Catholic Culture Podcasts
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Honored or Ignored? : Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within The Family

by Alice Ann Grayson, M. Ed., James Likoudis


Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family (TMHS) is a document published by the Pontifical Council for the Family in 1995. It calls for a return to the framework of traditional Catholic education, without the sex education that is now prevalent in schools. This essay by James Likoudis and Alice Ann Grayson discusses the fact that one of the most important educational documents ever issued by authority of the Holy See is being ignored, as well as the effects this ignorance is having on our children and society.

Larger Work

Sex Education: The Basic Issues and Related Essays


79 – 87

Publisher & Date

The Veil of Innocence, Catasauqua, PA, January 31, 2001

Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding the profane novelties of words. — I Tim. 6:20

On December 8, 1995, The Pontifical Council For The Family published a document addressed to families called Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family (TMHS). This document is consistent with the entire body of Church teaching on the subjects of marriage, purity, and sex education.

In 1929 Pope Pius XI identified classroom sex education programs as a spiritual danger to the soul in the encyclical, Divini Illius Magistri (Christian Education of Youth). Since then our Supreme Pontiffs have consistently proclaimed the rights of parents in educating their children, particularly with regard to formation in chastity. Vatican documents call on Church authorities to help parents defend their rights against all who have other than holy plans for their children. The Church has underscored the necessity for reverence, delicacy, and privacy in dealing with the sexual sphere.

Over the years the increase of sex education programs in both public and Catholic schools mushroomed into a problem of gigantic proportions, threatening both families and society. Educators use sex education programs as a wedge for the radical reconstruction of society by eroding the strength of the family. Modesty is undermined at an early, impressionable age as parental moral authority is weakened. As parental authority slips away, an enhanced authority flows to the State.

Many Catholic schools make matters worse by essentially cooperating with this radical agenda. Sex education is masked by calling it chastity education, family life education, or values education. These Catholic schools claim to be teaching Catholic values in a Vatican II setting, but they are not. In reality, these programs undermine the Church's teachings. Human sexuality programs taught in schools distort the sacred, reverent, and intimate meaning of the sexual sphere.

Sex education is now an abstract, inclusive term encompassing almost anything. True definitions of sex education and formation in chaste love are confused and muddled due to the onslaught of sex education programs in Catholic schools. Protesting Catholic parents must choose their words precisely in order to be understood!

The Pontifical Council For The Family addressed TMHS especially to parents. TMHS distinguishes between authentic, truly Catholic formation and explicit sex instruction courses. Classroom sex instruction courses have always been prohibited as a pernicious evil. A careful reading of TMHS, and faithful obedience to its directives, would eliminate the problem of classroom sex education. Sanity and sanctity could be restored to Catholic schools. Educators could again be able to work harmoniously with parents when parents seek their assistance.

When children leave the safety of the household, they are in moral danger unprecedented in history. TMHS offers an incredible gift to parents who are raising children in the sexually depraved atmosphere of contemporary society. TMHS fosters a love for the virtue of purity. TMHS motivates parents to closely supervise outside influences on their children, and to do proactive formative teaching at home. Parents are reminded that their children are first and foremost their own by sacred vocation.

TMHS calls for a return to the framework of traditional Catholic education. Sexual morality should be delicately given as part of a sound doctrinal catechesis.

Purity is that frail and delicate virtue that cannot be preserved unless it is protected by other virtues requiring patience, devotion to duties of state in life, humility and a love for God which fills our hearts. (Fr. Tanquery, 1930)

In TMHS the Magisterium, underscores that man's wounded nature is due to Original Sin. It recognizes the individual, intimate, unique, sacred character of human sexuality. Mother Church calls on all parents and catechists to foster in the child a love for the virtue of purity, achieved only through prayer and the gift of grace.

The Magisterium therefore condemns the philosophy and methodology of contemporary classroom sex education and questionable catechetical programs that supposedly affirm traditional sexual morality.

