pontificate has departed from the existing guidelines, but it is important to respond to this situation with more than a bare statement of fact. Blessed John Henry Newman reminded us in his work, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, that a retort “is a poor reply in controversy to a question of fact.”10 Pope Francis, of course, could seek to resolve the doubt that now exists about the teaching of the Church on the role of parents in education for chaste love by having new guidance issued. Any change or development in practices endorsed by the Church, however, remains bound by what is true and good. There is a pressing need to develop a more profound understanding of what is both true and good in forming young people in chaste love.

It is striking that the Magisterium waited until the 20th Century to call for formal sexual education. It seems that no explicit calls were issued prior to that, even when Christians lived amidst a pagan Roman Empire that was rife with immorality. This article points to some of the Biblical foundations of this long tradition of reserve, interpreting these foundations in light of Pope Saint John Paul II’s “theology of the body.” The discussion also builds on insights that were developed by the author while writing (under the pen name John Timpson) a booklet for the Catholic Truth Society, London, UK, entitled, Sex Education: A Parents’ Guide. It further draws on an exhibition last year in London about the sources of unity within the family of the patriarch Jacob.11

You are her brother, and she is your sister
John Paul’s theology of the body has a great deal to offer in appreciating what is good and true in educating young people in chaste love. While the core of the theology of the body entails an interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis, John Paul also included the account in, Tobit, concerning Tobias and Sarah’s wedding night. You will remember that the story tells how Sarah had already been married seven times, and that a demon had killed each husband on the wedding night. Her cousin, Tobias, arrived at her house while on a journey to retrieve his father’s silver. Tobias asked for her hand in marriage and, as her nearest cousin, his request could not be refused. However, rather than suffer death at the hands of the demon, Tobias remained alive. Why did Tobias survive?

Pope Saint John Paul drew attention to the fact that Tobias called Sarah “my sister” even after they were married. This reflects language used in the Song of Songs, in which the husband refers to his beloved as “my sister, my bride.”12 The Pope argued that the term “sister” expresses a disinterested tenderness on the part of the husband towards his beloved. This did not exclude passionin this case the story had earlier told that Tobias had fallen so deeply in love with Sarah that he was no longer able to hold his heart as his own. It did mean that a self-mastery was possible, one in which Tobias was able to act for the good of his bride. Tobias possessed a capacity for chastity that mirrored what God had intended in the beginning, and in this way he shared in the vision of the creator from before the Fall.13

What John Paul did not explore in his interpretation of the story, however, was the path that enabled Tobias to love his bride in this fashion. What made it possible for Tobias to gaze upon Sarah in this way? The path that Tobias followed pertains to what Fr. José Granados has called the missing chapter in the theology of the body, the transition between the fallen and redeemed states.14

The witness of Tobias’ father, Tobit, constitutes the starting point for the Book of Tobit. He lived with his family in Nineveh, that archetypically dissolute city. Tobit stood out from the other Jewish exiles who had begun to abandon the Law of Moses. He was often alone in making the obligatory pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He was the only one willing to risk his life in order to fulfill the Law, and to buy the bodies of his fellow countrymen. The story tells how in his own turn, Tobias drew his father’s attention to the corpse of a Jewish person that had been abandoned in the market place. Tobit remained faithful to the covenant, and passed on this faithfulness to his son. John Paul indicated that man’s subjectivity was originally established through his participation in a covenant with God, as a subject of God’s creative action.15 We see this subjectivity present in both Tobit and Tobias. One truly becomes a person only when one has experienced love from another.

John Paul taught that original solitude makes possible a communion of persons, in which a person exists beside a person.16 The two-fold solitude that makes possible a communion of persons in marriage arises only on the basis of a prior personal solitude. Manifested in relation to God, this solitude is seen as capacity for prayer. Tobias’ love for his sister, Sarah, was supported by their prayer together, enabling good to triumph over evil. It is not possible to enter the original solitude that existed before the Fall as such, but John Paul taught that such an original experience remains at the root of every human experience.17

Tobit did not restrict the education in chaste love that he offered to his son to his example alone. He privately gave his son instruction before sending him off to recover the family’s silver. Even in this setting, though, Tobit restricted himself to discreet language, speaking in general terms about the need to avoid immorality, and to marry within his people:

Avoid all loose conduct. Choose a wife of our father’s stock. Do not take a foreign wife outside your father’s tribe, because we are the children of the prophets. Remember Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our ancestors from the beginning. All of them took wives from their own kindred, and they were blessed in their children, and their race will inherit the earth.18

