No sex please – we’re Catholic

Apparently there’s going to be a new Health and Physical Education National Curriculum, which is going to include sex education. I say apparently, because google as I might, and search through ministers’ and departments websites, the only reference I could find to it was in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald: Row over sex education.

Dr Dan White, the CEO of CEO Sydney (that would be the Catholic Education Office, in charge of all the Catholic Schools in Sydney, and their CEO is referred to as the Executive Director, but I couldn’t resist writing about the CEO of the CEO) is upset that the proposed sex education will include information about, oh noes, abortion and contraception, and even how to access them. He wants parents to be able to withdraw their children from classes (because, after all, ignorance is the best policy /sarc), so he doesn’t want any compulsion about sex education classes.

On the surface, what he’s saying is quite reasonable.

Our students need to be aware of abortion and contraception in sex education classes in Sydney Catholic schools,” he said.

”We would not be happy, however, if these were the preferred methods advocated. We clearly explain to our students about the Catholic Church’s strong moral stance and the right to life of the unborn child.[link]

For starters, unless he’s got prior access to the proposed curriculum, we don’t even know what’s going to be taught. Even then, really, surely, isn’t contraception preferred! We all know that people have sex, we know that kids have sex, we know that no amount of telling them that they ought not have sex outside a stable secure married relationship per the Catholic church’s morality, is going to stop them. Just maybe, it might be best to help kids to be safer in their sexual relationships, rather than preaching that contraception is immoral.

It all points to some screwed up thinking by the Catholic Education Office. There’s the standard stuff-up, of course – arguing against contraception even though it presumably decreases the likelihood of the greater evil of abortion, but that’s not what I’m particularly concerned about right now. It’s more the tacit admission by the CEO that its teaching on abortion and contraception isn’t all that effective. If the CEO thinks that its immoral teaching on abortion and contraception and abortion is sound, then it won’t need to worry about young Catholic women and young Catholic men having access to information about them. They will believe in the church’s teaching in any case, so they will happily note the information, and then simply not use it. Either that, or the CEO realises that it needs to restrict information and brainwash young people in order to get anyone to adhere to its medieval morality. It always looks very suspicious to me when a religious group, which claims to know the truth, thinks it has to withhold information in order to get people to follow its rules.

I’m not sure that this is a kerfuffle, or in the SMH’s words, a “row” in any case. It looks to me as if a reporter has found out that there is going to be a new curriculum, that it’s going to contain sex ed, and that the sex ed will include genuinely helpful information about access to abortion and contraception, and then raced off to a handful of the usual suspects to get some rent-a-quotes. The newspaper article has a quote from a spokesman for the responsible minister, Julia Gillard, but there’s no press release. And the spokesman points out that there’s a consultative process to go through yet, so there will be plenty of time for the Catholic church to insert its immoral message against abortion and contraception into the conversation.

Update: Jo Tamar has got an excellent post about this too – How immoral to acknowledge to kids that yes, sex happens


8 responses to “No sex please – we’re Catholic

  1. Thanks for writing a rational post on the more political aspects of this. I was just so furious about it all that I couldn’t contain the virtual screaming that constitutes my post.

  2. I would also argue that alongside teaching how to use contraception is also teaching the communication skills that go along with it.

    But yes I agree sex ed is important. In fact I remember reading a paper somewhere that showed students who had comprehensive sex ed had sex later, were more likely to use contraception and to actually enjoy their first experience far more than those who are taught nothing.

  3. I agree, and second stef’s call for better lessons in communication.

    Only one tiny nitpick, “medieval morality” about sex was in some ways less codified and stupid than the stuff the church currently pushes. The Catholic church even blessed some same sex relationships in the middle ages. I nitpick only because the church tries to insist that it’s doing this crap because it always has and the rules are set in stone, when in fact it hasn’t and they aren’t.

  4. Jo, I loved your rant; it was very heartfelt. Excellent analysis from Deborah also, as per.
    My Mr 10 was frankly horrifed to learn of forthcoming puberty education classes at school, and begged to be excused. He is still very young and tender, but as long as it’s appropriate for his age and level of maturity, I say .. bring it on.

  5. Happy to be nit-picked! Maybe it’s a Victorian morality, or a 1950s morality… One where women should be good wives and mothers, and stay at home to breed, and never ever ever have sex other than with their lawfully wedded husband.

  6. I can never understand people who don’t want children to go to sex ed classes. Surely trying to keep them ignorant is a form of abuse?

  7. Thanks Carol 🙂

    Add another in favour of teaching communication skills!

    Newswithnipples: I’d add that not teaching comprehensive sex ed leaves people of all ages more vulnerable to abuse.

  8. I think you mean Victorian morality. Folks in the middle ages were significantly more relaxed about sexuality than you might think.