In the sexual sphere one formula of instruction does not apply to all. Outsiders can not know the psychology of the individual child in the same way as the parent. TMHS is based on a true Christian anthropology, profoundly influenced by the Pope's Theology of the Body. TMHS helps safeguard the dignity of the human person in the face of today's Culture of Lust and Death.

Despite the many strengths of TMHS, promulgated by order of Pope John Paul II, it does have some shortcomings. First of all, it lacks specific references to the previous teachings of the Roman Pontiffs regarding sex education and formation in chaste love. The scholarly language used by prior Popes particularly identified the evil elements of classroom sex education. References to Pope Pius XI's encyclicals, Divini Illius Magistri (1929), Casti Connubii (1930), and the Decree of the Holy Office (1931); Pope Pius XII's Address to French Fathers (1951) and his Letter to the Cardinal of Malines (1955); and Pope Paul VI's Catechesis to Married Couples (1970) would have given a greater depth to TMHS.

Some historical information is needed to understand context and terminology in TMHS. By the time the dust settled from the Ecumenical Council, a catastrophic language problem had occurred. In the 1960s the Abbott translation of Vatican II stated: as they advance in years, they should be given positive and prudent sexual education. (Abbott, F. J., Guild Press, America Press, Association Press, New York 1966, page 639.) The admonition of Pope Pius XI (in the 1929 encyclical) calling sex education an ugly term and excluding sex initiation, sexual instruction and sex education from the classroom, was retired.

This translation of Vatican II essentially baptized the terminology, sexual education. Sexual education is so linguistically similar to sex education, sex instruction and sex initiation that those terms are baptized as well. It appears that which was bad is now good. Has day become night? This is not possible because of the Holy Spirit's protection of the One, True, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. If read in context, the documents of Vatican II and subsequent Papal teachings, including TMHS, preserve the virtue of purity. However, the introduction of the double meanings of these words, have given the modernists the open door to the schoolroom.

The Second Vatican Council, of course, did not advocate what previous Popes and common sense had condemned as impurity. Randy Engel, in Sex Education: The Final Plague, (H. L. I., Gaithersburg Maryland, 1989, page 61) observed that the Council document has 13 footnote references to the 1929 Pius XI Encyclical, Divini Illius Magistri (Christian Education of Youth). Indeed, a second English translation of Vatican II renders the following, as they grow older they should receive a positive and prudent education in matters related to sex. (Flannery, O. P., Documents of Vatican II, Costello Publishing, NY [1981 Edition], page 727.) Vatican II references to a positive and prudent education in matters related to sex never mandated that separate courses be instituted in any Catholic classroom, but rather emphasized the role of parents.

More confusion arose because of the use of the words programs or courses. Certainly the Church and Catholic Schools have traditionally offered catechetical programs. Youth are instructed in the Creed, Church history, the Commandments, the virtues, the Doctrine of Original Sin, the necessity of grace and the sacraments, and the Holy Scripture. But never, at home or in the classroom, has the Church sanctioned the teaching of sexual morality apart from the context of Christian doctrine. So called chastity courses with overemphasis on sexual matters, fall far short and are properly excluded in principle by TMHS. Note its following sections:

70.3 Formation in chastity and timely information regarding sexuality must be provided in the broadest context of education for love. It is not sufficient, therefore, to provide information about sex together with objective moral principles. Constant help is also required for the growth of children's spiritual life so that the biological development and impulses they begin to experience will always be accompanied by a growing love of God, the Creator and Redeemer, and an ever greater awareness of the dignity of each human person and his or her body. In the light of the mystery of Christ and the Church, parents can illustrate the positive values of human sexuality in the context of the person's original vocation to love and the universal call to holiness.

122.1 Human sexuality is a sacred mystery and must be presented according to the doctrinal and moral teaching of the Church, always bearing in mind the affects of Original Sin.

123. At the same time, when teaching Catholic doctrine and morality about sexuality, the lasting effects of Original Sin must be taken into account, that is to say, human weakness and the need for the grace of God to overcome temptations and avoid sin.