Tobit then went on to choose for his son a companion on his journey, whose father he knew well, even if unbeknownst to him, the man was the angel, Raphael, in disguise:

The angel said:

I am Azarias, son of the great Ananias, one of your kinsmen. Welcome and greetings, brother! Do not be offended at my wanting to know the name of your family; I find you are my kinsman of a good and honorable line. I know Ananias and Nathan, the two sons of the greater Shemaiah. They used to go to Jerusalem with me; we have worshipped there together, and they have never strayed from the right path.19

Raphael, indeed, also played a role in bringing Tobias to a capacity for chaste love, manifesting, in this way, the creative action of God. It was he who reminded Tobias (again using discrete language in the context of a one-to-one dialogue, and from someone directly endorsed by the father) of his father’s advice to choose a wife from his own stock. It was as a result of Raphael’s advice that Tobias’ longing to be united in marriage with Sarah was first inflamed. It was he who encouraged Tobias to pray with Sarah before they slept together as husband and wife. He was the one who bound the demon.

Perhaps, the most intriguing aspect of the story, though, relates to what Sarah’s father, Raguel, had to say to Tobias as he gave his daughter in marriage to him:

Very well. Since by the prescriptions of the Book of Moses, she is given to you, Heaven itself decrees she shall be yours. I, therefore, entrust your sister to you. From now on you are her brother, and she is your sister.20

The mutual regard of a brother and a sister constituted a characteristic feature of relations between a husband and wife in this extended family, these faithful members of the people of Israel. In this way, both Sarah and Tobias were in a position to display a chaste love on their wedding night.

Generation after generation
The Book of Tobit is not merely some quaint story, but one susceptible to theological analysis. There are many similarities between this story, and the formation of the nation of Israel, as told in Genesis. God’s original intentions for life, in the beginning, became manifest in the family of Jacob, as the author explored in an earlier article for this magazine.21 The history of Jacob’s family represents the beginning of God’s work of redemption, in so far as an entire people is concerned.

What, then, enabled one generation to pass on their way of life to the next? God made the following promise to Abraham:

And I shall maintain my covenant between myself and you, and your descendants after you, generation after generation, as a covenant in perpetuity, to be your God, and the God of your descendants after you. And to you and your descendants after you, I shall give the country where you are now immigrants, the entire land of Canaan, to own in perpetuity. And I will be their God.22

An education in chaste love was closely related to passing on the faith, from one generation to the next. Jacob’s brother, Esau, abandoned his people by marrying a Canaanite woman to spite his parents, rather than for any good purpose.23 In itself, this took him far from treating his wife as a person who existed beside himself.

Genesis 32 tells the story of how the patriarch, Jacob, who spent a night alone before he crossed back into Canaan on his return home. He wrestled with an angel until daybreak. Jacob was given the name “Israel”—”He who wrestles with God.” The same Hebrew word, bad, is employed both for the solitude of Adam before his relationship with Eve had broken down, and for the solitude that Jacob experienced that night. The covenant between God and Jacob figures explicitly in these accounts. He was a person in all the singularity of his own “I” because of his encounter with God. Jacob named the place “Peniel” in recognition of his face-to-face encounter with God. An ancient Israelite shrine existed there. Gerhard von Rad, in his commentary on Genesis, argued convincingly that the book incorporated texts with origins in cultic practices.24 This account of Jacob’s nocturnal struggle would have played a part in ongoing cultic acts at the shrine. The approach to Biblical interpretation in the theology of the body does not rely on treating the texts as strict historical accounts.

There is a similar story in Genesis 28, in which Jacob dreamed of a ladder reaching to heaven. This dream occurred at Bethel, another ancient Israelite shrine. These stories formed part of the memory of the Jewish people, a memory that was maintained through worship in-common at the shrine. Each pilgrim shared in Jacob’s encounter with God, as they visited the shrine. Each member of the Jewish people was to establish a solitude of their own before God. This is particularly evident with Jacob’s son, Joseph. His life was marked out by both the Lord’s presence with him, and Joseph’s capacity to interpret dreams through the knowledge that came to him from God.

The paths taken by two sons
Genesis 39 offers an account of Joseph’s chastity. Day after day, Potiphar’s wife tempted Joseph to come to bed with her, but he refused. The text indicates that Joseph was keenly aware that sexual relations with Potiphar’s wife would have been an offense against God: “How can I do anything so wicked, and sin against God?” Von Rad identified these words as the most important part of the story, ensuring that the story was “completely and consciously bound to God.”25 The self-mastery that supports chaste love directly stems in the story of Joseph from his conscience. John Paul identified the self-awareness of conscience as an integral aspect of original solitude. This is also evident through the term “purity of heart” which Pope John Paul saw as an obedience to conscience, opening up in this way the interior space required to make a gift of oneself to another person.26 John Paul clearly identified purity of heart as “a reminiscence of the original solitude.”27 Original solitude is closely linked to the capacity to obey a conscience that is informed by what is good and true.

