On 2 September, LifeSiteNews published a trenchant critique of the new Vatican Sexual Education Program. The author of this critique, Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, the director of the Institute for Marital Healing outside Philadelphia, strongly opposes this new program which he calls “pornographic” and a “threat to the youth.” He goes so far as to claim that the bishop responsible for this program – Archbishop Vincenzo Paglio – should himself undergo psychological examination. Fitzgibbons says:
The person primarily responsible for the development and the release of this harmful program, Archbishop Paglia, the former leader of the Pontifical Council of the Family, should be required in justice to go through an evaluation by a review board as described in the Dallas Charter norms for placing youth at risk
Fitzgibbons also requests that “the Vatican’s ‘sex education’ program should be withdrawn by the new director of the Pontifical Council of the Family, Bishop Kevin Farrell, as soon as possible to protect the health of Catholic youth.” The psychiatrist himself explains that some of the content of the Vatican program is dangerous for the youth due to its lack of warning against prurient and promiscuous conduct, but also due to the shocking “images contained in this new sex education program, some of which are clearly pornographic.” He continues:
My immediate professional reaction [to the Vatican’s sexual education program] was that this obscene or pornographic approach abuses youth psychologically and spiritually.
Youth are also harmed by the failure to warn them of the long-term dangers of promiscuous behaviors and contraceptive use. As a professional who has treated both priest perpetrators and the victims of the abuse crisis in the Church, what I found particularly troubling was that the pornographic images in this program are similar to those used by adult sexual predators of adolescents.
As a source of further information in this matter, it is worthwhile knowing that the Cardinal Newman Society has written up a keen analysis of that same Vatican program. It describes the program as follows:
The Meeting Point: Course of Affective Sexual Education for Young People (http://www.educazioneaffettiva.org/) is a high school-level sex education program developed by “a group of married couples in Spain,” supported by the Spanish Bishops’ Conference and released online [available thus to every youth in the world!] by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family in July 2016. It is intended for use in Catholic high schools, parishes and homes. [my emphasis added]
The Cardinal Newman Society’s critique of the Vatican Program is just as strong as Dr. Fitzgibbons’ own statement. It says, as follows:
We find that The Meeting Point makes frequent use of sexually explicit and morally objectionable images, fails to clearly identify and explain Catholic doctrine from elemental sources including the Ten Commandments and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and compromises the innocence and integrity of young people under the rightful care of their parents.
This courageous and encouraging statement by the Cardinal Newman Society – as well as the critique by Dr. Fitzgibbons – will give much strength to those Catholics who try to remain loyal to Christ’s teaching at a time where also the pope seems to make, more and more, accommodations with the world. It is significant that the pope has just recently given several prominent positions in the Curia to this very same Archbishop Paglia.
However, while this new Vatican sexual education document itself is highly troubling, and even a new step toward further relaxing the Church’s moral teaching on marriage and sexuality, it needs to be noted that there has been now for quite a while in the Church a lack of the attentiveness toward the importance of purity, chastity and modesty.
There is one saying of Our Lord as recorded in the Gospels that has always stayed with me after I first heard it. It comes from the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 5, and it says:
You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery.  But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.  And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.  And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.
With these words, Our Lord puts a higher moral demand on us men and women than merely not committing any blatant acts of adultery themselves. He says explicitly that we can also commit a grave sin with our eyes and in our hearts. With this high standard in mind, the Catholic Church must fittingly do all that is in her might to defend her traditional teaching on purity and temperance, and on chastity and modesty; and we ourselves as Catholics must responsively conduct ourselves in such a way and with such a modest deportment, that we are not becoming an occasion of sin for others – and most especially for the sake of our children.
Practically, when we go into public and leave the house, we should dress in such a modest way that we do not induce, much less seduce, anyone into those above-described sins. But, not only our dress, also our gestures and bearing and movements can become alluring. This is where some of the culture wars start, because many things in our permeating culture have been constructed to induce the more sensate youth to imitate conduct that subtly invites sin. It is here that the Church must explain the danger, open our eyes, and help steer us away from subtly or manifestly alluring movies and other such media that draw us into the manipulation and moral sewage of Hollywood – a place whose inhabitants are not known for their wholesomely virtuous and loyal lives, and especially with regard to marriage and the family. If we expose our little ones for hours during the day to these media that try to influence them away from the way of Christ, what wonder if they habitually follow this hedonistic and immodest line of life when they grow older?
The Catholic Church has often earlier provided a protective and guiding intellectual and moral formation with regard to our most precious youth and the “little ones” of Christ. Once she acted as if Our Lord’s words were meant to be serious and earnestly real. It was then that she acted in accordance with the words of Christ “It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones.” (St. Luke 17:2) Is is not time that at least we parents act in accord with the Lord’s Standard?
Dr. Maike Hickson, born and raised in Germany, studied History and French Literature at the University of Hannover and lived for several years in Switzerland where she wrote her doctoral dissertation. She is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.
Her articles have appeared in American and European journals such as Catholicism.org, LifeSiteNews, The Wanderer, Culture Wars, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Apropos, and Zeit-Fragen.