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February 1999

Sensual Catechesis
Irish Bishops In Bed With The State

Michael McGrade


Classroom sex-education seduces children and inculcates bad morals. Bad morals corrupt souls. Corrupted souls ruin families. Ruined families destroy civilizations. Classroom sex-education destroys civilizations.
National Coalition of Clergy and Laity


We are presently living the reality of the above syllogism. The West is dying – spiritually, morally and physically – due in large part to a generation of sex-education in Church and State. As early as 1964, in a plea to the Swedish Minister of Education, 140 physicians observed the following results after ten years of Swedish classroom sex education: "the concept of love by young people has been reduced to sex [and] the view of woman, marriage and the home is debased and virtues such as self-discipline, generosity, responsibility, idealism and personal fellowship are shunted aside… ."(1) This plea was signed by 200,000 Swedes, in a state of panic after sex-education had sent VD and illegitimacy among Swedish youth rocketing. The failed Swedish experiment has since been repeated ad nauseam throughout the West and there is no need to regale readers with interminable stats and horror stories to verify the catastrophic failure of classroom sex-ed. Day in and day out the media does that for us. Suffice to mention just a few recent figures culled from the social and moral anarchy which defines life in pre-millennial Britain.

Locked in the Sex-ed Circle
After three decades of in-your-face saturation sex-ed in State and Catholic schools, Britain’s 1.8 million single mothers not only far outstrip numbers in any of the other 14 EU countries (representing more than a quarter of the European total), it also boasts the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe with more than 94,000 teenage girls giving birth each year. The official 1996 figures released late last year were the highest since 1985. They showed, for example, pregnancies for girls aged 13-15 years at 9.4 per 1,000 (a total of 8,829, up 11% from 1995) while up to 10% of 15 to 19-year-old girls fell pregnant in some London boroughs. (Not to mention, of course, concomitant rises in teen abortions, painful and often incurable venereal diseases, emotional and behavioural problems etc.). And one cannot help but note how these figures have soared despite the fact that 10% of 14 and 15-year-old girls (80,000 approx.) now seek advice from contraceptive clinics each year, three times more than in 1991 and eight times greater than in the mid-70s.

Britain’s largest chemist chain, Boots, both embodies and caricatures the reflex secular response we have come to expect in the wake of such bleak statistics. On 3 December 1998, claiming affinity with the aims of Government Health policy which are allegedly "meeting the needs of young people," Boots opened an in-store family planning clinic in Glasgow dispensing (literally - but legally) fistfuls of the Pill, the morning after pill, condoms and sex-education leaflets to teenagers, without any parental knowledge or consent and with no lower age limit on recipients.(2)

Following the Boots initiative, secular commentators throughout the land typically polarised the issue, castigating those ‘irresponsible types’ who hand out contraceptives willy-nilly and those fundamentalists "who yearn for the time when teenage sex was the last taboo." From the Guardian to the Telegraph, media pundits of whatever political hue adopted this PC line before plumping for the status quo i.e. to suggest a ban on freely available contraception among teenagers was "a brutal argument" which "would inevitably lead to more misery not less," while quality sex-education was the key since "teenage girls do not get pregnant because sex lessons are an incitement to lose their virginity or because condoms are free at Boots in Glasgow" [Daily Mail, 15/12/98].(3)

The overriding message was that "ignorance" is not an option for schoolchildren - because "sensible contraception is an asset to society" [The Scotsman, 4/12/98]. The problem, we are constantly being told, is not sex-ed per se but ‘poor’ sex-ed i.e. nothing a little ‘good’, professional, classroom sex-ed won’t fix. Thus revolves the sex-ed circle of dissolution and despair: classroom sex education hastens the social and moral anarchy that generates more sex-ed i.e. ever more petrol to fan the rising flames.

Squaring The Circle: The Pseudo-Catholic Response
Tragically for our Catholic children, this is precisely the circular treadmill our Shepherds and their bureaucrats have climbed aboard today. Even the best among them, those who have kept the Faith and rejected the contraceptive mentality, have bought the line that we can and should ‘tame’ sex-ed i.e. "ignorance" is not an option and we only need to inculcate in classroom sex-ed some measure of faith or spirituality in order to elevate it and avoid the pitfalls of the secular programmes. Yet in foolishly attempting to square the vicious sex-ed circle in this way, we merely arrive at the sort of degrading secular pastiche produced last year by Cardinal Winning’s Catholic Education Commission to cater for children as young as five [CO, May 1998].

