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Healing the wounds of human sexuality

The Archdiocese of Port of Spain is gearing up for a major Symposium on Human Sexuality on Friday, March 8. In a March 1 interview on The Catholic News’ programme, Altos, the newly appointed Director of Pastoral Formation, Fr Matthew Ragbir, provided insights into this important event and how human sexuality has become deeply wounded in today’s world.

With around 1,400 people already registered, the symposium has drawn a wide range of attendees including teachers, parents, catechists, clergy, school board representatives, doctors, and psychologists.

He described the area of human sexuality to being on a ship exposed to polluted waters, emphasising that this woundedness affects us at cultural and personal levels. “But if what is around us is so polluted, then we are breathing in that air. You know, we are being splashed by that. So, it affects us at so many levels, including culturally, that we do need to have a conversation about it…We’ve just handed it over to the world, you know, and to the evil one who runs amok.”

A major challenge is effectively providing sex education in Catholic schools in an appropriate manner. He stressed the need to first understand sexuality itself, “before we could do ethics or moralise on anything.” The Church takes an integrated approach rooted in the Theology of the Body rather than just rules. As Fr Ragbir stated, “For us, sex education is really that maturation in love, that virtue formation, that growing in chastity.”

The symposium topics will cover ‘Human sexuality: The Realities and Our Response’; ‘Understanding Sexual Identity’; ‘Sex Education: A Catholic Approach?’, and ‘Developmentally appropriate Resources, Future Training & Curriculum.’

Fr Ragbir explained using “developmentally appropriate” materials means: “We can’t overexpose children to certain things that their minds and developmentally, they’re not ready for.”

Addressing our societal woundedness is paramount. The goal, he said, is to reclaim the beauty and God’s plan for human sexuality. The massively distorted view of sexuality surrounds us constantly through a highly sexualised media and cultural messages. A major challenge is effectively providing authentic sex education to young people immersed in this wounded culture.

He stressed the need for “virtue formation” and integrating faith and reason, quoting Pope Francis that sexuality “can only be seen within a broader framework of an education for love and mutual self-giving.”

There are things, he said, that are natural to the human person. “And in understanding that these things are natural, we don’t hide from it. We learn ‘how do I integrate my sexuality’, you know, chastity as a catechism, as a sexual integration.” He continued, “It triggers my desires. There are hormones that are triggered, and there are things happening in my brain and my body, physiological realities. But that’s data about me, that then I need to step back and say, okay, what do I do with these desires? Do I repress them and try to, you know, hide from them? Do I overindulge them?”

While just an introduction, Fr Ragbir hopes the symposium will help attendees appreciate the grave seriousness of wounded human sexuality, remove taboos, and lay foundations for the Catholic approach rooted in human dignity and meaning. “We’re hoping to create a community that grows together and that learns together out of this.”

Curriculum resources for formative Catholic sex education may be introduced as next steps. As Fr Ragbir stated, “There’s curriculum we hope to introduce, and there are a number of things we will expose on that day.”