Parents and Schools: Cooperators in Education

Couple to Couple League (CCL) Press Release

Editor's Note: The following press release examines an interesting situation - one which occasionally becomes a serious dilemma for parents. How, who, when and with what shall we teach our children about human sexuality?

Of course, 'expert' advice and opinion is everywhere. It ranges all the way from 'parents have the sole right and responsibility to teach their children' to 'it should be left to those who have been fully trained in education and child psychology, with the proper awareness and sensitivity to the issues and challenges of our modern society.'

As always, Our Holy Mother Church has the answer. Calm, reasoned and loving, She tells us that while parents do indeed have the primary responsibility to educate our children in all things, we need not reject assistance offered by the schools that is faithful to the teachings of the Church. Educators should offer that assistance in cooperation with our role, not in opposition or denial of it.

CCL Responds to Cardinal Trujillo and Mothers' Watch (6/24/97)

Mothers'Watch has been critical of "The New Corinthians Curriculum" and claims that any treatment of the subject of chastity in Catholic schools is dangerous. They have counseled against parents using our "Parent-to-Child Instruction on Human Sexuality."

A June 13, 1997, article in "The Pittsburgh Catholic," the official diocesan newspaper, revealed that the Vatican has cautioned against the group. The article quotes a letter sent by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family. In the letter, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo "has noted that it is not true--as Mothers' Watch has claimed in its publications and in a newspaper ad--that any such program in itself is a violation of church teaching."

According to the article, the Cardinal wrote that "the idea that our Catholic schools can play no role in assisting parents is a misrepresentation of church teaching and of the document of this council," referring to "The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality," released Dec. 8, 1995.

"An unqualified call for an end to any and every school program which provides collaboration with parents and attempts to convey the church's teachings on human sexuality is also unfair to those who create and carry out such programs," the Cardinal added.

The Cardinal's letter was an advisory sent to each U.S. bishop. While some curricula used in dioceses still employ methods condemned by "The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality," several programs have attempted to implement The recommendations of that Magisterial document. Mothers' Watch has condemned these approaches, including "The New Corinthians Curriculum," while ignoring that the Pontifical Council for the Family has specifically defined ways in which Catholic schools may appropriate assist parents in their task of educating about sexual morality.

Keith Bower, Editor-in-Chief of "The New Corinthians Curriculum," responded to the news of the Cardinal's letter with the following statement: Although we are pleased that Cardinal Lopez Trujillo has made clear the misrepresentation by Mothers' Watch of the Vatican position, we hope that this will not be used to exonerate those curricula against which Mothers' Watch had legitimate objections. Catholic schools do have a function in assisting parents, but not by teaching detailed physiology in the classroom or bringing up for student discussion matters that should only be handled in a private dialogue with a parent.

Many U.S. Catholic schools have been too eager to jump in and usurp the role of parents in these matters. The proper role of the Catholic school is to provide the catechetical background needed by students to understand the demands of Christian discipleship and their responsibility to correctly form their consciences in the light of church teaching. Mothers' Watch did the church a service in documenting the imprudent Sex Ed programs that have divided parishes and pitted parents against educators. Their attack on our program was sometimes unfair, but it made us look hard at what we were doing. We did change some things to remedy possible misunderstandings and our curriculum was improved as a result.

I hope this Vatican warning will prompt all publishers and educators to study "The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality" and see how their own programs and strategies meet its recommendations. As that document noted, "We are dealing with a right and duty to educate which in the past Christian parents carried out or exercised little." This is pioneer territory for all of us. Bishops, pastors, and educators should be helping parents to do their duty, not usurping that duty from well-meant but ultimately condescending concern over parental failures. Parents have the graces of the sacrament of marriage to help them succeed in prudently educating their children. This should be better respected by curriculum publishers than it is, just as Mothers' Watch should respect the right of educators to assist schools and parents in an appropriate fashion.

For more information about the Couple to Couple League, we encourage you to visit their website.

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