Jacob’s son, Judah, took a different path. He left his brothers to live with a Canaanite man, Hirah the Adullamite. He subsequently married a Canaanite woman, following the example of both Ishmael and Esau. Gerhard von Rad argued in his commentary that this part of the story may have been linked to a time when the tribe of Judah inter-married with Canaanites, and began to abandon God’s covenant. While the Canaanite peoples were a sophisticated agricultural people, they were also notorious for their depravity. Leviticus refers to the land vomiting out its Canaanite inhabitants because of their abhorrent sexual practices. There were Canaanite gods dedicated to lust, murder, death, and sterility, and the people practiced sacred prostitution. Judah evidently adopted some of their mores: we see him resorting to someone he believed to be a sacred prostitute.28 Furthermore, he was open with his friend Hirah about his encounter with the prostitute, who in turn was happy to inquire from the men of the roadside at Eanim as to where she was located. There is a marked absence of reserve in these exchanges.

What did Judah pass on to his own children in terms of a sexual education? Judah’s wife bore him three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. Genesis 38 recounts that Er offended the Lord and died without leaving any offspring to his wife, Tamar. Onan then married Tamar, but he had no desire to maintain his brother’s line. In his sexual relations with his wife, he sought to avoid the conception of a child. The Lord killed Onan for this offense. The Hebrew word for “death,” used in the account of the Garden of Eden, shares the same derivation as the Hebrew word used to refer to the deaths of Er and Onan. Indeed, von Rad noted that this story is linked to the story of Tobias and Sarah, given that ancient peoples assigned to the wife some responsibility if the husband were to die young. Rather than obey the Law, and give Shelah to his daughter-in-law, Judah sent Tamar away in case Shelah should die. Judah chose something different to God’s promises to his people, that they would have many descendants, as did his son Onan.

Judah’s own wife died, though, and it was then that he approached the sacred prostitute. The account identifies the prostitute as none other than his daughter-in-law, Tamar. She had seen that Shulah had not been given to her, and yet was herself intent upon children. She dressed in the guise of a prostitute in order to have sexual relations with Judah. She became pregnant, and gave birth to two sons, Perez and Zerah. Judah’s encounter with Tamar is marked by conversation that is limited to a transaction, one in which Judah neglects the genuine good of his sister, convinced that some form of payment will suffice. In lust, the other person is reduced to the status of an object. Von Rad pointed out that Tamar took Judah’s signet ring and seal.29 These were simply objects for Judah, but for Tamar they possessed a critical personal meaning. This indicated her own capacity to stand as a person next to a person, identifying as they did her relationship to him.

The account does not end, though, with Judah’s suffering and descent into Canaanite depravity. When he realized that he was the one who had made Tamar pregnant, Judah observed: “She is more righteous than I.”30 The Hebrew word for righteous, saddiq, is also used for Noah to indicate that he was pleasing to God, unlike the rest of humanity that was destroyed in the Flood. Tamar’s actions provoked Judah’s conscience. Judah perceived that she was the one in a right relationship with God. When Judah was confronted with the hunger of the famine, a hunger that the Biblical account recalls was sent by God, he exercised his freedom in returning to his family. John Paul said that “the human heart is not so much accused and condemned by Christ because of concupiscence, as first of all, called.”31

Education in chaste love in the Church today
The possibility of a chaste love is realized in these accounts only as part of a people with whom God maintains a covenant. Tobias and Sarah triumphed over evil only by remaining faithful to the traditions of their people. This faithfulness provided the setting for an angelic intervention in their lives. God’s presence sustained Joseph in the face of temptation. God was the one who provoked Judah’s conscience, and sent the famine that preceded a return to his father’s house. The possibility of maintaining the covenant, from generation to generation, does not entail some remote notion of perfection, but one that takes into account the struggles and false turns of life. It is possible to share in the heritage of Jacob’s family as part of the Church. Pope Saint John Paul taught, in Familiaris Consortio, that Christ “renews the first plan that the Creator inscribed in the hearts of man and woman.”32. It is Christ who has the power to renew the first plan of the Creator in the hearts of young people.

