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Pontifical Council for the Family


The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality:
Guidelines for Education within the Family

Alfonso Card. Lopez Trujillo
President of the Pontifical Council for the Family
+ Most Rev. Elio Sgreccia
Titular Bishop of Zama Minor
Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family

IV: Father and Mother as Educators



37. In granting married persons the privilege and great responsibility of becoming parents, God gives them the grace to carry out their mission adequately. Moreover, in the task of educating their children, parents are enlightened by "two fundamental truths...: first, that man is called to live in truth and love; and second, that everyone finds fulfillment through the sincere gift of self". As spouses, parents and ministers of the sacramental grace of marriage, they are sustained from day to day by special spiritual energies, received from Jesus Christ who loves and nurtures his Bride, the Church.

As husband and wife who have become "one flesh" through the bond of marriage, they share the duty to educate their children through willing collaboration nourished by vigorous mutual dialogue that "has a new specific source in the sacrament of marriage, which consecrates them for the strictly Christian education of their children: that is to say, it calls upon them to share in the very authority and love of God the Father and Christ the shepherd, and in the motherly love of the Church, and it enriches them with wisdom, counsel, fortitude and all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to help the children in their growth as human beings and as Christians".

38. In the context of formation in chastity, "fatherhood-motherhood" also includes one parent who is left alone and adoptive parents. The task of a single parent is certainly not easy because the support of the other spouse and the role and example of a parent of the other sex is lacking. But God sustains single parents with a special love and calls them to take on this task with the same generosity and sensitivity with which they love and care for their children in other areas of family life.

39. Some other persons are called upon in certain cases to take the place of parents: those who take on the parental role in a permanent way, for instance, for orphans or abandoned children. They, too, have the task of educating children and young people in an overall sense, as well as in chastity, and they will receive the grace of their state of life to do this according to the same principles that guide Christian parents.

40. Parents must never feel alone in this task. The Church supports and encourages them, confident that they can carry out this function better than anyone else. She also encourages those men or women who, often with great sacrifice, give children without parents a form of parental love and family life. In any case, all of them must approach this duty in a spirit of prayer, open and obedient to the moral truths of faith and reason that integrate the teaching of the Church, and always seeing children and young people as persons, children of God and heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Rights and Duties of Parents

41. Before going into the practical details of young people's formation in chastity, it is extremely important for parents to be aware of their rights and duties, particularly in the face of a State or a school that tends to take up the initiative in the area of sex education.

The Holy Father John Paul II reaffirms this in Familiaris Consortio: "The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; and it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others", except in the case, as mentioned at the beginning, of physical or psychological impossibility.

42. This doctrine is based on the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, and is also proclaimed by the Charter of the Rights of the Family: "Since they have conferred life on their children, parents have the original, primary and inalienable right to educate them; hence they ...have the right to educate their children in conformity with their moral and religious convictions, taking into account the cultural traditions of the family which favour the good and the dignity of the child; they should also receive from society the necessary aid and assistance to perform their educational role properly".

43. The Pope insists upon the fact that this holds especially with regard to sexuality: "Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centres chosen and controlled by them. In this regard, the Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents".

The Holy Father adds, "In view of the close links between the sexual dimension of the person and his or her ethical values, education must bring the children to a knowledge of and respect for the moral norms as the necessary and highly valuable guarantee for responsible personal growth in human sexuality". No one is capable of giving moral education in this delicate area better than duly prepared parents.

The Meaning of the Parents' Duty

44. This right also implies an educational duty. If in fact parents do not give adequate formation in chastity, they are failing in their precise duty. Likewise, they would also be guilty were they to tolerate immoral or inadequate formation being given to their children outside the home.

45. Today this task encounters a particular difficulty with regard to the dissemination of pornography, through the means of social communication, instigated by commercial motives and breaking down adolescent sensitivity. This must call for two forms of concerned action on the part of parents: preventive and critical education with regard to their children, and courageous denunciation to the appropriate authorities. Parents, as individuals or in associations, have the right and duty to promote the good of their children and demand from the authorities laws that prevent and eliminate the exploitation of the sensitivity of children and adolescents.

46. The Holy Father stresses this parental task and outlines guidelines and the objective in this regard: "Faced with a culture that largely reduces human sexuality to the level of something commonplace, since it interprets and lives it in a reductive and impoverished way by linking it solely with the body and with selfish pleasure, the educational service of parents must aim firmly at a training in the area of sex that is truly and fully personal: for sexuality is an enrichment of the whole person body, emotions and soul and it manifests its inmost meaning in leading the person to the gift of self in love".

47. We cannot forget, however, that we are dealing with a right and duty to educate which, in the past, Christian parents carried out or exercised little. Perhaps this was because the problem was not as acute as it is today, or because the parents' task was in part fulfilled by the strength of prevailing social models and the role played by the Church and the Catholic school in this area. It is not easy for parents to take on this educational commitment because today it appears to be rather complex, and greater than what the family could offer, also because, in most cases, it is not possible to refer to what one's own parents did in this regard.

Therefore, through this document, the Church holds that it is her duty to give parents back confidence in their own capabilities and help them to carry out their task.




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