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English 212
2002 Second Paper
On Serendip

Catholic Sex: An Oxymoron?

2002 TS Student

In the first paper I explored the lack of "Sex" language used in the Catholic religion, and how at times this was detrimental to my peers and myself in terms of development as a sexual being. In many ways religion is a means by which parents are able to educate their children in the difference between right and wrong, sharing, compassion, and overall citizenship. Sometimes using religion in this manner can be problematic, we see this especially when it becomes a limitation on a child's overall development. Examples in which this lack of "sex" language becomes detrimental is the middle school girl with gonorrhea of the throat, who has an obsession with the Catholic ideal of virginity to the extent that oral sex is a means of sexual preservation, or the high schooler who ends up pregnant because of the lack of contraceptive education, or more so the college student or adult who has grown up with an incredible sense of self hatred manifested in the individual as a result of what has been termed "spiritual violence." The maladies which arise from the lack of "sex" language is a clear indication of the need for sexual education reform among Catholics, and an embracing of a more open language in which to acknowledge the sexual side of human nature.
By no means would I argue the replacement of traditional Catholic values such as abstinence, natural family planning or marriage, but I would argue that there is a set of Catholic values that is missing in sexual education, and that is in turn what we should spend our energy resurfacing, rather then fighting thousands of years of tradition. The values I would emphasize when introducing or altering the current forms of sexual education would include those of responsible decision making and unconditional love.
I believe very strongly in the notion that while one may raise a child in the teachings of a certain religion, it is not their responsibility to force the child to adhere to its doctrines. Rather, it is the families' role to support the child in the decision making that they make regarding religion. We give them all the information they need about religion even educating them about other religions, preparing them to make a decision about their commitment to religion on their own. One of the key Sacraments of the Catholic faith is Confirmation. At one's Confirmation, they declare among a community of believers their belief and dedication to leading a life as a Christian. The idea is that at the time at which this occurs the individual should have developed enough to make their own decisions regarding religion. We should honor this same principle when giving our children information about sex. We should give them all they would ever need to know about sex, and trust ourselves and our ability to educate responsible decision makers, and allow them to choose what sexual acts they engage in and when. This type of education would include an element of frankness regarding sex and contraception that hasn't been seen in most Catholic sexual education environments, while at the same time reaffirming traditional Catholic values.
The second forgotten value is the idea of unconditional love. It is my belief that people fear the unknown, and issues such as sexual orientation and premarital sex all of a sudden become these plagues in which people must fight to protect themselves and their loved ones from, they use religious doctrine and quote biblical excerpts as their weapons against these plagues. Thus a sense of betrayal, guilt, alienation and in some cases ultimately self hatred is perpetuated amongst these individuals. One way of alleviating this unnecessary violence would be to reiterate the fundamental Christian ideals such as "God created us in his like image" and his message of unconditional love. By stressing the importance of such ideals in sex education, we reiterate how God loves all people, regardless of sexual orientation. By adopting this practice we are promoting an overall tolerance of people as a key component of sexual education, a component that has been missing for sometime. This element would similarly acknowledge our humanity. Catholics believe the idea that Jesus was human, fully human; did he not have feelings or sexual desires like us? This idea baffled my high school friends and I, why should we work so hard to cover up such feelings?
Thus I would propose a sexual education program that was simply more inclusive, of Catholic teachings as a means of educating children and adolescents. Rather then less inclusive. The purpose would be to encourage a general discourse about responsible decision making, tolerance, and unconditional love, integrated closely with traditional beliefs, but not stifling individual development the way old sexual education curriculums had the potential of doing in the past.


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