Another omission in TMHS, although quite understandable given the language problem, is that it did not formally call for an immediate ban on all classroom sex education as Pope Pius XI and the other Pontiffs had done. However, TMHS did condemn blending explicit, graphic sex information with values and insisted on a return to reverence. TMHS bluntly speaks to this point:

126.3 No material of an erotic nature should be presented to children or young people of any age, individually or in a group.

This principle of decency must safeguard the virtue of chastity.

Therefore, in passing on sexual information in the context of love, the instruction must always be "positive and prudent" and "clear and delicate." These four words used by the Catholic Church exclude every form of unacceptable content in sexual education.

In TMHS, the term, sex education, is equated with the concept of education for chaste love. (There are some exceptions, of course, when the term is referring to sensual material presented in harmful sex education programs.) Paragraph by paragraph, TMHS identifies the errors in doctrine and methodology condemned by earlier Pontiffs. These errors are present in current programs that are destroying children before their parents' very eyes. One must never forget that these programs are at the root cause of abortion. Sex becomes associated with the problems of pregnancy, violence, disease, and death rather than the values of love, marriage, and babies! Abortion becomes a quick fix to what appears to be insurmountable problems.

Why have so many Catholic educators ignored the beautiful directives of TMHS?

Is it the absence of a clarion call for an outright ban on classroom sex education? Could it be the blurring of language? Maybe it is the absence to historical references from previous Pontiffs. Perhaps it is the spiritual blindness which is the punishment for sin. Regardless of the causes, one of the most important educational documents ever issued by authority of the Holy See is being ignored.

There is beauty, power, and authority in TMHS. However, the educational elite in many Catholic schools in the United States and Canada busily manipulate the meaning of this document. Bishops and schools alike obscure the true meaning of the Church's teachings. While claiming they follow the spirit of Vatican II and TMHS, they redefine for themselves what is positive and prudent and clear and delicate. They continue to violate the chastity and modesty of children through inappropriate programs.

Moreover sex education programs in Catholic schools generate fierce controversies pitting Catholic parents against professional sex educationists. As a result, thousands of Catholic parents no longer view Catholic schools as fit institutions for the moral training of their children. These parents feel they have no choice but to withdraw their children from Catholic schools.

The following paragraphs are presented to enable parents to better understand the purpose and intent of the directives of Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines Within the Family. TMHS encourages parents to unite in order to maintain the true Catholic identity of the Catholic school. Parents take heed! Exclude your children from classes in all schools which contradict the message of Christian purity.

James Likoudis attended a special meeting in Rome (January 18-20, 1996) at the kind invitation of Cardinal Lopez-Trujillo. The Cardinal is President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which authored Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family. Cardinal Trujillo spoke of the document as promoting a reverent education in chastity. The Cardinal admitted that grave errors and mistakes had been made in Catholic schools. The Vatican document was, at last, the Church's response to the cries of protest by Catholic parents.

The Cardinal made it clear. Any discussion of the morality and meaning of human sexuality instituted in schools without parental consent (preventing parental control) is prohibited by the Church. Religious education presenting objective moral norms for sexual behavior combined with sexual information of a biological and physiological character is also excluded. What may be termed the sexological strand of information, endemic to all North American sex education programs, is destructive of the reverence with which children and youth must approach the sexual sphere.

Noted theologian Msgr. John McCarthy also attended the Pontifical Council meeting in Rome. He wrote in a letter dated July 30, 1996 to parent Mrs. Alice Grayson of Veil of Innocence, The greatest source of confusion is the ambiguous term sex education in some recent church documents. Of course, sex education in the sense condemned by Pope Pius XI [original and common sense] remains always forbidden in the classroom setting.

