The ancient church of India
March 13, 2024
Have age-appropriate conversations with your children about sexuality
March 13, 2024

Reclaiming the giftedness of Human Sexuality

It is time to reclaim the positive God-given gift of human sexuality. Archdiocese Director of Pastoral Formation, Fr Matthew Ragbir said Catholics have “handed over that which God has made and belongs to God to the world and to the Devil that it feels weird for it to be taken back to where it rightfully belongs”.

Making the point of how sexuality has become divorced from God, he commented, “God made us. If you think your sexuality is in your little bedroom and God can’t be there, well you fooling yourself”.

He was speaking at the Human Sexuality Symposium hosted by the Catholic Religious Education Development Institute (CREDI) in collaboration with the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) on Friday, March 8 at the Centre of Excellence, Tunapuna.

Fr Ragbir, along with Episcopal Delegate for the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC), Tricia Syms and Clinical Psychologist Alicia Hoyte were presenters on the topics of ‘Human Sexuality: The realities and our response’, ‘Sexual Identity’ and ‘Sex Education: A Catholic Approach?’

Human sexuality is a vast and interdisciplinary, so the symposium was inviting teachers and parents to begin a journey. Fr Ragbir asked the audience when last they heard someone in a church or religious setting speak about sexuality as a gift from God.

“The first gift we are given by God is our own being, self, who we are, or that it expresses love, expresses love through our own bodies,” he said. Sexuality can be described in a “positive light” as fruitful, sacramental, and mysterious.

He mentioned the work of researchers and said when the first template of sexuality children experience is through pornography or abuse, it affects their developmental life and causes problems in their psychosocial development.

Fr Ragbir said: “If God is the template we have, how do we speak about it in a positive way? Our hypersexualised culture treats sexuality in one way, in a way that says it is really about erotic genital activity…but that is not true.” He added there is an affective dimension which encompasses passions, intellect, and desires.

Sexuality is a fundamental component of personhood; it is not just what people do with their bodies; it touches the deepest aspect of their lives. “We are called to give ourselves to the other and to receive the gift that the other is. Therefore, it is a mode of being, manifesting itself, communicating with others, human love,” Fr Ragbir said.

Sexuality is integral to the development of personality and process of education. He explained, “as the Church says, it is from self that the human person receives the characteristics which are the biological, psychological, spiritual that make that person either man or woman.”

The symposium had 1645 persons registered and a further 200 who turned up on the day. There were 110 volunteers from the Chancery, CEBM, students from Corpus Christi College and St Charles’ High School and others.


Some of the realities…

Fr Ragbir, Syms and Hoyte discussed the many “realities” of human sexuality today. They spoke of the wide use of pornography. First Year primary pupils access it via their parents’ phones, children experiment with sex after viewing pornography; children are groomed to share nude photos; bullying; absent fathers and male role models; sexual abuse and technology. Children accidentally see their parents when bedroom doors are unlocked.

Hoyte commented that while sexually active adults will say what they do in their bedroom is their business, when the child tries to imitate sexual activity and parents find out, they are beaten, alienated, and labelled.

The child’s life is “off course because the parents weren’t able to deal with their own history and their own attitudes towards sex”. Hoyte added, “so a legacy goes forward where adults are coming into therapy struggling with shame, struggling with guilt, struggling with sex addiction and gender confusion because they never got clear understandings or conversation with their parents about what sex is and what shouldn’t happen with their bodies, and responsibility”.

Syms got the audience to share what they learned from the Catholic Church about sex. Responses included that it is sinful, no sex until marriage, practice abstinence, marriage is a sacrament, and sex should not be enjoyed too much, and sex has high spiritual value.

“The role that the Church has played in demonising, giving us a negative view of what sex is, is part of our reality and we need to reclaim that and today is the day we are doing that,” she said.

Before dealing with the topic of sexuality with children, adults must confront their own woundedness—sexual deprivations and violations. Adults responding to questions about sexuality should not approach with the question of “What is wrong with you?”. The question to be asked is: “What happened to you?” The first response should be to bring it to the Lord.

“The heart of the issue we have is this, [St Pope] John Paul puts it as a suspicion—we wonder ‘Can God really help me in this’?, ‘Is God’s grace really enough to deal with the situation I am in with my sexuality, with my family life, with my desires?’.”

Fr Ragbir said in the midst of the brokenness in family life, God has given an invitation for new forms of missionary creativity. “If we see any number of problems, this should summon us to a revival of hope, make it a source of prophetic visions and transformative actions and creative forms of charity,” he said.

This was to be done in three ways: seeing the reality, judge—not in condemning but bringing the light of the gospel to shine on a situation and using the social sciences; and act. The “response requires a new way of understanding Church.”