Next to the restoration of the Mass, the problem of classroom sex-education is the most pressing in the Church today, because a genuine Catholic restoration without children imbued with what is good and chaste is an illusion. And yet it is not only faithless liberals within the Catholic establishment who maintain the necessity of classroom sex-ed. In England, the FAITH Movement, for instance, has publicly and insistently championed TeenSTAR, a sex-ed course "so objectionable and pornographic," according to Father Paul Marx of Human Life International, "that the editors of the Washington Times actually censored parts of a [1995] advertisement" alerting parents to its dangers. The fact that TeenSTAR promotes NFP rather than contraception is apparently thought by some orthodox Catholics to obviate the concerns of the "many parents who complained about their daughters’ being instructed to monitor their cervical mucus after menarche and their adolescent boys’ being told to record their sexual arousals." Similarly, the Couple to Couple League, a commendable NFP apostolate, has produced a Kindergarten through Eighth Grade course called New Corinthians which preoccupies the minds of very young children, both in the classroom and in lessons recommended for the home, with subjects of a sexual/erotic nature which the Vatican says are to be avoided at all costs. Colleen Kelly Mast’s Love and Life series is another that set out to improve classroom sex-ed based on Church teachings but merely succeeded, like the rest, in cheating parents and children by making public and open what by nature is private and intimate.

Under the guise of "chastity" education, many similar well-intended programmes produced by orthodox Catholics have attempted to tame and Catholicise the classroom sex-ed beast. Since unchallenged acceptance of classroom sex-ed is the norm, it is very easy to be fooled by orthodox connections and good intentions. But between orthodoxy and respecting the rights of parents, there is the whole world of content, emphasis and approach. Hence the chief complaint about programmes like TeenSTAR: too much; too soon; too little moral content and spiritual emphasis.

Breaking The Circle: "A universal ban"
Thankfully, though far too late for the countless vulnerable souls already corrupted in Catholic classrooms, there is an increasing awareness that any classroom talk of a sexual nature violates childrens’ innocence; that classroom sex-ed leads children to sin. Last May, Bishop Roman Danylak, Apostolic Administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto, repudiated the major sex-ed textbooks and religious education programmes approved by the Ontario Catholic bishops and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. In a statement entirely applicable to Bishop Konstant’s Education for Love [see critique this issue] and Cardinal Winning’s proposed Scottish program Relationships and Sexual Education (referred to above), Bishop Danylak said that the sex-ed programme Fully Alive, used across Canada and in Australia and the US, "was not a program for formation in Christian virtue but a program of imparting sexual knowledge to children… this sex education course descends to the level of child abuse. The Fully Alive program ignores the latency period or our children and therefore can contribute to the loss of innocence. It gives group instruction in intimate sexual matters although the Church has specifically forbidden this."(4)

Likewise, Archbishop Stephen Sulyk of Philadelphia, Metropolitan of all Ukrainian Catholics in the USA, opposes classroom sex education and "remains committed to the traditional teaching of the Church that sex education falls within the domain of parental responsibility." While Miroslav-Ivan Cardinal Lubachivsky, Archbishop Major of all Catholics of the Ukrainian Rite and stationed in Rome, has encouraged Catholics "to continue to protect the innocence of children by working for a universal ban on classroom sex education."

The Kenyan Bishops, too, have recently said an unequivocal "no" to sex education programmes, which, they stated, are "from time to time sneaked into schools through all sorts of disguised titles such as guidance and counselling, adolescent health, [and] life planning skills. Family Life Education is a programme to radically alter the behaviour of Kenyans. Beginning with very young school children, it aims to instil a value-free notion of sexual relationships to replace the African family with a Western individualist model, bring about acceptance of contraception, and remove the abhorrence people feel for abortion."