Growth in chaste love is directly supported by a capacity to perceive the presence and initiative of God, that is it requires faith. Faith is an integral aspect of that original solitude that constitutes one’s self-awareness as a person of great value in the eyes of God. The formation of conscience, and an understanding of what is wicked in the eyes of God, also constitutes an essential element of education in chaste love. Joseph’s story demonstrates how a keen conscience, stemming as it does from one’s capacity for original solitude, leads to self-mastery in the face of temptation. The formation of the consciences of young people remains an integral aspect of education in chaste love.

If it is God’s creative action that opens up space for chaste love, it is also the case that parents share in this action in a fundamental fashion, as again established in Familiaris Consortio:

The task of giving education is rooted in the primary vocation of married couples to participate in God’s creative activity: by begetting in love and for love a new person who has within himself or herself the vocation to growth and development, parents, by that very fact, take on the task of helping that person effectively to live a fully human life.33

The role of parents is essential in establishing a young person’s capacity to stand as a person beside other persons, as was the case for Tobias and Sarah. One is able to act for the good of another when one has experienced love from another, above all from one’s own parents. Such parental love constitutes a participation in the Creator’s love. McIhaney and Bush tell the story of a young woman who had just been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection for which there is no cure, herpes.34 She indicated in the clinic that she would subsequently be willing to endanger someone else’s health through sexual intercourse, rather than disclose her infection. She was not able to treat others as persons. While the authors do not tell of this young woman’s family life, in many cases a broken family life will be a significant factor in the development of such an attitude towards others.

Furthermore, a sense of reserve quite naturally marks the education in chaste love that occurs in the familial settings of these stories. The one-to-one dialogues that occur between Tobit and Tobias, and between the angel and Tobias, always occur in intimate settings. It is perhaps no surprise that Tobias gains the capacity to engage in similar discussion with Sarah about their own relations together, in this case behind a closed bedroom door. Indeed, it has long been clear from educational research that the nature of the educational process one follows is closely related to the outcomes of learning.35 By contrast with Judah, sexuality entered a public space, whether with his friends, or by the roadside. This contrasts sharply with the domestic setting of Tobit. Inter-activity and dialogue on the most intimate of matters conducted in a quasi-public settingavoiding as this does a communion of personsleads to Canaanite depravity, rather than to Israelite faithfulness to the covenant. If anything, new guidance is required that recognizes more realistically the general inability of educational institutions to provide personalized and discreet instruction in such a sensitive area.

Nonetheless, parents are called to carry out their mission in partnership with others. Each family takes its place within the wider community of God’s people in these Biblical accounts. Parents have always been aware of the role that personal relationships play in establishing the direction in life that their children take. Alasdair MacIntyre argued that a community is an essential requirement if virtue is to flourish.36 Pope Pius XI highlighted the need to close down opportunities for vice, and to encourage virtue, in his encyclical on education, Divini Illius Magistri. In Humanae Vitae, Blessed Paul VI called for educators to establish an environment that was favorable to chastity, rather than for any explicit sexual education.37 A profound re-enchantment of life in the Church is needed for this to occur.

An education in chaste love can only be realized when one lives alone before God in the midst of a faithful and familial Christian community.

  1. Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia (Vatican Press, 2016), 280-6
  2. Pontifical Council for the Family, The Meeting Point: Project for affective and sexual formation, educazioneaffettiva.org.
  3. Pontifical Council for the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality (Vatican Press, 1996).
  4. Pete Balinksi, “At World Youth Day, Vatican releases teen sex-ed program that leaves out parents and mortal sin,” lifesitenews.com/news/vatican-releases-explicit-sex-ed-for-teens-that-leaves-aside-parents-and-mo.
  5. Pope Saint John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio (Vatican Press, 1981), 37.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Pontifical Council for the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality (Vatican Press, 1996), 47.
  8. Ibid., 43.
  9. Ibid., 48.
  10. Newman, J. H. An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (University of Notre Dame Press, 1989), 9.
  11. thelondonencounter.co.uk/2016/12/04/jacob-paths-unity/
  12. Song of Songs 4:9
  13. Pope John Paul II, The Theology of the Body (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1997), 175-6, (12/3/1980).
  14. José Granados, “Toward a Theology of the Suffering Body,” Communio 33, no. 4 (2006): 540–63.
  15. Pope John Paul II, The Theology of the Body (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1997), 37, (10/10/1979).
  16. Ibid., 45-6, (11/14/1979).
  17. Ibid., 51, (11/28/1979).
  18. Tobit 4:12-13.
  19. Tobit 5: 13-14.
  20. Tobit 7: 11.
  21. Kahn, P.E., “Theology of the Body: Insights for the Synod on the Family,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review, http://www.hprweb.com/2015/05/theology-of-the-body-insights-for-the-synod-on-the-family/.
  22. Genesis 17: 7-8.
  23. Genesis 28:6-9.
  24. G von Rad, Genesis: A commentary, (London: SCM Press, 1963).
  25. Ibid., 360.
  26. Pope John Paul II, The Theology of the Body (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1997), 72, (11/12/1980).
  27. Ibid., 177, (12/3/1980).
  28. Genesis 38: 21.
  29. G von Rad, Genesis: A commentary, (London: SCM Press, 1963).
  30. Genesis 38:26.
  31. Pope John Paul II, The Theology of the Body (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1997), 366, (2/9/1983).
  32. Pope Saint John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio (Vatican Press, 1981), 20.
  33. Ibid., 36.
  34. McIhaney, J.S. and F.M. Bush, Hooked; new science on how casual sex is affecting our children (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 2008).
  35. Elliott, John. 2001. ‘Making Evidence-Based Practice Educational’. British Educational Research Journal 27 (5): 555–74.
  36. Maclntyre, A. 1981. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. London: Duckworth.
  37. Pope Blessed Paul VI, Humanae Vitae (Vatican Press, 1968), 22.
Dr. Peter Kahn About Dr. Peter Kahn