The deliberate attempt by many Catholic schools to subordinate the Catholic family to the Catholic school in the matter of sexual instruction is absolutely contrary to the intent of TMHS. Msgr. Peter Elliott (then a major official at the Pontifical Council for the Family) said, We do not see the school as the normal place for instruction in sexuality. Not at all. (EWTN 5/3/97)

In Catholic Insight, June 1998, Bishop Roman Danylak of Canada reflected the same teaching as the Roman Pontiffs and TMHS in denouncing a Canadian chastity program called Fully Alive:

It ignores the latency period of 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. It is woefully deficient in its treatment of moral principles. It often ignores the Church's teaching on sin and grace and modesty. It does not distinguish between the different degrees of maturity in the same class, as the Church tells us teachers must do. It violates the principle of imparting information on sexual matters only at the point of development when this is needed. The 'Fully Alive' program is not a program for formation in Christian virtue but a program of imparting sexual knowledge to children . . . This sex education program descends to the level of child abuse.

My recommendation asks that the Fully Alive program be replaced in our schools; all that is necessary can be taught in the context of the Sixth and Ninth Commandments with formation and teaching in the virtues of chastity and modesty and in accordance with the directives of The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, through the solid Faith and Life religion series . . .

The proper authority in the area of family life education should be with the parents. For parents the best guidelines for education within the family are The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, The Catechism of the Catholic Church and Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God . . .

Those who instruct others unto justice shall shine like stars for all eternity. (Daniel 12:3) Our schools must be truly Catholic if they are to survive. This means we must not only have dedicated teachers who are living their Faith as models for our children, but also instruments and methods of catechists in complete harmony with the Church as Mother and Teacher.

Mary K. Smith is president of National Coalition of Clergy and Laity. NCCL promotes the Church's teachings to countless parents who call seeking help. Smith commented on Bishop Danylak's brave statements:

The Bishop's statement is very, very clear and somewhat stunning in its directness. But his criticism is not at all shocking, since he is simply amplifying and applying the teaching of the Church on this matter.

On the other hand, Bishop Danylak is not alone among the Ukrainian hierarchy upholding the Church's prohibition of classroom sex-ed. In his letter to NCCL of October 1989, Stephen Sulyk, Archbishop of Philadelphia and Metropolitan of all the Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, reaffirmed his opposition to classroom sex-education. The letter explained that Archbishop Sulyk remains committed to the traditional teaching of the Church that sex education falls within the domain of parental responsibility.

In February 1990, NCCL Coalition Vice President Richard Lloyd was received in Rome by Miroslav-Ivan Cardinal Lubachivsky, Archbishop Major of all Catholics of the Ukrainian Rite. In a letter to NCCL the Cardinal wrote, NCCL should continue to protect the innocence of children by working for a universal ban on classroom sex education.

May 31,1990

Dear Mr. Lloyd,

This letter will serve as a follow-up to our meeting in Rome in connection with the topic of sex education.

According to constant Catholic Church teaching, sexual education is a right of the family and everybody must educate children according to their parents' will.

It is important that a sound doctrinal catechesis be given to all children in order that they completely understand and be able to live the faith. Naturally within this sound doctrinal catechesis authentic sexual morality should be taught. It is important to note, however, that the Church when educating children at the elementary and secondary school levels with regard to sexual morality has constantly done so within the framework of the regular religion class, and has not attempted to isolate the teaching of sexual morality or chastity education in separate programs not related to the other virtues.

Sincerely in Christ,

Msgr. Carlo Caffarra
John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family

In summary, TMHS is an easy-to-read document. It contains a wellspring of Church doctrine and practical guidance and should be in the hands of every parent, priest and religious educator. Our young people and older teens can use TMHS to defend themselves against an onslaught of erotic material. In addition they can use it to defend against values clarification methodology that has crept into practically every area of the curriculum. The following passages underscore the two key themes of TMHS:

A. [Parents must] 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 . . . or which carry out programs of sex education by taking the place of the family. (See TMHS sections 1, 23, 24, 41, 129.)

B. Catechesis must not include the more intimate aspects of sexual information, whether biological or affective, which belongs to individual formation within the family. Catechesis would also be distorted if the inseparable links between religion and morality were to be used as a pretext for introducing into religious instruction the biological and affective sexual information which parents should give according to their prudent decision in their own home. (See TMHS sections 133, 141.)