Sensual Catechesis: Love child of church and State
In stark contrast to these and a handful of other clear-headed Catholic Shepherds, however, the Irish Bishops, like their British counterparts, have long surrendered to the wooing of the secular establishment where classroom sex-ed is concerned. In their 1985 Pastoral Love Is For Life, they stated that: "More formal education in male/female relationships is, however, also necessary. Parents must, therefore, be helped by schools in providing the necessary instruction… The State would support and facilitate what is already being done. There is a need for co-operation between State, school and parents."

Bishops like Brendan Comiskey of Ferns, who headed the Bishops’ publishing arm Veritas and whose seminary was a renowned bastion of dissent and New Age ideas, subsequently polarised the sex-ed controversy along the secular lines detailed earlier. He was to criticise opponents of classroom sex-education, extol the expertise of teachers in the matter and effectively belittle parents, declaring "the need to be honest and open, especially in dealing with the questions posed by young people." Lifeskills programmes then blossomed in Catholic schools as State-run training courses instructed thousands of teachers in the use of psychotherapeutic techniques for giving "formal education in male/female relationships." The Bishops also published a widely criticised sex-ed programme called Love Matters and a number of bishops endorsed a privately published, sexually explicit "religious education" textbook for 12-14-year-olds.

And as for Cardinal Cahal Daly, his recent angst about the immorality and dissent all around us is an astonishing feat of self-deception, since he himself defended and promoted the appalling Education for Love sex-ed programme in Northern Ireland during the 1990s. Spurning the protests of concerned parents, he ensured that his Belfast teacher-training college (which produced the programme) would provide a steady supply of indoctrinated teachers to spread its sexually explicit poison to Irish children!

Many years before, as Bishop Daly, he had fully approved and bullied through to completion the wickedly deficient Children of God catechetical series, thus paving the way for a generation of Catholic illiterates(5) while simultaneously removing any opposition future sex-ed programmes might encounter by way of truly Catholic catechesis. First compiled in the 1970s by the then Father Bill Murphy (now Bishop of Kerry) in partnership with a priest and a nun who both later abandoned their religious vocations, the Children of God series failed to meet the norms of the Vatican’s General Catechetical Directory published in the mid-70s. It was revised in 1985, just as the sex-ed push intensified, but remained strewn with errors, omissions and dangerous ambiguities, falling far short of the Vatican norms for cathechetics and Pope John Paul’s specific requirements. A further so-called "re-presentation" of the Children of God series is now known as Alive O 1, Alive O 2, and Alive O 3 and has been approved by all the Bishops of Ireland for use in Catholic schools [see Mrs McLeod’s damning critique in this issue].

In view of all that, readers will hardly be shocked to learn that on the eve of the millennium, after years of cuddling up with the State, the Irish hierarchy has produced a little monster; a treacherous hybrid called sensual catechesis. The Bishops’ Alive O catechetical series, which concentrates infant minds on Self and Sex while denying them the Faith, has now been fully integrated into the Government’s pagan Relationships and Sexuality Education [RSE] programme! This explosive combination is nothing less than a death-wish; a mockery of Catholic faith and morality and a curse on Catholic Ireland so evidently callous and foul that the Lord’s dreadful "millstone" retribution [Mark 9:41-42], reserved for those who corrupt the innocent, suddenly seems too lenient by half.

Meanwhile, across the road, the Scottish episcopate is also preparing to destroy the serenity of countless childhoods by integrating Alive O into its own explicit RSE programme, dressed up with the usual array of biblical references and pious soundbites to salve the episcopal conscience. And just like their British counterparts, the Irish Bishops are not fazed by their critics. Bishop Thomas Finnegan of Killala, for one, insists that "the Children of God-Alive O series does meet the Holy Father’s requirements that the truths of Sacred Scripture and Catholic Doctrine are transmitted adequately and appropriately." In true postconciliar style, distraught parents are fobbed off with gratuitous statements about the primacy of parental rights, the need for RSE to conform to Catholic principles and the unwavering loyalty and obedience of Irish Bishops to the Holy Father – none of which bear the slightest resemblance to the reality recounted by his long-suffering correspondents.

