Q: Archbishop J, what are we doing about the early sexualisation of our youth?
Trinidad and Tobago has been ranked within the top ten countries in the world for online porn consumption per capita on the Google search engine too many times. This is a startling fact. What does this mean? What in our past or present reality has driven us to pornography in such desperate numbers? This is alarming to say the least. It speaks to the state of sickness in our soul.
Pornography addiction, in its root and core, is a spiritual problem. It is taking the gift that God gave us of the human body and using it to make money, to derive pleasure without relationship and to objectify body parts.
Children in our country are being sexualised as early as eight years old on average. Teens and young adults who are caught in pornography addiction usually say they saw porn at seven, eight or nine years old.
To stumble upon, or worse, to be introduced to pornography before your body enters puberty is a double trauma. First is seeing the images, second is that you have no knowledge from your body about what this is really about. Both the viewing and the lack of a framework/ understanding about sex niggles at the soul of the child creating curiosity and shame.
Pornography addiction amongst our youth is an epidemic. I know you’re thinking not my little darling! Well it is indiscriminate by race and class. Boys are much more susceptible than girls but all are vulnerable.
Scientists now say that porn addiction affects the brain the same way as cocaine. It is a dangerous drug. The challenge is not sex, it is addiction. It consumes the mind and life of the child and it creates antisocial behaviours. It bars them from true love. It creates abnormalities.
Gender fluidity also now seems to be an epidemic. The United Nations began with a five-letter gender theory back in the nineties. Now it has passed eight letters. Once gender is defined by desire the proliferation of types will continue.
In His image and likeness He made them, male and female He created them. That is it! No operation or procedure can change this. The chromosomes in a boy and in a girl are totally different.
Even after operations and with hormones the boy’s body remains a boy and the girl’s body remains a girl. This gender signature exists right through the body. It cannot be erased.
Ending the denial
Like every addiction, pornography flourishes through denial. Ending the denial is vital to recovery. The first denial is that of the parents. Most parents feel awkward having “the talk” with their child.
The truth is today there are many “talks” required from parents: there is the sex talk, the pornography talk, the drugs talk, the social media talk, the gaming talk, the bullying talk, the crime/safety talk and the human trafficking talk. It is vital that parents have all these chats with their children at age appropriate times.
It is also vital that parents structure and restrict the use of devices to public spaces and limit times to specific times and places. This is basic media education for parents.
When they are young it is your device, you need to have all the passwords and you need to know and approve what sites and apps they are on. As a child grows older they need more autonomy and also more trust. By this stage, you should be accustomed to open conversations about all the good stuff.
It is the parents’ responsibility to educate their children and to have “talks” required for their children’s integral development and socialisation.
The parent, the school, the catechist and the Church need to enter into an alliance for the proper formation of our children. This means that they need to share similar values and views on these topics. Many times parents do not have the information, nor are they comfortable with this topic.
As Church we need to assist on all fronts. We need a systematic programme for educating parents, teachers, catechists, youth ministers and of course the children and young adults.
This programme needs to be age appropriate and also address the core issues from the perspective of the Church’s teaching. Mum and dad need to be involved in “the talk” with mums paying more attention to girls and dads more to the boys. It is vital if they will hear the right messages.
Our commitment as Church
For many years now we have run ‘Common Sense Parenting’ to assist parents in understanding their roles and responsibilities. We have begun doing the ‘Theology of the Body for Teens’ in our Confirmation programmes. These are a good start but they do not go far enough.
We have had one other pilot programme running recently that we have the opportunity to evaluate. ‘Alive to the world’ has been run in some of our schools. We have seen the impact on character and values formation and in providing healthy sex education from a Catholic perspective.
There is a second programme that is very promising. World Youth Alliance has a number of programmes that were specifically developed to satisfy the UN requirements for sex education. It is based on an understanding of the human and values that are completely aligned with the Catholic teaching.
It has a youth advocacy unit that trains young adults to think about these issues from a philosophical and values perspective. This allows them to defend the truth in a multicultural, multireligious society like Trinidad and Tobago.
Priests Can Cook 2019
This year our ‘Priests Can Cook’ will provide funding to launch these programmes in all our schools. We have a five-year plan to do the teacher/parent formation and form a team to move these programmes into all of our schools and parishes. We will also take it to the government schools.
‘Priests Can Cook’ is now a well-known brand. In 2017, they assisted four of the neediest Catholic primary schools. In 2018 they assisted other needy Catholic schools to address fundamental challenges in plant and programmes.
Our 2019 ‘Priests Can Cook’ will go a long way to assist us in funding this important formation initiative. We need to equip our children for this generation they live in.
We need your participation to ensure all parishes and priests are on-board. It is a great fun event with great food and entertainment. It takes place at the Grand Stand Queen’s Park Savanah on Friday, September 27. This fundraiser will give us startup capital to comprehensive sex education from a Catholic perspective. We need your help.
Key Message: the early sexualisation of our children is a major challenge to character formation and discipleship. We need to address this with teaching that is sound, Catholic and age appropriate.
Action Step: this challenge is so great that we need all hands on deck all with the formation. Everyone can participate in ‘Priest Can Cook’. You can help your priest with his dishes and sell tickets priced at $250.
Parents, you need to have “the talk” with your children. While we will provide formation, begin by reading Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids to assist you.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 19:13–14.