Catholic educators cannot explain how the classroom sex education programs they encourage can be harmonized with the Church's understanding of the primacy of parental rights vis-à-vis the schools. (Parental rights are original and primary, inalienable and irreplaceable and not to be trespassed upon or usurped by other agencies.) Nor can these educators explain how the sex instruction programs in Catholic schools conform to the Church's cautions and warnings about clinical sexual information disturbing the years of innocence of children. How can such classroom sex instruction programs, with their laboratory approach, show respect for the privacy of students? They cannot fulfill the child's need for an individualized formation, or provide the proper atmosphere of reverence with which the sexual area must be approached by parents and teachers seeking to form children and adolescents in virtue and holiness. (See TMHS sections 57, 65, 83.)

No Catholic bishop or Catholic school administrator can demonstrate how the Church's education in chastity can be reconciled with the clinical, mechanical, crude and vulgar sexual information on body parts routinely imparted by schools in a group setting which proves disturbing to the emotional and psychic equilibrium of youth. The deliberate attempt of all too many Catholic schools to subordinate the Catholic family to the Catholic school, or to the State, in the matter of sexual instruction is absolutely contrary to the intent of TMHS.

Let us remember that the Church's education in chastity confines itself to sound moral and religious training of children via instruction in the 6th and 9th Commandments of God. This is delicately explained in The Catechism for the Catholic Church.

The magnificent encyclical of Pope Pius XI (1929), and its reinforcement by The Holy Office (1931), clearly manifest the doctrinal errors of classroom sex education and demand its exclusion from Catholic pedagogy. TMHS was published by order of Pope John Paul II. It is a gift to parents, educators, and bishops. It clarifies the meaning and scope of parental rights, as well as defines what a genuine Education in Chastity must be in light of the truths of Divine Revelation. TMHS is a practical guide for parents, who by marital grace, are given the vocation of begetting and rearing children. TMHS instructs parents to consider any attack on the virtue and chastity of their children as an offense against the life of Faith itself that threatens and impoverishes their own communion of life and grace. (cf. Ephesians 6:12, TMHS, section 21)

It is tragic that some bishops have failed to see that attacks have been levied within the Church's own educational institutions for over three decades. These attacks continue at the time of this writing. It remains scandalous that an esteemed document published by order of the Holy Father is paid lip service in too many dioceses, there to sit on dusty shelves.

It is fitting to close this article with a rally cry from the famous philosopher, Dietrich von Hildebrand:

If representatives of the Church, who should be the great protectors of the sacred rights of the individual and of the family, act in a totalitarian way (and thereby exhibit the worst type of clericalism), it is simply treason, a denial of the spirit of the Church and of the spirit of Christ. It is a complete abdication in front of the spirit of the world.

Our clear duty as Catholics is to resist this totalitarian enslavement and, above all, to protect the souls of our children from the damage which threatens them. If the response to the triumph of impurity, the shamelessness, and the barbaric murder of modesty in our epoch is to introduce in Catholic schools this alleged sex education, then let us protest with every available means. Let us fight relentlessly all the Catholic schools which introduce such practices. Not one penny should be given to a pastor who tolerates or endorses this abomination.

I am no friend of picketing, and I thoroughly dislike this kind of demonstration. But when so grave a question as the souls of our children is at stake, then demonstrations are legitimate and even necessary. We must ceaselessly inundate the bishops with protests, so that if — which, may God forbid! — we do not succeed in opening their eyes to the abomination of sex education, they will at least yield to the pressure exerted by truly Catholic parents. I mean those parents who are the glory and strength of the Church, who believes firmly the Credo of Pope Paul VI, who believe in the infallibility of the Church in matters of faith and morals, and who, unlike the small but noisy group of avant-gardists, accept obediently and lovingly the teaching of Humanae Vitae. It is these quiet millions whose parental rights are being usurped. It is their children whose souls are endangered.

© Veil of Innocence

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