Bishop Finnegan and his mainstream-Modernist brothers are not only ‘in denial,’ but rather pleased with themselves into the bargain. Take the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr. Dermot Clifford. As innocence is ravaged and infant souls disfigured all about him, he finds himself "consoled" by the findings of a survey which recently showed above national average turn-outs at weekly Mass and monthly Confession. "The prevailing wisdom that the Catholic Church is in terminal decline," he chortled, "is given the lie here and in rural Ireland in particular." He was doubtless further buoyed by the fact that around 70 per cent of the 505 people surveyed believe he and his clergy are doing a good job.

Ireland: Last chance saloon
Well, when you are a law unto yourself, as Catholic bishops are (in this life!), smugness is an occupational hazard. Winning a popularity poll wouldn’t make it less so! But the Archbishop should enjoy these findings while he can. Because by the time the RSE/Alive O nexus does its corrosive work there will be precious few believing Catholics left in Ireland to survey, and any studies undertaken will be preoccupied with the sort of horrifying statistics which introduced this essay. That is where Ireland is headed. If the Irish think their country has deteriorated beyond belief in recent years - and very many do – sensual catechesis is about to take them into a new dimension of societal breakdown… unless they can convince sufficient Catholic parents:

  • that there is no ‘right way’ to give information in groups that should be given privately;
  • that there is no ‘right way’ for an outsider to assume a role which belongs particularly to parents;
  • that there is no ‘right way’ to give explicit sex instruction to children who are mentally and emotionally unready for it;
  • that modesty and reticence are guardians of chastity and when broken down through casual group discussions of what is private and intimate leave children vulnerable and exposed to those who would exploit or abuse them;

  • that attempts to impose premature sex information on children tends to "shatter their emotional and educational development."
  • that sex education in the classroom or in groups promotes sexual experimentation and sins - and, according to many psychologists and psychiatrists, is dehumanising and leads to neurosis;

  • that it is a mistake to think that providing young people with the correct information will automatically result in their making moral choices;
  • that morality cannot be reduced to sexual morality, and that the latter cannot be reduced to sex-ed;
  • that what is needed are formal courses in morality in which everything necessary can be taught in the context of the Sixth and Ninth Commandments and the third part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church;
  • that teachers who reject Humanae Vitae are both unsuitable and ineligible to give instruction in morality.

In other words, the Irish are poised to step beyond the point of no return - to climb aboard a remorseless, circular treadmill which fuels social breakdown by destroying modesty, innocence and chastity in the classroom - Unless parents can be brought to see in double-quick time that you cannot square the sex-ed circle; that there is no such thing as "good" classroom sex-ed; that there is no such thing as good "Catholic" classroom sex-ed. Full stop!

(1) Journal of the New York State School Nurse Teachers Association, Winter 1977, Spring 1978.

(2) Those British readers who have not yet done so are urged to join the boycott of Boots stores - and to let them know why. Write to: Lord Blythe, Chairman, Boots PLC, Thane Road, Nottingham, NG90 1BS.

(3) Contrary to this PC view, Dr. Rhoda Lorand, a New York psychotherapist, speaks of the "cherished illusion… that alerting youngsters to the availability of contraception is a neutral activity. The alert carries a clear, if perhaps unintended message which seduces many a young person who would otherwise not have become active." In other words, many children invariably understand instruction in sexual matters as encouragement to practice.

(4) The full text of this refreshingly direct statement is available from Catholic Insight, PO Box 625, Adelaide Station, 36 Adelaide St, East Toronto, Ontario, M5C 2J8, Canada. Fax: 416-368-8575.

(5) As early as 1982 the state of religious ignorance of the first generation of children educated using the Bishops’ Children of God textbooks and programme was revealed in "A Survey of Senior Students Attitudes Towards Religion, Morality, Education 1982," report no. 18 by the Bishops’ Council for Research and Development. The survey covered 13 girls’ schools, five boys’ schools and seven co-educational. It was very carefully designed and carried out in the southern portion of the Republic. Findings included: fewer than one in three 16-18-year-old boys and girls believed in the Real Presence; barely half of them firmly believed in God’s existence or Heaven; only 17.1% believed in the devil and only 11.3% in Hell. There was also a very high level of acceptance of premarital sex, contraception and, to a lesser extent, abortion.

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