Parents have the inalienable right and duty to teach and educate their children about sexuality.
Spiritual Director/Theological Adviser for the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC), Fr Matthew Ragbir said information given to children was part of a bigger question concerning “human flourishing and human development”.
He was speaking at the AFLC’s online panel discussion on Thursday, July 22 for Marriage and Family Life Week streamed on AFLC’s Facebook page. Other panellists were: Tonia Gooding of the Communities Alive Education and Training (CAET), parents Kevin and Annette Downes, and Jerome Alexander, ambassador for Fight the New Drug, a US-based anti-pornography organisation. Catholics had to ask themselves: “Who are we called to be and to become as children of God?”.
Fr Ragbir cited Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia (280) stating The Second Vatican Council spoke of the need for “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” (Gravissimum Educationis 1).
He continued, “…the sexual urge can be directed through a process of growth in self-knowledge and self-control capable of nurturing valuable capacities for joy and for loving encounter.”
Among the “key points” of secular sex education highlighted by Fr Ragbir: the movement towards complete removal of moral limits to sexuality, what you feel is who you are and activation of sexual urges from early childhood, obstruction of the conscience and exaltation of consensual pleasure (self-control and modesty seen as repressive).
Fr Ragbir pointed to the influences on children—social media, Netflix shows, culture, movies, gender ideology, music. Parents need to ask: Is this something we want or something we don’t want “to form and fashion our children.”
Fr Ragbir identified a few points to inform parents in dealing with sexuality including: truth and meaning, attending to the child’s needs and developmental level; the moral dimension always be part of explanations; chastity education and opportune information about human sexuality must be offered in the widest context of education.
An interdisciplinary approach is used because sexuality is connected to the identity of each person and is “beyond our many changing desires and feelings.”
Fr Ragbir said, “When we engage in sexual formation, virtue formation…it is about using our freedom for a flourishing in the midst of many desires, in the midst of many options.”
He went on to state freedom allows the individual to order their “lower parts” (appetites and desires) to the “higher parts” (reason, beauty, goodness, truth) for growth and development.
President of CAET Tonia Gooding, said the Alive to the World programme has been introduced in Catholic primary schools through a partnership with the Catholic Education Board of Management. She said it “is founded on virtues, the essence of it is virtues in character education with an emphasis on healthy sexuality.”
Children are taught to develop characteristics such as self-control and self-discipline that are required to develop the best version of self. Persons interested in the programme can visit www.caett.com.
Kevin and Annette Downes gave a parents’ perspective. Annette said, “one of the key things for us, we needed to do as a first step was teach them about love and that self-giving; we have to practise that even among us first before going out there and finding love.”
She disclosed that before their children were born, they discussed how they would approach sex education. They did not want their children to find out “from the outside”. Annette said she and Kevin made sure they were “on the same page” before talking to their children.
Kevin added, “We can’t shield them from what’s happening on the outside but have a good foundation to counter what’s happening.” —LPG
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY WEEK
Video recordings available on the AFLC’s Facebook page
Monday July 19 – Theme: Celebrating Marriage and Family
PANEL DISCUSSION: The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world
Tuesday July 20 – Theme: The Media and the Family
PANEL DISCUSSION: The impact of the media on families & the need for media education
Wednesday July 21 – Theme: Children are Gift
PANEL DISCUSSION: Children are Gift
Thursday July 22 – Theme: Family as an educational setting: learning to love
PANEL DISCUSSION: Sex Education
Friday July 23 – Theme: Healing the family
FEATURE: Healing Ministry to families
Saturday July 24 – Theme: Play together: remove your masks
PANEL DISCUSSION: Importance of play in the family and the dangers of addiction in entertainment today
Sunday July 25 – Theme: World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly
PANEL DISCUSSION: Caring for grandparents and the elderly: Reflections on the Pope’s document
Monday July 26 – Theme: I do
FEATURE: Feast of St Anne and Joachim – Holy Mass with Archbishop Jason @ 6 p.m