Fr. Lazar Arasu SDB
Often, newspapers report suspicious and unevaluated sex education being offered to children in our schools. It is surprising how faith based schools are trapped into this kind of education. Sex Education is education to humane love and education to responsible family life. It ought to be given by people of credibility, wisdom and human sensibility.
In the document, Joy of Love (AmorisLaetitia), Pope Francis dedicates an entire chapter on sex education. He acknowledges that in the early 1960s, church already spoke of “a positive and prudent sex education” to be imparted to children and adolescents “as they grow older”, with “due weight being given to the advances in the psychological, pedagogical and didactic sciences”. Due to the eroding cultures and traditional mode of teaching, the much needed sex education is missed out or relegated to schools, NGOs and others.
The Pope believes that it is the paramount duty of the parents to impart this education as a “parental concern”. When sex education is offered within the family setting, it is always done with love, concern, sensitivity meeting the needs of children in the family. Sex education ought to be personal paying attention not only to the body, but also to spirit and soul. In the global scene, church proposes moral guidelines on human sexuality. The Church does so in spite of its own limitations, failures and even amidst issues of scandal. “It is not easy to approach the issue of sex education in an age when sexuality tends to be trivialized and impoverished,” writes Pope Francis. “It can only be seen within the broader framework of an education for love, for mutual self-giving. In such a way, the language of sexuality would not be sadly impoverished but illuminated and enriched.”
Offering sex education is a challenging task. It is no place for compromise, negotiation or trial and error method. To keep this education integral and upright, the educator should focus on providing information while keeping in mind that children and young people are yet to mature and they out to receive them in right doses suitable to their age and situation. Pope Francis feels that young people are often overwhelmed with new ideas on human sexuality. He asserts that sex education that teaches “protection” by “safe sex” are incomplete and “convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against,” the Pope confirms. “This way of thinking promotes narcissism (vanity and selfishness) and aggressivity in place of acceptance. It is always irresponsible to invite adolescents to toy with their bodies and their desires, as if they possessed the maturity, values, mutual commitment and goals proper to marriage.” AmorisLaetitia highlights the educator’s duty to teach children about the biological realities of God’s creation; this includes the reality of masculine and feminine bodies. It is learning to accept oneself, respect each other and take responsibility for one’s actions done on our body and by the body.
Pope also gives advice on practical issues such as being modest and dressing appropriately. He says candidly, “A sexual education that fosters a healthy sense of modesty has immense value, however much some people nowadays consider modesty a relic of a bygone era.” He warns the youth against deceptive nature of sex and prays for mature love. Young people should not be deceived into confusing two levels of reality: “sexual attraction creates, for the moment, the illusion of union, yet, without love, this ‘union’ leaves strangers as far apart as they were before”.
The document also stresses the parents’ right in educating their children. “The overall education of children is a ‘most serious duty’ and at the same time a ‘primary right’ of parents,” writes Pope Francis. “This is not just a task or a burden, but an essential and inalienable right that parents are called to defend and of which no one may claim to deprive them.” Given our own situation with the weakening morals in sexuality, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, abortion, defilement and rape, paying attention to Pope’s simple, yet profound message on love and sexuality will help us to find joy in loving and growing in mature love and responsibility.
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