Dr. Peter Kahn writes regularly for the Catholic Truth Society, London. His booklets for CTS include “Passing on Faith to Your Children” (which is available from Ignatius Press) and “Facing Difficulties in Christian Family Life.” He earlier edited the Catholic Student Guide (Family Publications, 2006), and acts as chair of the Academic Council at the School of the Annunciation, the center for the new evangelization at Buckfast Abbey, United Kingdom. Peter lives in Warrington, UK, with his wife Alison, and their seven sons.

Comments

  1. H.E. Cardinal Lopez Trujillo invited me to the launch of The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, so I can attest to the care he took to invite representatives from the Sacred Cong. for Education, who had issued Educational Guidance in Human Love (Wm Cardinal Baum, Prefect, 1983) to assure everyone that there was no contradiction between the two documents. Educational Guidance summarizes magisterial documents in # 17-19, going back to Gaudium et Spes, which state that parents are the primary educators of the children in all matters including in human sexuality but that they may accept the help of the school and the Church to discharge their responsibility. In today’s culture many parents are not willing or disposed by their life situations to give a chaste education to their children yet are grateful to receive such help On two occasions Pope John Paul II affirmed our Teen STAR program when informed about objections relating to the fact that ONLY parents should impart this education.Teen STAR -Sexuality Teaching in the context of Adult Responsibility – requires parental permission for minors to learn to understand and value their sexuality and fertility. In developmentally appropriate curricula experiential learning leads to self discovery in a personalist setting and has documented participants’ maintaining or returning to chastity in multiple cultures.

  2. Parochial Vicar says:

    I appreciate the article and the exegesis. I also have concerns about some of the recent things coming from these commissions. I fully understand why parents should be the ones helping their children understand the gift of sexuality and fertility. But I struggle with what it means for my role as a priest in this area? I cannot avoid the topic all together, particularly as it relates to sexual sin and the importance of confession. Parental permission when certain topics are discussed makes basic sense. But what about secular Catholic families like the one I grew up in; where my parents neglected me in this duty, and it was my Catholic school that was the only guidance I had? Are those young people just stuck on their own, or are there ways we can reach out to them? I would appreciate the perspectives of others and any advice. Thank you.

    • Peter Kahn Peter Kahn says:

      Let me just add a few thoughts. The first and foremost route for others to support young people is by providing assistance for parents to carry out their role in this area. The existing guidelines are clear that this is the best way to support young people, but I hope that my article has helped to illuminate the reasons for this. Fewer parents would then be likely to neglect their duties. This is the clearest way to respect the personal heart of an education in chaste love. Of course, if you are able to work for the conversion of parents as well, then this is more likely to lead to them taking responsibility. One good resource to support parents in their role is ‘the book Sexuality Explained: A Guide for Parents and Children’ by Louise Kirk. One could say more, but this route is the one that is ‘first and foremost’ and this is just a short response. (I would encourage Teen STAR to focus first and foremost on providing support directly to parents.)

      • Parochial Vicar says:

        Yes, unfortunately the genie is already out of the bottle for most of young people in large part because of the media. After speaking to 8th grade Catholic school students about the importance of agape and self sacrificial love and asking if anyone could think of any examples in the media – the first two responses were 50 Shades of Grey and Me Before You. It is very difficult – I fear for parents and children in this kind of environment. May our Lady of Fatima pray for us!

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